Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Parmenides – (C.515-445BCE)

Julia Alsop continues her exploration of early metaphysical philosophers

Used under a Creative Commons licence
Parmenides was from the Greek city Elea, on the southern Italian coast, where he was descended from a rich, noble family. His exact dates are unsure, but they are widely accepted as being from 515-445BCE roughly. Parmenides founded the Eleatic School of Philosophy, and it is said the he also wrote the laws of the city of Elea. Parmenides later influenced other great minds, including the infamous Plato, who often spoke of him, and even wrote a dialogue, namelyParmenides, about him. His great influence on Plato, is what makes Parmenides such an important figure in recognizing the development of western philosophy.

Where Parmenides’ work is concerned, only one work is known of today – On Nature, a poem of which only 160 lines have survived.In this text Parmenides tried to distinguish between the unity of nature along with the vast variety. Parmenides was greatly influenced by Pythagoras, employing a deductive reason to uncover information about the physical world, and thus his views were quite the opposite to that of Heraclitus (see earlier post). Parmenides recognized the premise that something exists, “it is”, by the same logic it cannot also not exist, “it is not”, and thus there can be no state of non-existence without contradiction. He then noted that something cannot come from nothing, and must have always existed to some extent. Parmenides’ final conclusion was that “everything that is real must be eternal and unchanging” – ergo, it has unity and so ultimately “All is One”.

Parmenides’ logic taught us a lot – he showed that our reasoning of the world around us is skewed, despite experiencing change; we convince ourselves that change cannot be possible, so we can never rely on experience that we have learnt from our senses.

1 comment:

  1. Cantius has also struggled with the ideas of existence and especially the idea that everything that is real must be eternal and unchanging and especially the conclusion that ‘All is One’. Interestingly,this also makes Cantius think of perfection and inevitably the Borg. Parmenides presumably believes that perfection exists now. The Borg however are on a journey of assimilation and perfection is their raison d’etre. Cantius hopes that the journey will last forever and that resistance is far from futile.


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