Ghost in the kerameikos: Parmenides, Translation, and the Construction of Doctrine

David Morgan Spitzer


Although the Parmenidean poem (late 6th-early 5th centuries BCE) is in epic meter and teems with vivid imagery, it has been translated into the domain of philosophy since its earliest reception. Within this domain it has traditionally been interpreted as the first "explicit and self-conscious argumentation" of western philosophy (Gallop 1984, 3). Yet, the poem aims at persuasion and affect rather than logical demonstration (Smith 2003, 269-75).

Working primarily with a sense of translation as critical reception, this paper articulates the history of a translational protocol that excises conceptual matter from linguistic form (Cassin 2010, 19; Batchelor 2010, 49-50), reducing the semantic range of the Parmenidean poem. Beginning with Zeno and Melissus (early 5th c BCE), a series of translations reduces the Parmenidean poem into a vehicle for a separable and fully translatable doctrine, stabilizing and homogenizing a thinking that otherwise persists as polyvalent and heterogeneous. 



Parmenides, ancient philosophy, translation, reception, interpretation

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