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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A Short History of Greek Philosophy / THE ELEATICS / XENOPHANES


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God and nature—Knowledge and opinion—Being and evolution—Love the creator—The modern egotism—Zeno’s dialectic—Achilles and the tortoise—The dilemma of being—The all a sphere—The dilemmas of experience



Elpenor's note Xenophanes : God is totally different

Xenophanes was a native of Colophon, one of the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, but having been forced at the age of twenty-five to leave his native city owing to some political revolution, he wandered to various cities of Greece, and ultimately to Zancle and Catana, Ionian colonies in Sicily, and thence to Elea or Velia, a Greek city on the coast of Italy. This city had, like Miletus, reached a high pitch of commercial prosperity, and like it also became a centre of philosophic teaching. For there Xenophanes remained and founded a school, so that he and his successors received the name of Eleatics. His date is uncertain; but he seems to have been contemporary with Anaximander and Pythagoras, and to have had some knowledge of the doctrine of both. He wrote in various poetic measures, using against the poets, and especially against Homer and Hesiod, their own weapons, to denounce their anthropomorphic theology. If oxen or lions had hands, he said, they would have fashioned gods after their likeness which would have been as authentic as Homer’s. As against these poets, and the popular mythology, he insisted that God must be one, eternal, incorporeal, without beginning or ending. As Aristotle strikingly expresses it, “He looked forth over the whole heavens and said that God is one, that that which is one is God.” The favourite antitheses of his time, the definite and the indefinite, movable and immovable, change-producing and by change produced—these and such as these, he maintained, were inapplicable to the eternally and essentially existent. In this there was no partition of organs or faculties, no variation or shadow of turning; the Eternal Being was like a sphere, everywhere equal; everywhere self-identical.

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Cf. Xenophanes Anthology and Resources / Guthrie, The Early Presocratics and the Pythagoreans


A History of Greek Philosophy : Table of Contents

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Greek Literature - Ancient, Medieval, Modern

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