Parmenides, Greek Philosopher


6th century BC

(5th century BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Elea, a Greek city on the Southern coast of Italy. He is one of the most significant of the pre-Socratic philosophers. He argued that the every day perception of reality of the physical world (The Way of Seeming) is mistaken; and that the reality of the world is 'One Being' (the Way of Truth): an unchanging, ungenerated, indestructible whole.

He was the founder of the Eleatic school, which also included Zeno of Elea and Melissus.

His work On Nature exists only in fragments and is made up of two parts as well as an introductory discourse. The Way of Truth discusses that which is real and the Way of Seeming discusses that which is illusory.

Under the Way of Truth, he argued that the existence of a thing implied that it could not have "come into being" because "nothing comes from nothing." 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. When one says that Parmenides "argued" something, one cannot think about argue in the modern sense. Parmenides was a prophet, magician and healer (just like Pythagoras, Empedocles and many others), and his philosophy is presented in verse, through mythology and obscure mystic visions. The philosophy he argued was, he says, given to him by the Goddess of the underworld (Tartaros).

Under 'way of seeming', in the same work, he 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 static, eternal reality.

"It is both necessary to say and think that being is: for to be is possible, and nothingness is not possible."

"My writing is an answer to the partisans of the many... with a view to showing that the hypothesis of the many, if examined in sufficient detail, leads to even more absurd results that the hypothesis of the One."









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