Changing History - A philosophical journey to the Heart of Darkness and beyond

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She tells him he is to learn from her 'all things, both the unwavering heart of well-rounded truth, and the opinions of mortals, in which there is no true assurance. The tenses used by Parmenides in the proem indicate clearly enough that he was describing a journey made regularly, quite as a philosopher repeatedly journeys into the regions of his thought.

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The road traveled is characterized as "far away from the wandering of men. Things are considered to appear to men in a way radically different from what the truth about them reveals. In this framework the second section of the poem intends to explain the truth, while the third section will explain how things are able to appear to men in a way different from the truth about them. The proem envisages truth as something unwavering, something firm and stable.

The way men ordinarily think is, on the contrary, wandering,' unstable. Appearance -- the ordinary thinking of mortals -- is in this manner sharply contrasted with the inspired teaching of the goddess. The fragment accepted as second in order, listed immediately after the proem and consequently as the first statement in our record of the poem's section on being, states that only two ways of inquiry can be thought of.

One is that it is and that for it not to be is impossible. This is the way that follows truth.

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The other is that it is not and that for it not to be is of necessity. This path offers no possibility whatever for inquiry, since non-being cannot possibly be known or expressed Fr. The fragment accepted as third then gives the reason in a rather cryptic statement that translated word for word reads "For the same thing is to think and to be" Fr. These assertions maintain that being follows upon or accompanies truth. Truth, as envisaged in the proem, is accordingly to be given in terms of being. The stability or firmness required by the proem is here couched in the necessity involved by being.

Being necessarily excludes non-being. No stronger type of stability could be found. This necessity is seen extended to everything that can be thought of or expressed.

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All that remains outside it is non-being, which likewise involves its own impossibility and in consequence is a path of inquiry that cannot even be entered. The basic reason given in the fragment is that non-being cannot possibly be known or expressed. If the third fragment followed immediately, it would confirm this reason with a positive statement: what is able to be known and what is able to be are the same thing.

So understood it appeals to an immediate evidence, namely, that whatever is known is known as a being. If you try to represent non-being you find it impossible. Translated as "For thinking and being are the same," Fragment 3 gives a maximal sense that may well turn out to be in accord with Parmenides' overall thought. But can it be regarded as an immediate evidence?

Is it not rather part of a conclusion that being is a whole and is identified with all things, including thought? If that is its meaning, should not the fragment be located later in the poem, and not at the beginning of the. Located immediately after Fragment 2, it should express a basic evidence that shows why the path of non-being cannot even be entered. This evidence is the immediate experience that whatever is thought of is necessarily thought of and expressed in terms of being. In consequence the alleged path of non-being cannot offer any possibility for inquiry.

However, mortals do in fact travel a path different from that of truth. It is readily observable. It seems to wander back and forth between being and non-being. It seems to assess them as the same yet not the same. Ordinary custom is regarded as urging men toward it.

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Yet it as well as the path of non-being is forbidden to Parmenides. Instead, he is told by the goddess to judge by reason logos the controversial argument. The way of being is then sketched Fr. It shows that what exists cannot be engendered or destroyed and that it cannot change or be subject to differentiation, for any of these would. Being is accordingly whole and entire, held firmly within its limits, neither more nor less in any direction. For it all things will be a name or, in regard to it all things are named , 9 "whatever mortals have established believing that they are true, that they come to be and perish, that they are and are not, that they change in place and vary through range of bright color" Fr.

What is the notion of being that is offered under this rather difficult phrasing? It is something that necessarily excludes non-being from its range, and on the other hand includes everything that is or exists. There are only two sides to the division. One is utter nothingness, and cannot even be thought of. All else, whether expressed in terms of being or in terms of existence, falls on the other side.

But precisely what is it that is or exists? In most cases no subject at all is expressed in the Greek. In those cases in which it is expressed, the participial or infinitive form of the verb "to be" is used. Nothing other than being seems envisaged as the subject. The question accordingly returns to the original formulation: What is the notion of being that is intended in the phrases of Parmenides? Modern views differ widely. This indicates plainly that Parmenides is seeing no distinction in fact between being and the subject that is or exists.

They are regarded by him as one and the same. He writes as though this is a matter of immediate intuition. If this analysis of the beginning of the section on being is correct, Parmenides is immediately intuiting being as something necessarily different from non-being. It is a matter of just looking and seeing. You see at once that you think in terms of being, and cannot think or express non-being. Under intense philosophical scrutiny, being seems intuited after the manner in which the ordinary mortal considers himself to be intuiting color or extension or movement. But precisely what is this being that is so intuited?

Is it something corporeal or something incorporeal, something ideal or something real? The historical background against which Parmenides did his thinking would tend to limit it to the corporeal and the real. The Ionian as well as the Pythagorean thought which Parmenides could be expected to have absorbed as he grew up could hardly have directed his attention to anything beyond the visible and extended world. It was that world that his predecessors had been striving to understand and explain. It is that world that Parmenides expressly endeavors to understand and explain in the final section of his poem.

He offers, it is true, an unexpected and utterly original explanation of it. But nothing else in all the poem seems indicated as the object of his study. In the setting in which Parmenides thought and wrote, anything other than the visible and tangible universe would seem incongruous as a subject for philosophizing. In the composition of the poem, moreover, the proem envisages Parmenides as located in a world of change and highly differentiated objects, and using them as a means to rise to light. The starting point of the philosophical journey seems in this way to be represented as a world of plurality and change, a world already known in the opinions of mortals but now to be explained from the viewpoint of truth.

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John P. Anton and George L. A coverage of the topic at about the same time may be found in Mourelatos, pp. In solidarity with proem, Charles H. Kahn, "The Thesis of Parmenides," Review of Metaphysics 22 : 71o, views the subject as "the knowable. He argued for the essential homogeneity and changelessness of being, rejecting as spurious the world's apparent variation over space and time. His one poem, whose first half largely survives, opens with the allegory of an intellectual journey by which Parmenides has succeeded in standing back from the empirical world. He learns, from the mouth of an unnamed goddess, a dramatically new perspective on being.

The goddess's disquisition, which fills the remainder of the poem, is divided into two parts; the Way of Truth and the Way of Seeming.

The Way of Truth is the earliest known passage of sustained argument in Western philosophy. First a purportedly exhaustive choice is offered between two 'paths' - that of being, and that of not-being. Next the not-being path is closed off the predicate expression ' Nor, on pain of self-contradiction, can a third path be entertained, one which would conflate being with not-being - despite the fact that just such a path is implicit in the ordinary human acceptance of an empirical world bearing a variety of shifting predicates.

All references, open or covert, to not-being must be outlawed.

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Only ' The next move is to seek the characteristics of that-which-is. The total exclusion of not-being leaves us with something radically unlike the empirical world.

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It must lack generation, destruction, change, distinct parts, movement and an asymmetric shape, all of which would require some not-being to occur. That-which-is must, in short, be a changeless and undifferentiated sphere. In the second part of the poem the goddess offers a cosmology - a physical explanation of the very world which the first half of the poems has banished as incoherent.

This is based on a pair of ultimate principles or elements, the one light and fiery, the other heavy and dark. It is presented as convening the 'opinions of mortals'. It is deceitful, but the goddess nevertheless recommends learning it, 'so that no opinion of mortals may outstrip you'.