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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A History of Greek Philosophy / THE ELEATICS / PARMENIDES


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Elpenor's note Parmenides : Being is all there is

The pupil and successor of Xenophanes was Parmenides, a native of Elea. In a celebrated dialogue of Plato bearing the name of this philosopher he is described as visiting Socrates when the latter was very young. “He was then already advanced in years, very hoary, yet noble to look upon, in years some sixty and five.” Socrates was born about 479 B.C. The birth of Parmenides might therefore, if this indication be authentic, be about 520. He was of a wealthy and noble family, and able therefore to devote himself to a learned leisure. Like his master he expounded his views in verse, and fragments of his poem of considerable length and importance have been preserved. The title of the work was Περὶ ΦύσεωςOf Nature. The exordium of the poem is one of some grandeur. The poet describes himself as soaring aloft to the sanctuary of wisdom where it is set in highest aether, the daughters of the Sun being his guides; under whose leading having traversed the path of perpetual day and at length attained the temple of the goddess, he from her lips received instruction in the eternal verities, and had shown to him the deceptive guesses of mortals. “’Tis for thee,” she says, “to hear of both,—to have disclosed to thee on the one hand the sure heart of convincing verity, on the other hand the guesses of mortals wherein is no ascertainment. Nevertheless thou shalt learn of these also, that having gone through them all thou may’st see by what unsureness of path must he go who goeth the way of opinion. From such a way of searching restrain thou thy thought, and let not the much-experimenting habit force thee along the path wherein thou must use thine eye, yet being sightless, and the ear with its clamorous buzzings, and the chattering tongue. ‘Tis by Reason that thou must in lengthened trial judge what I shall say to thee.” 

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