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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A Short History of Greek Philosophy / THE ELEATICS / XENOPHANES


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His proof of this was a logical one; the absolutely self-existent could not be thought in conjunction with attributes which either admitted any external influencing Him, or any external influenced by Him. The prevailing dualism he considered to be, as an ultimate theory of the universe, unthinkable and therefore false. Outside the Self-existent there could be no second self-existent, otherwise each would be conditioned by the existence of the other, and the Self-existent would be gone. Anything different from the Self-existent must be of the non-existent, i.e. must be nothing. One can easily see in these discussions some adumbration of many theological or metaphysical difficulties of later times, as of the origin of evil, of freewill in man, of the relation of the created world to its Creator. If these problems cannot be said to be solved yet, we need not be surprised that Xenophanes did not solve them. He was content to emphasise that which seemed to him to be necessary and true, that God was God, and not either a partner with, or a function of, matter. At the same time he recognised a world of phenomena, or, as he expressed it, a world of guesswork or opinion (δόξα). As to the origin of things within this sphere he was ready enough to borrow from the speculations of his predecessors. Earth and water are the sources from which we spring; and he imagined a time when there was neither sea nor land, but an all-pervading slough and slime; nay, many such periods of inundation and emergence had been, hence the sea-shells on the tops of mountains and the fossils in the rocks. Air and fire also as agencies of change are sometimes referred to by him; anticipations in fact are visible of the fourfold classification of the elements which was formally made by some of his successors.

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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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