Mortal Knowledge in Parmenides and Plato: A Study in Phusis, Journey, Thumos and Eros

Dissertation, New School for Social Research (2002)

Parmenides and Plato include both a metaphysical transcendence and a return to phusis. The two thinkers share the theme, not only of immortal being, but another, which I call the mortal journey. Plato and Parmenides dialogue with each other not only about issues of epistemology, but also about other crucial issues: mortality, living in the physical world of change, and longings of the soul . Their pervasive entanglement with phusis marks an important return to mortality, providing a new beginning for post-metaphysical thinking. Here I invoke radical individuality: each life is a unique trajectory from birth to death. Parmenides' protagonist and Plato's Socrates are such unsubsumable singulars. ;Human beings desire a transcendence of mortality, but they can attain it only in logos. Phusis demands that each individual return to their mortal fate, their death as a singular being. Mythic narrative, precisely what critics have had problems with in Parmenides and Plato!, best articulates this paradoxical, two-fold journey of transcendence and return . ;Parmenides call mortals "two-headed." This dissertation presents a new philosophical hermeneutic for understanding all the fragments of Parmenides' poem "Peri Phuseos" , by returning the logical ontology to its context within the poem, between the proem and the cosmology. Typically the proem and the cosmology are dismissed as a so-called literary device and outmoded science, respectively. The narrative structure of the journey holds together all these elements in a richer philosophy. ;Parmenides attempts a radical synthesis of metaphysics of unchanging being and mortal phusis. Impelled by desire but achieved only through logos, the kouros enters the immortal realm of the goddess, where he hears a logos of immortal being. The third part of the poem, a cosmology, marks a return to the mortal cosmos. ;"Return" cures metaphysical transcendence, and Plato follows Parmenides in this. The Phaedrus is Plato's most Parmenidean dialogue. Socrates' mortality, preserved through dialogue, deconstructs the immortal forms in favor of a return to the world of phenomena. Socratic self-knowledge is erotic and radically individual, not merely noetic. ;Parmenides and Plato draw inevitably mortal phusis and immortal logos into dialogue
Keywords Philosophy
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