The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

Document Type


Publication Date



Abstractly, some metalanguages and their allied languages are such that the metalinguistic truths cannot be put into the language itself without a (fruitful or devastating) paradox which breaks the very rules which the metalanguage itself enunciates for the language. Others are such that the transposition of metalanguage into language occurs without difficulty. The status of philosophy as a purported "science of all sciences" from classical times to the present hangs on this difference; for, unless there can be speech about speech in one’s own (however elaborated) natural language, the metaphysical enterprise sooner or later topples, to be replaced by faith, poetry, or sociology, to name only a few (not inferior, but non-ontological) examples. But this is too abstract, and moreover represents a conclusion, not an introduction. I shall here be concerned with one example of each type of metalanguage-language relationship, with examples taken from the ancient world: Parmenides and Socrates, as I think each can be read, and as I have attempted to read them before. I shall then add detail and documentation in the case of Socrates, and attempt to reflect in a new way on what emerges from the juxtaposition of these two figures for philosophy of first principles, for the concerns I have raised.


Scott Austin presented “Paradox, Poetry, and Eternity: Socrates, Parmenides, and Nietzsche” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division in Washington DC in 1988. It has not been published, at least not with this title. See his Parmenides: Being, Bounds, and Logic. Yale University Press 1986. Parmenides and the History of Dialectic: Three Essays, Parmenides 2007.

For information about the author see: