Melissus and his opponents: The argument of DK 30 B 8

Phronesis 50 (4):263 - 288 (2005)
In this paper I offer a new interpretation of Melissus' argument at DK 30 B8. In this passage Melissus uses an Eleatic argument against change to challenge an opponent who appeals to the authority of perception in order to support the view that there are a plurality of items in the world. I identify an orthodox type of approach to this passage, but argue that it cannot give a charitable interpretation of Melissus' strategy. In order to assess Melissus' overall argument we have to identify the opponent at whom it is aimed. The orthodox interpretation of the argument faces a dilemma: Melissus' argument is either a poor argument against a plausible opponent or a good argument against an implausible opponent. My interpretation turns on identifying a new target for Melissus' argument. I explain the position I call Bluff Realism (contrasting it with two other views: the Pig Headed and the Fully Engaged). These are positions concerning the dialectical relation between perception on the one hand, and arguments to counterperceptual conclusions on the other. I argue that Bluff Realism represents a serious threat from an Eleatic point of view, and is prima facie an attractive position in its own right. I then give a charitable interpretation of Melissus' argument in DK 30 B8, showing how he produces a strong and incisive argument against the Bluff Realist position I have identified. Melissus emerges as an innovative and astute philosopher
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