Posted on 11 December 2019
Parmenides (c. 540 – 480 BC), from a Greek colony in southern Italy, believed that everything had always existed.
The Milesian philosophers Thales, Anaximene and Anaximander all believed in the existence of a single basic substance that was the Root of All Change.
The Problem of Change
But how could one substance suddenly change into something else?
This can be called the Problem of Change and was the focus of Parmenides’ philosophy.
‘Nothing can come out of nothing’, believed Parmenides and, ‘Nothing that exists can become nothing.’
Parmenides reasoned that there was no such thing as actual change. Nothing could become anything other than it was. Parmenides concluded that nature is in a continuous state of flux.
“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.”
Where Parmenides differed from the other Natural Philosophers is that he thought of the human senses as being unreliable and giving an incorrect picture of the world. When forced to choose between relying either on his senses or his reason, he is quoted as saying:
“Let reason alone decide.”
All is One
Parmenides founded the School of Elea and those who belonged to it became known as the Eleatics. The school’s doctrine was that reason is superior to the human senses and that there is a fundamental truth in the universe, which was called All is One.
By asking the questions, what is there and what is like? the Eleatics were exploring the nature of being, existence, and reality.
This branch of philosophy is called Metaphysics and so Parmenides is regarded as the first ever metaphysicist.
But had the Problem of Change been solved?
Image from en.wikipedia.org