Parmenides, early greek astronomy, and modern scientific realism

Alexander P. D. Mourelatos
Madrid, 29 de abril de 2011

"Doxa", the second part of Parmenides' metaphysical and cosmological poem, is expressly disparaged by Parmenides himself as "off-track", "deceptive", and "lacking genuine credence". Nonetheless, there is good evidence that "Doxa" included some astronomical breakthroughs. The study presented here dwells on fragments B10, B14, and B15 from the "Doxa", and especially on the term aidēla, interpreted as "causing disappearance", in B10.3. The aim is to bring out the full astronomical import of Parmenides' realization of four related and conceptually fundamental facts: (i) that it is the sun's reflected light on the moon that explains lunar phases; (ii) that it is the sun's glare which, as the sun moves in its annual circuit, causes the gradual seasonal disappearance of stars and constellations, and that the absence of such glare explains their seasonal reappearance; (iii) that it is likewise the sun's glare which causes the periodic disappearance, alternately, of the Morning Star and the Evening Star, and it is the absence of such glare that allows, alternately and respectively, for the reappearance of each of these stars; and (iv), a ready inference from (iii), the realization that the latter supposedly two stars are an identical luminary.

In seeking to make sense of the paradoxical antithesis of "Truth" vs. a disparaged yet scientifically informed "Doxa", the present study explores two modern analogues: Kant's doctrine of the antithesis of "things-in-themselves" (or "noumena") vs. "appearances" (Erscheinungen or "phaenomena"); and the twentieth-century doctrine of scientific realism, notably propounded by Wilfrid Sellars. The latter model is judged as more apt and conceptually more fruitful in providing an analogue for the relation between "Truth" and "Doxa".