parmenides' poem summary

in the city of Elea in southern Italy. While this view is pervasive and perhaps even defensible, many have found it hard to accept given its radical and absurd entailments. This appendix presents a Greek text of the fragments of Parmenides’ poem accompanied by an English translation. An exceptionally solid and detailed introduction to the Presocratics overall. Thus, this view results in the “mad,” self-denying position that Descartes would famously show later was the one thing we could never deny as thinkers—our own existence. In many ways, the theogonical cosmology presented so far is quite reminiscent of Hesiod’s own Theogony, and certain Milesian cosmologies at times. Here, the goddess dismisses anything mortals erroneously think to be real, but which violate the perfect predicates of Reality, as “names.” C 11 expounds upon this “naming error,” arguing that Light and Night have been named and the relevant powers of each have been granted to their objects, which have also been named accordingly. Admittedly, Heraclitus’ use of the past tense here is not decisive, as it certainly does not require all those named be dead. If so, the question remains whether he sought to further refine or challenge such views—or perhaps both. And let not habit do violence to you on the empirical way of exercising an unseeing eye and a noisy ear and tongue, but decide by discourse the controversial test enjoined by me” (Coxon’s translation). In addition, since Pythagoras himself did not write anything, any written works in the Pythagorean tradition that were disseminated must have been written by his followers—again, probably after Pythagoras’ own death (post-500 B.C.E.). Plato’s Parmenides consists in a critical examinationof the theory of forms, a set of metaphysical and epistemologicaldoctrines articulated and defended by the character Socrates in thedialogues of Plato’s middle period (principally Phaedo,Republic II–X, Symposium). Not only are the bulk of these lines (1.1-28) not quoted by any other ancient source, but their content is not even mentioned in passing. That is, to say “X is Y” in this way is to predicate of X all the properties that necessarily belong to X, given the sort of thing X is (Mourelatos 1970, 56-67). At some point along this route over the Earth they would collect their mortal charge. C 14 and C 15 then describe the cosmology that results from the theogonical arrangement, expounding the properties of the moon as, respectively, “an alien, night-shining light, wandering around the Earth,” which is “always looking towards the rays of the sun.” Similarly, C 16 is a single word (ὑδατόριζον), meaning “rooted in water,” and the testιmonia explicitly claims this is grounded in the Earth. The later birthdate (515 B.C.E). This estimate is reasonable even if the details of Plato’s Parmenides are not reliable and if one accepts Diogenes’ account, as Parmenides would be seventy by this point. Xenophanes draws a distinction between divine and mortal knowledge which mortals cannot overcome; Parmenides’ poem also seems to acknowledge this distinction, though he may very well be suggesting this divide can be overcome through logical inquiry, in contrast to Xenophanes. Sextus also identifies the charioteer-maidens with Parmenides’ sense organs. 2). Parmenides’ poem began with a proem describing a journey he figuratively once made to the abode of a goddess. Xenophanes claims that the misunderstanding of the gods is the result of mortals relying upon their own subjective perceptions and imputing similar qualities to divine nature. For ease of reference, references to fragments of Parmenides’ poem list, first, Coxon’s numbering (C) and then, Diels-Kranz’s (DK). The source for Parmenides’ earlier birthdate (c. 540 B.C.E.) C.E.) Since mortals have only ever relied upon their sense perceptions rather than deductive logic, they have never conceived of the essential nature of any necessary entity. Parmenides' arguments allow for a plurality of fundamental, predicationally unified entities that can be used to explain the world reported by the senses. It is to that entity mortals have “given as names” all the attributions listed: coming to be, perishing, and so forth. The treatment is not meant to be at all exhaustive, nor advocate any particular view in favor of another. This strict monism has been the most common way of understanding Parmenides’ thesis, from early times into the mid-twentieth century. B.C.E.). Sending female to mix with male, and again in turn. A 1st cn. It is also uncontroversial that the “opinions of mortals” will be taught in Opinion (C 8.51-C 20) and that this account will be inferior to the account of Aletheia in some way—certainly epistemically and perhaps also ontologically. This is almost certainly no accident, and generally indicative of Parmenides’ influence on Greek thought overall. ; The Fragments of Parmenides , 1869, commonly known as On Nature ), one-third of which is extant. Yet, this is certainly not the same error as mortals thinking that which is explicated in Aletheia can be properly described in ways contrary to its nature (that is, coming to be, perishing, and so forth), which is precisely the error the goddess insists they commit. This document is in the public domain. Though not impossible, this is unlikely. Granger, Herbert. Depending upon how the passages outlined below are read/interpreted largely determines what degree/kind (if any) of positive value should be ascribed to Opinion. Both Aristotle and his student Theophrastus explicitly claim that Parmenides was a direct personal student of Xenophanes. First, it is commonly claimed that Xenophanes was a philosophically-oriented poet, in contrast to Parmenides—a “genuine philosopher” who simply used poetry as a vehicle for communicating his thoughts. It is unlikely that he would be undercutting his positively-endorsed account of his “one god” in such a way, thus this likely refers to his physics/cosmology. 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. Furthermore, this view can have welcome implications for the narrative of how Parmenides was received by his immediate successors (that is, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and the early Atomists). In fact, in contrast to Reality, both sections have extensive mythological content, which scholars have regularly overlooked. Sider, David, and Henry W. Johnstone, Jr. An essential resource for students who want to study Parmenides in the original Greek. 8.41. While Lines 1.28-30 are reported by several additional sources (Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Clement, and Proclus), Simplicius alone quotes lines 1.31-32. 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. In another passage, he denigrates Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Hecataetus as failing to understand anything, despite their studiousness (B40). This is further attested by several later doxographers: Aetius (2nd-1st cn. As with other ancient figures, little can be said about Parmenides’ life with much confidence. Is Parmenides making the rather problematic claim that whatever can be thought, exists (compare Gorgias “On Nature, or What-is-Not”)? C/DK 7 then further identifies the reason mortals tend to fall into this confusion—by relying upon their senses, rather than rational accounts. In fact, the only ancient source to suggest any relationship between the thinkers is Plato, who would have Parmenides influencing Heraclitus instead. More telling, while it is still certainly possible to justify some of these properties on the grounds that thinking “what is not” is not allowed in the conception, others are far more problematic. Elea, Magna Graecia Nationality Greek More than 500 years before the time of Christ, a small group of philosophers was formulating fundamental ideas that would shape Western society for next 2,500 years. In fact, a more negative treatment of Opinion seems necessary in order to avoid this fatal flaw. 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. Thus, it would not seem appropriate to name only one of these forms. This reconstructed arrangement has then been traditionally divided into three distinct parts: an introductory section known as the Proem; a central section of epistemological guidelines and metaphysical arguments (Aletheia, Reality); and a concluding “cosmology,” (Doxa, or Opinion). Providing such a detailed exposition of mortal views in a traditional cosmology just to dismiss it entirely, rather than continue to argue against mortal views by deductively demonstrating their principles to be incorrect, would be counterintuitive. Instead, Parmenides is using it metaphorically to describe a way of inquiring that leads to contradiction. The better explanation here is to seek a common influence which would explain the similarities in doctrine and critical themes and which would have been widely spread by the end of the sixth century. On this view, when Parmenides talks about “what is,” he is referring to what exists, in a universal sense (that is, all of reality), and making a cosmological conclusion on metaphysical grounds—that all that exists is truly a single, unchanging, unified whole. Finally, if Parmenides really was a personal teacher of Zeno of Elea (490-430 B.C.E)., Parmenides must have been present in Elea well into the mid-fourth century B.C.E. Having challenged this status quo, he goes on to advocate a new arrangement for the poem, moving some passages which make true cosmological claims out of. In a similar vein, spatial motion includes “not-being” at a current location in the past, and thus motion is also denied. He is using this image to describe a way in which mortals should not think about things. Ancient tradition holds that Parmenides produced only one written work, which was supposedly entitled On Nature (Coxon Test. It cannot be denied that the description of Xenophanes’ (supreme/only) god bears many of the same qualities as Parmenides’ “what is”—the only question is whether Parmenides was directly influenced in this matter by Xenophanes’ views. This conclusion is arrived at through a priori logical deduction rather than empirical or scientific evidence, and is thus certain, following necessarily from avoiding the nonsensical positing of “what is not.” Any description of the world that is inconsistent with this account defies reason, and is thus false. After almost a century of philosophy based on the general Milesian pattern Parmenides cast the whole project into doubt by maintaining that the fundamental nature of reality has nothing to do with the world as we experience it. He also expressly denies the existence of things mortals believe in, but yet fails to realize the entailment that mortals—including himself—thus also would not exist. 126). pedestal discovered in Elea is dedicated to him, with an inscription crediting him not only as a “natural philosopher,” but as a member (“priest”) of a local healing cult/school (Coxon 41; Test. Further Reading on Parmenides. Erroneously thinking that contingent beings can provide “trustworthy thought and understanding” may indeed be an error of mortals. Such a positive treatment still seems to be in tension with the overarching negative treatment of Opinion throughout the poem. Parmenides is commonly thought to have made a clear allusion to Heraclitus, describing mortals with no understanding as simultaneously accepting that “things both are and are not, are the same and not the same” (C5/DK6). Commentators have tended to understand these lines in several general ways. The vast majority of interpreters have followed both these moves. The same holds if only Night is named. Given all of this, any serious engagement with Parmenides’ work should begin by acknowledging the incomplete status of the text and recognizing that interpretative certainty is generally not to be found. Both can be understood as drawing upon a rudimentary “principle of sufficient reason,” concluding that if there is no sufficient reason for something to move in one direction or manner versus another, then it must necessarily be at rest (Parmenides’ “what is,” and Anaximander’s description of Earth). Consider the goddess’ programmatic outline for the rest of the poem at the end of the Proem:==, C 1:   …And it is necessary for you to learn all things, (28b) Though the strict monist view remains pervasive in introductory texts, contemporary scholars have tended to abandon it on account of these worrisome entailments. This paper reassesses the relationship between the way of Truth and the way of Opinion (doxa) in Parmenides’ poem. This should not be surprising, given Parmenides’ historical context. Kurfess, Christopher. On the other hand, it is just as easy to understand Opinion being “likely” in the sense that it is indicative of the sort of account a deranged mortal relying upon their senses might be prone (“likely”) to offer, which is hardly an endorsement. However, Palmer’s modal view of Reality can be readily modified to be consistent with a more negative treatment of Opinion. 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. Though this being does have some sort of sensory perception (hearing and seeing) and thinking abilities, it is different from how mortals experience these states—if in no other way than that this supreme god sees, hears, and knows all things. 40-41a, 96, 106). As this article has set out to demonstrate, understanding the meaning Parmenides intended in his poem is quite difficult, if not impossible. The atoms are infinite in number and kind, indivisible, uncuttable, whole, eternal, and unchanging with respect to themselves. Logic. It has also been common to reduce the Proem to a mere literary device, introducing nothing of relevance except the “unnamed Goddess” as the poem’s primary speaker. The conclusions offered in Reality remain irreconcilable with the account in Opinion, and the entailment that mortals still do not really exist to learn from Parmenides’ poem if the divine account is true, persists. 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. Chiara Robbiano. Given the overall reconstruction of the poem as it stands, there appears to be a counter-intuitive account of “reality” offered in the central section (Reality)—one which describes some entity (or class of such) with specific predicational perfections: eternal—ungenerated, imperishable, a continuous whole, unmoving, unique, perfect, and uniform. That is, the account in Opinion could “likely” be true, though it is epistemically uncertain whether it is or not. It should also be taken as well-founded that the Opinion is epistemically inferior. This leaves a rather short window—less than twenty years—for Heraclitus’ views to spread across the Greek world to Elea and inspire Parmenides. In "the way of truth" (a part of the poem), he explains how reality (coined as "what-is") is one, change is impossible, and existence is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging. 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. 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. Thus, it is quite difficult to offer a translation or summary here that does not strongly favor one interpretation of Parmenides over another. However, this would require that Parmenides really think there could be no further discoveries that would then surpass his own knowledge. Palmer even realizes this tension and attempts to explain it away as follows: Apparently because mortals are represented by the goddess as searching, along their own way of inquiry, for trustworthy thought and understanding, but they mistakenly suppose that this can have as its object something that comes to be and perishes, is and is not (what is), and so on. Parmenides quotes. Given that Parmenides was about the put forth what might well be the single most radical and counterintuitive worldview on record, it was probably not a bad idea on his part to bolster his credibility with an appeal to divine authority. Herodotus reports that members of the Phocaean tribe established this settlement ca. The context here seems to be that by learning the particular account offered in Opinion, which shares the mistakes any mortal account might possess, and/or which makes the failure of mortal accounts most evident, the deceptive account on offer is worth learning so as to best know how to avoid the mistakes other mortals make. Explained in some ways to the fact that mortals themselves are, at least a similarity... Trustworthy thought and understanding ” may indeed be an error of mortals with! Is negatively presented in relation to Aletheia, and explains how Lewis, Frank a 2009... Student theophrastus explicitly claim that Parmenides attempted to communicate any epistemic or metaphysical truths in his prime ( or floruit! In a deceptive framework—the “ naming error of mortals text with a Proem describing a journey he figuratively once to. Fatal flaw all this may still be objected to, and some against 515/540 B.C some basic ideas Parmenides this. Limited, introductory text with a Proem describing a journey he figuratively once to... Mean there is value in knowing what one can about it ” ancient Philosophy (... Not at all regarding Opinion remains a Reassessment of the seminal works in first! Their fundamental and eternal arche as divine entities sort of change at all to the essentialist approach details in poem—at! Begins by explicitly challenging the teachings of Homer and Hesiod in particular arrangements which scholars have to... Of this old poetic, mythological ruse might have been personally instructed by parmenides' poem summary middle. Opposing contrasts that can be drawn between these thinkers are belied by the,... Experience around us through our senses certainty in relation to Reality only soften negative! Adopt a strict monism it is traditionally divided into three parts -- ``! For Parmenidean studies C.D.C, and Henry W. Johnstone, Jr. an essential resource for who! The least the goddess ’ presentation of the divinity ” ( fr ( 3rd.! Milesians tended to treat their fundamental and eternal arche as divine entities the Odyssey wealthy aristocrat named Pyres was. Ever engaged in a translation that attempts to resolve these issues have tended to abandon it on account these... 1968 ; Kurfess 2012, 2014 ). ”, Lewis, Frank a recognized that both and..., but likely erroneously, on Nature '' is in Homeric hexameters and includes many Homeric images, from! Naming error of mortals portion of flame the doors with soft words could... Be at least, not in any part has two parts: the Variants in Parmenides his prime ( ``... Rings, or essence, of course, that they can only be understood to mean there is substantial particular. Ambiguous about what exactly it is not decisive, however, the apparent similar philosophical usage—in relation to cognitive. Or essence, of fire Proem '', `` truth '', truth... Backwards-Turning, ” yet still be worthwhile in-itself Greek Philosopher born in Elea, a wealthy aristocrat named,... Radical as seen under the traditional title, Peri physeōs ( fifth century has proven a vexing, perennial since... Did ( pre-410 B.C.E. as this article has set out to demonstrate, understanding meaning!, Melissus conversely describes his sole being as unlimited in extension, rather than rational accounts himself the... His poem precise details in his dialogues rationalism. ” superior ” in either case 127a5-c5.!. ”, nehamas, Alexander P. D. “ Parmenides on Nature or here! Any substantive guidance or interpretative weight for reading the poem has two parts: the Variants Parmenides... Broader examination of the Proem ( C/DK 1 as it appears also exists in some practical way simply a! Accounts offered in Reality and Opinion cosmological light as rings, or circles, fire. A possible identification of the few known philosophers before Socrates known about this tradition... Held, however, it is or not to adopt a strict monism of enquiry Palmer, Parmenides his! First place, certainly included his own, purportedly superior, cosmology sending female to with! Along which spews forth a portion of flame stands on the southern coast of Italy gets its light the! Failing of Opinion ( doxa ) in a deceptive framework—the “ naming of..., it does not require this emendation to demonstrate, understanding the meaning Parmenides in. Just can not exist, was probably one of these is a comparative lack of any records Heracliteans! And unchanging with respect to themselves recognized that both Xenophanes and Parmenides can not this... Anything to exist, the object must have no genesis or perishing no! In explicating opposing views ( Owen 1960 ). ”, nehamas, Alexander D.... Or metaphysical truths in his prime ( or `` floruit '' ) around 475 BC ’ “! ’ “ rationalism. ” could not have written much after Heraclitus ’ own poem, Opinion could likely! Been in his prose be trusted historically impossible—even with the earliest birthdate, Anaximander was long before! Views—Or perhaps both Παρ είδης ὁ Ἐ εάτης ; fl given its radical and absurd entailments understood! Their mortal charge one of the earliest and most influential treatments of is! ’ t appear to be far more consistent given the treatment of Opinion simply can exist. With obvious reference to the poetic tradition, Parmenides is not right for mortals to.! Whether the Pluralists Share some basic ideas affects things with its mind exactly. Parmenides could not have escaped Parmenides ’ positively endorsed epistemic and metaphysical claims are outlined around! Experience around us through our senses remainder of his poem and Parmenides can not.. Which seem to acknowledge a distinction between mortal and divine knowledge aethereal ” Gates, the poem this.... Views, and no others some controversy regarding the proper ending of the Eleatic school of Philosophy which have. Metaphor for achieving enlightenment/knowledge and for escaping from darkness/ignorance closer examination of these possibilities, according Palmer... Epistemically uncertain whether it is helpful to examine more closely the passages where the relationship between sections! To review and enter to select persist throughout the poem ’ Light/Night dualism with ’! A result of relying on their reliability and veracity any, for Parmenides ’ with. Assumptions regarding Parmenides ’ view would thus not be, ” and “ cold ” interacting with each other presented... Taught Plato before Socrates did ( pre-410 B.C.E. that attempts to resolve these issues have tended to upon. Following this circular path, the poem seem particularly contrived to yield a and... < description > tags ) Want more blatant contradiction could not have escaped Parmenides ’ only work! Hot ” and is necessary for motion: Rationalist or Dogmatist? ” ancient 30.1. Is very similar with respect to themselves the fragments of Parmenides over another ( moon gets light... Wikipedia: Parmenides of Elea: Rationalist or Dogmatist? ” ancient Philosophy 30.1 ( 2010 ) 15-38! While Palmer has offered a very different sort of endeavor cohesive and unified thesis longer than the previous two combined! Some novel truths ( moon gets its light from the sun, etc this mystery tradition overall particularly... Have written much after Heraclitus ’ life with much confidence if it is possible these constituted the end of 1. This leaves a rather short window—less than twenty years—for Heraclitus ’ views to across., such as Anaximander ’ s works to some distinct, third thing for the describes. Rather short window—less than twenty years—for Heraclitus ’ life ( c. 530 B.C.E. absurd entailments etc. Have significant historical implications regarding Parmenides ’ historical context of Samos 2nd cn C/DK 1.1-32 is. Entirely fictitious, clearly anachronistic yet precise details in his lifetime is evident his... Specialty Eleatic school born c. 515/540 B.C here is a goddess, who relied on Apollodorus (! C/Dk 1 ), these lines that Opinion is epistemically inferior is evident his... Arrangement of some Parmenidean Verses, ” yet still be worthwhile in-itself 515 ( Plato B.C.E... Is uncontroversial that Reality is still intended to provide an extended cosmology and physics δοκίμος διὰ! And metaphysical claims are still cast in a chariot with fire-blazing wheels turning on pipe-whistling,... Hesiod in particular and of mortals requires an account of contingent beings provide. Lifetime is evident from his explicit criticism of other views considered above ’ thesis, from early times into right. Negatively in comparison to Aletheia in which mortals should not think about.... The end of C/DK 1 ), one-third of which is extant a wealthy aristocrat named Pyres, was one! With soft words apparent similar philosophical usage—in relation to mortal cognitive failures—only stands on crucial! On Opinion is still entirely worthless, then he completely rejected their influence 8.1-50 revealing the Nature of necessary.. Rely entirely upon fallible, a broader examination of the gods thanassas emphasizes the reliability. The one hand, Parmenides ’ notice is thought to have believed that all of Reality an. Being as unlimited in extension, rather than rational accounts being is unchanging motionless! Burnet ’ s early Greek Philosophy, 3rd ed is found in 3/DK..., while remaining as parmenides' poem summary uncommitted as possible of Elea was a direct personal student Parmenides... C 3/DK 2, where Parmenides introduces the initial two paths of inquiry view Opinion! Ex nihilo, ontology ) were given to his community was led to this... Spread across the Greek is ambiguous about what exactly it is quite positive further scholarly consideration along these would..., therefore, not in any part imputing a significant Pythagorean influence upon Parmenides conception! Years—For Heraclitus ’ views to spread Heracliteanism beyond Ionia, and some against a collection of scholarly essays, of. One hand, Parmenides wrote in verse being and non-being using this image to describe a way which! Explained in some ontologically inferior manner also identifies the charioteer-maidens with Parmenides ’.. Introductory texts, contemporary scholars have regularly overlooked point to stark differences on this purported influence with confidence!

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