'It was, for all I know, the first
deductive theory of the world, the first deductive cosmology: One further
step led to theoretical physics, and to the atomic theory.'
(Karl R. Popper - The World of Parmenides,
'One of Parmenides' merits is to have been the
first philosopher who strove to handle general concepts like 'being', 'not-being',
'knowing', 'unity', 'identity', in their systematic connection.'
(W.J. Verdenius - Parmenides,
'Thus the philosophy of Parmenides is a strange blend
of mysticism and logic. It is mysticism, for its goal is not the gradual
and cumulative correction of empirical knowledge, but deliverance from
it through the instantaneous and absolute grasp of 'immovable' truth.
This is not the way of techne, but the way of revelation: it
lies 'beyond the path of men' (B. 1.27). Yet this revelation is itself
addressed to man's reason and must be judged by reason. Its core is
pure logic: a rigorous venture in deductive thinking, the first of its
kind in European thought. This kind of thinking could be used against
the world of the senses ... This projection of the logic of Being upon
the alien world of Becoming was Parmenides' most important single contribution
to the history of thought, though it is seldom recognized as such. Without
it, his doctrine of Being could have remained a speculative curiosity.
With it, he laid the foundations for the greatest achievement of the
scientific imagination of Greece, the atomic hypothesis.'
(Gregory Vlastos - Studies in Greek Philosophy,
Vol. I, p.
'From this inheritance contemporary philosophers have continued to draw
profit. Parmenides is their earliest ancestor whose work contains explicit
and self-conscious argumentation. The severe conceptual difficulties
posed for the first time in his verses are of perennial interest, and
many of them remain in the forefront of discussion today. Recent study
has thus brought his thought, in the words of another critic, 'astonishingly
close to some contemporary preoccupations'. He should be viewed not
only as 'the most original and important philosopher before Socrates'
but as the first extant author deserving to be called a philosopher
in a present-day sense of the word.'
(David Gallop - Parmenides of Elea,
'One cannot say that the case for Parmenides is proved. If it is accepted,
it is a strange freak of history that so fundamental a discovery should
have been made by one for whom the whole physical world was an unreal
(W.K.C. Guthrie - A History of Greek Philosophy,
Vol II. p.
'As Parmenides categorically
threw out all observation with the senses, so this student of philosophy
is inclined to throw out Parmenides as a complete waste of time! His
static theories denying motion and change were in direct antithesis to the
Kinetic metaphysics of Heracleitus, and his depressing monism was later
refuted by the atomists Democritus and Leucippus. In a nutshell; in a
word; Parmenides is Pah! - and definitely not a philosopher to take to bed
with you on a
winter evening! ... [Re Zeno's paradoxes] ... Personally speaking the whole thing makes
me shudder - although I do acknowledge that paradoxes and riddles are
very popular with the average thirteen-year-old school boy.
however, impressed his dialectical ability on Socrates, who then began
turning it loose on the average citizen in the Agora (market-place) and
in consequence made himself most unpopular. I only think that it is
a pity that when they asked Socrates to drink the hemlock in 399 B.C.,
they didn' t include Zeno and Parmenides in the invitation.'
(Maureen O' Sullivan - The Four Seasons of
'[Parmenides] is the purest example of the Greek desire to comprehend,
a desire which in him would have nothing to do with what was not strictly
knowable. If later philosophers appear softer by comparison, it is perhaps
because of a revivifying compromise they made, one more acceptable and
more tolerant of the discourse we perhaps need; but, by the same token,
one can perhaps be forgiven for sometimes thinking them dwarfed by the
inhuman shadow of the master.'
(Scott Austin - Parmenides - Being, Bounds, and
'Parmenides' poem is dominated by his conviction that human beings can
attain knowledge of reality or understanding.'
(A.H. Coxon - The Fragments of Parmenides,
'What is clear is that Parmenides is making a conscious attempt at some
kind of a new start. Like Descartes, he is trying to find an unassailable
starting-point on which something further can be built. This search
is understandable, given the intellectual situation of the time. The
principles of the Milesians had yielded no one clearly true system,
but a number of rival ones -in itself a scandal. Heraclitus had made
the whole of cosmology suspect by revealing deep-seated contradictions
at its heart. In the background, the Pythagoreans were directly or indirectly
stimulating new lines of thought and using them, perhaps, for their
own mysterious purposes.'
(Edward Hussey - The Presocratics, Classical Life
'Parmenides in making reasoning the guide of his inquiries is the first
Greek thinker who satisfies Plato's principle of 'proceeding through
(W.J. Verdenius - Parmenides,
'The crisis at the heart of Parmenides' argument, 'is
or is not,' rules out any candidate for an ultimate entity in an
explanation of what there is that is subject to coming-to-be, passing-away,
or alteration of any sort. Such an entity must be a whole,
complete, unchanging unity: it must be a thing that is of a single kind ... But it does not follow
from this that there can be only one such entity. Parmenides' arguments
allow for a plurality of fundamental, predicationally unified entities
that can be used to explain the world reported by the senses.'
(Patricia Curd - The Legacy of Parmenides,
Karl R. Popper - The World of Parmenides, p.
by permission of The Estate of Sir Karl Popper, Mr. and Mrs. Mew.
- Parmenides, p. 2
Reproduced here by permission of The Family of W.J.
Verdenius, Mr. E.W. Verdenius.
Gregory Vlastos - Studies in Greek
Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 162
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David Gallop - Parmenides of Elea, p.
Reproduced here by permission of
Copyright © 1984 University of Toronto
W.K.C. Guthrie - A History of Greek Philosophy,
Vol II. p. 65
with the permission of Cambridge University Press.
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