Ideas of Parmenides, by Theme

[Greek, c.515 - 445 BCE, Born in Elea, nr Naples. Taught by Xenophanes. Founder of Eleatic school. Zeno of Elea his pupil. Revered visitor to Athens in old age.]

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2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 1. On Reason
Parmenides was much more cautious about accepting ideas than his predecessors
     Full Idea: Parmenides would not agree with anything unless it seemed necessary, whereas his predecessors used to come up with unsubstantiated assertions.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], A28) by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.116.2-
     A reaction: from Eudemus
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
Being is not divisible, since it is all alike
     Full Idea: Being is not divisible, since it is all alike.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
Being must be eternal and uncreated, and hence it is timeless
     Full Idea: Being has no coming-to-be and no destruction, for it is whole of limb, without motion, and without end. And it never was, nor will be, because it is now, a whole all together, one, continuous; for what creation of it will you look for?
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
No necessity could produce Being either later or earlier, so it must exist absolutely or not at all
     Full Idea: What necessity impelled Being, if it did spring from nothing, to be produced later or earlier? Thus it must be absolutely, or not at all.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / d. Non-being
The realm of necessary non-existence cannot be explored, because it is unknowable
     Full Idea: The other way of enquiry, that IT IS NOT, and IT is bound NOT TO BE, cannot be explored, for you could neither recognise nor express that which IS NOT.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B02), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.116.28-
There is no such thing as nothing
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as nothing.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B06), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.86.27-
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / f. Primary being
Parmenides at least saw Being as the same as Nous, and separate from the sensed realm
     Full Idea: Parmenides made some approach to the doctrine of Plato in identifying Being with Intellectual-Principle [Nous] while separating Real Being from the realm of sense.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Plotinus - The Enneads 5.1.08
     A reaction: The point is that for Parmenides the One is the essence of Being, but for platonists there is something prior to and higher than Being. For Plato it is the Good; for Plotinus it is a revised (non-Being) concept of the One.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
All our concepts of change and permanence are just names, not the truth
     Full Idea: All things that mortals have established, believing in their truth, are just a name: Becoming and Perishing, Being and Not-Being, and change of position, and alteration of bright colour.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 1. Objects over Time
Something must be unchanging to make recognition and knowledge possible
     Full Idea: Parmenides and Melissus were the first to appreciate that there must be unchanging entities, if recognition and knowledge are to exist.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], A25) by Aristotle - On the Heavens 298b14
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 5. Metaphysical Necessity
The first way of enquiry involves necessary existence
     Full Idea: The first way of enquiry is the one that IT IS, and it is not possible for IT NOT TO BE, which is the way of credibility, for it follows truth.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B02), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.116.28-
     A reaction: also Proclus 'Timeus'
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 8. Transcendental Necessity
Necessity sets limits on being, in order to give it identity
     Full Idea: Powerful necessity holds Being in the bonds of a limit, which constrains it round about, because divine law decrees that Being shall not be without boundary. For it is not lacking, but if it were spatially infinite, it would lack everything.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 4. The Cogito
Thinking implies existence, because thinking depends on it
     Full Idea: To think is the same as the thought that IT IS, for you will not find thinking without Being, on which it depends for its expression.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 1. Perception
Parmenides treats perception and intellectual activity as the same
     Full Idea: Parmenides treats perception and intellectual activity as the same.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], A46) by Theophrastus - On the Senses 3.1
     A reaction: cf Theaetetus pt 1
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
Only reason can prove the truth of facts
     Full Idea: Reason alone will prove the truth of facts.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]), quoted by Diogenes Laertius - Lives of Eminent Philosophers 09.3.3
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / e. The One
People who say that the cosmos is one forget that they must explain movement
     Full Idea: Those who assert that the universe is one and a single nature, when they try to give the causes of generation and destruction, miss out the cause of movement.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Aristotle - Metaphysics 988b
The one is without any kind of motion
     Full Idea: The one is without any kind of motion.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]), quoted by Plato - Parmenides 139a
There could be movement within one thing, as there is within water
     Full Idea: Why does it follow from there being only one thing that it is unmoving, since, for example, water moves internally while remaining one?
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Aristotle - Physics 186a16
     A reaction: One suspects that Parmenides wasn't used to critical questions like this, and would have sharpened up his theory if it had been subjected to criticism. How big was the One? Maybe Aristotle is the real father of philosophy.
The one can't be divisible, because if it was it could be infinitely divided down to nothing
     Full Idea: Since the one is everywhere alike, then if it is divisible, it will be equally divisible everywhere….so let it be divided everywhere. It is obvious that nothing will remain and the whole will vanish, and so (if it is compound) it is composed of nothing.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.139.5-
     A reaction: he is quoting Porphyry
Defenders of the One say motion needs the void - but that is not part of Being
     Full Idea: Defenders of the One say that there could not be motion without a void, and that void is what does not exist, and that nothing that is not belongs to being.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Aristotle - Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) 325a26
     A reaction: This is why motion is an illusion, a view also supported by the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea. Aristotle goes on to give Democritus's response to this idea. Parmenides was contemplating 'void', before Democritus got to it.
Reason sees reality as one, the senses see it as many
     Full Idea: Since he is forced to be guided by appearances, he assumes that the one exists from the viewpoint of reason, but that a plurality exists from the viewpoint of the sense, and so he posits two principles and causes - hot and cold.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], A24) by Aristotle - Metaphysics 986b27-
     A reaction: A profound thought. Empiricists emphasies experience, and end up with fragmented reality. Reason explains experience, and in the process sees the world as unities (like objects), though a single unity is going too far.
Reality is symmetrical and balanced, like a sphere, with no reason to be greater one way rather than another
     Full Idea: Since there is a spatial limit, it is complete on every side, like the mass of a well-rounded sphere, equally balanced from its centre in every direction; for it is not bound to be at all either greater or less in this direction or that.
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE], B08 ll.?), quoted by Simplicius - On Aristotle's 'Physics' 9.145.1-
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / f. Ancient elements
He taught that there are two elements, fire the maker, and earth the matter
     Full Idea: He taught that there were two elements, fire and earth; and that one of them occupies the place of the maker, the other that of the matter.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Diogenes Laertius - Lives of Eminent Philosophers 09.Pa.2
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / a. Explaining movement
It is feeble-minded to look for explanations of everything being at rest
     Full Idea: For people to ignore the evidence of their senses and look for an explanation for everything being at rest is feeble-minded.
     From: comment on Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Aristotle - Physics 253a32
     A reaction: Not exactly an argument, but an interestingly robust assertion of commonsense against dodgy arguments. Aristotle is not exactly an empiricist, but he is on that side of the fence.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space / 1. Void
The void can't exist, and without the void there can't be movement or separation
     Full Idea: Some philosophers thought what is must be one and immovable. The void, they say, is not: but unless there is a void what is cannot be moved, nor can it be many, since there is nothing to keep things apart.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Aristotle - Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) 325a06
     A reaction: Somehow this doesn't seem very persuasive any more! I suppose we would distinguish various degrees of void, and assert the existence of sufficient void to allow movement and separation. We must surely agree that total nothingness doesn't exist.
27. Natural Reality / D. Time / 3. Parts of Time / a. Beginning of time
What could have triggered the beginning [of time and being]?
     Full Idea: What need would have aroused it later or sooner, starting from nothing to come into being?
     From: Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]), quoted by Robin Le Poidevin - Travels in Four Dimensions 02 'Everything'
     A reaction: [Barnes 1982:178] This remains an excellent question. The last I heard was a 'quantum fluctuation', but that seems to be an event, which therefore needs time.
27. Natural Reality / E. Cosmology / 1. Cosmology
He was the first person to say the earth is spherical
     Full Idea: He was the first person who asserted that the earth was of a spherical form.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Diogenes Laertius - Lives of Eminent Philosophers 09.Pa.2
He was the first to discover the identity of the Morning and Evening Stars
     Full Idea: He appears to have been the first to discover that Hesperus and Lucifer were the same star.
     From: report of Parmenides (fragments/reports [c.474 BCE]) by Diogenes Laertius - Lives of Eminent Philosophers 09.Pa.3
     A reaction: This is the famous example used by Frege to discuss reference and meaning.