November 16, 2009

Quote of the Day: Aristotle on Parmenides

Παρμενίδης δὲ μᾶλλον βλέπων ἔοικέ που λέγειν· παρὰ γὰρ τὸ ὂν τὸ μὴ ὂν οὐθὲν ἀξιῶν εἶναι, ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἓν οἴεται εἶναι, τὸ ὄν, καὶ ἄλλο οὐθέν ... ἀναγκαζόμενος δ' ἀκολουθεῖν τοῖς φαινομένοις, καὶ τὸ ἓν μὲν κατὰ τὸν λόγον πλείω δὲ κατὰ τὴν αἴσθησιν ὑπολαμβάνων εἶναι.

Parmenides seems to speak with rather more insight: for not considering, aside from being, anything that is not worthy to be, he thinks that from necessity it - that is, being - is one, and nothing else ... But being compelled to follow the phenomena, he supposes that it is one according to reason [or: in account], but many according to sense perception (Aristotle, Metaphysics 986b27-33, my translation, after Ross).

The surviving fragments of Parmenides speak of a 'path of persuasion' and a 'way of mortal opinion.' These seem to have been two sections of his original poem. In the former, he denies the reality of plurality or change. Puzzlingly, he goes on, in the latter, to give an account of plurality and change, much like other pre-Socratic philosophers did. I have a suspicion that Aristotle's 'according to reason' (logos) vs. 'according to sense perception' (aisthesis) contrast might suggest a way forward that avoids attributing an outright contradiction to Parmenides, but I don't seem to be able to turn this suspicion into any kind of clear formulation or argument just at the moment.

Posted by Kenny at November 16, 2009 4:23 PM
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