A Philosophy Essay Example About Parmenides

There are many instances where philosophy creates a foundation for modern sciences; finding the beginning of thought in some way. Many philosophers and ideas agree and disagree with one another, but still create that new foundation for science. The ideas of philosopher Parmenides and the view, ‘atomism’, are very similar in that sense, where they are both compatible and in disagreement. For the majority of this argument, Parmenides and the two philosophers behind atomism—Leucippus and Democritus—have fairly different views on the nature of ‘Being’, but similar ones on the idea of ‘Nothing’, and life after death.

The main difference between Parmenides and atomism is the idea of the ‘One’ and the many. Parmenides claims that ‘what is, is’ and that there can only one of something. To him, there is no ‘many’ and only ‘The One’. Norman Melchert gives an example of this in the reading. He states “There is the desk, and here is the chair. They are two; the chair is not the desk and the desk is not the chair.” So only one can be itself; therefore, there can only be ‘the One’. Leucippus disagreed with Parmenides in the fact that there was a ‘many’. He accepts his principle of the ‘one’, but in a form that wasn’t singular. Leucippus instead believed in an infinite number of ‘ones’, therefore creating a ‘many’ that Democritus later called atoms. To the two atomists, atoms were in everything and in large amounts. Parmenides argues that in order for there to be “many” there would have to be some form of separation between “what is not” and

“what is not is not”, but atomists claim there can be that separation due to something called “the void”.

The void is, in short terms, ‘no-thing’, which is basically a being in which no body exists. Democritus himself wrote “No-thing exists just as much as thing”, so atomists believe that there is a place in space where things do not exist. Parmenides claims that the term ‘nothing’ does not exist, as something always must be there. Now, ‘nothing’ and ‘no-thing’ are two different terms, but they are surprisingly very compatible. Democritus’ ‘void’ is the idea that there is an area in which no-thing exists, creating empty space. However, he compares space as a being, because even though space does not contain a ‘body’, that does not disqualify it as a being. As Melchart says, “what-does-not-contain-any-body need not be the same as what-is-not-at-all.” Which leads to the thought that nothing does not exist, because there is always something there. Even empty space is a being, which ties into what Parmenides says about the “concept of “being” is just the concept of “what is” as opposed to “what is not”,” and the fact that you simply cannot think of nothing.

Parmenides and atomists also believe in very similar aspects of life after death. While most believe that dying means leaving the realm of being and no longer existing, Parmenides and atomists believe there is no end. Atomists believe in what we call a ‘soul’. We as people are made of atoms, so when we die we continue to have them in the form of ‘soul-atoms’; therefore, when we die, we are still considered a being. The soul, in short, is material; despite not having any form of sense. However, our senses aren’t a legitimate form of knowledge, as both Parmenides and atomists have theorized. Parmenides solely believes that to reach a conclusion, you must focus on reasoning alone, and not following your senses. Atomists agree by saying that our senses can only take us so far and that “there is “another, finer” and “legitimate” form of knowledge available to the soul. This […] is no doubt based on reasoning,” which directly ties atomists’ theory on not using our senses for knowledge, to Parmenides’ theory.

Overall, Parmenides and Atomists have very similar and different propositions to certain topics. While they differ with their arguments about ‘the One’ and the many, they seem to relate when it comes to the idea that there is no ‘nothing’ and that something still exists after death. Now, whether these two views can ‘butt-heads’ at times, they still create that overall foundation for new, modern sciences, and have made history amongst philosophy.


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