Parmenides by Plato. - HTML preview

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We may begin by remarking that the theses of modern philosophy: ‘Being is not only neither fi-Parmenides are expressly said to follow the nite nor infinite, neither at rest nor in motion, method of Zeno, and that the complex dilemma, but neither subjective nor objective.’

though declared to be capable of universal appli-This is the track along which Plato is leading cation, is applied in this instance to Zeno’s famil-us. Zeno had attempted to prove the existence iar question of the ‘one and many.’ Here, then, of the one by disproving the existence of the is a double indication of the connexion of the many, and Parmenides seems to aim at proving Parmenides with the Eristic school. The old the existence of the subject by showing the con-Eleatics had asserted the existence of Being, which tradictions which follow from the assertion of any they at first regarded as finite, then as infinite, predicates. Take the simplest of all notions, then as neither finite nor infinite, to which some

‘unity’; you cannot even assert being or time of them had given what Aristotle calls ‘a form,’

of this without involving a contradiction. But is others had ascribed a material nature only. The the contradiction also the final conclusion? Prob-tendency of their philosophy was to deny to Be-ably no more than of Zeno’s denial of the many, ing all predicates. The Megarians, who succeeded or of Parmenides’ assault upon the Ideas; no them, like the Cynics, affirmed that no predicate more than of the earlier dialogues ‘of search.’

could be asserted of any subject; they also con-To us there seems to be no residuum of this long verted the idea of Being into an abstraction of piece of dialectics. But to the mind of Parmenides Good, perhaps with the view of preserving a sort and Plato, ‘Gott-betrunkene Menschen,’ there of neutrality or indifference between the mind and still remained the idea of ‘being’ or ‘good,’which things. As if they had said, in the language of could not be conceived, defined, uttered, but could 23


not be got rid of. Neither of them would have imag-pline his mind with a view to the more precise attain-ined that their disputation ever touched the Divine ment of truth. The same remark applies to the second Being (compare Phil.). The same difficulties about of the two theories. Plato everywhere ridicules (per-Unity and Being are raised in the Sophist; but there haps unfairly) his Heracleitean contemporaries: and only as preliminary to their final solution.

if he had intended to support an Heracleitean thesis, If this view is correct, the real aim of the hypoth-would hardly have chosen Parmenides, the condemner eses of Parmenides is to criticize the earlier Eleatic of the ‘undiscerning tribe who say that things both philosophy from the point of view of Zeno or the are and are not,’ to be the speaker. Nor, thirdly, can we Megarians. It is the same kind of criticism which Plato easily persuade ourselves with Zeller that by the ‘one’

has extended to his own doctrine of Ideas. Nor is there he means the Idea; and that he is seeking to prove any want of poetical consistency in attributing to the indirectly the unity of the Idea in the multiplicity of

‘father Parmenides’ the last review of the Eleatic phenomena.

doctrines. The latest phases of all philosophies were We may now endeavour to thread the mazes of fathered upon the founder of the school.

the labyrinth which Parmenides knew so well, Other critics have regarded the final conclusion of and trembled at the thought of them.

the Parmenides either as sceptical or as Heracleitean.

The argument has two divisions: There is the In the first case, they assume that Plato means to show hypothesis that

the impossibility of any truth. But this is not the spirit 1. One is.

of Plato, and could not with propriety be put into the 2. One is not.

mouth of Parmenides, who, in this very dialogue, is If one is, it is nothing. If one is not, it is every-urging Socrates, not to doubt everything, but to disci-thing.