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In the main Section of this paper I examine a certain "characterizing" use of meden/ouden and medeis/oudeis in pre-Platonic non-philosophical contexts. The passages discussed and analyzed offer and suggestive illustrations of the assimilation of "nothing" or "nobody" to "not-being." In the concluding Section I explore connections between that use and philosophical concepts,with particular reference to Plato's doctrine of degrees of reality.

The dialectic of being in classical Greek speculation focuses not on 'What there is' but on 'what it is' or 'how it is'; not on existence but on physis, constitution, or form.


Alexander P.D. Mourelatos presented “‘Nothing’ as ‘Not-Being’: Some Literary Context that Bear on Plato and on Parmenides” to the Society at its meeting with the American Philological Association in Atlanta in 1977. It was published as "Nothing as Not-Being: Some Literary Contexts that Bear on Plato" in Glen W. Bowersock, Walter Burkert, and Michael C. J. Putnam, edd., Arktouros: Hellenic Studies Presented to Bernard M. W. Knox, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1979, pp. 319-29, and reprinted in John P. Anton & Anthony Preus, eds.1983. Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, vol. 2. Albany, State University of New York Press, 59-69.

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