Heidegger also tells us that when Parmenides tells us that ‘Being and thinking are the same’ he refers to the reciprocal relation or ‘being-together’ of noein – apprehension, or the decision for being against nothingness – and einai or Being. And logos [reason] is the ‘ground of human being’ and intimately bound with “krinen, cutting as de-ciding, in carrying out the gathering to the gatheredness of Being.”16
Having now seen how the idealist and the atheist interpret Parmenides, we turn to Paul Tillich for the theologian’s understanding of his metaphysic. In his Systematic Theology, Tillich tells us, “According to Parmenides, the basic ontological structure is not being but the unity of being and the word, the logos in which it is grasped. Subjectively is not only an epiphenomenon, a derived appearance. It is an original phenomenon although only and always in a polar relation with objectivity.”17And “Parmenides realized that in speaking of nonbeing one gives it some kind of being which contradicts its character as the negation of being. Therefore he excluded it from rational thought. But in doing so he rendered the realm of becoming unintelligible and evoked the atomistic solution which identifies nonbeing with empty space, thus giving it some kind of being.”18 But in any case, “being and logos of being cannot be separated.”19
Despite these learned interpretations I have struggled to fit Parmenides’ concept of Being as absolutely one and unchanging with the undeniable plurality and temporality we experience of the world. Some authors suggest the Way of Truth is the way an immortal looks at the world sub specie aeternitatis, whereas the Way of Seeming is the way mortals see the world in time.20,21 For me this comes down to thinking of the universe and reality as analogous to a finished movie, static in its entirety but experienced dynamically within its individual frames, much as Brian Green conceives of space-time like a loaf of bread wherein each slice action takes place. Perhaps Parmenides considers existence not only a noun, but also an adjective – e.g. an existing bird versus a non-existent dinosaur. In that case, the characteristic of being (existing) is the fundamental unifying concept underpinning all constituents of reality and thus in that sense is ultimate. Alternatively I think Parmenides may be pre-empting any discussion of the possibility of other worlds since only the one that exists incorporates the critical feature of being. Consequently this ‘one-being’ is synonymous with ‘Truth’ in the sense of correspondence with reality.
16Heidegger, Martin, Introduction to Metaphysics. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000. ISBN 0-300-08328-9, page 178-185.
17Tillich, Paul, Systematic Theology, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1967. ISBN 0-226-80336-8. Volume 1 p. 173.
18Ibid., page 186-187.
19Ibid., page 251.
20Edwards, Paul (editor), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972. Volume 6, page 49.
21Space forces me to omit a discussion of the attack by some scholars on Parmenides’ use of the verb “to be” in its existential not copulative sense. See Edwards, Paul (editor), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972. Volume 6, page 50.