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The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece

"The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece", the French classicist Marcel Detienne's first book, traces the odyssey of "truth", "aletheia", from mytho-religious concept to philosophical thought in archaic Greece. Detienne's startig point is a simple observation: in archaic Greece, three figures - the diviner, the bard and the king - all share the privilege of dispensing truth by virtue of the religious power of divine memory, which provides them with knowledge, both oracular and inspired, of the present, past and future. Beginning with this definition of the prerational meaning of truth, Detienne examines how truth in Greek literature, especially in the poetic tradition, first emerges as an enigma, a paradox defined neither by its opposition to nor its contradiction with falsehood or with "lethe" (oblivion and forgetfulness), but by its association with ambiguity and ambivalence. Detienne then explains how sophists and orators alike figure into the lingeage of these pre-Platonic masters of truth. Still distinct from the logic of correspondence and of noncontradiction that comes to characterize the mode of argumentation of the first Western rationalist philosophers, these masters' truth appears through their maneuvering of apate, deceit and cunning. In following this understanding and use of speech - its effect, techniques and relation to the world and other people - Detienne identifies, particularly in the work of Simonides, a movement from a religious to a secular thought about truth. The study culminates with a reinterpretation of Paramenides' poem on Being.
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"A penetrating study of the meaning of 'truth' in archaic Greece." Parabola"Richly suggestive and written with verve and wit... " Choice "Marcel Detienne undertakes a new and daring intellectual project with both rigor and erudition... A fascinating study which is essential reading for sociologists of religion and historians of philosophy alike." Jean-Pierre Vernant

About the Author

Janet Lloyd is a translator and writer living in England.


A penetrating study of the meaning of 'truth' in archaic Greece. * Parabola * Richly suggestive and written with verve and wit... * Choice *

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