|Born||c. 515 BC |
|"Thought and being are the same" |
The truth–appearance distinction
Nothing comes from nothing
Parmenides of Elea ( / ...
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
A number of early Greek philosophers active before and during the time of Socrates are collectively known as the pre-Socratics. Their inquiries spanned the workings of the natural world as well as human society, ethics, and religion, seeking explanations based on natural principles rather than the actions of supernatural gods. They introduced to the West the notion of the world as a kosmos, an ordered arrangement that could be understood via rational inquiry.
The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.
The single known work by Parmenides is a poem, On Nature, only fragments of which survive. In it, Parmenides prescribes two views of reality. In "the way of truth" (a part of the poem), he explains how reality (coined as "what is-is") is one, change is impossible, and existence is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging. This is generally considered one of the first digressions into the philosophical concept of being, and has been contrasted with Heraclitus's statement that "No man ever steps into the same river twice" as one of the first digressions into the philosophical concept of becoming.
Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent, as opposed to that which is merely imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of the universe, known and unknown. Philosophical questions about the nature of reality or existence or being are considered under the rubric of ontology, which is a major branch of metaphysics in the Western philosophical tradition. Ontological questions also feature in diverse branches of philosophy, including the philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophical logic. These include questions about whether only physical objects are real, whether reality is fundamentally immaterial, whether hypothetical unobservable entities posited by scientific theories exist, whether God exists, whether numbers and other abstract objects exist, and whether possible worlds exist.
Change refers to a difference in a state of affairs at different points in time. Although it is a familiar experience, an analysis of change provides subtle problems which have occupied philosophers since the Presocratics. Heraclitus is the first philosopher known to have directly raised such issues, with aphorisms such as "one cannot step into the same river twice". The Eleatics were particularly concerned with change and raised a number of problems, including Zeno's paradoxes, which caused them to go as far as insisting that change was impossible, and that reality was one and unchanging. Later philosophers would reject this conclusion, instead developing systems such as atomism in attempts to circumvent the Eleatic problems. In the modern era, some of these problems would enter the domain of mathematics, with the development of calculus and analysis. These developments were regarded by some as solving problems of change, but others maintain that philosophical issues persist.
Existence is an ontological, empirically observable property of being, referring to the ability of an entity to, directly or indirectly, interact with the reality.
Parmenides and Heraclitus are therefore generally considered two of the founders of ontology. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides, though opinion on who was responding to whom changed over the course of the 20th century. In "the way of opinion", Parmenides explains the world of appearances, in which one's sensory faculties lead to conceptions which are false and deceitful. He has been considered the founder of metaphysics or ontology.
Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among the [study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.
Parmenides was born in the Greek colony of Elea (now Ascea), which, according to Herodotus,had been founded shortly before 535 BC. He was descended from a wealthy and illustrious family.
Velia was the Roman name of an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was founded by Greeks from Phocaea as Hyele around 538–535 BC. The name later changed to Ele and then Elea before it became known by its current Latin and Italian name during the Roman era. Its ruins are located in the Cilento region near the modern village Velia, which was named after the ancient city. The village is a frazione of the comune Ascea in the Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy.
Ascea is a town and comune in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of southwestern Italy. In the communal territory are the Greek ruins of Velia. It is part of the Cilento traditional area; the maritime touristic part of the municipality is the Marina di Ascea. The town is located on the beach and is popular with European tourists in the summer months.
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his "inquiry" on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into a historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.
His dates are uncertain; according to Diogenes Laërtius, he flourished just before 500 BC,which would put his year of birth near 540 BC, but Plato has him visiting Athens at the age of 65, when Socrates was a young man, c. 450 BC, which, if true, suggests a year of birth of c. 515 BC. He was said to have been a pupil of Xenophanes, and regardless of whether they actually knew each other, Xenophanes' philosophy is the most obvious influence on Parmenides. Diogenes Laërtius also describes Parmenides as a disciple of "Ameinias, son of Diochaites, the Pythagorean"; but there are no obvious Pythagorean elements in his thought.
Diogenes Laërtius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is definitively known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a principal source for the history of ancient Greek philosophy. His reputation is controversial among scholars because he often repeats information from his sources without critically evaluating it. He also frequently focuses on trivial or insignificant details of his subjects' lives while ignoring important details of their philosophical teachings and he sometimes fails to distinguish between earlier and later teachings of specific philosophical schools. However, unlike many other ancient secondary sources, Diogenes Laërtius generally reports philosophical teachings without attempting to reinterpret or expand on them, which means his accounts are often closer to the primary sources. Due to the loss of so many of the primary sources on which Diogenes relied, his work has become the foremost surviving source on the history of Greek philosophy.
Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece and the founder of the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.
However, according to Sir William Smith, in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870):
Sir William Smith was an English lexicographer. He also made advances in the teaching of Greek and Latin in schools.
The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is an encyclopedia/biographical dictionary. Edited by William Smith, the dictionary spans three volumes and 3,700 pages. It is a classic work of 19th-century lexicography. The work is a companion to Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
Others content themselves with reckoning Parmenides as well as Zeno as belonging to the Pythagorean school, or with speaking of a Parmenidean life, in the same way as a Pythagorean life is spoken of; and even the censorious Timon allows Parmenides to have been a high-minded man; while Plato speaks of him with veneration, and Aristotle and others give him an unqualified preference over the rest of the Eleatics.
The first hero cult of a philosopher we know of was Parmenides' dedication of a heroon to his teacher Ameinias in Elea.Parmenides was the founder of the School of Elea, which also included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. Of his life in Elea, it was said that he had written the laws of the city. His most important pupil was Zeno, who according to Plato was 25 years his junior, and was regarded as his eromenos . Parmenides had a large influence on Plato, who not only named a dialogue, Parmenides , after him, but always wrote about him with veneration.
William Smith also wrote in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology:
On the former reason is our guide; on the latter the eye that does not catch the object and re-echoing hearing. On the former path we convince ourselves that the existent neither has come into being, nor is perishable, and is entirely of one sort, without change and limit, neither past nor future, entirely included in the present. For it is as impossible that it can become and grow out of the existent, as that it could do so out of the non-existent; since the latter, non-existence, is absolutely inconceivable, and the former cannot precede itself; and every coming into existence presupposes a non-existence. By similar arguments divisibility, motion or change, as also infinity, are shut out from the absolutely existent, and the latter is represented as shut up in itself, so that it may be compared to a well-rounded ball; while thought is appropriated to it as its only positive definition. Thought and that which is thought of (Object) coinciding; the corresponding passages of Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and others, which authenticate this view of his theory.
Cosmology originally comprised the greater part of his poem, him explaining the world’s origins and operations. John Palmer notes "Parmenides’ distinction among the principal modes of being and his derivation of the attributes that must belong to what must be, simply as such, qualify him to be seen as the founder of metaphysics or ontology as a domain of inquiry distinct from theology."Some idea of the sphericity of the Earth seems to have been known to both Parmenides and Empedocles.
Parmenides also outlined the phases of the moon, highlighted in a rhymed translation by Karl Popper:
Bright in the night with the gift of his light,
Round the earth she is erring,
Evermore letting her gaze
Turn towards Helios' rays
Of the cosmogony of Parmenides, which was carried out very much in detail, we possess only a few fragments and notices, which are difficult to understand, according to which, with an approach to the doctrines of the Pythagoreans, he conceived the spherical mundane system, surrounded by a circle of the pure light (Olympus, Uranus); in the centre of this mundane system the solid earth, and between the two the circle of the milkyway, of the morning or evening star, of the sun, the planets, and the moon; which circle he regarded as a mixture of the two primordial elements.
The fragments read:
You will know the aether’s nature, and in the aether all the/ signs, and the unseen works of the pure torch/ of the brilliant sun, and from whence they came to be,/ and you will learn the wandering works of the round-eyed moon/ and its nature, and you will know too the surrounding heaven,/ both whence it grew and how Necessity directing it bound it/ to furnish the limits of the stars. (Fr. 10)
…how the earth and sun and moon/ and the shared aether and the heavenly milk and Olympos/ outermost and the hot might of the stars began/ to come to be. (Fr. 11)
Parmenides is one of the most significant of the pre-Socratic philosophers.His single known work, a poem conventionally titled On Nature, has survived only in fragments. Approximately 160 verses remain today from an original total that was probably near 800. The poem was originally divided into three parts:
The proem is a narrative sequence in which the narrator travels "beyond the beaten paths of mortal men" to receive a revelation from an unnamed goddess (generally thought to be Persephone or Dikē) on the nature of reality. Aletheia, an estimated 90% of which has survived, and doxa, most of which no longer exists, are then presented as the spoken revelation of the goddess without any accompanying narrative.
Parmenides attempted to distinguish between the unity of nature and its variety, insisting in the Way of Truth upon the reality of its unity, which is therefore the object of knowledge, and upon the unreality of its variety, which is therefore the object, not of knowledge, but of opinion. In the Way of Opinion he propounded a theory of the world of seeming and its development, pointing out, however, that, in accordance with the principles already laid down, these cosmological speculations do not pretend to anything more than mere appearance.
In the proem, Parmenides describes the journey of the poet, escorted by maidens ("the daughters of the Sun made haste to escort me, having left the halls of Night for the light"),from the ordinary daytime world to a strange destination, outside our human paths. Carried in a whirling chariot, and attended by the daughters of Helios the Sun, the man reaches a temple sacred to an unnamed goddess (variously identified by the commentators as Nature, Wisdom, Necessity or Themis), by whom the rest of the poem is spoken. The goddess resides in a well-known mythological space: where Night and Day have their meeting place. Its essential character is that here all opposites are undivided, or one. He must learn all things, she tells him – both truth, which is certain, and human opinions, which are uncertain – for though one cannot rely on human opinions, they represent an aspect of the whole truth.
The section known as "the way of truth" discusses that which is real and contrasts with the argument in the section called "the way of opinion," which discusses that which is illusory. Under the "way of truth," Parmenides stated that there are two ways of inquiry: that it is , on the one side, and that it is not .on the other side. He said that the latter argument is never feasible because there is no thing that can not be: "For never shall this prevail, that things that are not are." (B 7.1)
There are extremely delicate issues here. In the original Greek the two ways are simply named "that Is" (ὅπως ἐστίν) and "that Not-Is" (ὡς οὐκ ἐστίν) (B 2.3 and 2.5) without the "it" inserted in our English translation. In ancient Greek, which, like many languages in the world, does not always require the presence of a subject for a verb, "is" functions as a grammatically complete sentence. Much debate has been focused on where and what the subject is. The simplest explanation as to why there is no subject here is that Parmenides wishes to express the simple, bare fact of existence in his mystical experience without the ordinary distinctions, just as the Latin "pluit" and the Greek huei (ὕει "rains") mean "it rains"; there is no subject for these impersonal verbs because they express the simple fact of raining without specifying what is doing the raining. This is, for instance, Hermann Fränkel's thesis.Many scholars still reject this explanation and have produced more complex metaphysical explanations. Since existence is an immediately intuited fact, non-existence is the wrong path because a thing cannot disappear, just as something cannot originate from nothing. In such mystical experience (unio mystica), however, the distinction between subject and object disappears along with the distinctions between objects, in addition to the fact that if nothing cannot be, it cannot be the object of thought either:
Thinking and the thought that it is are the same; for you will not find thinking apart from what is, in relation to which it is uttered. (B 8.34–36)
For to be aware and to be are the same. (B 3)
It is necessary to speak and to think what is; for being is, but nothing is not. (B 6.1–2)
Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts; they are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed, beasts without judgment, convinced that to be and not to be are the same and not the same, and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one. (B 6.5–9)
Thus, he concluded that "Is" could not have "come into being" because "nothing comes from nothing". Existence is necessarily eternal. That which truly is [x], has always been [x], and was never becoming [x]; that which is becoming [x] was never nothing (Not-[x]), but will never actually be. Parmenides was not struggling to formulate the laws of conservation of mass and conservation of energy; he was struggling with the metaphysics of change, which is still a relevant philosophical topic today. Moreover, he argued that movement was impossible because it requires moving into "the void", and Parmenides identified "the void" with nothing, and therefore (by definition) it does not exist. That which does exist is The Parmenidean One, which is timeless, uniform, and unchanging:
How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown. (B 8.20–22)
Nor was [it] once, nor will [it] be, since [it] is, now, all together, / One, continuous; for what coming-to-be of it will you seek? / In what way, whence, did [it] grow? Neither from what-is-not shall I allow / You to say or think; for it is not to be said or thought / That [it] is not. And what need could have impelled it to grow / Later or sooner, if it began from nothing? Thus [it] must either be completely or not at all. (B 8.5–11)
[What exists] is now, all at once, one and continuous... Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike; nor is there any more or less of it in one place which might prevent it from holding together, but all is full of what is. (B 8.5–6, 8.22–24)
And it is all one to me / Where I am to begin; for I shall return there again. (B 5)
Parmenides claimed that there is no truth in the opinions of the mortals. Genesis-and-destruction, as Parmenides emphasizes, is a false opinion, because to be means to be completely, once and for all. What exists can in no way not exist.
For this view, that That Which Is Not exists, can never predominate. You must debar your thought from this way of search, nor let ordinary experience in its variety force you along this way, (namely, that of allowing) the eye, sightless as it is, and the ear, full of sound, and the tongue, to rule; but (you must) judge by means of the Reason (Logos) the much-contested proof which is expounded by me. (B 7.1–8.2)
After the exposition of the arche (ἀρχή), i.e. the origin, the necessary part of reality that is understood through reason or logos (that [it] Is), in the next section, the Way of Appearance/Opinion/Seeming, Parmenides proceeds to explain the structure of the becoming cosmos (which is an illusion, of course) that comes from this origin.
The structure of the cosmos is a fundamental binary principle that governs the manifestations of all the particulars: "the aether fire of flame" (B 8.56), which is gentle, mild, soft, thin and clear, and self-identical, and the other is "ignorant night", body thick and heavy.
The mortals lay down and decided well to name two forms (i.e. the flaming light and obscure darkness of night), out of which it is necessary not to make one, and in this they are led astray. (B 8.53–4)
The structure of the cosmos then generated is recollected by Aetius (II, 7, 1):
For Parmenides says that there are circular bands wound round one upon the other, one made of the rare, the other of the dense; and others between these mixed of light and darkness. What surrounds them all is solid like a wall. Beneath it is a fiery band, and what is in the very middle of them all is solid, around which again is a fiery band. The most central of the mixed bands is for them all the origin and cause of motion and becoming, which he also calls steering goddess and keyholder and Justice and Necessity. The air has been separated off from the earth, vapourized by its more violent condensation, and the sun and the circle of the Milky Way are exhalations of fire. The moon is a mixture of both earth and fire. The aether lies around above all else, and beneath it is ranged that fiery part which we call heaven, beneath which are the regions around the earth.
The traditional interpretation of Parmenides' work is that he argued that the every-day perception of reality of the physical world (as described in doxa ) is mistaken, and that the reality of the world is 'One Being' (as described in aletheia ): an unchanging, ungenerated, indestructible whole. Under the Way of Opinion, Parmenides set out a contrasting but more conventional view of the world, thereby becoming an early exponent of the duality of appearance and reality. For him and his pupils, the phenomena of movement and change are simply appearances of a changeless, eternal reality. This interpretation could settle because of various wrong translations of the fragments. For example, it is not at all clear that Parmenides refuted that which we call perception. The verb noein, used frequently by Parmenides, could better be translated as 'to be aware of' than as 'to think'. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that 'being' is only within our heads, according to Parmenides.
Parmenides' philosophy is presented in the form of poetry. The philosophy he argued was, he says, given to him by a goddess, though the "mythological" details in Parmenides' poem do not bear any close correspondence to anything known from traditional Greek mythology:
Welcome, youth, who come attended by immortal charioteers and mares which bear you on your journey to our dwelling. For it is no evil fate that has set you to travel on this road, far from the beaten paths of men, but right and justice. It is meet that you learn all things — both the unshakable heart of well-rounded truth and the opinions of mortals in which there is not true belief. (B 1.24–30)
It is with respect to this religious/mystical context that recent generations of scholars such as Alexander P. Mourelatos, Charles H. Kahn, and the controversial Peter Kingsley have begun to call parts of the traditional, rational logical/philosophical interpretation of Parmenides into question (Kingsley in particular stating that Parmenides practiced iatromancy). It has been claimed that previous scholars placed too little emphasis on the apocalyptic context in which Parmenides frames his revelation. As a result, traditional interpretations have put Parmenidean philosophy into a more modern, metaphysical context to which it is not necessarily well suited, which has led to misunderstanding of the true meaning and intention of Parmenides' message. The obscurity and fragmentary state of the text, however, renders almost every claim that can be made about Parmenides extremely contentious, and the traditional interpretation has by no means been abandoned.
Parmenides' considerable influence on the thinking of Plato is undeniable, and in this respect Parmenides has influenced the whole history of Western philosophy, and is often seen as its grandfather. Even Plato himself, in the Sophist , refers to the work of "our Father Parmenides" as something to be taken very seriously and treated with respect. In the Parmenides , the Eleatic philosopher, which may well be Parmenides himself, and Socrates argue about dialectic. In the Theaetetus , Socrates says that Parmenides alone among the wise (Protagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Epicharmus, and Homer) denied that everything is change and motion.
Parmenides is credited with a great deal of influence as the author of an "Eleatic challenge" that determined the course of subsequent philosophers' enquiries. For example, the ideas of Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus have been seen as in response to Parmenides' arguments and conclusions.
Parmenides' influence on philosophy reaches up till present times. The Italian philosopher Emanuele Severino has founded his extended philosophical investigations on the words of Parmenides. His philosophy is sometimes called Neo Parmenideism, and can be understood as an attempt to build a bridge between the poem on truth and the poem on opinion.
Parmenides made the ontological argument against nothingness, essentially denying the possible existence of a void. According to Aristotle, this led Democritus and Leucippus, and many other physicists,to propose the atomic theory, which supposes that everything in the universe is either atoms or voids, specifically to contradict Parmenides' argument. Aristotle himself reasoned, in opposition to atomism, that in a complete vacuum, motion would encounter no resistance, and "no one could say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere; for why should it stop here rather than here? So that a thing will either be at rest or must be moved ad infinitum, unless something more powerful get in its way." See also horror vacui.
Erwin Schrödinger identified Parmenides' monad of the "Way of Truth" as being the conscious self in "Nature and the Greeks".The scientific implications of this view have been discussed by scientist Anthony Hyman.
A shadow of Parmenides' ideas can be seen in the physical concept of Block time, which considers existence to consist of past, present, and future, and the flow of time to be illusory. In his critique of this idea, Karl Popper called Einstein "Parmenides".However, Popper did write:
So what was really new in Parmenides was his axiomatic-deductive method, which Leucippus and Democritus turned into a hypothetical-deductive method, and thus made part of scientific methodology.
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Peter Kingsley is the author of five books and numerous articles on ancient philosophy, including Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, Reality, A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World, and Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. He has written extensively on the pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Empedocles and the world they lived in.
Hermann Alexander Diels was a German classical scholar.
According to some twentieth-century philosophers, unit-point atomism was the philosophy of the Pythagoreans, a conscious repudiation of Parmenides and the Eleatics. It stated that atoms were infinitesimally small ("point") yet possessed corporeality. It was a predecessor of Democritean atomism. Most recent students of presocratic philosophy, such as Kurt von Fritz, Walter Burkert, Gregory Vlastos, Jonathan Barnes, and Daniel W. Graham have rejected that any form of atomism can be applied to the early Pythagoreans.
John Earle Raven, who published as J. E. Raven, was an English classical scholar, notable for his work on presocratic philosophy, and amateur botanist.
Philosophy of motion is a branch of philosophy concerned with exploring questions on the existence and nature of motion. The central questions of this study concern the epistemology and ontology of motion, whether motion exists as we perceive it, what is it, and, if it exists, how does it occur. The philosophy of motion is important in the study of theories of change in natural systems and is closely connected to studies of space and time in philosophy.