“It is all one to me where I begin;
for I shall come back again there.”
Parmenides, On The Order
Parmenides of Elea, a poet-philosopher, willingly challenged Heraclitus on his premise of continual change. Parmenides’ poem “On Nature,” which has come to us in the form of fragments, presents one of the first examples of a reasoned argument that change is impossible and that reality is singular, undivided and homogenous. Parmenides, in “The Way of Truth,” the first section of his poem “On Nature,” wrote of his rendezvous with a goddess who taught him how to make a distinction between an inquiry into what is, and an inquiry into what is not.
Parmenides believed that to think of something is to give it a manifestation of existence. For example, a phoenix does not exist in the material world, but it has a place in our thoughts and imagination. Hence, to think of the phoenix implies its existence even though it never existed except in Greek mythology and the legends of ancient Egypt. Similarly, if we can visualize something that will exist in the future, then it must already exist in our minds. If we remember something or someone who is no longer with us, then they continue to be present at the moment we thought of them.
I confess that I was amazed to meet a philosopher who had divine revelation. Nevertheless, Parmenides started a dialogue on the connections between thoughts, words and things. It is a debate that has ignited the thoughts of every key thinker down through the centuries.
Perhaps, some credit should go to the goddess.
“We can speak and think only of what exists. And what exists is uncreated and imperishable for it is whole and unchanging and complete. It was not or nor shall be different since it is now, all at once, one and continuous…”