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Qu'est-ce que la philosophie présocratique ?

 | 
André Laks
, 
Claire Louguet

A. Caractériser les Présocratiques

The Presocratics as Philosophers1

Patricia Curd

Texte intégral

  • 1 My thanks to participants at the 2000 Lille conference and to colleagues at my home institution for (...)

οὔτοι άπ’ ἀρχήῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖσ' ὑπέδειξαν, ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητοῦντες ἐϕευρίσκουσιν ἂμεινον.
Indeed not from the beginning did gods reveal all things to mortals, but in time, inquiring, they find out better. – Xenophanes B18

  • 2 A number of discussions at the conference raised the issue of calling these figures «Presocratics». (...)

1There are a number of ways to consider the question, «Qu’est-ce que la philosophie présocratique?» One might think about the term «Presocratic» itself, or consider the uses made of their predecessors by other Greek thinkers or by later philosophers. One might critically reflect on the criteria Diels used for including a figure in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker; or, dwelling on the nouns rather than the adjective in the phrases «Presocratic philosophers» and «Presocratic philosophy», one might wonder about calling these early thinkers «philosophers». In this paper, I take up this issue, examining what it might mean to think of these figures as philosophers, and exploring certain objections to treating the Presocratics this way2.

  • 3 Thus, because they see Xenophanes as primarily a religious thinker and critic of contemporary attit (...)
  • 4 I say «preliminary» here because this paper is only part of a larger project of reexamining the nat (...)

2In what sense were the Presocratics philosophers? In Anglo-American circles, the traditional interpretation of the Presocratics has been that they are rational and systematic thinkers, who invented the western tradition of philosophical and scientific inquiry into areas such as physics, epistemology, and metaphysics. They differ from such ancient writers as Homer and Hesiod, whose accounts of things (when they gave them) were primarily mythical rather than rational. Indeed, rational inquiry and naturalistic explanations of the world are often regarded as hallmarks of philosophical thought and thus used as criteria for deciding which early Greeks count as philosophers; those who fail to meet these criteria are often dismissed as marginal figures3. This interpretation has recently been called into question from two directions. Here I shall explore some objections to the traditional interpretation, and ultimately argue that these objections fail to undermine it. Thus, I claim that the traditional interpretation (properly understood) is correct. I begin by considering the problem, then turn to some of the evidence and counter-evidence, and finally draw some preliminary conclusions4.

I. The Problem

  • 5 According to Antony Flew, G. E. Moore once answered the question. «What is philosophy» by pointing (...)
  • 6 It is not surprising that there is no settled notion of philosophy at this period. The index in DK, (...)
  • 7 See for instance, A. A. Longs comment: «...it is essential to recognize that, with the possible exc (...)

3Trying to determine whether or in what sense the early Greek thinkers were philosophers raises the question of just what philosophy is5. I cannot answer this question. But I will try to clarify the issues involved in thinking of the Presocratics as philosophers. We should not, of course, expect to find in Presocratic texts a clearly defined notion of philosophy as such to apply to the early Greek thinkers; nor will adopting Platonic or Aristotelian accounts of what philosophy is help us here6. Further, it is irrelevant to our question whether the figures we are considering would call themselves philosophers or claim that they themselves were engaged in philosophical inquiry7. The real question is whether or not modern readers should consider the Presocratics philosophers. To answer this, we shall have to stipulate what we mean by the term «philosophy», and then determine to what extent it applies to the Presocratics. The reason for raising the question is this: we need to determine if thinking of them as philosophers is helpful in understanding and interpreting their writings (or what remains of them). If using that term imposes illegitimate interpretations on Presocratic thinkers, then we should avoid using it. But we should not be so obsessed with avoiding anachronism that we miss something important about the work of these early Greeks.

  • 8 Kahn 1979, p. 105; he adds: «Heraclitus himself makes a special use of the concept of to sophon ‘wh (...)
  • 9 Robinson 1987, 104. Kirk does not discuss the fragment directly, but his comment on it (in the cont (...)
  • 10 With whom is Heraclitus contrasting the genuine lovers of wisdom? It is tempting to think that the (...)

4In Clement we find the following claim connected with Heraclitus: «according to Heraclitus men who love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things» (22B35: χρὴ γὰρ εὖ μάλα πολλῶν ἳστορας ϕιλοσόϕους ἄνδρας εἶναι καθ’ Ἡράκλειτον). The exact extent of the quotation is unclear; some commentators (for instance, Marcovich) do not accept that «men who love wisdom (ϕιλοσόϕους ἄνδρας εἶναι) is genuinely Heraclitean, but Kahn argues that it should be accepted as a quotation. He rightly finds the link between loving wisdom (ϕιλόσοϕος) and being an inquirer as the key to the thought expressed in the fragment and claims that the whole is likely to be Heraclitean8. Robinson, while maintaining some doubt as to the authenticity of the whole line, suggests that «it is highly likely that the subject of Heraclitus’sentence was something like ‘genuine lovers of truth’ even if he did not use the exact phrase found in Clement»9. Heraclitus certainly concerns himself both with wisdom and with the sound thinking that can reach the truth (see B50, B112, B116, for instance). The linking of truth and wisdom with inquiry is vital10. Whatever else the Presocratics were, they were above all inquirers into many things: cosmology, meteorology, politics, ethics; but there were also other inquirers in the Greek world, and so we must see how the nature of Presocratic inquiries is a due to their character as philosophical thinkers and sets them apart from other early Greek writers.

  • 11 Algra 1999, 60-3.

5The traditional interpretation stresses that the Presocratics attempted to understand the natural world on its own terms, without recourse to supernatural or extra-natural forces or causes. But accepting this as the defining mark of the Presocratics as philosophers can cause difficulties: suppose someone adopts this outlook but does not engage in anything resembling what we would recognize as scientific method? We might be tempted to add to our preliminary criterion that not only is a certain naturalistic outlook necessary, a certain sort of method of analysis must be adopted, as well. But, adopting these as characteristic features of philosophy may set the bar too high, as Keimpe Algra notes in a recent discussion of the Milesians11. On this account, which I shall call the hyper-rational, none of the Presocratics (and none of the classical Greek philosophers) really counts as a philosopher, for no one before the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could be said to have adopted what we would recognize as a genuine scientific method. This is one attack on thinking of the Presocratics as philosophers. On this line of thought, they may have been interesting sages who thought about the cosmos and its workings, but they have nothing in common with the philosophers and scientists of the modem period. They may be distant ancestors, but theirs was a project far different in both kind and content from modem philosophical thinking. The weakness of this sort of criticism is obvious. Not only does it impose an anachronistic view of science and scientific method on the early Greeks, it also impedes legitimate attempts to understand them. Because we illegitimately demand that philosophical thinking should have a certain character, we can fail to appreciate what may be the genuinely philosophical nature of Presocratic thought.

  • 12 Thus, this view would hold that any attempt to see the Presocratics as philosophers fails on the gr (...)
  • 13 M. R. Johnson on P. Curd; Bryn Mawr Classical Review 99.06.21. See also Kingsley 1995 and 1999 on E (...)
  • 14 See for instance, Kingsley 1995, 3-4; he also refers to (but does not quote in full) Guthrie’s comm (...)
  • 15 This sort of objection against the standard interpretation is also occasionally mixed with the clai (...)

6On the other hand, one might straightforwardly deny that the Presocratics were philosophers or even proto-philosophers, suggesting that any attempt to regard them in this way is wrong-headed and anachronistic12. Some recent writers on early Greek thought, for instance, have rejected the traditional view that the Presocratics were above all analytical thinkers, interested in scientific, epistemological, and metaphysical questions that contemporary philosophers would regard as legitimate. These writers instead give us Presocratics who are principally «enigmatic poets, prophets, healers, and law-givers» (a quote from a review of a recent book on Parmenides)13. This hypo-rational account of the Presocratics implies that Aristotle and Theophrastus, usually seen as the first historians of philosophy and the real source of the traditional interpretation of the Presocratics, systematically misunderstood their predecessors and (perhaps willfully) distorted their views, and so cannot be relied on in interpreting the early Greek thinkers14. According to the hypo-rationalists, the fundamental mistake of the classical Greek philosophers is to think that the Presocratics were indeed their predecessors, regarding philosophy in the same way and concerned with the same philosophical problems as themselves, and treating the issues in more or less the same manner (albeit unsuccessfully). This mistake has survived through the centuries to the present day, and has led most modem scholars erroneously to attribute to the Presocratics a maximally rational and minimally poetic, mystical, and religious intellectual project15.

  • 16 Although this looks like an extreme claim, I would suggest that it is also true of, say, the work o (...)
  • 17 For the moment, I leave aside direct consideration of ethical questions. The early Greeks certainly (...)

7These two positions – the hyper-rational and hypo-rational – are extremes, of course. I suggest that neither is acceptable because in both cases important evidence is overlooked. We shall never be able to understand the Presocratics exactly as they understood themselves or interpret them just as they wished to be interpreted – too much has been lost, too much of the historical context is missing16. Nevertheless, I think that we can find an acceptable middle ground that allows us rightly to see the early Greeks as philosophers as the traditional interpretation suggests: as careful and systematic thinkers concerned with fundamental scientific, epistemological, and metaphysical questions, as starting a tradition to which Plato and Aristotle justifiably saw themselves as heirs, and so as genuine philosophers in the modem sense of that term17.

II. Some Evidence, and the Case of Xenophanes

  • 18 Aristotle, Poetics 1447b 17-20.
  • 19 For a discussion of the notion of ϕύσις at this period, and its relevance to understanding Presocra (...)

8Suppose that we say that philosophers are inquirers into the way things really are. This is broad enough and vague enough that we could certainly (non-controversially) count as a philosopher almost everyone who is normally included in the group we call «Presocratics». But we should surely need to refine this account in two ways. We might first wish to restrict the subject of the inquiry. Aristotle famously claimed that Homer and Empedocles have only meter in common for the former is a poet, the latter a physicist18; and the later philosophical tradition agrees in thinking of the Presocratics primarily as inquirers into nature (ϕύσις)19. This stress on the essentially scientific nature of early Greek philosophical inquiry is one of the sources of the hypo-rational objection to the traditional interpretation. Although I think that hyper-rationalism misses certain essential aspects of early Greek thought, I shall argue that it is correct in one important respect.

  • 20 I would argue that this is true even of those Presocratic works that might be thought to be fundame (...)

9Even when the Presocratics are concerned with issues that are not strictly speaking «scientific» – in the modem sense – questions having to do with ethics, or religion, for instance, they still base those inquiries in the natural world. Presocratic gods, for instance, are part of the natural order of things, and divine interactions (if there are any) with human beings are neither capricious nor inexplicable in natural terms20. The study of the natural world is not limited to «physics» as modems might understand it: it includes both human beings and their perceptions, knowledge, beliefs, emotions, and actions. A second refinement of the account would be to add that philosophical inquiry includes a certain degree of methodological explicitness: the inquirer thinks that there are certain standards for successful inquiry, and that in two ways. First, the aim of the inquiry is truth insofar as that is attainable in the particular subject; and second, there is a recognition that genuine inquiry satisfies certain meta-theoretical requirements. We might think of the claim that the Presocratics practiced natural philosophy in terms of the seventeenth-or eighteenth-century understanding of that notion. Thus, the Presocratics not only engaged in physics, they also asked fundamental questions about the presuppositions of that enterprise and had views about what counts as an appropriate response to those questions.

  • 21 This assessment of Xenophanes can be found in Wheelwright’s introduction to the Presocratics (Wheel (...)

10Let us then take this as a starting point and see what we find in some of the Presocratic thinkers. Within the limited scope of this paper, I can do little more than indicate how a fuller examination of these figures would proceed. Here I will begin by looking at some textual evidence from Heraclitus and Parmenides, and then concentrate more fully on the case of Xenophanes. I choose Xenophanes because he makes a good test case. He has sometimes not been recognized as a genuine philosopher, and is included in anthologies and textbooks of Presocratic philosophy as primarily a religious thinker who nevertheless has some points to make about the limits of human knowledge21.

  • 22 I discuss issues of text and translation associated with B40 in Curd 1998b, 37-8, with nn. 35 and 3 (...)
  • 23 See Curd 1998b, 37-8, and 1991.

11If the whole of B35 is genuine, then Heraclitus had some notion that being a philosopher or a lover of truth and wisdom entails not only engaging in certain activities (inquiring into many things) but also having a certain critical attitude about that inquiry. It is not enough merely to engage in inquiry, for then Pythagoras would be a Heraclitean hero rather than a villain (as B129, with its claim that Pythagoras, who pursued it more than all other men, is both a polymath and a practitioner of κακοτεχνία – «artful knavery» in Kahn’s translation – suggests). Polymathy without understanding (the critical attitude) is further censured in B40, with its condemnation of Hesiod and Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hecataeus. They have much learning, but lack understanding (νόος) of what they have learned22. I have argued elsewhere that this lack of understanding is the inability to see beyond the obvious or to grasp the deeper significance of what inquiry turns up; thus it is a lack of wisdom. This deeper significance is what is revealed in the logos, the basic principle of order and the fundamental object of knowledge in Heraclitus’ System23. The logos is an independent principle of order (Bl, B2, B41); Heraclitus claims that it is «common» and thus available to all and discoverable by anyone who inquires and thinks correctly. Although Heraclitus is dismissive of many of his contemporaries and predecessors, he denies that correct thinking is limited to a small group of initiates or that his own teaching is a prerequisite for discovering the truth about the way things are.

  • 24 I take the referent of πσι to be «all people» rather than all things. Thus, the fragment, is conce (...)
  • 25 For a discussion of what it means to «say and act what is true», see Kahn’s analysis of this fragme (...)
  • 26 Thus, as an example: the phenomena that would lead one to recognize the unity of the opposites are (...)

12In B113 we find the assertion that «thinking is common to all» (ξυνόν ἐστι πᾶσι τò ϕρονέειν)24; this sentiment is echoed in B116’s claim that self-knowledge and Sound thinking (σωϕρονεῖν) belong to ail men (ἀνθρώποισι πᾶσι μέτεστι). Heraclitus thus thinks that all persons at least have the capacity to think well and to reach some understanding of the way things are (i.e. to grasp the logos). Although not everyone will attain the same levels of understanding that he himself has reached, Heraclitus’s commitment to the common status of the logos (cf. B2 and B30 with its claim that the kosmos is the same for all) at least makes it possible that careful thought and inquiry can lead to an understanding of how things are. Such an achievement would be a very great one. In B112 these various strands of Heraclitean thought are intertwined and great claims are made for sound thinking: it is «the greatest virtue», connected with wisdom (σοϕίη) and with the ability to say and act what is true, attending to the nature (ϕύσις) of things25. B112 thus gives us connections among sound thinking, wisdom, and grasping the logos, for in B1 Heraclitus claims that his knowledge of the logos will allow him to «distinguish each thing in accordance with its nature (ϕύσις), saying how it is». Failing to think well when one can is thus a serious fault, and Heraclitus’s impatience with those who could have been successful is obvious. He objects not only to the content of their views; but also to the bad or improper thinking that led to them. Repeatedly the many (and the allegedly wise) are castigated for their barbarian souls (B 107), for failing to see and understand what is in front of them (B17, B28a, B34). The targets here are people who could but do not understand the language of the logos, and so miss its message: an objective message that can be gained through examination of the phenomena of the world reported by the senses combined with careful thought26. The truth embodied in the logos is available to any careful inquirer: «Listening not to me, but to the logos, it is wise (σοϕόν) to agree that all things are one» (B50).

  • 27 It is tempting to see large traces of Xenophanes in Heraclitean cosmology. For intriguing new accou (...)

13Heraclitus’s account of the world could not be said to be grounded in any sort of «scientific method» (whatever that would mean at this period), but he is certainly committed to the view that the world reported by the senses can be seen as a sign of the deeper structure represented by the logos. Although the originality of parts of his cosmological thought has been questioned, recent portrayals of Heraclitus as criticizing earlier Milesian cosmological theories and arguing for a different understanding of the nature of the cosmos (as a process) are both intriguing and fruitful27. If Heraclitus is willing to adopt aspects of his competitors’ theories (as seems to be the case with respect to certain views of Xenophanes), then what he seems to object to primarily is not the content of those theories but the methods of inquiry and thought that lead to them.

  • 28 In Curd 1998b, Chapters I, II, and III.
  • 29 I remain committed to the claims that (a) Parmenides belongs squarely in the tradition of Presocrat (...)

14In Parmenides, we find another Presocratic thinker deeply concerned about the proper method of inquiry. As I have offered a sustained argument for this elsewhere, I shall not spend much time on this issue here28. But there are several claims about thinking and reasoning in the extant fragments that indicate that we should not downplay or underestimate Parmenides’ commitment to the reform of methods of inquiry into the way things are29.

  • 30 I think that Kingsley would deny this. That, at least, is how I understand the assertions made in h (...)

15Although the proem of Parmenides’ poem represents him as travelling to a goddess whose teachings reveal the truth, the language of the poem does not indicate that Parmenides intended his hearers or readers to take his claims as resting solely on divine revelation or to be accepted just because they have divine warrant. As the fragments indicate, the goddess is insistent that Parmenides should judge for himself the truth of her claims. Like Heraclitus, Parmenides apparently considers himself as the possessor of remarkable knowledge, but also like Heraclitus, he does not think that this knowledge is denied to others – indeed his poem offers his hearers and readers the very opportunity for coming to have it, by thinking through the premises of the arguments and drawing the conclusions for themselves30.

  • 31 For a discussion of the Goddess’s orders to the kouros, see Lesher 1984, 29. One might contrast the (...)
  • 32 On the text of B1.28, see Mourelatos 1971, 154-6 with n. 50. Coxon 1986, 168, too, accepts εὐπειθέο (...)
  • 33 I discuss some of the difficulties of these lines in 1998b, 62-63. The discussion of the use of log (...)
  • 34 I discuss certain aspects of Parmenides’ arguments in Curd 1998a. See also Lloyd 1966, for a wide-r (...)

16The goddess gives several signals that her hearer must do more than listen passively to her claims. Although she in some sense reveals the truth she has to tell (she minimally does this simply by speaking), she also demands that her hearer not simply a accept what she says by faith or acquire her claims by rote, but must work hard to grasp the truth she offers31. In the proem the goddess says, «...it is right that you learn all things» and proceeds to contrast the «unshaking heart of well-persuasive truth» with the beliefs of mortals «in which there is no true trust» (B1.28-30)32. She later lists some of things that will be taught (B10, B11) and claims that with what he has learned, her hearer will be so armed that «no opinion of mortals will ever run past you» (B8.61). The mere capacity to repeat what the goddess says (with the appropriate tones of conviction) will not provide the requisite knowledge; rather, in order to allow the kouros to meet her demands, the goddess must teach how to judge and assess the claims of others. It is the proper use of reasoning and understanding that is at issue here, and not just a body of knowledge. We might wish to take it for granted that what the goddess says is correct, but she herself bars us from that comfortable route; her injunction is that we must «judge by reasoning (κρῖναι δὲ λόγῳ)» what she has said (B7.5-6). These two lines are contentious ones; despite difficulties of interpretation, it is clear that the hearers of the goddess are being directed not only to listen to the goddess but also to test her words before they are accepted33. She teaches how to engage in that testing: «the decision in these things lies in this, is or is not» (B8.15-16); once the methodological lesson is learned we must constantly apply the test, not only to what she says, but also to claims by others. Only in this way can we avoid the errors brought on by lazy reliance on habit and empty thought (chronicled in B6 and B7), and instead think clearly and carefully, judge by logos, control our understanding or thought (νόος), and so complete our journey on the correct route of inquiry and reach the truth. The goddess’s teachings are themselves embodied in arguments; she constructs her claims by arguing for them, rather than simply asserting them. Given certain assumptions about what it is for something genuinely or really to be, her arguments unfold, and provide both a critique of Parmenides’ predecessors and a guide for those who come after him34.

  • 35 Thus, even if one happened to have true beliefs acquired uncritically (by memorizing the contents o (...)

17In considering Heraclitus and Parmenides, I have largely ignored the details of their claims, concentrating instead on some of the meta-theoretical issues raised by the fragments. I have argued that both thinkers regarded the method by which one attains knowledge to be crucial. Beliefs acquired through an incorrect method and lacking the proper critical attitude fail to qualify as knowledge35. This is as true of Parmenides with his contemptuous remarks about wandering hordes of two-headed mortals as it is of Heraclitus with his attacks on Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Hecataeus, Homer, and Hesiod. I turn now to Xenophanes.

  • 36 It is impossible to know if Xenophanes began with interests in religious questions and then went on (...)

18Until recently scholars of Presocratic thought have tended to treat Xenophanes primarily as a religious thinker who also has some things to say about knowledge and cosmology. That assessment is changing, and this opens the way for a systematic treatment of the various aspects of Xenophanes’ thought. I shall suggest that Xenophanes’ rejection of the traditional views about the gods provides an impetus for his natural cosmology and meteorology, and for his views on the nature and limits of human knowledge36.

  • 37 In B15 Xenophanes says that animals, too, would do this, if they were able.
  • 38 On the text and translation of B25, see Lesher 1992, 106-10.
  • 39 Lesher 1992, 111-14. Lesher remarks that «both πρέπω) and έπιπρέπω range across three different (bu (...)
  • 40 The question of one or many gods in Xenophanes is outside the scope of this paper. It seems clear t (...)

19Xenophanes famously says (in B14, 15, 16) that each group of humans conceives of and constructs its gods to resemble themselves37, and he repudiates these anthropomorphic gods. There are two aspects to his rejection of the traditional accounts of the gods. The first is the nature of god itself, the second is the relation of god to human beings. The fundamental notion is that of what is appropriate to or belongs to a god, and it appears in B26. There, in giving part of his positive account of the one god («greatest among gods and men» – B 23), Xenophanes claims that this god «remains always in the same [place or State], not moving [or changing]» (αἰεὶ δ’ ἐν ταὐτῷ μίμνει κινούμενος οὐδέν), and adds that it is «not seemly or appropriate» (οὐδέ... ἐπιπρέπει) that god would travel from place to place at different times. This god has no need to rush around as the Homeric gods do, because it is aware of everything (B24) and effortlessly moves or Controls all things «by the thought of his mind» B25:... (νόου ϕρενὶ πάντα κραδαίνει38) Moreover, the power and ability to be aware of and to control the kosmos in this way make it inappropriate for Xenophanes’ god to behave like the weaker, less dignified gods of myth. Homer and Hesiod attribute to the gods all manner of behavior that is censured in humans: theft, adultery, and mutual deception. This cannot be correct: either Homer and Hesiod err in attributing these things to divine beings, or the beings to whom these actions are attributed cannot be genuine gods. As Lesher has pointed out, given the nature of Xenophanes’ god, and the exalted status that Xenophanes consequently ascribes to it, not only are there certain aspects of the god's own deportment that follow from its nature, there are also requirements on our behavior with respect to it39. If the Homeric and Hesiodic view of things is erroneous, then most mortal forms of worship are either incorrect or pointless. The greatest god has no need of human worship although mortals would do well to hold the gods in high regard and to adopt seemly attitudes towards them40. (B1 explores some of the appropriate ways to venerate and to talk about the divine.) Moreover, Xenophanes’ god takes no interest in human affairs. Although he/it is aware of human activities (since it is aware of all things), it does not communicate by signs or otherwise intervene in human lives. Two fragments speak directly to this issue, and a third instance can be found in the testimonia. This textual evidence leads from Xenophanes on god into his cosmology and meteorology and on to his epistemological views.

  • 41 Text as in DK and Lesher, adopting Wachsmuths emendation of <Βάκχοι>. B17 is a seholium on Aristophanes’ (...)
  • 42 See Lesher 1992, 95-96.
  • 43 For a preliminary discussion of his research into Xenophanes’ «unified cloud theory», see Mourelato (...)
  • 44 See B31 on the sun. As Diels noted long ago, Xenophanes’ sun is far from a sun-god. B31 describes t (...)
  • 45 For details, and further discussions of Xenophanes on the sun, moon, and stars, see Mourelatos 2000 (...)

20Traditional religious belief and practice envisages a world full of signs from the gods to humans; return messages and veneration are sent to the gods through sacrifices, making altars and votive statues, and participation in religious festivals. In Xenophanes’ natural theology there is no place for these things. B17 speaks of bacchants of pine branches surrounding a well-built or (well-fenced) house41. The branches supposedly act as good luck charms and confer the blessing of divine protection42. But Xenophanes denies that the branches have this power. Not only does B17 suggest Xenophanes’ rejection of traditional conceptions of gods and traditional religious practices, but it also indicates his rejection of the notion of divine intervention. The pine boughs are only branches, not signs of some divine blessing, because no natural phenomenon is a divine sign. The gods do not communicate with mortals in this way. This is further borne out by B32, on the rainbow: «And she whom they call Iris, this too, is by nature cloud, purple, red, and greenish yellow to see». The rainbow is not a message from the gods, nor is it to be identified with Iris the messenger of the gods as it is in both Homer and Hesiod. The rainbow has nothing divine about it (except insofar as it is part of a natural order that is itself divine). Rather, it is just cloud, colored a certain way. Similarly, the lights shining on masts (the Dioscuri or St. Elmo's fire) are not cheering communications from the gods to frightened or lonely sailors. Rather, they, too, are explained nephologically; they are «little clouds glimmering because of their motion» (A39). This evidence, combined with the doxographical reports of his views on the sun, moon, stars, show that Xenophanes’ engaged in a systematic study of meteorological phenomena, and sought a unified explanation in terms of clouds – exhalations from the earth and sea (B29, B30)43. He also developed theories about the shape and stability of the earth (like the Milesians) and to have integrated these with his meteorological claims: because the earth extends indefinitely downwards and outwards (B28 with A32, A33), the sun cannot travel under the earth (either as a god in a chariot or as a natural object)44. Thus, the sun is new each day, travelling from east to west across the indefinitely large expanse of the earth (and there may be several suns, each appearing at different latitudes)45.

  • 46 For the sustained argument that this is the proper interpretation of Xenophanes B18, see Lesher 199 (...)
  • 47 For discussion of the problems (and alternatives) in interpreting B34, see Lesher 1992, 155-69 and (...)

21Xenophanes’ theme of divine non-interference appears again in one of the epistemological fragments, B18: «Indeed not from the beginning did gods reveal all things to mortals, but in time, inquiring, they find out better». Here, Xenophanes rejects the notion that human beings can come to know through divine revelation, rather, we should engage in inquiry, and hence «find out better»46. Reliance on our own understanding in figuring out the natural world will get us farther than seeing the kosmos as a series of divine signs waiting to be interpreted with divine aid. Xenophanes himself was an acute observer of the natural world, as the fragments and testimonia dealing with fossils, changes in topography, and water flow suggest. But he recognizes that observation and reliance on inquiry can get one only so far. Hence his deflationary epistemological claims. Sure and certain truth (τò σαϕές) may elude us on some topics (B34)47, though opinion may well do just as well for the most part (B35). We must be ready to revise our beliefs in the light of new evidence: one whose experience of sweet things has been limited to figs will have a surprise with his first taste of honey and will have to revise his views about sweetness (B38).

22In Xenophanes we have a search for truth (or its best approximation) about the way things are, combined with a critical attitude about the best way to find out about things. The commitment to inquiry and rational thought is clear despite the limited evidence of the fragments and testimonia that survive. Hence, I regard him as a model Presocratic philosopher on the traditional interpretation, whose work deserves careful study. But perhaps this judgment is hasty. It might be charged that my analysis of Xenophanes depends on ignoring fragments that are not properly «philosophical», or «scientific», and so I might have misinterpreted what Xenophanes says by emphasizing the wrong aspects of Xenophanes’ thought and treating him as something that he is not (just as Aristotle does in using the early Greeks as predecessors and forerunners, holders of views like his own). It is to that issue that I now turn.

III. Counter-Evidence

  • 48 I think this can be suggested by some of Kingsiey’s discussions of Empedocles and Parmenides. It se (...)
  • 49 See Johnson (n. 13, above). For a more nuanced view, see Morgan 2000, who discusses the relations b (...)
  • 50 I have in mind here especially the work of G. E. L. Owen on Parmenides and Zeno, and of G. Vlastos (...)
  • 51 I will consider them here primarily because it is they whom I have treated above. A full discussion (...)

23One problem with responding to the complaint that in treating the Presocratics as systematic and analytical thinkers we fail to interpret them correctly is that it is often difficult to determine just what the objection is. Does the complainant deny that the early Greek thinkers engaged in the sort of inquiry that we have here called «philosophical»? This is the most radical version of the rejection of the traditional view of the Presocratics, and may be found in some work on the Presocratics48. A more moderate version of the objection concedes that the Presocratics indeed engaged in what we may call philosophical inquiry, but insists that inquiry was not their principal interest, and that any account of them that focuses on this part of their thought while ignoring or downplaying other aspects seriously misinterprets both their intentions and their significance. Thus, we should treat the Presocratics primarily as law-givers, healers, and poets, deeply engaged in discussion with their poetic forebears, and only secondarily as philosophers (in the sense of the traditional interpretation), interested in explaining the world around them and in questions that we would today call epistemological or metaphysical. Further, discussion of these figures must pay as much attention to the form of expression as to what is said. Ignoring or failing to give due respect to either the form or the background of Presocratic thought distorts the interpretation of their work that one offers49. The first version of the objection is extreme and fairly rare, but the second is a genuine challenge to the way that many people, particularly in the Anglo-American analytic tradition, have thought and written about early Greek thought50. Although in responding to this objection, we might consider almost any of the Presocratics, I shall briefly consider Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Parmenides before drawing some conclusions51.

  • 52 On the oddness of the phrasing, and the translation of ϕροντίς as «counsel», see Lesher 1992, 69-71
  • 53 The same is perhaps true of 21B6, but I am uncertain just how that fragment should be interpreted. (...)
  • 54 Lesher suggests that B7 is aimed at Pythagoras’ claim to knowledge, rather than at the doctrine of (...)

24In fragment 8 (preserved in Diogenes Laertius), Xenophanes says that there have been «already» sixty-seven years «tossing about his counsel» throughout Greece52. This has (rightly) been taken as evidence that Xenophanes was an itinerant bard, and certainly fragments 1, 2, 3, and 5 could be the work of a travelling poet with no particular philosophical interests53. Certainly, the less than flattering comments about Pythagoras (B7, assuming that the target is indeed Pythagoras) and Simonides (B21) are probably not part of a larger philosophical outlook as much as they are typical of a sort of professional antagonism54. But it would be a mistake to conclude from Xenophanes’ discussion of the proper way to hold a symposium, his attack on the extravagant praise and rewards heaped on athletes, and his denunciations of the Colophonians for adopting Lydian luxuries that his more philosophical views are less important than these. As we have seen, the various issues that Xenophanes addresses and the conclusions that he draws are connected through a commitment to rational inquiry and a reluctance to accept claims to special wisdom available only to a chosen few or through divine intervention. Indeed, the naturalistic and deflationary attitude expressed in the fragments discussed in Section II could well be the basis of the claims of B1, 2, 3, and 5. One who prizes careful thinking and the knowledge that results from it would see the hollowness of Lydian luxuries and the absurdity of heaping civic praise and reward on athletes rather than on those with expertise or wisdom (σοϕίη), and preach moderation and calm discussion of noble deeds and gods to symposiasts. This naturalistic attitude and the philosophical claims that result from and express that attitude are our best guide to interpreting Xenophanes. We should not ignore the so-called «non-philosophical» texts; but assuming that these texts have no connection with philosophical inquiry or that they are somehow more representative of the «real» Xenophanes is equally misguided.

25Heraclitus is a more difficult case. He offers criticisms of conventional religious activity, exhortations on how to live (both publicly and privately), and claims about the natural world and the proper care of the soul, all written in a dense and difficult style. Heraclitus has both himself and Apollo in mind when he claims that «the lord, whose oracle is in Delphi, neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign» (B93). In Heraclitus especially, as Charles Kahn has persuasively shown, style and message coalesce in a remarkable manner, and failure to appreciate not only the breadth of Heraclitus’ interests but also the significance of his manner of expression will undermine an interpretation. But again, elements of style and breadth of topics of interest should not blind us to the core of Heraclitus’ message, a core that he himself makes clear in B1:

Although this account (logos) holds forever, men prove forever uncomprehending, both before hearing it, and once they have heard. For although all things corne to be in accordance with this logos, people are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set forth, distinguishing each thing according to its nature and saying how it is (κατὰ ϕύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον και ϕράζων οκως έχει). But other men do not notice what they do awake, just as they forget what they do asleep.

  • 55 Contrast B118 with B117 where the stumbling drunk who must be led by a boy has a wet soul. I take i (...)
  • 56 B32: «the wise is one alone, willing and unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus».

26The key to proper understanding and so to correct living is to grasp the logos, to understand how things really are. As in Xenophanes, proper understanding of the world and what we can and cannot know about it is a necessary condition of living well, of living the right sort of life. Thus, in B5, B14, and B15 Heraclitus chastises participants in Dionysian and Eleusian mysteries, and objects to poets who praise and recommend these allegedly pious practices. The mistake is a failure to have a correct account of the nature of things, and the logos that is the single explanatory principle. This failure of understanding leads to impious action. To avoid this, one must have a correct account of the way things are, and this means grasping the logos. For Heraclitus the sign of the logos is fire (as B30 indicates) and a knowing soul, one with a proper connection with the logos actually takes on the characteristics of fire: «A dry soul is a flash of light: wisest and best» (B118)55. Like Xenophanes, Heraclitus endorses the notion that the ordered System itself is divine. As B32 indicates, one could give it the name of Zeus, but simply to identify it with the traditional Olympian god would be a mistake56. Without the knowledge of how things are (that which is promised in B1) we ourselves are those who lack experience, are ignorant, and prone to mistakes not only of fact, but also in how we ought to conduct our lives.

  • 57 For a discussion of Heraclitean style and its relation to substance, see, in addition to Kahn 1979, (...)

27Finding the truth, and having the proper critical attitude to the religious, political, and philosophical claims of others are connected. Being able to engage in the proper sort of inquiry, and so being able to do as Heraclitus does in «distinguishing each thing in accordance with its nature, and pointing out how it is» is not divorced from religion, political discussion, or decisions about how to live: it is a necessary condition for them. In Heraclitus, then, the philosophical issues are the fondamental ones. Cultivating the virtue of correct thinking, using the signs of natural phenomena, and so puzzling out and grasping the logos, is essential. The capacity to decipher Heraclitus’ own logos as it appears in his writings and the ability to understand the logos of the cosmos are intimately connected. No proper understanding of Heraclitus can treat the one without the other, but it is crucial to get the order straight. The style is not the message, but serves the message57.

  • 58 On Homeric and Hesiodic imagery and influence in Parmenides’ poem, see Mourelatos 1971, Burkert 196 (...)
  • 59 We must also recognize that some of Parmenides’ references and allusions may be lost to us because (...)
  • 60 For instance, the whole question of Parmenides’ status as a medical practitioner (and what importan (...)

28In Parmenides we find a similar blending of style of presentation and content. Writing in Homeric hexameters, Parmenides tells a story of a journey to a goddess and a revelation with remarkable philosophical content. Not only is the form of Parmenides’ poem Homeric, there are many Homeric turns of phrase and images as well. And certainly Hesiod is not far away in either the Proem or in the Doxa58. Do we fail to understand Parmenides if we do not grasp the nuances of all these images and references? There is an obvious sense in which we indeed fail fully to understand, for we cannot put ourselves in his time and place, and our evidence is far too fragmentary. We cannot even read all of Parmenides’ poem, much less have in our minds everything that he had read or heard when he composed it59. Complete understanding in that sense will never be ours. Certainly the poetic influences and references add to our comprehension and appreciation, and fuller knowledge of Parmenides’ own circumstances would further enhance our understanding60. But much of this is lost to us, and we can only speculate. Even where we think we are justified in claiming that Parmenides is thinking of or responding to Homer or Hesiod we cannot be certain. So much archaic literature is lost that we may simply have missed Parmenides’ poetic points altogether. Confidently claiming that here Parmenides is surely referring to this passage in Homer or Hesiod is as hubristic as claiming that in B6.8-9 his target is surely Heraclitus and no one else. One can conjecture, well or badly, depending on one’s arguments, but certainty is impossible. What we have inherited from Parmenides is a proem, and the rest of the fragments. We must interpret them as we can, using philosophical and literary skills. But I hold to the belief (and have seen no arguments that undermine it) that the philosophical content of Parmenides’ poem is primary, that he is concerned to give us arguments, and that he believes that the use of careful thought will be our best guide to knowing «what is and cannot not be». There is, to be sure, a divinity who speaks. But her speech comes complete, as we have seen, with an injunction to judge by logos the very words that she speaks.

29Thus I cannot accept Glenn W. Most’s strong claims about divine initiation and revelation in Parmenides. He argues that the poetic form (for both Parmenides and Empedocles) «seems designed to resolve a crucial philosophical problem: given that all human beings are subject to the delusion of appearance, how can the philosopher know the truth of what he claims to know? For them only a god could possibly be the source of a set of transcendent truths which a mere mortal, if left to his own devices, would have no access». Most adds, speaking of Parmenides and the meeting with the goddess described in the proem:

  • 61 Most 1999, 353, 354.

... it should not be forgotten that this scene of divine instruction must not only be coherent with the contents of Parmenides’ philosophy but also, in some sense, be believed by readers if they are to accept the status of truth which that philosophy claims for itself. Thus, when the goddess describes to Parmenides the choice between the only two possible paths of inquiry... she is making a distinction, which no mortal could possible make on his own, between a way of truth that no man has ever seen before and a path of error that is, strictly speaking, an altogether indiscernible track: for you could not know what is not – that cannot be done – nor indicate it’ (B2.6-8). The words she speaks to Parmenides he transmits to us. How could he, or we, have come to know this in any other way?61

  • 62 Here is a place where Aristotle would be in complete agreement with his predecessors. Nous in us is (...)

30If I read him correctly, Most suggests that the truth that Parmenides argues for can only really be arrived at by revelation, because the mortal condition is one of being locked in a delusional world of appearances. But Parmenides offers reasoning or thinking itself as the way out of this difficulty. He does not have to rely on divine warrant (although having the initial statement come from a goddess can add weight to his claims), and he insists that that the claims of the goddess must be put to the test. One need not be outside the human condition to recognize its difficulties, or to see how one might attempt to overcome those difficulties. One does not have to be on the path of what-is-not to recognize that it is impossible; instead one can come to know its impossibility by thinking through what it would be like to try to take that path. Thus, being a mortal need not mean being forever condemned to take the route of mortals. There is a distinction between indicating, pointing out, or mentioning a logical impossibility (considering the route of mortal inquiry) and endorsing or attempting to believe it (taking that path). (I can assert «it is not possible that p and not-p» without first thinking or accepting both p and not-p.) One of the strengths (and innovations) of Parmenides’ argument is his use of formal concepts, leaving the content to be filled in later. The divine revelation of the goddess is subject to independent check by her mortal hearer, and her hearer is repeatedly told to take control of his own noos «judge by logos». Heraclitus, who connects having wisdom with possessing a fiery hot and dry soul – one that has strong affinities with fire, the sign of the logos, indicates by this that our capacity to reason and to think well is divine. I doubt that Parmenides would disagree. Our own ability to analyze and reason correctly gives us the god-like ability to see and understand what is, what will be and what was (cf. Hesiod, Theogony, 31-31-32; 38), at least in the formal sense of understanding basic principles62. That is why a failure of right reasoning is so egregious for Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. All mortals have the chance to overcome, however briefly, their limitations and to take the god’s-eye view. But few meet the challenge; most turn away from the truth of the common logos into a private understanding (Heraclitus B1, B2, B17), thinking and saying false and impious things about the gods (Xenophanes B11, B12), and becoming part of the hordes of helpless, uncritical, dazed, confused mortals who wander, unknowing (Parmenides B6).

IV. Preliminary Conclusions

  • 63 See for instance Martin and Primavesi 1999, on Empedocles (along with Laks forthcoming, Osborne 200 (...)

31This is a preliminary study (both in the sense of merely beginning to explore these issues in the figures I have discussed, and in the sense that such major figures as Empedocles and Anaxagoras remain unexplored), so my conclusions will of necessity be of the same character. I began by trying to formulate an account of philosophical inquiry that would neither automatically exclude the Presocratics (a response to the hyper-rationalist criticism) nor impose anachronistic philosophical standards (a response to the hypo-rationalist complaints), and then looked at some Presocratic thinkers to see if conceiving of them as philosophers in this sense could be helpful in interpreting them. I have argued that it is, and that underplaying or denying their status as systematic thinkers and practitioners of rational inquiry leads us to miss something of fundamental importance in their work. Much more needs to be done. New textual evidence and new claims about Empedocles have appeared, and the Sophists should be carefully reconsidered63. The more we learn, the better. But I conclude that the traditional notion that these early Greek thinkers were indeed philosophers and are best understood and treated that way still stands.

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Notes

1 My thanks to participants at the 2000 Lille conference and to colleagues at my home institution for their questions, objections, and suggestions for this paper, especially to C. Huffman, A. Laks, J. H. Lesher, W. L. Rowe, T. Gardner, and M. Curd. Unless otherwise indicated, translations are my own.

2 A number of discussions at the conference raised the issue of calling these figures «Presocratics». I use the term to refer to those Greek thinkers who came before Plato and who were not (as far as we can tell) influenced by Socrates. For a clear account of the issues, see A, Laks, «‘Philosophes présocratiques’. Remarques sur la construction d’une catégorie de l’historiographie philosophique» in this volume. For arguments against the use of «Presocratics», see Long 1999.

3 Thus, because they see Xenophanes as primarily a religious thinker and critic of contemporary attitudes, some commentators were apparently reluctant to treat him as a philosopher on a par with Heraclitus or Parmenides. This view has become less supportable since the publication of Lesher’s study of Xenophanes (Lesher 1992). See also note 21.

4 I say «preliminary» here because this paper is only part of a larger project of reexamining the nature of Presocratic thought. My debt to the work of many colleagues who study the Presocratics will be obvious. I should perhaps note that my main concern with the traditional interpretation is its emphasis on the Presocratics as rational thinkers.

5 According to Antony Flew, G. E. Moore once answered the question. «What is philosophy» by pointing to the books in his study and saying, «It is what all these are about» (A. Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, revised second edition (New York: St. Martins Press, 1984) p. VII.

6 It is not surprising that there is no settled notion of philosophy at this period. The index in DK, for instance, shows that the majority of occurrences of ϕιλοσοϕεῖν, ϕιλοσοϕία, and ϕιλόσοϕος are in testimonia rather than direct quotations. See the discussion of Heraclitus B35 below. As we shall see below, the views that Plato and Aristotle took of their predecessors have been seen as part of the problem in giving a proper interpretation of the Presocratics.

7 See for instance, A. A. Longs comment: «...it is essential to recognize that, with the possible exception of Pythagoras, none of the figures treated in [The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophé identified himself expressly as a philosopher’ or called his project philosophy’. The point is not that we should avoid calling them philosophers, but that we should beware of attributing to them anachronistic conceptions of the scope of philosophy and its subdivision into fields such as logic, metaphysics, and ethics» (Long 1999, 3).

8 Kahn 1979, p. 105; he adds: «Heraclitus himself makes a special use of the concept of to sophon ‘what is wise’. It would be in character for him to introduce the theme of wisdom in the compound form philo-sophos, as the object of ardent desire». Kahn notes that Clement may hâve added the term, but adduces Herodotus 1.30.2 as evidence for Ionic usage. Marcovich 1967, 27, opts for the term being Clement’s own, and surveys other views.

9 Robinson 1987, 104. Kirk does not discuss the fragment directly, but his comment on it (in the context of an analysis of B32) suggests that he takes ϕιλόσοϕος to be genuinely Heraclitean: he says that «fr. 35 may be directed against» Pythagoras’s claim that he himself was a ϕιλόσοϕος (Kirk 1954, 395).

10 With whom is Heraclitus contrasting the genuine lovers of wisdom? It is tempting to think that the target includes at least the polymaths of B40 and the many of B104. Lesher 1999, 233-6, suggests that Heraclitus himself did not practice inquiry and that he did not particularly value it, at least at Lesher understands «inquiry» as «advocated and practised by [Heraclitus’s] predecessors». But inquiry may certainly include more than «fact-finding». And Heraclitus certainly supposes that a knowledge of the logos is necessary for a real understanding of how things are. That knowledge must be grounded in an accurate account of the workings of the cosmos which would come through inquiry (see Curd 1991). Barnes 1979, Vol. I 147 with note 22, rightly, notes that Heraclitus in B35 claims that inquiry into many things «is a necessary condition for» wisdom.

11 Algra 1999, 60-3.

12 Thus, this view would hold that any attempt to see the Presocratics as philosophers fails on the grounds that I used to reject the hyper-ration al model.

13 M. R. Johnson on P. Curd; Bryn Mawr Classical Review 99.06.21. See also Kingsley 1995 and 1999 on Empedocles and Parmenides.

14 See for instance, Kingsley 1995, 3-4; he also refers to (but does not quote in full) Guthrie’s comment that Aristotle’s criticism of Empedocles includes «a shameless introduction of Aristotelian ideas which would have meant nothing to Empedocles» Guthrie 1965, 160. (One should remember that Guthrie actually is fairly sympathetic towards Aristotle as both a source and an interpreter). Noting the difficulties in Peripatetic treatments of the Presocratics has been a commonplace since the publication of Cherniss 1935, on Aristotle and McDiarmid 1953, on Theophrastus (see now both Long 1996 and Mansfeld 1999 on Theophrastus), and Kingsley 1995, refers to ancient traditions of interpretation that avoid Aristotles views. The moral would seem to be that one needs to be as careful in using Aristotle as a source as once must be with Plato (a case that seems more obvious, given Plato’s clear use of dramatic license in dealing with his predecessors). If Aristotle and Theophrastus indeed misunderstood the Presocratics, it is inconsistent to attribute willful distortion to them; but one finds such claims juxtaposed.

15 This sort of objection against the standard interpretation is also occasionally mixed with the claim that modem philosophical interpreters of the Presocratics overlook or suppress the heavy influence of eastern thinking on the early Greeks. This charge occurs explicitly in West 1991 and Kingsley 1995 and 1999. The evidence offered is usually in terms of similarities of expression or similarity of issues. I cannot enter into this controversy here, but I think that more needs to be done to support claims of actual influence.

16 Although this looks like an extreme claim, I would suggest that it is also true of, say, the work of David Hume and the novels of Jane Austen. We simply know far too little of the past to make such interpretative assertions with certainty. Others (such as Gadamer) will argue that not only can one never understand an author as he understood himself, even attempting such a thing (no matter the State of the material) is a seriously flawed undertaking, a mistaken view of the project of the study of the history of philosophy. I am unable to take up this issue here, although I am more sanguine about the possibility of attempting to understand the Presocratics on something like their own terms.

17 For the moment, I leave aside direct consideration of ethical questions. The early Greeks certainly were concerned with the problem of how one ought to live, and this surely counts as a philosophical issue. But to include it here would complicate matters quite a bit by bringing in the problem of the relation between the traditional Presocratic thinkers and the Sophists (who are, after all, included in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, and whose problematic status owes much to Plato’s view about them). I do not deny that this is a crucial question, and I think that the distinction between the Sophists and the philosophers is much less rigid than it appears in certain reconstructions of the history of Greek thought. A part of the larger project mentioned in note 4 includes a study of Gorgias's «On what is not».

18 Aristotle, Poetics 1447b 17-20.

19 For a discussion of the notion of ϕύσις at this period, and its relevance to understanding Presocratic inquiry, see Curd 1998b, Chapter I. See also Naddaf 1992 and Holwerda 1955, for fuller analyses and surveys.

20 I would argue that this is true even of those Presocratic works that might be thought to be fundamentally religious – for instance, the Katharmoi of Empedocles. (Whether there are one or two «poems of Empedocles» is irrelevant for this question). I think that the fall of the daimons in the purificatory work can be traced to a failure to understand the world as it is, and argue for this in Curd forthcoming. See also Morgan 2000, 61, for a similar suggestion.

21 This assessment of Xenophanes can be found in Wheelwright’s introduction to the Presocratics (Wheelwright 1966). It is echoed in Hussey 1972, and in Kirk, Raven, and Schofield 1983, 167-8: «He was a poet with thoughtful interests, especially about religion and the gods, which Ied him to react against the archetype of poets and the mainstay of contemporary education, Homer... He was a critic, primarily, with an original and often idiosyncratic approach; not a specialist but a true σοϕιστής or sage, prepared to turn his intelligence upon almost any problem...». For an account of Xenophanes that treats him seriously as a philosopher, see Lesher 1992. In recent years (especially since the appearance of Lesher’s study) Xenophanes has received more favorable attention. Barnes 1979, is enthusiastic about Xenophanes as a philosopher, but The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy does not grant him an individual chapter.

22 I discuss issues of text and translation associated with B40 in Curd 1998b, 37-8, with nn. 35 and 36. See also Lesher 1994 and 1999.

23 See Curd 1998b, 37-8, and 1991.

24 I take the referent of πσι to be «all people» rather than all things. Thus, the fragment, is concerned with the universality of thought among humans rather than consciousness among things in the world. This interpretation connects the content of Bl 12 and Bl 13. But see Kahn’s discussion of this latter way of understanding the πᾶσι, Kahn 1979, 119. Robinson 1987, canvasses both possibilities without committing to either. Neither Kirk nor Marcovich accept B113 as a genuine fragment, both classifying it as a paraphrase.

25 For a discussion of what it means to «say and act what is true», see Kahn’s analysis of this fragment in Kahn 1979, 119-23.

26 Thus, as an example: the phenomena that would lead one to recognize the unity of the opposites are there for all to see. But one must not only see, one must understand what one sees. To rephrase B34 one must not «see like the blind».

27 It is tempting to see large traces of Xenophanes in Heraclitean cosmology. For intriguing new accounts of Heraclitus and his predecessors see Graham 1997, and Hussey 1999.

28 In Curd 1998b, Chapters I, II, and III.

29 I remain committed to the claims that (a) Parmenides belongs squarely in the tradition of Presocratic inquiry into nature, and (b) that he seeks to reform rather than reject that inquiry.

30 I think that Kingsley would deny this. That, at least, is how I understand the assertions made in his 1999 book on Parmenides.

31 For a discussion of the Goddess’s orders to the kouros, see Lesher 1984, 29. One might contrast the active work demanded by the goddess with the rote recital by Antiphon of the conversation between Socrates and Parmenides in Plato’s Parmenides (see 126b1-127b1). It is not clear that Antiphon himself understands the conversation he reports. Adeimantus says that Antiphon practiced hard to perfect his report when he was a young man, but that now he spends most of his time with horses. He does not indicate that Antiphon was ever particularly devoted to philosophy or that he learned the conversation because of his understanding of the philosophical issues raised there.

32 On the text of B1.28, see Mourelatos 1971, 154-6 with n. 50. Coxon 1986, 168, too, accepts εὐπειθέος. Mourelatos discusses the connections between persuasion and truth on 136-63.

33 I discuss some of the difficulties of these lines in 1998b, 62-63. The discussion of the use of logos here is on 63 n.109, See also Lesher 1984.

34 I discuss certain aspects of Parmenides’ arguments in Curd 1998a. See also Lloyd 1966, for a wide-ranging discussion of argument styles in early Greek thought. For more sustained arguments, one might also look at Zeno and at Melissus. Though the latter’s philosophical ability is often im-pugned, the surviving fragments indicate that there was a pattern of sustained argument to support his claims about the One.

35 Thus, even if one happened to have true beliefs acquired uncritically (by memorizing the contents of Heraclitus's book, for instance), those beliefs would not count as genuine knowledge because they would lack the proper understanding to go along with them. I take this to be part of the import of Heraclitus B40. Heraclitus does not say that the polymaths’ beliefs are all false; rather B40 suggests that the amassing of facts (true beliefs) without the requisite critical understanding is useless to one who seeks knowledge.

36 It is impossible to know if Xenophanes began with interests in religious questions and then went on to cosmology and epistemology. What I offer here is the beginning of a rational reconstruction that brings together issues from the three areas in order to demonstrate the sort of systematic thinking that I think is characteristic of Presocratic philosophy. I suspect that wherever one begins in thinking about Xenophanes’ views, one could reach comparable conclusions about interconnections. Similar remarks about connections among Xenophanes’ interests are made by Lesher 1992, 5, but I hope to provide a more sustained argument. See also the contributions to this volume by A. P. D. Mourelatos and E. Mogyorodi.

37 In B15 Xenophanes says that animals, too, would do this, if they were able.

38 On the text and translation of B25, see Lesher 1992, 106-10.

39 Lesher 1992, 111-14. Lesher remarks that «both πρέπω) and έπιπρέπω range across three different (but loosely related) senses: what something seems or appears to be (or be like), what something characteristically is (or is like), and what it is fitting or seemly for something to be; that is, from what is empirically evident, to what is objectively the case, to what is normatively correct» (111 n.3). In this case the latter two senses are at work.

40 The question of one or many gods in Xenophanes is outside the scope of this paper. It seems clear to me (though I will not argue for this point here) that Xenophanes often uses the plural in speaking of mortal behaviors towards the divine, or in more conventional contexts. When he is concerned with the truth about the divine force that governs the universe, and is thus speaking technically, he is committed to a single god.

41 Text as in DK and Lesher, adopting Wachsmuths emendation of <Βάκχοι>. B17 is a seholium on Aristophanes’ Knights 408.

42 See Lesher 1992, 95-96.

43 For a preliminary discussion of his research into Xenophanes’ «unified cloud theory», see Mourelatos 2000.

44 See B31 on the sun. As Diels noted long ago, Xenophanes’ sun is far from a sun-god. B31 describes the sun as ὑπεριέμονος, and Lesher rightly comments that «the correspondence of hyperiemenos with the sun’s poetic epithet ‘Hyperion’ (Odyssey 1. 24), ‘Êelios Hyperion (Iliad 8. 480) can hardly be accidental. Xenophanes seems to be saying that the sun does not act like a god who kindly bestows heat and light on us (or who can threaten to take his sunshine elsewhere – Odyssey 12. 383); instead the sun simply goes through the sky and warms the earth’s surface» Lesher 1992, 139.

45 For details, and further discussions of Xenophanes on the sun, moon, and stars, see Mourelatos 2000. Compare Heraclitus B6: «the sun is new each day». Here is one place where Xenophanes’ influence on Heraclitus’s views seems sure.

46 For the sustained argument that this is the proper interpretation of Xenophanes B18, see Lesher 1991.

47 For discussion of the problems (and alternatives) in interpreting B34, see Lesher 1992, 155-69 and 182-6.

48 I think this can be suggested by some of Kingsiey’s discussions of Empedocles and Parmenides. It seems implicit in his book on Empedocles and also in his book on Parmenides (but I am not entirely sure of this with respect to the latter, since he deals, mostly informally, only with parts of the Proem and not with the other Parmenidean texts).

49 See Johnson (n. 13, above). For a more nuanced view, see Morgan 2000, who discusses the relations between myth and philosophy in early Greek thought, with attention to the mode of expression for philosophy on the Presocratics and Plato.

50 I have in mind here especially the work of G. E. L. Owen on Parmenides and Zeno, and of G. Vlastos on many of the Presocratics. Jonathan Barnes’s history of the Presocratics would fall into this category, as would McKirahans; the work of G. E. R. Lloyd, A. P. D. Mourelatos and Charles Kahn (especially his work on Heraclitus) would not.

51 I will consider them here primarily because it is they whom I have treated above. A full discussion of this issue would have to consider Pythagoreanism (insofar as that is possible given the problems of evidence) and Empedocles as well as Anaxagoras and the Atomists. Limits of space prevent me from even beginning such a project here.

52 On the oddness of the phrasing, and the translation of ϕροντίς as «counsel», see Lesher 1992, 69-71.

53 The same is perhaps true of 21B6, but I am uncertain just how that fragment should be interpreted. It could be part of a rejection of conventional religious practice, or part of a continued argument against honoring athletes. But I do not think we have enough of either the fragment or its context (Athenaeus reports that it appears in Xenophanes’ elegies) to be at all certain about it.

54 Lesher suggests that B7 is aimed at Pythagoras’ claim to knowledge, rather than at the doctrine of transmigration, and so Pythagoras’ error would be «epistemic rather than metaphysical» (1992, 80). In either case, the objection is more a matter of philosophical rather than poetic antagonism.

55 Contrast B118 with B117 where the stumbling drunk who must be led by a boy has a wet soul. I take it that fire is the sign of the logos, no matter what other status it has in Heraclitus’s system. Whether or not it also functions as an archê in his cosmological account is outside the scope of this paper.

56 B32: «the wise is one alone, willing and unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus».

57 For a discussion of Heraclitean style and its relation to substance, see, in addition to Kahn 1979, Mackenzie 1988.

58 On Homeric and Hesiodic imagery and influence in Parmenides’ poem, see Mourelatos 1971, Burkert 1969, Havelock 1958, West 1971, Schwabl 1963, Pellikaan-Engel 1974, Pfeiffer 1975, Coxon 1986, Waterfield 1995, and Kingsley 1999.

59 We must also recognize that some of Parmenides’ references and allusions may be lost to us because the original sources on which he drew are not only not extant but also completely unknown to us.

60 For instance, the whole question of Parmenides’ status as a medical practitioner (and what importance this might have for his views) needs full and critical examination. See Kingsley 1999, who makes much of a statue found at Velia that has an inscription that may link Parmenides and the medical tradition there.

61 Most 1999, 353, 354.

62 Here is a place where Aristotle would be in complete agreement with his predecessors. Nous in us is our connection with god – the unmoved mover who is pure thinking.

63 See for instance Martin and Primavesi 1999, on Empedocles (along with Laks forthcoming, Osborne 2000, Curd forthcoming), and Palmer 1999, on Gorgias.

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