But an interesting dilemma arises as well – speculative philosophy is theoretically complete as any thinking of something other than the truth of the ‘inseparably one’ is illusion.5 Parmenides, it turns out, is the original proponent of the theory of the two worlds,6 although some scholars believe Parmenides is not denying the existence of the ordinary world of plurality, only the possibility of any knowledge of it. In short Parmenides is arguing that sense experience is not the avenue to truth.7 What’s more, using reason alone, he seems to have created the first philosophical demonstration in history.8
The propositions of Parmenides are so puzzling that I would like to explore his thoughts further from the perspectives of three later philosophers starting with Plato. In his dialogue, Parmenides, the young Socrates meets the older Parmenides who instructs Socrates in the method of Elenchus, often called the ‘Socratic method’ of question and answer. Parmenides is seen as proving the truth of his belief not only by arguing for what is postulated but the impossibility of its opposite. Thus Socrates notes that Parmenides is saying “All is one,” while his disciple Zeno is saying “There is no many.”9 Plato summarizes Parmenides’ main point: the one can have no parts, thus no beginning, middle or end, and as such is unlimited, formless, without location, unmoving, unchanging, immeasurable (i.e. defying any kind of measurement), outside time, and unnamed or unnameable.10 However, when I attempt to follow Parmenides’ extended arguments in the dialogue, I find them hopelessly unfathomable.
In his masterpiece, Being and Time, Martin Heidegger pursues a different approach to the metaphysics of Parmenides using his characteristic phenomenological argot, “Being is that which shows itself, in the pure perception which belongs to beholding, and only by such seeing does Being get discovered. Primordial and genuine truth lies in pure beholding.”11 According to Heidegger, Parmenides was the first in the West to discover the “Being of entities” and the association of truth and Being.12 “The goddess of Truth who guides Parmenides, puts two pathways before him, one of uncovering, one of hiding; but this signifies nothing else than Dasein [human being] is already both in the truth and in untruth. The way of uncovering is achieved only in… distinguishing between these understandingly, and making one’s decision for the one rather than the other.”13
Heidegger offers a second commentary on Parmenides in his Introduction to Metaphysics where Parmenides often seems like the main character. Parmenides’ three ways can be summarized as (1) the path to Being and un-concealment, which is unavoidable, (2) the path to not-Being, which is inaccessible, and (3) the way of seeming (or becoming), which is the erroneous concealment of being and which is accessible, but avoidable.14 Heidegger believes we must travel all three paths explaining, “The man who truly knows is not the one who blindly runs after a truth but only the one who constantly knows all three ways, that of Being, that of not-Being, and that of seeming. Superior knowing – and all knowing is superiority – is granted only to one who has experienced the sweeping storm of the way of Being, to whom the terror of the second way to the abyss of Nothing has not remained foreign, and who has still taken over the third way, the way of seeming, as a constant urgency.”15
(finished next post)
5Jaspers, Karl, The Great Philosophers, Volume II. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1966. , page 30.
6Ibid., page 33.
7Honderich, Ted (editor), The Oxford Guide to Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-534093-8, page 682.
8Allen, Reginald E., Greek Philosophy: Thales to Aristotle. The Free Press, New York, NY, 1966. Page 14
9Plato, Parmenides, Encyclopaedia Britanica, 1952. The Great Books, Volume 7, page 487.
10Ibid., pages 494-495.
11Heidegger, Being and Time. Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1962. Page 215.
12Ibid., page 256.
13Ibid., page 265.
14Heidegger, Martin, Introduction to Metaphysics. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000. ISBN 0-300-08328-9, page 117.