Parmenides Publishing

Titles By Patricia Curd

In Memoriam
Scott Austin

Parmenides and the History of Dialectic:
Three Essays

112 pages · 6 x 8 1/4 · Hardcover

Graduated from Yale, and went on to receive his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught at Boston University and at Texas A&M University and has been a Visiting Fellow in the Princeton University philosophy department and at Clare Hall in the University of Cambridge. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship as well as awards for teaching and academic advising. His first book, Parmenides: Being, Bounds, and Logic was published by Yale University Press (1986).



Parmenides and the History of Dialectic is a study of Greek philosophical method as it affects contemporary philosophical issues. What was distinctive about the method of Parmenides, the inventor of philosophical argument as we know it? How did Parmenides' method affect Plato's dialectic, which was supposed to provide the solution to all ultimate philosophical problems? How, in turn, did Plato influence Hegel and our subsequent tradition?

There are many studies of Parmenides' text, its philosophical content, and its influence. This study aims to do something different, to look at the form of the argument, the scope of its positive and negative language, the balanced structure its author generates, and the clear parallels with Plato's Parmenides.

Along the way, Austin considers issues like these: was Parmenides, an absolute monist, entitled to speak at all, and in many negative words at that? How did he think that his own language related to the reality that he was trying to describe? What was his notion of the use of metaphor? What logical techniques did he invent? Has his type of philosophy come to an end?

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"This is not as slight a book as it might seem. The three essays occupy only 72 pages of actual text, but they form a kind of a whole, and they contain some good and radical ideas. There's interesting stuff here..."
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—Robin Waterfield
The Heythrop Journal

In the three essays comprising this work, Scott Austin discusses a number of logical (or dialectical) and metaphysical issues in Parmenides and his successors. The principle successor discussed is the later Plato of the Sophist and especially the Parmenides. The first essay concerns the dialectical structure of Parrnenides' poem and its relationship to the second part of Plato's Parmenides, while the second essay deals with metaphysical issues of the latter in relation to the poem. The third essay rounds out the discussion in one and two, and also introduces a number of other topics insofar as they relate to them: e.g., Dionysius the Aeropogite, Thomas Aquinas and Hegel on the Trinity, and the closure of the Western rationalist tradition.
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—Edward M. Engelmann
Merrimack College

The three essays of Austin’s subtitle are, respectively, ‘Parmenidean Dialectic’ (1-27), which asserts that the central Parmenides fragment, B8, bespeaks a method that recurs in the second part of Plato’s Parmenides; ‘Parmenidean Metaphysics’ (29-49), which mostly makes claims about the ‘signposts’ cited in B8; and ‘Parmenides and the History of Dialectic’ (51-83), which compares B8 with the dialectic of a number of later figures, especially Plato, Aquinas, and Hegel. The essays are given a certain unity—hence their appearance together here—by the author’s predominant concern with the structure of Parmenides’ thought as opposed to its content.

"In this slim but densely argued volume Scott Austin makes a welcome return to Parmenides, offering a series of fresh insights on his dialectic and its place in philosophical history."
—David Sedley
University of Cambridge

"Highly original. . . . Other Scholars have puzzled over Parmenides' apparently self-refuting use of negation in the Way of Truth and have noticed—without in the end making much philosophical capital from—his use of modalities. Austin is the only scholar to have diagnosed the highly controlled logical/methodological system he sets out. Similarly others have recognized a genuinely Parmenidean structure to the second part of Plato's Parmenides, but Austin has worked out a more thoroughgoing and programmatic account of what this might consist in. [His] proposals about Parmenides' heritage in Western metaphysics are wholly novel.

Austin offers a different way of looking at Parmenides, Plato, and the Western tradition of metaphysics and theology. His work is freshly and distinctively conceived, taking as its central preoccupation Parmenides' ambition of mapping systematically all the different fundamental way - modalities of denial and affirmation - in which truth can be stated, and following out its impact on Platonic dialectic in Plato himself and a succession of later thinkers. A book for scholars of ancient Greek philosophy.."
—Malcolm Schofield
University of Cambridge

"The significance of the Eleatic tradition for Western thought, whether through Plato's eponymous dialogue or the great tradition of speculation on the basis of the dialogue from Plotinus and Aquinas to Hegel and Nietzsche, is simply momentous. Yet notwithstanding the significance of the Parmenides for the history of dialectic, this is not a topic for the faint hearted. Fortunately, Scott Austin has provided a lucid guide for the perplexed: from the speech of the Goddess, Eleatic influence on Plato and the puzzle of his Parmenides, negative theology and post Nietzschean critique. With a striking combination of anglo-analytic and  synoptic historical sensitivity, Austin has provided rich and stimulating forays into a tradition that perennially hovers between the rationalist and the mystical."
—Douglas Hedley
University of Cambridge
ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award - Finalist in "Philosophy" 2007
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