Parmenides and the Elea SchoolJune 27, 2021
In the city of Elea, in southern Italy, where Xsendanes settled, a famous school of philosophy was founded, which put forward an opposite view to Heraclitus. The famous representative of this school, called the Elea School, is Parmenides. Parmenides is younger than Heraclitus. Although the views on the date of death are not the same, BC. The year 456 was adopted.
In his educational (didactic) writings that have reached us, Parmenides criticizes Heraclitus without mentioning his name. The debate between Heraclitus and Parmenides, or between Heraclitus and the Elea School, is considered the first real and conscious disagreement in the history of philosophy. As a matter of fact, while writing the history of philosophy before him, Plato shows the opposition between these two schools as the first important difference of opinion.
Parmenides wrote his views poetically, as it was custom at the time. His work is educational (didactic). In the preface of this work, which has reached us, Parmenides tells how he went to God in a chariot and learned his philosophical thoughts from him. Contrary to this artistic introduction, the work itself contains very abstract ideas. Parmenides is the first and true logician in the history of philosophy. Other philosophers, Miletus School and Pythagoras, prioritize experiences. Parmenides, on the other hand, was the first thinker to try to get his thoughts on the universe only through reason. He is the first rationalist philosopher in the history of philosophy (Rationalism is the opposite of Empiricism. Empiricist philosophy is based only on experience, rationalist philosophy only on reason). At the foundation of his philosophy, Parmenides laid the key rule from which all other ideas can be derived: “There is being, there is no non-existence.” According to him, every philosophy that does not comply with this rule and tries to make the non-existent existent will have gone astray at the first step. In other words: any philosophy that puts an opinion against this rule makes a logical mistake. It is a contradiction to try to say that something that does not exist exists. Every contradictory thought is wrong. So, if I want to think right, I must think without contradiction, as long as I think without contradiction, my thoughts are right. So the contradiction is an indication that I am thinking wrong. To think without contradiction is to think what is. Thinking about the non-existent is the very contradiction.
According to Parmenides, all philosophers before him contradicted this principle. The biggest culprit in this regard is Heraclitus. Because Heraclitus made change and movement the main principle. However, anyone who adopts such a principle falls into contradiction. It means adopting change as a principle; means to think that something is first a certain thing and then something else. This is impossible. Because something cannot both exist and not exist. We cannot think of change without conflict. Since there is no change, there is no movement, no multiplicity. Suppose the multiplicity consists of parts of something. Then these parts will both exist and not exist because they are separate from each other. It is a contradiction to think so. Therefore, like the concepts of change and motion, it is impossible to think of the concept of multiplicity without contradiction. If we reverse this understanding of Parmenides, we reveal one of his main principles: that which exists never changes, it always remains the same with itself. Thus, Parmenides returns to Xenophanes’ understanding of God and existence. It is for this reason that tradition justifies him to be a disciple of Xenophanes.
We believe in change, movement and multiplicity. Where does this belief come from? According to Parmenides, at the root of this belief are our sensory perceptions that constantly mislead us. With this view, he meets with Heraclitus, whom he opposes. Heraclitus also distinguished between the real (real) universe and the apparent universe. For Heraclitus, the apparent universe is the one our senses introduce us to. The real universe is the one we grasp through the mind. This view is the meeting point of Heraclitus and Parmenides. However, the views of the two philosophers on which of these two universes are real and which are merely appearances are completely different from each other. According to Heraclitus, the deceptive universe is the universe in which we think the beings remain constant. However, Parmenides shows a different view. According to him, the deceptive universe is the universe in a state of change. The universe that does not change, stands still and is one is the real universe. Like Parmenides and Xenophanes, he thought of this real universe as a sphere.
Heraclitus and Parmenides, the head of the Elea School, agree on two points: They both divide the universe into two as real and imaginary, and they both agree on the view that we know the real universe by reason and the apparent universe by sensation. However, they hold opposing views on which of these two universes is the real universe and which is the real entity.
We see this distinction between the real universe and the apparent universe for the first time in these two philosophers. According to Heraclitus, the universe in which beings exist is nothing but appearances. The real universe shows an endless state of change and motion. “Nothing