By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides

Summary Parmenides' importance consists in the fact that he represents an absolute beginning in history, and particularly in the history of thought.. He was the first to question the meaning and the consequences of the use of the verb "to be", whose banality is equalled only by its importance in ancient Greece; by wondering about "being", we touch upon the foundations of discourse, of thought, and even of reality.

Introduction to Parmenides Ch. Prolegomena to Parmenides' thesis Ch. Parmenides' thesis and its negation Ch. The meaning of Parmenides' thesis and of its negation Ch. Parmenides' thesis, thinking, and speaking Ch. Presentation of the thesis and its negation in fragments 6 and 7 Ch.

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The negation of the thesis, "opinions," and the nonexistent third way Ch. The meaning of the "opinions of mortals" Ch. The foundation of the thesis: Notes Errata slip tipped in. Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Related resource Contributor biographical information at https: It is certain that his hometown was Elea Latin: Velia —a Greek settlement along the Tyrrhenian coast of the Appenine Peninsula, just south of the Bay of Salerno, now located in the modern municipality comune of Ascea, Italy.


Herodotus reports that members of the Phocaean tribe established this settlement ca. When exactly Parmenides was born is far more controversial. Neither account is clearly convincing in-itself, and scholars are divided on their reliability and veracity. The reliability of this account is esteemed for its historical focus as opposed to any philosophical agenda of these authors.

The later birthdate B. However, Plato is also known for including other entirely fictitious, clearly anachronistic yet precise details in his dialogues. Plato is not necessarily a reliable historical source. This is first indicated by the evident notoriety he gained for contributions to his community. Several sources attest that he established a set of laws for Elea, which remained in effect and sworn to for centuries after his death Coxon Test.

Finally, if Parmenides really was a personal teacher of Zeno of Elea B. Ultimately, however, when and where Parmenides died is entirely unattested. Ancient tradition holds that Parmenides produced only one written work, which was supposedly entitled On Nature Coxon Test. No copy of the original work has survived, in any part. Instead, scholars have collected purported quotations or testimonia from a number of ancient authors and attempted to reconstruct the poem by arranging these fragments according to internal and external testimonia evidence. The result is a rather fragmentary text, constituted by approximately dactylic-hexameter lines some are only partial lines, or even only one word.

This reconstructed arrangement has then been traditionally divided into three distinct parts: The linear order of the three main extant sections is certain, and the assignment of particular fragments and internal lines to each section is generally well-supported. However, it must be admitted that confidence in the connectedness, completeness, and internal ordering of the fragments in each section decreases significantly as one proceeds through the poem linearly: Furthermore, many philological difficulties persist throughout the reconstruction.

There are conflicting transmissions regarding which Greek word to read, variant punctuation possibilities, concerns surrounding adequate translation, ambiguities in the poetical form, and so forth.

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This is due entirely to Sextus Empiricus, who quoted Lines of the Proem C1 as a whole and explicitly reported that they began the poem Coxon Test. Not only are the bulk of these lines 1. In short, modern scholars would have no idea the Proem ever existed were it not for Sextus. Nevertheless, there is some controversy regarding the proper ending of the Proem. In contrast, Sextus continued his block quotation of the Proem after line 1.

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This reading is certainly understandable. Skip to content Skip to search. The moon is a mixture of both earth and fire. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown. In fact, the only ancient source to suggest any relationship between the thinkers is Plato, who would have Parmenides influencing Heraclitus instead.

The vast majority of interpreters have followed both these moves. However, there may be good reasons to challenge this reconstruction compare Bicknell ; Kurfess , The Proem opens mid-action, with a first-person account of an unnamed youth generally taken to be Parmenides himself traveling along a divine path to meet a didactic also unnamed goddess. The youth describes himself riding in a chariot with fire-blazing wheels turning on pipe-whistling axles, which seems to be traversing the heavens.

The chariot is drawn by mares, steered by the Daughters of the Sun the Heliades , who began their journey at the House of Night. The party eventually arrives at two tightly-locked, bronze-fitted gates—the Gates of Night and Day. However, it would seem that any chariot journey directed by sun goddesses is best understood as following the ecliptic path of the sun and Day also, that of the moon and Night. The journey would then continue following the ecliptic pathway upwards across the heavens to apogee, and then descend towards sunset in the West. At some point along this route over the Earth they would collect their mortal charge.

Following this circular path, the troupe would eventually arrive back in the underworld at the Gates of Night and Day. Not only are these gates traditionally located immediately in front of the House of Night, but the mention of the chasm that lies beyond them is an apt poetical description of the completely dark House of Night. It also suggests a possible identification of the anonymous spokes-goddess—Night compare Palmer The rest of the poem consists of a narration from the perspective of the unnamed goddess, who begins by offering a programmatic outline of what she will teach and what the youth must learn 1.

And the opinions of mortals, in which there is no genuine reliability. The suspicion that these lines might help shed light on the crucial relationship between Reality and Opinion is well-warranted. However, there are numerous possible readings both in the Greek transmission and in the English translation and selecting a translation for these lines requires extensive philological considerations, as well as an interpretative lens in which to understand the overall poem—the lines themselves are simply too ambiguous to make any determination.

Thus, it is quite difficult to offer a translation or summary here that does not strongly favor one interpretation of Parmenides over another. The following is an imperfect attempt at doing so, while remaining as interpretatively uncommitted as possible. Commentators have tended to understand these lines in several general ways.

Another common view is that Parmenides might be telling the youth he will learn counterfactually how the opinions of mortals or the objects of such opinions would or could have been correct even though they were not and are not now. Alternatively, Parmenides might be pointing to some distinct, third thing for the youth to learn, beyond just Reality and Opinion. This third thing could be, but is not limited to, the relationship between the two sections, which does not seem to have been explicitly outlined in the poem at least, not in the extant fragments.

In any case, these lines are probably best dealt with once one already has settled upon an interpretative stance for the overall poem given the rest of the evidence. In any case, due to the overall relative completeness of the section and its clearly novel philosophical content—as opposed to the more mythical and cosmological content found in the other sections—these lines have received far more attention from philosophically-minded readers, in both ancient and modern times. Here, the goddess seems to warn the youth from following the path which holds being and not-being or becoming and not-becoming to be both the same and not the same.

Scholars are divided as to what the exact meaning of this relationship is supposed to be, leading to numerous mutually exclusive interpretative models. Does Parmenides really mean to make an identity claim between the two—that thinking really is numerically one and the same as being, and vice-versa? Or, is it that there is some shared property -ies between the two? Most commonly, Parmenides has been understood here as anticipating Russellian concerns with language and how meaning and reference must be coextensive with, and even preceded by, ontology Owen This line of reasoning can be readily advanced to deny any sort of change at all.

Opinion has traditionally been estimated to be far longer than the previous two sections combined.

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This degree of precision is highly speculative, to say the least. The reason Opinion has been estimated to be so much larger is due to the fragmentary nature of the section only 44 verses, largely disjointed or incomplete, are attested and the apparently wide array of different topics treated—which would seem to require a great deal of exposition to properly flesh-out.

The belief that Opinion would have required a lengthy explication in order to adequately address its myriad of disparate topics may be overstated. As Kurfess has recently argued, there is nothing in the testimonia indicating any significant additional content belonging to the Opinion beyond that which is explicitly mentioned in the extant fragments Thus, though Opinion would still be far longer than the quite limited sampling that has been transmitted, it need not have been anywhere near as extensive as has been traditionally supposed, or all that much longer than Reality.

Regardless of its original length, the incompleteness of this section allows for substantially less confidence regarding its arrangement and even less clarity concerning the overall meaning of the section. As a result, the assignment of certain fragments to this section has faced more opposition compare Cordero for a recent example.

Nevertheless, the internal evidence and testimonia provide good reasons to accept the traditional assignment of fragments to this section, as well as their general arrangement. The range of content in this section includes: Admittedly, the Greek is ambiguous about what exactly it is not right for mortals to do. It is common amongst scholars to read these passages as claiming it is either wrong for mortals to name both Light and Night, or that naming just one of these opposites is wrong and the other acceptable.

This reading tends to suggest that Parmenides is either denying the existence of the duality completely, or accepting that only one of them properly exists. The same holds if only Night is named. Thus, it would not seem appropriate to name only one of these forms. This problem is only doubled if both forms are named. Thus, it would seem that mortals should not name either form, and thus both Light and Night are denied as proper objects of thought.

This universal denigration is first introduced at C 8. If this is truly a concluding passage, the apparently disparate content of Opinion is unified as a treatment of mortal errors in naming, which the section uncontroversially began with. The outer ones with night, along which spews forth a portion of flame. This is clearly the case with respect to C , as the governing goddess is explicitly said to direct male-female intercourse in C This is then followed by a more intuitive cosmogony, suffused with traditional mythopoetical elements Opinion —a world full of generation, perishing, motion, and so forth.

It is uncontroversial that Reality is positively endorsed, and it is equally clear that Opinion is negatively presented in relation to Aletheia. However, there is significant uncertainty regarding the ultimate status of Opinion , with questions remaining such as whether it is supposed to have any value at all and, if so, what sort of value. While most passages in the poem are consistent with a completely worthless Opinion , they do not necessitate that valuation; even the most obvious denigrations of Opinion itself or mortals and their views are not entirely clear regarding the exact type or extent of its failings.

Even more troubling, there are two passages which might suggest some degree of positive value for Opinion —however, the lines are notoriously difficult to understand. Thus, it is helpful to examine more closely the passages where the relationship between the sections is most directly treated. From the very beginning of her speech, the goddess presents the opinions of mortals that is, Opinion negatively in relation to Reality.

However, it does not necessarily follow from these lines that Opinion is entirely false or valueless. At most, all that seems entailed here is a comparative lack of epistemic certainty in relation to Reality. Accepting that it is the content of Opinion that is deceptive, one of the most difficult interpretative questions regarding Opinion remains.

Is the extent of the deception supposed to apply to: Mortal beliefs are also unequivocally derided in between these bookends to Reality , though in slightly different terms. C 5 not only claims mortal views are in error, it identifies the source of their error—confusing being and non-being.

Given the passages outlined so far in this section, there appears to be quite a substantial case for taking Opinion to be entirely false and lacking any value whatsoever. Nevertheless, this may not be the entire story. Furthermore, there is at least some textual evidence that might be understood to suggest Opinion should not be treated as negatively as the passages considered so far would suggest.

As noted in the summary of the Proem above, there are two particularly difficult lines C 1. At most, these lines could only soften the negative treatment of mortal views. Only one further extant passage remains which might offer some reason to think Opinion maintains some positive value, and this is the passage most commonly appealed to for this purpose. Since mortals are incorrect in their accounts, the particular account offered in Opinion is representative of such accounts, and is presented didactically—as an example of the sorts of accounts that should not be accepted.

If the youth can learn to recognize what is fundamentally mistaken in this representative account Opinion , any alternative or derivative account offered by mortals which includes the same fundamental errors can be recognized and resisted. Given all of this, it is undeniable that Opinion is lacking in comparison to Aletheia , and certainly treated negatively in comparison. It should also be taken as well-founded that the Opinion is epistemically inferior.

Whether Opinion is also inferior in terms of veracity seems most likely—though again, it is not certain whether this means Opinion is entirely lacking in value, and the extent of its deceptiveness all content, or its fundamental premises and assumptions is still an open question. Navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of: This section provides a brief overview of: The purpose is to provide the reader with a head-start on how scholars have tended to think about these aspects of the poem, and some of the difficulties and objections these views have faced.

The treatment is not meant to be at all exhaustive, nor advocate any particular view in favor of another. The only ancient response to the content of the Proem is from the Pyrrhonian Skeptic Sextus Empiricus 2 nd cn. In an attempt to demonstrate how Parmenides rejected opinions based upon sensory evidence in favor of infallible reason, Sextus set forth a detailed allegorical account in which most details described in the Proem are supposed to possess a particular metaphorical meaning relating to this epistemological preference.

In his attempt to make nearly every aspect of the story fit a particular metaphorical model, Sextus clearly overreaches all evidence and falls into obvious mistakes. The metaphorical associations are often strained at best, if not far beyond any reasonable speculation, particularly when one attempts to find metaphorical representations in every minor detail.

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More theoretically problematic, determining some aspects to be allegorical while other details are not would seem to require some non-arbitrary methodology, which is not readily forthcoming. Recognition of this has led some to claim that while the Proem is certainly allegorical, we are so far distant from the cultural context as to have no hope of reliably accessing its metaphorical meanings for example, Curd Finally, the allegorical accounts available tend to offer little if any substantive guidance or interpretative weight for reading the poem overall.

With the decline of allegorical treatments, an interest in parsing the Proem in terms of possible shared historical, cultural, and mythical themes has ascended. Thus, it is overly speculative to hang very much on this purported influence with any confidence. The youth does not learn about any topics Orphism itself focuses on: A select few advocate that the reader is merely supposed to recognize that Parmenides is here indicating that his insights were the product of an actual spiritual experience he underwent.

However, there is no real evidence for this, and some against. There are very close similarities between the imagery and thematic elements in the Proem and those found throughout the rest of the poem, especially Opinion. Both the Proem and the theogonical cosmology in Opinion introduce an anonymous goddess. In fact, in contrast to Reality , both sections have extensive mythological content, which scholars have regularly overlooked.

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By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides Hardcover – October 5, Nestor-Luis Cordero is professor of ancient philosophy at the University of Rennes, France. Start reading By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides on your Kindle in under a minute. ontology is the study of Being, or what there is, and metaphysics the study of For an accurate appreciation of Parmenides' thesis, we must first have some idea .

The obvious pervasive female presence in the Proem and the rest of the poem , particularly in relation to divinity, can also hardly be a coincidence, though its importance remains unclear. Once considered at greater length, the parallels between the Proem and Opinion seem far too numerous and carefully contrived to be coincidental and unimportant. This suggests a stronger relationship between the Proem and Opinion than has commonly been recognized and the need for a much more holistic interpretative approach to the poem overall, in contrast to the more compartmentalized analyses that have been so pervasive.

Further scholarly consideration along these lines would likely prove quite fruitful. That is, how to reconcile: This approach provides a more universal appreciation of the A-D Paradox than taking on any selection of authors as foils, allowing the reader a broad appreciation for why various interpretative approaches to the poem have yet to yield a convincing resolution to this problem. The future philosophers who read Parmenides' Poem must learn a method, which partially coincides with the method Parmenides himself uses to persuade them and guide them.

For instance, the arguments that the goddess uses in order to make them aware of the lack of truth of the opinions of the mortals are arguments that they must make their own in order to judge cf.

Philosophy 4 PARMENIDES

Parmenides' thesis is analysed very thoroughly and clearly especially in chapters 3, 4, 5, 9. One of the crucial issues of chapter 3 is the problem of the lack of subject of estin at fr. After a very learned analysis of the various interpretations that this lack of subject has generated -- the transmitted text is wrong; there is an implicit subject that can be found elsewhere in the poem; no subject is needed -- C. That means that Parmenides does not start from a subject and tells us something about it, but starts from an undeniable certainty, i.

Like 'is writing' lets us know that the fact of writing is happening now, by saying 'is' Parmenides communicates that fact that 'is' is going on, that the fact of being is present now. The subject must be analytically extracted from the meaning of estin as Parmenides' fundamental thesis" The analytically extracted subject will turn out to be "' eon ' or ' einai ', 'that which is', 'the fact of being', '[that which is] being" In Chapter 4 C.

In researching the dynamic of Parmenides' exposition, C. To persist in speaking of the ways of being and not-being, we would have to call the first way the 'way of being that is' and the second the 'way of not being that is' or 'of being that is not'. In Chapter 5 C. He maintains that since esti has an absolute and necessary character and this is proved by the fact that its negation is impossible thinking and speaking cannot dispense with it.

A solution to this problem is to assume that 'must grasp' does not refer to an absolute necessity, but to a task of the philosopher, a task that he may well not fulfil. We shall come back to this shortly. In Chapter 6 C. This is crucial in order to realise that in the whole Poem only two ways are discussed, never a third. Then he defends his own conjecture see N.

The form of archesthai that C. In Chapter 7 C. The second way is "an artificial way, invented by those who ignore the unbearable weight of the fact of being and therefore relativize it"