The Parmenidean Cosmology of Parmenides
Parmenides and the Question of Being in Greek Thought: a selection of modern interpretations, with an annotated bibliography. Parmenides of Elea was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia . It is necessary to speak and to think what is; for being is, but nothing is not. (B –2). Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts; they. Parmenides and Aristoteles agree that the one doesn't experience being other, to develop at some length the relationship of the same to equality: being equal.
This was a metaphysical and cosmological poem in the traditional epic medium of hexameter verse.
That any portion of his poem survives is due entirely to the fact that later ancient authors, beginning with Plato, for one reason or another felt the need to quote some portion of it in the course of their own writings. Sextus Empiricus quotes thirty of the thirty-two verses of fragment 1 the opening Proem of the poemthough apparently from some sort of Hellenistic digest rather than from an actual manuscript copy, for his quotation of fr.
The Alexandrian Neoplatonist Simplicius 6th c. He introduces his lengthy quotation of fr. We are much less well informed about the cosmology Parmenides expounded in the latter part of the poem and so must supplement the primary evidence of the fragments with testimonia, that is, with various reports or paraphrases of his theories that we also find in later authors.
A more comprehensive collection of testimonia, with English translations, is to be found in Coxon99— Certainly the partial and imperfect preservation of his poem is one factor that complicates understanding of his thought. The maidens gently persuade Justice, guardian of these gates, to open them so that Parmenides himself may pass through to the abode within. Parmenides thus describes how the goddess who dwells there welcomed him upon his arrival: In the proem, then, Parmenides casts himself in the role of an initiate into the kind of mysteries that were during his day part of the religious milieu of Magna Graecia.
The divinity in this instance would seem to be Night herself: The goddess Night serves as counselor to Zeus in some of the major Orphic cosmologies, including the Derveni cosmology. In the closely related Orphic Rhapsodies, Night instructs Zeus on how to preserve the unity produced by his absorption of all things into himself as he sets about initiating a new cosmogonic phase. She then follows this first phase of her revelation with what in the originally complete poem was a much longer account of the principles, origins, and operation of the cosmos and its constituents, from the heavens and the sun, moon, and stars right down to the earth and its population of living creatures, including humans themselves.
The goddess goes on to refer back to the first way of inquiry and then speaks of another way as characteristic of mortal inquiry: These things I bid you ponder. Here the goddess again articulates the division of her revelation into the two major phases first announced at the end of fragment 1. Some have thought the cosmology proceeds along the second way of inquiry introduced at fr. She in fact appears to be indicating that her harsh criticism of the inapprehension of ordinary humans, resulting from their exclusive reliance on the senses, has been designed to keep Parmenides firmly planted on the first way of inquiry.
These now include the programmatic description here in fr. The arguments here proceed methodically in accordance with the program announced at fr. The goddess begins by arguing, in fr.
Parmenides (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
And the decision about these matter lies in this: And how might it have been? Continuing on, in fr. The direct evidence provided by the last lines of fragment 8 50—64 and by the other fragments plausibly assigned to this portion of the poem frs. Since a number of these fragments are programmatic, we still have a good idea of some of the major subjects it treated. Witness the programmatic remarks of fragments 10 and Fortunately, the sketchy picture of the cosmology furnished by the fragments is significantly improved by the testimonia.
The impression given by the fragments of the range of subjects is confirmed by both Simplicius, who comments after quoting fr. The ancient testimonia tend to confirm that Parmenides sought to explain an incredibly wide range of natural phenomena, including especially the origins and specific behaviors of both the heavenly bodies and the terrestrial population.
Some Principal Types of Interpretation While Parmenides is generally recognized as having played a major role in the development of ancient Greek natural philosophy and metaphysics, fundamental disagreement persists about the upshot of his philosophy and thus about the precise nature of his influence.
These sections do not purport to present a comprehensive taxonomy of modern interpretations, nor do they make any attempt to reference all the representatives and variants of the principal types of interpretation here described. They are not meant to be a history of modern Parmenides interpretation, as worthy and fascinating a topic as that is. Since some advocates of the interpretations outlined in sections 3.
After doing so in section 3. A successful interpretation should attend to the fr. To this end, it should avoid attributing to Parmenides views that are patently anachronistic or, worse, views that cannot be coherently asserted or maintained. On this view, Parmenides considers the world of our ordinary experience non-existent and our normal beliefs in the existence of change, plurality, and even, it seems, our own selves to be entirely deceptive.
Although less common than it once was, this type of view still has its adherents and is probably familiar to many who have only a superficial acquaintance with Parmenides. The strict monist interpretation is influentially represented in the first two volumes of W. Finding reason and sensation to yield wildly contradictory views of reality, Parmenides presumed reason must be preferred and sensory evidence thereby rejected as altogether deceptive.
But this was just what the Milesians had done. They supposed that the world had not always existed in its present cosmic state. They derived it from one substance, which they asserted to have changed or moved in various ways—becoming hotter or colder, drier or wetter, rarer or denser—in order to produce the present world-order.
It is thus illegitimate to suppose that everything came into being out of one thing Guthrie86—7. In addition to thus criticizing the theoretical viability of the monistic material principles of the early Milesian cosmologists, Parmenides also is supposed to have criticized the Milesian union of the material and moving cause in their principles by arguing that motion and change are impossible and inadmissible conceptions Guthrie5—6, Parmenides directs us to judge reality by reason and not to trust the senses.
Reason, as deployed in the intricate, multi-staged deduction of fragment 8, reveals what attributes whatever is must possess: Parmenides nonetheless proceeded in the second part of his poem to present an elaborate cosmology along traditional lines, thus presenting readers with the following crux: There is the same type of tension in the outmoded proposals that Parmenides was targeting certain supposedly Pythagorean doctrines a view developed in Raven and ensconced in Kirk and Raven Here the watershed event was the publication of G.
When you think, you think of something; when you use a name, it must be the name of something. Therefore both thought and language require objects outside themselves. And since you can think of a thing or speak of it at one time as well as another, whatever can be thought of or spoken of must exist at all times.
Consequently there can be no change, since change consists in things coming into being or ceasing to be Russell While abandoning the idea that Parmenidean monism was a specific reaction to the theories of any of his predecessors, these two works continue to depict his impact on later Presocratic systems as decisive. On their Owenian line, the story becomes that the arguments of Parmenides and his Eleatic successors were meant to be generally destructive of all previous cosmological theorizing, in so far as they purported to show that the existence of change, time, and plurality cannot be naively presumed.
While this proposal has had fewer adherents among other interpreters favoring the Russell-Owen line, it has been taken up by certain advocates of the next type of interpretation. As such, it is not an account of what there is namely, one thing, the only one that exists but, rather, of whatever is in the manner required to be an ontologically fundamental entity—a thing that is F, for some F, in an essential way.
Thus Nehamas has more recently written: The signposts then tell us what conditions must be met if a subject is to be something in the appropriate way, if it is to be really something, and thus be a real subject. And to be really something, F, is to be F—B 8 tells us—ungenerably and imperishably, wholly, only and indivisibly, unchangingly, perfectly and completely.
To be a genuine entity, a thing must be a predicational unity, with a single account of what it is; but it need not be the case that there exists only one such thing. Rather, the thing itself must be a unified whole. If it is, say, F, it must be all, only, and completely F.
Epicureanism's Relationship to Other Traditions
Mourelatos, Nehamas, and Curd all take Parmenides to be concerned with specifying in an abstract way what it is to be the nature or essence of a thing, rather than simply with specifying what there in fact is, as he is presumed to be doing on both the logical-dialectical and the more traditional strict monist readings. Advocates of the meta-principle reading here face a dilemma. The cosmological principles light and night do not in fact conform to those strictures. Not only is this an unstable interpretive position, it imputes confusion to Parmenides rather than acknowledge its own difficulties.
Long for a more detailed development of this interpretive line. Unfortunately, this notion has no real ancient authority.
But Aristotle mentions Parmenides nowhere in the passage, and his complaint is in fact broadly directed against all the early Greek philosophers whose views he has been surveying previously in the book. He complains that they naively adopted the view that no fundamental entity or substance comes to be or perishes, the result being that they are unable to account for, because they disavow, substantial change, which is the very phenomenon Aristotle is most interested in explaining.
In the complex treatment of Parmenides in Physics 1. According to Aristotle, Melissus held that everything is a single, i.
This is only a superficial difference, given how at Physics 1. Despite the assimilation of Melissus and Parmenides under the rubric inherited from Gorgias, Aristotle recognized that grouping the two figures together under this convenient label obscured fundamental differences in their positions. Among its species are strict monism or the position that just one thing exists. This is the position Melissus advocated, one which no serious metaphysician should want to adopt. More familiar species include both numerical and generic substance monism, according to which, respectively, there is a single substance or a single kind of substance.
Plutarch explains that Parmenides was in fact the first to distinguish between the mutable objects of sensation and the unchanging character of the intelligible: Aristotle attributes to both Parmenides and Plato the recognition that knowledge requires as its objects certain natures or entities not susceptible to change—to Parmenides in De Caelo 3. Plato likewise has his fictionalized Parmenides present something very close to this line of argument in the dialogue bearing his name: This would be a rash conclusion, however, for Plato consistently represents Parmenides as a monist in later dialogues see, e.
There the One is shown to have a number of properties that reflect those Parmenides himself attributed to Being in the course of fr. In the Second Deduction, all these properties prove to belong to the One in virtue of its own nature and in relation to itself. Alexander of Aphrodisias quotes him as having written the following of Parmenides in the first book of his On the Natural Philosophers: Coming after this man [sc.
Xenophanes], Parmenides of Elea, son of Pyres, went along both paths. For he both declares that the universe is eternal and also attempts to explain the generation of the things that are, though without taking the same view of them both, but supposing that in accordance with truth the universe is one and ungenerated and spherical in shape, while in accordance with the view of the multitude, and with a view to explaining the generation of things as they appear to us, making the principles two, fire and earth, the one as matter and the other as cause and agent Alex.
The passage on the whole suggests that, like Plato and Aristotle, Theophrastus understood Parmenides as furnishing dual accounts of the universe, first in its intelligible and then in its phenomenal aspects. Both Plato and Aristotle understood Parmenides as perhaps the first to have developed the idea that apprehension of what is unchanging is of a different order epistemologically than apprehension of things subject to change. More fundamentally, Plato and Aristotle both came to understand Parmenides as a type of generous monist whose conception of what is belongs more to theology or first philosophy than to natural science.
Like Parmenides, Heraclitus had also received instruction at the hands of Xenophanes, but there the similarity ended. Heraclitus basically took the systems of Anaximander and Anaximenes and added a crucially important element: As he put it: Later, followers of Heraclitus substituted air for fire in his system, but in Heraclitus we can see the beginnings of the basic pneumatic response to the Eleatics.
In brief, the Pneumatic world-view is that causality is strictly determinate, associated with an intelligent substance found throughout the universe. Forms are therefore a product of consciousness, being imposed on matter by an omnipresent, intelligent kind of matter.
Our comprehension of the world is basically a recognition of this cosmic ordering principle inherent in the pneuma and not of the specific identities of particular things as such. The second answer to the Eleatics was made in the early 5th century B. Unlike the pneumatic claim that an intelligent substance permeated the universe, Anaxagoras instead argued that the cosmic mind, or nous, that ordered the universe was immaterial.
This mind transcended the material world, but directed everything within it. As Anaxagoras explained his Noetic system: For if it were not apart but had been mised with any other thing, it would have shared in everything if it had been mixed with anything.
For, as I have said above, there is a portion of everything in everything. And if other things had been mixed with Mind, they would have prevented it from exercising the rule which it does when apart by itself. For Mind is the slenderest and purest of all things. Mind is the ruling force in all things that have life whether greater or smaller. Anaxagoras attempted to solve this problem by describing the universe as a mixture of different kinds of infinitely divisbile components, with the cosmic mind regulating the distribution of each component over space.
Local concentrations of a given kind of component would give rise to a macroscopic thing with properties similar to that of its preponderant component a doctrine called the homoeomerous theory of matter. The third answer to the Eleatics came later in the 5th century B.Equality in relationship
These philosophers realized that the Eleatic dilemma of identity and change could be resolved without invoking a cosmic intelligence of any kind, whether material or immaterial. In their theory, the universe consisted of unchanging indivisble particles, the atomoi or atoms, moving within an empty void. Since the identiy of the microscopic atoms is unchanging and the interactions between atoms is in accord with definite causal laws, it is possible to reduce macroscopic identities to a combination of fixed microscopic identities and fixed causal relationships among these atomic identities.
In effect, each atom is like an Eleatic universe as far as the conservation of its identity over time is concerned, but the Atomists expanded their notion of identity to include causal interactions among fixed identities which can lead to changing interrelationships between the atoms.
Further Developments in Noetic Philosophy: These sophists continued and amplified the Eleatic tradition of challenging conventional ideas and common sense at every turn, forcing the various post-Eleatic schools of thought to greatly refine their teachings.
A student of Anaxagoras, Archelaus, transmitted the Noetic system to Athens, where it was taught to Socrates. Socrates shifted the focus of Noetic thought to ethics, suggesting that humans too were regulated by the cosmic mind and only human ignorance stood in the way of adherence to the proper art of living. In contrast to the amoral tendencies of the sophists, Socrates gained great fame portraying virtue as a given for the knowledgable wise man, and vice as a product of ignorance. Socrates was too famous for his own good, as his incessant moralizing often coupled with a disdain for social conventionassociation with disreputable politicians, and condescending attitude towards the more tradition-minded masses made him an easy target for popular scorn.
Convicted of atheism and corruption of the youth, Socrates was sentenced to death and, by willingly drinking a cup of hemlock, became the most famous philosophical martyr of all times.
Plato, one the aristocratic students of Socrates, built on Socratic teachings as well as his subsequent studies of Pythagoreanism and his personal experiences as a courtier in Sicily. Amending the Anaxagorean model of form-matter relationships, Plato argued that there had to be a separate world of forms that provided the templates from which the cosmic mind characterized as a demiurge or craftsman ordered the world of matter.
Since the demiurge couldn't make perfect copies of the original forms from base matter, Plato took the radical step of suggesting that our insight into ideal forms provides more certain knowledge than empirical observations of material objects. Plato, perhaps inspired by Pythagorean cults, also developed the view that the state ought to take the central role in promoting wisdom, using rigid social stratification, indoctrination, and coercion to closely govern every aspect of a citizen's life.
A student of Plato's, Aristotle, ultimately came to reject the Platonic emphasis on the imperfections of matter and the perfection of an other-worldly realm.
Instead of displacing forms off in their own separate world, Aristotle saw forms as being embodied in material objects via some external agency. By observing such objects, one can discern via empirical observation the forms that govern motion and development as well as the imperfections of matter. Generally speaking, Aristotle required fewer transcendent props to explain how the world works. Further Developments in Pneumatic Philosophy: While Plato and Aristotle left established schools to carry on their teachings, the non-Noetic traditions underwent a resurgence at this time, a period known as the Hellenistic era.
The Eleatic and Sophist tradition of disputatious criticism was carried on by the Skeptics, while Atomism, as we shall see below, was being transformed by Epicurus. Pneumatic teachings also underwent a revival, beginning with Zeno of Citium, a city in Cyprus.
Stoicism later became very influential among the upper classes of Rome, especially under the influence of Epictetus and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Stoic system puts a strong emphasis on working out the logical implications of a universe ordered by the pneuma, exploring the pneuma's role as a manifestion of rational intelligence, as a unifying principle of nature, and even as a supreme divinity.
Ethics was portrayed as conformnity with this cosmic natural reason, understood by humans as virtues that serve as a detailed script for how one should behave. This duty to live in accordance with natural dictates transcended all other values, including one's own survival and happiness. This conception of nature was not without its ambiguities, however. Stoicism is perfectionist in its treatment of the virtues—the virtuous life being an all-or-nothing proposition—thus requiring that one supress all passions that stand in the way of virtue, confronting one with a fundamental conflict between reason and desire.
Moreover, there is a tension in Stoic ethics between the organic unity of nature provided by the pneuma, which prompts one to subordinate private interests to the common good of society; and the rationality of the pneuma, which prompts one to think and act independently of social conventions and constraints.
Notwithstanding the practical difficulties posed by Stoic ethics, Stoicism came to define a kind of logical culmination of the pneumatic and even in some respects the noetic view that causality in nature requires an external intelligence, imposing strict moral duties on the wise man that are known through reason.
Where the Skeptics doubted the ability of rational mind even to know anything, the Stoics tended towards the opposite extreme of elevating reason to being the master of everything. It is amid these sharply contrasting views about the nature of reason that fluorished in the Hellenistic age that Epicureanism was born. Further Developments in Atomistic Philosophy: Epicurus The history and beliefs of Epicurus and his school are recounted elsewhere on this webstite, but the story of how Greek philosophy developed up through the Hellenistic age provides crucial insights into development of Epicureanism.
Epicurean physics was rooted in the atomistic tradition, with one significant innovation by Epicurus. Epicurus realized that the deterministic character of Democritus's system was fatal to the notion of a freedom of choice that is inherent in any sensible conception of ethics, and that it was also problematic for explaining how inhomogeneities arise in nature. Epicurus therefore introduced the notion of the atomic swerve, where the path of an atom is no longer simply a function of the other atoms it interacts with, but also subject to some random variation.
This leads to a strikingly modern conception of physics, where the traditional atomistic conception of particles with fixed identities and variable interrelationships is supplemented by what modern scientists would classify as a quantum indeterminacy.
Given the Skeptic assault on reason, Epicurus's reaction was to formulate canonics as a separate branch of his philosophy, a kind of epistemology that highlights an unconditional acceptance of sensations and thus firmly anchors human knowledge in reality.