Parmenides the Poster Boy

One thing that gains Parmenides a philosophers’ merit-award…

is the idea of proving his point. *

Of course, you probably wouldn’t get away with merely suggesting that nothing ever changes, that what was, is, and always ever shall be. That’s all somewhat counter-intuitive, isn’t it? That everything is one thing and permanent for eternity which does not mean forever because time doesn’t change, and you dare not say “is not” because you can’t do that, even though you patently need to employ a few negations just to get your point across — well, people aren’t going to just take your word for it are they?

Even still, so long as you’re proving it I guess you get a merit. Especially from modern Reasonable Philosopher types (who also conveniently overlook some patently embarrassing things like the fact that Parmenides, by any reasonable standards, is actually a capital ‘M’ mystic who has contended for all of this within a devotional poem that narrates a story about a young lad who visits a goddess and has all this esoteric truth about reality revealed to him).

For all this I think he does get a merit, not as poster boy for proof-wielding philosophes, but for a more fundamental reason. The Way of Seeming contrasted with The Way of Truth puts the whole matter of the distinction between appearance and reality on display. As articulated by Osborne,

The appearance/reality distinction is vital for progress in philosophy more generally, since it helps us to see that there might be truths that no one knows. And there may be beliefs that are universally false. … Parmenides did for science what Plato would later do for morality and aesthetics as well: he alerts us to the fact that opinions are just opinions, and they may differ widely. There may yet be a single truth, which need not be as anyone thought. To search for knowledge is to search for access to the truth, not to collect other people’s opinions… **

* Osborne, Catherine, Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 39.

** Osborne, 50.


About J. Rhombohedral Hematite

Not a Theoblogger. Nota bene.
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