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Founded in 1846!


Zeitschrift für antike Literatur und ihre Rezeption / A Journal for Ancient Literature and its Reception

Ed. by Föllinger, Sabine / Fuhrer, Therese / Reinhardt, Tobias / Stenger, Jan / Vöhler, Martin

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Volume 158, Issue 2


Stronger Reality

The Epistemological and Theological Innovations of Melissus to Parmenides’ Philosophy

Enrico Piergiacomi
Published Online: 2014-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/phil-2014-0014


Melissus is often considered a naïve thinker, mostly because of the famous judgment of Aristotle, who in Phys. 185a10–11 defined him as a less polished philosopher than Parmenides. But is this contempt really deserved? This paper argues that it is not. Melissus made two important and original innovations to Eleatism. Firstly, he showed that we humans fail to know reality since we do not recognize a conflict between our senses and our conventional language. Secondly, he demonstrated the non-existence of the traditional Homeric gods by arguing that divinity may be granted only to an inactive-changeless God identical with Being. Both these innovations (1) demonstrate a point which was assumed without argument by Parmenides, namely the unreliability of sensation, (2) deny the presence of a divine regulative factor in our world and (3) show how a study of the empirical world allows humans to progress in their quest for knowledge.

Keywords: Eleatic ontology; Philosophy of language; Debates about sensation; Criticism of Homer; Theological and epistemological beliefs


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About the article

Published Online: 2014-11-08

Published in Print: 2014-11-01

Citation Information: Philologus, Volume 158, Issue 2, Pages 306–319, ISSN (Online) 2196-7008, ISSN (Print) 0031-7985, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/phil-2014-0014.

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