Philosopher (c.540 BC – c.470 BC)
Parmenides was a Pre-Socratic philosopher from Elea. He is called the Father of Metaphysics, because he was the first who spoke about the nature of existence. Considered as one of the most influential figures in the history of philosophy, Parmenides set the principles of ontology for future Greek and international philosophers.
Initially involved with politics, Parmenides made laws for his country, until resigning to focus on philosophy. We do not know how many books Parmenides wrote, but by far his most complete one is On Nature. It is a poem, of which only fragments survive, divided into 3 parts: The first part, also named Poem describes a man’s spiritual inner journey in search of enlightenment. In the second part named Alethia (Reality), Parmenides deals with all that is real. The third and final chapter named Doxa (Opinion) deals with the erroneous ideas of man and is presented as an antithesis to the second part of the poem.
A basic concept of Parmenides’ philosophy is the being. The being, according to the philosopher, has neither beginning nor end, possesses inseparable completeness, is immovable, inalterable and indivisible. Furthermore, the being is eternal and as such, past, present and future overlap. Similarly to Heraclitus, Parmenides distrusted the senses, stating that while these change, the being does not. For him, the only reality that exists is the one we can perceive with our intellect. Reality is made of one substance, the same substance from which it came, and we, who inhabit this world, share the same substance.
Understanding Parmenides’ highly complex philosophy has proven to be a very difficult task, leaving modern thinkers and scholars perplexed as to how to interpret his theories. The enigmatic nature of his incomprehensible treatise also challenged the Pre-Socratics, few of whom understood what Parmenides really meant. His influence on his successors was, nevertheless, significant and included Melissus of Samos, Zenon of Elea and Plato, who is said to have revered him for the depth of his thought. Plato also wrote a treatise after him. The concept that intellect identifies existence was later picked up by Descartes, who said “I think, therefore I am”.
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