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Journal of Studies on Ancient Thought

Ed. by Alesse, Francesca / Chiaradonna, Riccardo / Spinelli, Emidio

Editorial Board: Aronadio, Francesco / Berti, Enrico / Brancacci, Aldo / Centrone, Bruno / Decleva Caizzi, Fernanda / Dorandi, Tiziano / Ioppolo, Anna Maria / Opsomer, Jan / Rashed, Marwan / Reydams-Schils, Gretchen / Sedley, David

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Empedocles’ Mountain Path (Fr. 24): The Perils of a Metaphor

Denis O’Brien
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  • Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition – Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
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Published Online: 2017-12-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/elen-2017-0001


Recent attempts at giving meaning to Empedocles’ enigmatic metaphor of a ‘pathway’ and ‘summits’ (fr. 24) suffer from weaknesses logical no less than philological. Contrary theses do not have to be contradictory. Does Empedocles express a preference for ‘summits’ as opposed to a ‘pathway’, or for a ‘pathway’ as opposed to ‘summits’? Very possibly neither. The context in which the two verses are quoted points rather to a graceful peroration. However many ‘summits’ there may have been on the way, the traveller has to complete his journey. However many the fascinating topics Cleombrotus has spoken of, he has to know how to bring his speech, his ‘path of words’, to a successful conclusion.

Keywords: metaphor and meaning; contrary and contradictory; Plutarch’s peroration


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-12-11

Published in Print: 2017-03-01

Citation Information: Elenchos, Volume 38, Issue 1-2, Pages 1–22, ISSN (Online) 2037-7177, ISSN (Print) 0392-7342, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/elen-2017-0001.

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