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I just wanted to add another example (from something I'm now reading) where this contextualist assumption is doing a lot of work. In Patricia Curd's book _The Legacy of Parmenides_, certainly one of the most important pieces of Parmenides scholarship of the last few decades, she argues that Parmenides was NOT a numerical monist. ('Numerical monism' = 'There exists exactly one thing.') One of her central pieces of evidence for this thesis is that Parmenides's immediate successors (Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the atomists, and Plato) are all numerical pluralists, AND they never give arguments against numerical monism -- but presumably they would have given arguments against numerical monism, if they really thought Parmenides was arguing for numerical monism.

Curd's argument clearly relies heavily on the principle: "x's immediate audience thought x meant p" is good evidence for "x meant p". And this principle is not (I hope!) completely wrong. So what I'm now wondering is: under what circumstances is this contextualist principle a good one? Vs. when is it less reliable?

Eric Schliesser

The principle is not all wrong, of course. But like all such principles should also be used with caution. (Arguing from an absence is always tricky.) It provides some evidence, but the evidence is also indirect. (It's not like we should always expect that all temporarily nearby critics are going to be charitable and really try hard to get the opposing views right.) Moreover, the evidence easily can be incomplete--it's not like we have all the writings of most of Parmenides's critics.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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