• frank
    14.9k
    Western philosophy began with ontology. It was a mighty turn away from Homeric myth to secular explanations, if not yet what we would recognize as science.

    A contentious issue for pre-Socratic philosophers was about whether the world is made of many things, as it appears to be, or if our senses lie and the world is actually an undifferentiated whole.

    Parmenides supported the latter view, along with the famous paradox maker, Zeno.

    In Plato's Parmenides, a 19 year old Socrates explores the unity/plurality issue with Zeno and Parmenides.

    After a discussion with Zeno, in which Socrates explains that the theory of the Forms does away with the necessity of Oneness,. Parmenides offers five reasons to doubt the theory of the Forms, and then concludes with a way to affirm the Forms that Socrates had missed

    One way to read Parmenides would be to start with

    1. Reviewing the ideas of Parmenides and Zeno.

    2. Read Plato's Parmenides up to the launch of the 5 arguments

    3. Go through the arguments,

    4. Finish up the dialogue.

    5. Discuss the way we look at these same issues today.

    @Manuel Does that sound ok? Anyone else want to join?
  • frank
    14.9k
    There are a number of theories about what Parmenides actually believed, centered around whether he truly believed that the plurality our senses seem to tell us about is a great lie, or was his monism weaker than that? Was he responding to Pythagoras (the world is made of numbers) and Heraclitus, or were they responding to him?

    I think for the purposes of reading Plato's Parmenides, we can settle for what Plato seems to think he believed: that the world is truly an undivided, eternal, unity.

    Just to touch briefly on of his reasons: he thought that heading into the future means journeying into a void. There is no void, so time must be an illusion. I think this makes more sense than it might appear.

    Logically, the present and future have to be separated. Imagine that everything is time stamped. We can't have the now-moon existing simultaneously with the future-moon. What separates the present from the future? Apparently nothing, or a void.

    We know the ancient Greeks lacked the concept of zero. Zero probably originated with Babylonians as a result of writing down abacus results. Further, the Greeks hated the idea of a void, which if you think about it, is kind of self-contradictory.

    Thus the flow of time has to be an illusion. Obviously the report of the intellect is over-ruling the testimony of direct experience.

    Thoughts?
  • Manuel
    4k
    Well I'll start by saying something, otherwise it's easy to get intimidated and not say anything. Because this text is really dense and difficult. I've read a part of it, maybe a third or so, and highlighted some passages (copy pasted them actually) so that I could have something to build on.

    As I read more and finish, and re-read, this may all radically change.

    A lot of it is made more difficult due to the fact that we are in very different intellectual/cultural climates, so it's hard to understand why there should only "the one":

    "if, on the other hand, one were in itself, it would also be contained by nothing else but itself; that is to say, if it were really in itself; for nothing can be in anything which does not contain it."

    that which contains must be other than that which is contained? for the same whole cannot do and suffer both at once; and if so, one will be no longer one, but two?

    It seems to me as if "the one" postulated here is rather rigid concept, such that anything which could possibly show a flaw in the concept of the one would be taken as part of the one, but the one cannot have parts.

    Then we have the problem that a subject can think of the one, while being of the one, so the person cannot escape being part of the one.

    I'd say the subject is one thing, the thought of the one is a different thing, while admitting that, in some very obscure sense, everything is part of a single "thing".

    This thing could be the universe, or quantum fields or even the-thing-in-itself.

    So initially, it looks like whatever this one is, for it to be rendered intelligible, must be the kind of thing which appears as many. And as appearances, they are different and multitudinous. So in this sense one could say that there are many things which at bottom belong to one.

    These are my initial thoughts anyway.
  • Manuel
    4k


    Funny that I saw your reply as I was typing, otherwise I would keep postponing.

    By this point, it's impossible not to have our ideas contaminated by modern theories and other philosophers. I think that what can help with this distinction of time being an illusion vs time feeling very real to us, is that one is how time is independent of us (in some respects) and the other is time, as we experience it.

    We obviously add much to time, that is not found in the universe. Ideas of "slow", "fast", "before" and "after" are meaningless to the universe. But not to us.
  • frank
    14.9k
    By this point, it's impossible not to have our ideas contaminated by modern theories and other philosophers.Manuel

    I agree, we fill in the blanks. I think Aristotle agreed with your assessment of Parmenides: that he thought things are one in essence, but plural in phenomenon, so his monism amounts to saying there is only one substance.
  • Manuel
    4k


    They respected him deeply.

    I suppose the appeal here is that the idea of one-ness is simple and difficult to argue against. Like if someone says there are many. Yeah, ok, but what about them? We look for similarities.

    Do you think that it's possible to argue against the idea of "the one" as presented by Parmenides?
  • frank
    14.9k
    Do you think that it's possible to argue against the idea of "the one" as presented by Parmenides?Manuel

    Wow. That's a good question. The One is an idea that goes on to haunt philosophy all the way down to Schopenhauer.

    It's hard to address Parmenides be without using Schopenhauer and Neoplatonists as a crutch. It's not just a matter of arguing against mysticism. It's more like arguing with Zeno about his famous paradox which seems to show that motion is irrational.

    One answer would be that just because X is irrational, doesn't mean it's not true. Instead if doubting your senses, maybe doubt your intellect?

    I'm gonna have to ponder. :grin:
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    It's hard to address Parmenidesfrank

    I read Parmenidies' important surviving fragment that is often called 'On Nature'.

    Parmenides is a generous monist in that he allows the Unity to have multiplicity when it need not; however, I easily note that the One cannot be still or not anything would have happened.

    He banishes 'Nothing' as what cannot even be meant; thus the mandatory existent as the One again easily ensues, which can't be denied, plus the Fundamental Arts dictate that the One cannot have parts, thus it having to be continuous (no spacers of 'Nothing' allowed in it, anyway).

    Not able to be still, the One is ever energetic; the elementary particles and whatnot can only be as disturbances/excitations/rearrangements of it, for the One is all there is as the only real and lasting thing. It must ever remain as itself and so it can't make anything different than itself. All else as the events of multiplicity are temporary, even our entire universe. The One persists before, after, and during our universe, for it is Permanent. Thus, there is no Big Bang from 'Nothing'.

    The One as partlesss needs be simplest, which we also know because it forms only tiny, simple elementaries at first. Because all the elementaries of a type are identical, we even further know that there has to a One as the structure beneath them responsible for their uniformity. For some reason, there is less and less stability on upwards of the elementaries, although even the elementaries don't last forever but can still be very long events.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Do you think that it's possible to argue against the idea of "the one" as presented by Parmenides?Manuel

    I would ask how is it possible to not argue against such an idea. "The One" appears to me, to be presented by Parmenides as being self-contradicting in every possible way. It is a demonstration of the problem which arises from the assumption of independent Forms.

    Parmenides describes to Socrates how we see in visible things the existence of opposites. Visible things change, therefore they pass from 'is..." to "is not..." in different ways. The Form itself, if we assume such a thing, must contain both of these opposites. But how is that possible for a thing (the Form) to both be and not be) in the same sense at the same time.

    So I believe that the One is presented by Parmenides as an example, of how opposites can coexist in one Form. So the question we ought to ask would be whether this is an acceptable presentation or not. Does Parmenides provide a good demonstration of the Idea of One, one which cannot be argued against.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Visible things change, therefore they pass from 'is..." to "is not..Metaphysician Undercover

    Recall that for Parmenides, it doesn't really make sense to say a thing is not, because if X is not, then how were you just talking about it?
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    Parmenides shocked the philosophic/scientific/religious world way back and it is still reeling, even with his revelation being a poem filled with maidens.

    It was a disaster for the religious to realize that the One of necessity that could not not be there made 'God' unnecessary and irrelevant. Like the proposed 'God' it was there without ever having been created, but in a simple form. Their template that the lesser had to come from the greater, which was ever haunted by regress, had to be thrown out, although they went into denial. It is that the lesser leads to the greater, but temporary, just as we can plainly see in our universe.

    Then science came through to show it as the 'vacuum' that isn't empty and its quantum fields that we can get onto later to show it as the One.

    I selected what I thought were the best translations of Parmenides' 'On Nature' that improved the style but didn't leave out any points, and then illustrated it, and then made a video of it:



    The intro from the Stanford Philosophy seems to be mostly OK but for it referencing two substances. An electron, for example, is still constituted of the One (and only), as a rather stable quantum of it.

    Recall that for Parmenides, it doesn't really make sense to say a thing is not, because if X is not, then how were you just talking about it?frank

    What I do is to put in quotes what cannot be or even be meant, such as 'Nothing'.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Recall that for Parmenides, it doesn't really make sense to say a thing is not, because if X is not, then how were you just talking about it?frank

    But this is the point which Parmenides makes at the end of 135, when he speaks about visible things, and "their wandering between opposites". He says to Socrates, who he views as young and full of potential, yet untrained: "...If you want to be trained more thoroughly, you must not only hypothesize, if each thing is, and examine the consequences of that hypothesis, you must also hypothesize, if that same thing is not."

    He says this because visible things come into being and go out of being, they pass through opposites. We can say of the same thing that "it is X" at one time, and "not X" at another time. And so, "among visible things, it's not at all hard to show that things are both like and unlike and anything else you please."
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    I like Parmenides, especially because he was the first Greek philosopher - as per Wikipedia - to have made nothing a subject of study.

    Ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing. — Parmenides

    Since ex nihilo nihi fit, Parmenides rejected becoming; after all becoming implies an initial stage of nonbeing which in Parmenides universe is either nothing or too close it for comfort.

    Hence, Parmenides endorsed eternalism but then how do we explain aging of men, women and children, the flux of rivers, motion, the ripening of fruits, seasons, day & night, and so on? "Simple," says Parmenides and his disciple Zeno, "change is an illusion." It has to be, right?

    What's fascinating is how Parmenides and Heraclitus contradicted each other. The latter claimed that change is the only constant. For Heraclitus, panta rhea.

    Most philosophers and that includes Socrates, Plato, et al were, my hunch is, uncomfortable with the Heraclitean position because it has sophist written all over it. After all, to a philosopher veritas numquam perit (truth never expires or, positively rendered, truth is eternal). Given this view of truth is non-negotiable to a philosopher, Parmenides, for the reason that he subscribed to eternalism, was viewed as toeing the official line and thus favored.
  • Manuel
    4k
    Didn't get around to reading it today. I'll continue tomorrow.

    It's definitely Plato's hardest dialogue.
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    Since ex nihilo nihi fit, Parmenides rejected becoming; after all becoming implies an initial stage of nonbeing which in Parmenides universe is either nothing or too close it for comfort.TheMadFool

    His One of Necessity has no beginning; it is ever and always. Did the One make our universe that has time in it linearly or did the One make it all at once and then replay it slower so as to be experienced in time? Or did the One always have everything in it, such as our universe, and then plays it slower.
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    The vacuum is not empty and so it isn’t a vacuum; I propose it as the One of Parmenides. It is the simplest because the simple elementaries first become, and then form composites later…

    The elementaries are tiny lightweights, which shows that what formed them is also lightweight. Thus, the Basis as the One is simple.

    The One, being energetic, is never still (or all multiplicity would never arise). Thus it has a energy value at every point that fluctuates. The short name for this is a field. The temperature field in one’s home has a degree value at every point. Fields are simple, not mysterious.

    Let us look into the field that forms electrons, since they are familiar to us. Its points tug at each other, ever making for varying lumps in it, similar to those in an ocean, so the field wavers.

    Why do electrons last? Why don’t they just slosh away like lumps in water?

    All electrons are identical in volume, integer energy level, and charge, and so that defines how they have to be, as stable. Any other wanna-be bump in the electron field doesn’t make an electron or a fraction of one, although these may turn out to be the virtuals that collapse in an instant.

    An electron bound in an atom can jump to a higher orbital cloud level if it gets the right amount of energy from a photon, say, as double what it has. This is known as the quantum jump; simple, but we haven’t yet gotten to what a quantum is yet, but that’s the kind of happening that led physicists there, as again no fractional allowed to be lasting. A quantum is a specific energy level that can last in the field that is everywhere, it then being able to move anywhere in the field. It’s sort of like a kink in a rope; it travels but the rope doesn’t.

    Can we derive the math of an electron quantum field to see if that matches it?

    Victor Toth says, We decompose the field into harmonic oscillators, since that’s what the field does, with its moving points, though a Fourier-transform, each point now as a quantum harmonic oscillator whose energy comes in quantized units.

    The lowest energy state is not zero when we sum for all possible values so we get an infinite result.

    When a theory is renormalizable, there’s a mathematically sensible process to discard the unwanted infinities but still account for finite differences, which are responsible for observables. We may sum energies to some finite cutoff value, and use it to compute physically observable values; in the limit of the cutoff going back to infinity, the physical prediction doesn’t change.


    There are 25 types of quantum fields, one for each entry in the Standard Model. The fields overlap and can affect one another, making for one overall quantum field, this complicating the math. The Higgs field even has a much higher rest energy than the other fields.

    Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is the most firm and successful theory in the history of science.
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    change is an illusionTheMadFool

    Yes, as in a DVD playing.

    Another illusion might be that temporary 'things' are things, and separate even, not events of the One as the One. All that goes one is the One as the One's transmutations.
  • Verdi
    116
    Another illusion might be that temporary 'things' are things, and separate even, not events of the One as the One. All that goes one is the One as the One's transmutations.PoeticUniverse

    You got some pretty strong stuff written all over! I sense a strong feeling of unity radiating from your words. Great!
  • frank
    14.9k
    Didn't get around to reading it today. I'll continue tomorrow.

    It's definitely Plato's hardest dialogue.
    Manuel

    Ahh! I'm slow in getting started. Got busy. I'll get back to it this week.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Since ex nihilo nihi fit, Parmenides rejected becoming; after all becoming implies an initial stage of nonbeing which in Parmenides universe is either nothing or too close it for comfort.TheMadFool

    This is not how Plato represents Parmenides in "The Parmenides", as indicated by the passage I've referred to above, at 135.

    It is not that Parmenides rejected becoming, clearly Plato represented him as accepting the reality of "becoming". He just presented the extreme difficulty of understanding "becoming" logically. This is the same situation we find with Zeno's paradoxes. Zeno does not reject the reality of motion, he just demonstrates that the principles employed to understand motion, at that time, were insufficient to provide a real understanding.
  • ssu
    8.3k
    Would have loved to read Zeno's book.

    After all, now we read the story from the writings of those who opposed the ideas, even if (hopefully) treated them respectfully. But it still begs the question if Eleatic School's view is represented in a negative light or some interesting view is not discussed. That Zeno came up with the problem of mathematical limits (or the infinitesimal) is no small matter. Starting from an indivisible atom has it's obvious problems as is putting natural numbers as basis of all mathematics.

    And still, we take infinity as an axiom and yet these questions are raised for example in this Forum thousands of years afterwards.
  • Manuel
    4k


    Perfect, I'll likely do the same then. :up:
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    Perfect, I'll likely do the same then.Manuel

    You will go crazy reading about all their 'likes' and 'unlikes' portrayed in umpteen ways.

    All multiplicity has to be like the One and that's that.
  • Manuel
    4k


    I recall that the main point was being hammered over and over again, but that was a few years ago. I'll refresh my reading, if I get the same feeling again, then I'll just go with my impressions.

    But good to know other people think the same.
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    rokns-9.81-full-p9-dft-65fw-3840px-30fps-apple-devices-4k.2021-07-12-12_57_28.gif

    (One of the maiden Goddesses of Parmenides' 'On Nature')
  • PoeticUniverse
    1.3k
    So, how come the multiplicity has to be temporary, given that it is the Permanent One at heart?

    After all, such as electrons are not something else that is weaker that got quantized; electrons are directly the quanta of their lasting field. Well, either they get annihilated or they wear out eventually perhaps because there can't really be any infinite precision, meaning that everything temporary leaks. The One ever moves, too, this maybe somehow also contributing to the destined demise of its forms.

    Stability decreases on upward: molecules are neither inclined to stay together nor to instantly break apart, stars burn out, cells have to get replaced, the tips of DNA tear off a bit during every division, eventually ripping into the good part, like a fraying shoelace after the protective end has gone away.

    All the temporaries are doomed! The fate of all their epicness is to fade. The great statues crack and crumble; only the pedestal of the One remains intact.

    Heaven’s Great Wheel e’er whirls its energy,
    It having to turn and return, to be,
    Transmuting, as ne’er still—eternally,
    Into life’s temporary pattern-trees.

    Change in the Eterne dooms forms’ permanence;
    But the time required for their constructance
    Restrains for a while the shapes’ destructance;
    Thus they can slowly traverse life’s distance.

    The chain is forged that links a thousand deaths
    To a thousand future-generated breaths—
    When lips ripe as fruit gently part in pain:
    The smile of a corpse is life touched by death.
  • magritte
    553
    There are a number of theories about what Parmenides actually believedfrank

    There are a number of views to be sure due to the lack of clarity of the original text. Some is just poor writing skills in expressing an abstract subject matter (I sympathize with that). But the philosophical details were also too complicated to be clearly laid out this early by possibly the originator of formal logic. What there is is enough for Parmenides to have become the father of formal philosophy.

    Parmenides' philosophy starts with Truth, the basis and proof for certainty of genuine knowledge. Of course, Truth is not a goddess but a singular value of evaluation. It is One or its Form of One. This Form cannot be in motion, change, come-to-be, perish, or lack uniformity.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    His One of Necessity has no beginning; it is ever and always. Did the One make our universe that has time in it linearly or did the One make it all at once and then replay it slower so as to be experienced in time? Or did the One always have everything in it, such as our universe, and then plays it slower.PoeticUniverse

    I haven't the slightest idea.
  • magritte
    553
    "Ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing". — Parmenides
    Since ex nihilo nihil fit, Parmenides rejected becoming; after all becoming implies an initial stage of nonbeing which in Parmenides universe is either nothing ...
    TheMadFool

    So he did. Parmenides (and Plato) divided the 'World' of the philosopher into (I) what can be known with certainty and (II) what is mere opinion. (Part I) Certain knowledge can only be formal according to and following Parmenides' deductive logic. For formalism only, what is is, and what isn't be cannot possibly be or be thought of, because premises and deductive logic says so with certainty. If the number 1 is then it is, otherwise nothing can be said because anything else goes. Green is green, not-green is either unspeakable (Parmenides) or everything else in the rest of the formal world (Plato).
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