Quotes by and about Parmenides
(Continued from his main entry on the site.)
Parmenides: "You must learn all things, both the unshaken heart of truth, and the opinions of mortals in which there is no warranty."
Friedrich Nietzsche: "All later philosophy struggles against Parmenides."
Friedrich Nietzsche: "[To Parmenides] the only single form of knowledge which we trust immediately and absolutely ... is the tautology A = A."
Friedrich Nietzsche: "[A = A is a] tautological insight [that] proclaims inexorably: What is not, is not. What is, is. And suddenly Parmenides felt a monstrous logical sin burdening his whole previous life. ... He had merely participated in a universal crime against logic. But the same moment that shows him his crime illuminates him with a glorious discovery. He has found a principle ... remote from all human illusion."
Von Franz on Parmenides
Marie-Louise von Franz: "[Parmenides is] an absolute demonstration of overtaxed introverted thinking. This has the effect of [him] being unable to assert anything more than that life is an ontological phenomenon of existence!"
Marie-Louise von Franz: "This one thought, that 'existence really exists,' expresses a divine plenitude for him ... and he cannot cease reassuring us about such existence for several pages."
David Gallop: "Parmenides' activity at Elea has been dramatically confirmed by modern archaeological discoveries. His name has been found there on an inscription in the ruins of what was apparently a medical school."
Robin Waterfield: "Parmenides uses the same word, palintropos, that Heraclitus had used. ... Though 'mortals' in general are Parmenides' target, Heraclitus ... [was] probably not far from his mind."
Philoponus: "They say that Aristotle wrote an entire book dealing with the philosophy of Parmenides."
Aristotle: "Parmenides seems to speak, in places, with great insight."
Aristotle vs. Parmenides
Joan Evans: "According to Jung's classification, the man whose dominant function is [Te] bases the system of his life on logical conclusions arrived at through consideration of the facts of objective experience. ... [But Ti] is concerned not with the intrinsic nature of the object but with [the Ti type's] own idea of it."
Aristotle: "Of [Parmenides] we must say that, though some of what [he and his followers] say may be right, they do not speak as students of nature."
Panagiotis Thanassas: "According to Aristotle, Parmenides' error consists in the fact that, although his philosophy addressed nothing but the World ... he committed himself to an 'unphysical' ontology, which was incapable of investigating the state and constitution of the World as such."
Panagiotis Thanassas: "[From his own perspective] Aristotle asserted that 'Being' and 'One' 'are said in numerous ways' and that such polysemy makes Parmenides' monism of 'the one Being' untenable."
Martin J. Henn: "Aristotle ... championed the investigation of specific essences [and] relegated the act of knowing what they are and of quantifying their behavior in the world to the departmental sciences (e.g., geometry, zoology, physics)."
Martin J. Henn: "Contrary to [Aristotle] Parmenides does not use predication as the clue to Being. ... As Parmenides sees it [it is] precisely because they use Being as a means and not as an end to be investigated for its own sake [that] mortals trap themselves within a world of specific essences."
Anthony Kenny: "I must ask [modern readers] to believe that Parmenides' Greek is as clumsy and as baffling as [the] English texts."
Anthony Kenny: "Parmenides' Way of Truth [though] riddlingly introduced, creates an epoch in philosophy. It is the founding charter of a new discipline."
Anthony Kenny: "[In his poem] it is not clear why Parmenides feels obliged to reproduce the false notions that are entertained by deluded mortals."
Edward Hussey: "Like Descartes, Parmenides is trying to find an unassailable starting-point on which something further can be built."
Daniel W. Graham: "Popper [recognizes] Parmenides as a significant cosmologist, on the basis of his empirical discoveries. This gives rise to a problem he calls the 'recoil from sensualism,' namely, 'How is it possible that a succesful astronomer and empiricist can turn radically against observation and the senses as Parmenides did in his Way of Truth?'"
Karl Popper: "It was, for all I know, the first deductive theory of the world, the first deductive cosmology: One further step led to theoretical physics, and to the atomic theory."
Scott Austin: "[Parmenides] is the purest example of the Greek desire to comprehend, a desire which in him would have nothing to do with what was not strictly knowable."
C.C. Chang: "Parmenides was fully convinced that to think at all, we must postulate something which is. [Since] that which is not (or void) cannot even be thought of; how can it ever be a part of reality?"
William Guthrie: "Presocratic philosophy is divided into two halves by the name of Parmenides. His exceptional powers of reason brought speculation about the origin and constitution of the universe to a halt, and [forced] it to make a fresh start on different lines."
Hibbing, Smith & Alford: "Humans have always brought order to their world by thinking in terms of opposites - light and dark, hot and cold, good and bad, tall and short. All known human societies have used these sorts of classifications and even the most primitive societies have structured their social relations by thinking in terms of opposites. [However] sometimes this duality is contrived."
Algis Uzdavinys: "Empedocles has his poetic, prophetic and theological precursor in Parmenides, the sky-walker."
Christopher John Kurfess: "Parmenides' poem ... [has] a strong internal coherence to it."
John Douglas Turner: "Most histories of Greek philosophy explain subsequent Pre-socratic philosophy - and that of Plato - as an attempt to answer Parmenides."
John Douglas Turner: "The main background for Plato's ontology is clearly the Eleatic doctrines of Parmenides who ... plays a major role in Plato's dialogues."
Panagiotis Thanassas: "Considering the profound impression [Parmenides] made on his time, the very paucity of credible sources about his life and activities is remarkable."
Hermann Alexander Diels: "[With regard to Parmenides' poem we probably] possess 9/10 of the Truth ... and ... 1/10 of the Convention."
Proclus: "[Parmenides] makes use of ... the most unadorned, dry, and simplistic form of communication."
Martin J. Henn: "Parmenides consistently portrays all interpersonal communication ... in terms of peaceful coexistence, equilibrium, and respect for the autonomy of others."
Martin J. Henn: "[To Parmenides] nature exhibits ... an intelligible superstructure of principles ripe for discovery. The entire history of Western thought after Parmenides is the filling-in of this structure."
Martin J. Henn: "Parmenides' universe [is tied] together by a rich fabric of noetic laws. These noetic laws are distributed by Justice and discoverable through reflective intelligence as a priori laws of thought."
Wolfgang Pauli: "[His philosophy] strikes me as a sort of rationalized withdrawal from the world."
Wolfgang Pauli: "Nonbeing did not simply mean 'not being present' [to him] but pointed to a problem concerning the thinking function. [To him] nonbeing is that which cannot be grasped by thinking reason."
Richard D. McKirahan: "Parmenides was the first to make systematic use of argument, deductive argument in particular, to prove his points."
Richard D. McKirahan: "Parmenides recognized the compelling force of [deductive] arguments and employed this new tool to raise basic philosophical questions."
Richard D. McKirahan: "Parmenides was sufficiently respected in Elea to have been asked to draw up a code of laws which were still referred to with respect and which were probably still in use over 500 years later."
Richard D. McKirahan: "Parmenides is probably the hardest Presocratic philosopher to understand and the one about whom there is least consensus, even on basic issues."
Richard D. McKirahan: "Parmenides went very much his own way in philosophy."
David Gallop: "[Parmenides was] the most original and important philosopher before Socrates."
Socrates: "Parmenides is the one man whom I respect above all others."
Timothy Putnam: "Parmenides is the most important man you have never heard of."
Written by Parmenides of Elea, ca. 495 BCE
Original translation by John Burnet
With substantial revisions by Ryan Smith
The steeds that carry me carried me as far as ever my spirit
desired, since they brought me and set me on the renowned
Way of the Goddess, who with her own hands leads the man
who sees through all things. Along that way I was led.
On that way the wise steeds carried me, drawing my car,
and maidens showed the way. And the axle, glowing in the socket
(of my chariot) gave forth a sound as of a pipe, for it was urged round
by the whirling wheels at each end when the daughters of the
Sun, hastened to bring me into the light, they removed their veils
from their faces as we left the abode of Night.
There we see the gates of the ways of Night and Day, fitted
above with a lintel and below with a threshold of stone. The Gates
are high in the air, are closed by mighty doors, and the Goddess of
Justice, whose vengeance is stern, retains the keys that fit them.
The maidens flattered her with gentle words and skilfully persuaded
her to lift the bolted bars from the gates. Then, the doors were thrown
open, and they revealed a wide opening, when their bronze hinges swung
backwards in their sockets, which were fastened with rivets and nails.
Straight through the gates, on that broad way, did the maidens guide the
horses and the chariot and the goddess greeted me kindly, and took my
right hand in hers as she uttered these words: Welcome, noble youth, that
comes to my abode on this chariot that is tended by immortal charioteers!
It is no ill fortune, but justice and right that has sent you forth to travel
on this way, which lies far indeed from the beaten track of men!
To be on this way means that you should learn all things: -
the unshaken heart of persuasive truth, as well as the opinions of
mortals in which is no real truth at all.
But none the less you shall learn of these (conventional) things also
since you must also scrutinize how it was inevitable that men came
to believe in seeming convention (rather than unshakable truth)
as you go through all things on your journey.
Come now, and preserve my story as you have heard it.
I will tell you the only two ways to think there are.
The first, namely, that Being is, and that it is
impossible for Being not to be.
That is the way of conviction, for truth is its companion.
The other (way), namely, that Being is not, and that it
is not necessary for Being to be, - this way, I tell you, is a
wholly untrustworthy way. For you cannot know non-Being
- that is impossible - and nor can you utter it.
For it is the same thing that can be thought of and that can be.
It is the same to me from what place I begin,
for to there I shall come back again.
It is necessary to say and to think Being;
for Being is, and it is not possible for non-Being to be.
This I order you to ponder.
I shall start my exposition you with the (true) way of seeking,
and then go on to the (conventional) way which mortals,
knowing nothing, wander two-headed along
with a helplessness in their breasts that steers their wandering mind.
Along this way they journey
deaf and blind, bewildered, indecisive herds,
for whom both Being and non-Being are judged the same
and yet not the same.
For them the path turns back on itself.
For this shall never be: that the things-that-are-not are;
restrain your thought from this way of seeking
and let not habit compel you to cast a wandering eye
your sounding ear upon this deceitful path,
but use reason alone to judge between these two ways
that I have set before you.
After this only a single way is left:
namely that BEING IS.
To this way there are very many signs that what-is
is uncreated and indestructible, alone,
complete, immovable, and without end.
It was not once nor will it (some day) be,
since it is it is now, all together,
single, and continuous.
For what birth will you seek for Being?
How and from where (could it) have grown?
I will not permit you to say or think that Being
came-into-being from non-Being,
for it is impossible to say or think that Being is not.
For what necessity would have stirred Being
to grow later or earlier, if it began out of nothing?
Thus, Being must either be completely or not at all.
Nor will the force of evidence ever point to anything
come-to-be from nothing (and to be) besides Being.
For this reason, Justice does not permit Being
to come-to-be or to perish by loosening her shackles
but holds Being fast.
The decision on these matters depends on this:
BEING IS OR IS NOT.
And since it has been decided, as was necessary,
to leave one way unthought and nameless
(as it was no real way) and the other IS and is true,
how could Being ever be in the future?
How could Being have come to be (in the past)?
For if it came into being (in the past),
or it is going to be (in the future),
then it IS not undivided in the now.
Thus coming-to-be is extinguished and destruction is unheard of.
Nor can Being be divided, since it is everywhere all alike.
Nor is there more of Being here and less of Being there,
which would prevent it from being continuous and coherent,
but all is full of Being.
Therefore it is all continuous, for Being is everywhere in contact with Being.
Unchanging within the limits of in the mighty chains,
BEING IS without beginning or end;
since coming-into-being and passing-away have been banished,
driven away by true conviction.
It stands continuous and fixed in its place.
For mighty Necessity holds Being,
within the bonds of the limit which encircles Being.
Since it is not right for Being to be incomplete;
for if Being was lacking, it would lack everything.
It is the same thing that can be thought of and can be.
For without Being, you will not find thinking.
For nothing else IS or will be besides Being
since Fate has shackled it to be whole and unchanging.
Which is why it has been named all things,
that mortals have established, convinced that they are true:
coming-into-Being and "passing-away, to be and not to be,
to change place and to exchange bright color.
But since Being has an outer limit, it is complete,
well-rounded from every side, like a perfect sphere,
everywhere equally far from the middle,
for Being cannot be greater in one place
and smaller in another.
For there is no non-Being, which could prevent Being
from reaching out (in all directions) equally,
and nor is Being such that there could be
more of it here and less of it there,
since it all inviolably IS.
Everywhere equal to itself,
since it meets its limits equally in all directions.
Such, changeless, is that for which as a whole the name is Being.
Here shall I end my trustworthy speech and thoughts
about the truth. Henceforth you will learn the opinions of mortals,
as you give ear to the deceptive ordering of my words.
Mortals have settled their minds to speak of two forms,
one of which they should have left out, and that is where they go
astray from the truth.
They have assigned an opposite substance to each thing, and marks
distinct from one another. To one thing they allot the fire of heaven,
light, thin, in every direction the same as itself, but not the same as
the other thing. The other substance is opposed to it, dark night, a
compact and heavy body.
Of these I tell you the whole arrangement as it seems to men,
in order that no mortal may surpass thee in knowledge.
Now that all things have been named light and night;
and the things which belong to the power of each have been
assigned to these things and to those, everything is full at once of
light and dark night, - both equal, since neither is the same as the other.
And you shall know the origin of all the things up high, and all
the signs in the sky, and the resplendent works of the
glowing sun's clear torch, and from where they arose.
And you shalt learn likewise of the wandering deeds of the round-faced
moon, and of her origin. You shall know, too, the heavens
that surround us, whence they arose, and how Necessity took
them and bound them to hold the limits of the stars.
How the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the sky that is
common to all, and the Milky Way, and the outermost Olympus,
and the burning might of the stars arose.
The narrower rings (in the sky) are filled with unmixed fire, and the rings
surrounding them are filled with night, and in the midst of these rushes
their portion of fire. In the midst of these circles is the divinity
that directs the course of all things; for she rules over all painful
birth and all begetting, driving the female to the embrace of the male,
and the male to (embrace) the female.
First of all the gods she conceived Eros.
Shining by night with borrowed light, wandering round the earth.
Always straining her eyes to the beams of the sun.
And the Earth is rooted-in-water.
For what at any time the mixture of the much-wandering body is,
so is thought present to humans.
For that same thing, which thinks (in humans),
(namely) the constitution of their limbs, is the same
for each and every one; for what preponderates (in them) is thought.
On the right boys; on the left girls.
When woman and man mix the seeds of Love,
a force is formed in the veins from the different bloods.
If it preserves the proper proportion,
it produces well-built bodies.
For if, when the seeds are mixed,
the strength (of each blood) are in conflict,
they do not constitute a unity in the body formed by mixture,
then cruelly they will torment the nascent sex with double seed.
Thus, according to men's opinions, did things come into being,
and thus they are now. In time (men think) they will grow up and
pass away. To each of these things, men have assigned a fixed
Written by Parmenides of Elea, ca. 495 BCE
Poetical translation by M.J. Henn
Quoted from 'Parmenides of Elea'
Careering chargers, thundering swift, dispatch
My heart to places only hearts can match.´
Then destinies, far out in front, fast speed
Me down a road of song, whose windings feed
The knowing man through every village found.
This way conveyed I came. For coursers crowned
With wise renown advanced my speeding heart
Along – outstretching far my quickening cart.
Fair maidens led the way. From out its shaft
The axle sent a whining cry abaft,
Hot – burning under constant friction, bright
Within fast flickering hubs. For in their flight
Two wheels whirled the axle on a lathe,
As fleet Heliades caress and bathe
My car with dawning light, abandoning
Dark realms of Night to seek their father's ring
Of light; while turning back, with regal hand,
Smooth veils from fair faces. Right there stand
Twin lofty gates dividing the way of Night
From Day. A lintel and sill of stony might
Encase them strong on either side, while doors
Of massive sweep and sway fill up with force
Their heavenly frame. And painful Justice holds,
With pain – dispensing woe, both locking bolts.
But gently urging maidens urged their way
With softened words, and quick She thrust away
For them the bolt – bars from the guarded gate.
Its doors then forced a yawning chasm great,
Unfolding giant wings attached with pins
Of brass in two – way hinges. Squealing dins
The air with plaintive moans, as doors fixed fast
With rows of riveted bolts wheel lazily past.
Through open gates swift maidens reined my horse
And car to trace their high celestial course.
A gracious goddess kindly welcomed me
With open arms and hospitality.
My right hand softly she entwined with hers
And spake to me in song this gentle verse:
"O Child of high-soaring ecstasies,
Immortal charioteers and chargers seize
You to my palace halls. I welcome you
Today! No evil Fate has sent you to
Traverse this starry path of mine (far back
It lies, removed from man's own beaten track),
But Right and Justice teamed. Necessity
Demands you learn of nature's panoply:
To wit, well-rounded Truth's untrembling core
Of life, plus opinions born of common lore,
In which there is no true belief. Still yet
There is one thing you must not soon forget
How needs must seem those things which seem-to
Far-penetrating all reality."
"Arise, I say, take home my warbling lays
To hear afresh. These are the only ways
A thinking man should seek: One claims quite free
That Being Is, and is not not-to-be!
(She is Persuasion's path, attending Truth).
The other, in opposite vein, retorts forsooth,
There is no Being! There must not ever be!
This path, I say, you'll never learn to see;
For neither can you know non-being, a sheer
Impossibility, nor phrase it clear,
For Thinking and Being are one and the same."
"Behold within your mind's own deepening frame
Those presences steadfastly fixed, yet all
Removed from obviousness; for never shall
These beings dissolve their ineluctable hold
On Being, whether scattered manifold
Across the cosmic all, or packed into
A rounded ball; for, where I start, thereto
Shall I again return self-same. Now you
Must say and think that Being exists as true
Necessity; since Being is to Be,
But nothingness impossibility.
I urge you now to contemplate these lays,
For from the first path's search I block your gaze.
Far off her winding course have mortals strayed
Alone in ambiguity, dismayed
Mid nothing seen nor known; for helplessness
Drives on the mind far – wandering their heart's abyss.
They carry on both dumb and blind, amazed,
Confused, these feckless tribes, who wholly dazed,
Adjudge to be and not to be the same,
Yet not the same—A backward turning game
The path of all. So never be seduced
By thoughts that nothings equal beings reduced.
Blot from your thought this course! Raise high a fence!
Don't let old Habit's harsh experience
Propel you headlong down this fruitless path.
But close your blinded eyes, your ears with wrath
Of worldly sounds beset, and stay your tongue,
To judge, by reason's aid alone, among
The paths my strife-filled refutations rive.
"Thus only one path's myth remains alive.
The one that claims that 'Being Is!' Along
This path are posted many signs that throng
The passerby, such as UNGENERABLE
And absolutely INDESTRUCTIBLE,
UNWAVERING, ENDLESS, EVERY
– LIMB – ONE – WHOLE;
No was nor will: all past and future null;
Since Being subsists in one ubiquitous
Now – unitary and continuous.
For what descent would one assert for Being?
And how, from whence, will Being grow, so teeming
With vast increase? I bid you neither say
Nor think that Being springs from nothing's way;
The notion that this Being is not is not
For thought to think, nor lips to speak. For what
Necessity would rouse vast Being to grow,
Begun in time or sprung ex nihilo?
So, Being must exist in fullest might,
Or not at all. Nor will the strength of right
Belief compel a thing to come – to – be
From nothing absolute. Its plain to see:
From nothing only nothing comes, because
By law does Justice hold from Being the cause
Of generation and decay. She feigns.
But slackens not her dominating chains.
Her grips grow stronger still! Your judgment o'er
My words resolves this crucial either – or,
Reflect it to your very core: Being is,
Or Being is not. Decide I say! Dismiss
The latter from your heart, a nameless course,
And thoughtless too, for she shows not the source
Of Truth. Traverse, instead, the Way of Being.
Embrace the Is, authentic, never fleeing.
So how, I ask, would Being cease? And how
Would Being come – to – be? It is not now,
If once it was, not even should it last
The span of future time extending past
Us now. So, genesis is quenched; its ruin
Not for experience. Nor is it strewn
Across vast multitudes, divided from
Itself; since all of Being is like, not some
Of it more here, and some of it less there.
The former forbids all binding holds unfair;
The latter neglects that all is filled to full
With Being. Hence, all exists together whole,
As being pulls itself to being by forced
Attraction mutual. But quite divorced,
Unmoved within the limits of great chains
Exists a sourceless, ceaseless Being; twin banes
Of birth and death long banished to the tides.
For true belief has pushed them out. It bides
The same in self-same place, remaining on
Its own, and so remains in fetters drawn
Steadfastly to its core. For powerful
Necessity ensnares it in her pull
Of chains and shackles binding fast, cinched tight
On every side. On this account 'tis right
For Being to be not incomplete. It lacks
No thing; since, if it did, its need would wax
For everything. Self – same as well the thought
And thinking act that Being Is; for not
Without the Being, in which it is expressed,
Will you discern the thinking act impressed
Upon the mind: for nothing else outside
Of Being exists or ever will. Cold pride
Of Fate confined it whole and motionless
To stay. Whence flow all names which mortals dress
With playful suppositions based on mere
Belief that naming captures Truth. You hear
Them speak of generation and decay,
Of being and non-being, of flight away
From place of rest, exchange of brilliant hue.
But here the outer limit shows the clue;
Since, now perfected from all points, just like
A massive sphere, it circles back to strike
Itself, in all ways equal from its core.
This limit needs must never be some more
Here, and some less there. For neither can
There be a what – is – not to halt its span
Out through itself toward self – same unity,
Nor can pure Being escape the symmetry
Of cosmic equipoise. It can not change
Intensity, nor broach its rounding range
To bulge with excess or deficiency,
Since all remains untouched simplicity.
For, equal to itself from every source,
Being meets with equal limits all its force."
"I cease here now, concerning Truth, my thought
And trusted speech for you; and learn you ought
The ways of mortal minds. So listen close
To hear the words deceptive order chose:
Men set their minds two shapes to name, but one
Of these must not be voiced; and here they've gone
Astray. They judged two masses opposite
In strength, and laid down signs to seal the split.
Of these, the first fires forth ethereal flame,
So gentle and smooth, in all directions same
Unto itself; the other, not a whit
The same, but in itself its opposite
— Dark Night, a dense and weighty mass.
To you I voice whole worlds of seeming things untrue.
Lest any mortal judgment should surpass
You unawares. But since all things alas
Are named for Light and Night, and since both powers
Have been assigned to these and those, there flowers
Full in all both Light and darkening Night
In equal quantities, for none in sight
Has share of one exclusively its own."
"The aether you shall know, and all which sown
Therein did grow, both constellations far
And wide, and Sun's destructive deeds, which scar
The earth with rays hot blazing torches burn,
And whence these came to be. I bid you learn
The wandering works and nature of the Moon,
Our spotted sphere. You'll even know the swoon
And sway of Heaven's vaulting love embrace;
Both whence he grew, and how, in shamed disgrace,
Necessity once dragged him off to hold
The limits of the stars; and how, it's told,
The Earth, and Sun, and Moon, with aether round
Them drawn; our Heaven's scattered milky fount,
Olympian heights, and thermal forces from
The stars awakened to their being. Benumb
With night, while circling earth, there shimmers strange
A borrowed light, which searches in its range
The blinding rays of Sun. The starry wreaths
Of thinner breadth bring forth a fire that breathes
And blasts full force; the ones beyond cloud black
With darkest Night, but still afar shine back
Their share of shimmering light. And in their midst
There lives the goddess Destiny, who sits
In queenship over all. For intercourse
Of lovers mixed, and loathsome pangs which course
The womb she rules over all. She sent
The woman off to mate with man, and bent
It back for man with woman to mate again.
And Eros first she destined to begin
The lineage of the Gods. And when a man
And woman intertwine to seal the plan
Of Passion's love-affair, a life-force forms
From blood diverse, which courses thick and swarms
The veins to fashion bodies well-produced,
Of tempered forces born. For when, once loosed,
Life's forces clash in strife upon the sown
Seed, no unity will they have grown
Within the body mixed, and curses shall vex
The growing child with indeterminate sex.
But when Love's seeds implant themselves upon
The right side of the mother's womb, they spawn
New baby boys, but on the left they yield
Girls. For just as each one holds, concealed
Within, some mix of Light with darkest Night,
Which rushes through their wandering limbs, so might
Exist the mind of man. For wisdom's seat
Persists the same for everyone you meet:
A nature growing in the limbs; since Thought
Is marked by greater growth. And so the lot
Of all there is or ever was I've shown
To you according to opinions known.
But, after they've grown, they'll cease to be.
Their names but signs affixed by man's decree.