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Title: Aristophanes and the philosophy of sensory perception
Author: Clements, Ashley
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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The fifth century saw the rise of a new philosophical interest in theorizing sensory perception. This thesis explores how Aristophanic comedy positions itself in relation to that project. It argues that comedy directly engages with the fifth-century theorization of perception and the challenges early philosophers make to the epistemic authority of the senses, and does so most explicitly for expressly political reasons. Section I explores Aristophanes as implicit respondent to the philosophers. It reads comic imagery from Knights against the implicit background of the physiological theorization of senses as mutually exclusive modalities. Here, I examine a series of images featuring jumps between the senses, moments typically marked for their striking discontinuity. I suggest that for their original audience, however, this Aristophanic language works to precisely opposite effect: it exploits the conceptual structures of everyday Attic in order to make explicit an underlying unity between the senses. In the process, I illustrate the obfuscating consequences of interpretative strategies that would explain Aristophanic imagery using precisely the sorts of a priori judgements of segregation between sensory domains which it parodically flouts. Section II offers the principal study of this thesis: an exploration of Aristophanes as explicit respondent to the philosophers. Here I listen closely to the opening moments of our Thesmophoriazusae, a scene in which Aristophanes casts Euripides as a theorist of perception. Staging the cosmological separation of eye and ear and their consequent logical negation, these lines set out to expose Euripidean tragedy’s irresponsible treatment of perception under the guise of its comic inability to account for the senses of sight and hearing in any other way but to destroy them. This philosophical ineptitude, in turn, is exposed by subjecting this Euripides to a devastating(ly funny) Parmenidean εlεgcoς, the implications of which are to cast him, and all who would follow him, as deaf and blind, utterly confused, and hopelessly lost on the path of Parmenides’ Doxa.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral