Parmenides - Parmenides: Stage 1 Issues among Presocratics...

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Parmenides: Stage 1 Issues among Presocratics studied so far: change vs. permanence. Milesians looked for a permanent reality underlying change. They thought that change was real, but could be understood only in terms of something permanent. Heraclitus found change itself to be the only thing that was permanent. The search for a permanent material substratum is illusory, he thought. Now comes Parmenides — a turning point in the history of western philosophy - for he denies the reality of change. For Parmenides, change is impossible. The very notion of change is incoherent. This is not just an assumption that Parmenides makes. Nor is it based on observation. (Quite the contrary: things certainly do appear to change.) Rather, it is the conclusion of a strictly deductive argument , from more basic premises. And it is not the only startling conclusion Parmenides draws. For he also holds that there is no coming into existence, or ceasing to exist. According to Parmenides, everything that exists is permanent, ungenerated, indestructible, and unchanging. According to traditional interpretation (no longer universally accepted, but still common) Parmenides goes even further, denying that there is such a thing as plurality . On this view, Parmenides denies that there are many things, maintaining instead that only one thing exists. (It’s not so clear, however, what he thought this one thing is .) Parmenides is without doubt the most difficult and obscure of the Presocratics. There are numerous different and conflicting interpretations of the curious bits of prose, poetry, and argumentation in the surviving fragments of his work, The Way of Truth . I won’t try to canvas them all. I’ll just sketch out one line that makes some sense of what Parmenides says. Parmenides was a native of Elea, a Greek city in southern Italy (somewhat south of present day Naples), born about 515-510 B.C. His great work consists of a poem in two main parts. 154 lines of this poem have survived, almost all of which is from the first part. (Experts think that about 90% of the first part has survived.) The two parts of the poem correspond to what Parmenides called “the two ways.” 1. The Two Ways Parmenides distinguishes two “ways” or “roads” of inquiry. He then argues against one of these, and in favor of the other. The one he favors he calls The Way of Truth ; the other he says is “a path completely unlearnable.” His argument is contained in fragments 2, 3, 6, and 8 : Come now, I will tell you . .. the only ways of inquiry there are for thinking: the one, that it is and that it is not possible for it not to be, is the path of Persuasion (for it attends upon Truth), the other, that it is not and that it is necessary for it not to be, this I point out to you to be a path completely unlearnable, for neither may you know that which is not (for it is not to be accomplished) nor may you declare it. [ 2 =B2] For the same thing is for thinking and for being. [ 3 =B3] That which is there to be spoken and thought of must be. For it is possible for it to
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Parmenides - Parmenides: Stage 1 Issues among Presocratics...

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