By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides

By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides

By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides

By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides


The adventure of philosophy began in Greece, where it was gradually developed by the ancient thinkers as a special kind of knowledge by which to explain the totality of things. In fact, the Greek language has always used the word "onta," "beings," to refer to things. At the end of the sixth century BCE, Parmenides wrote a poem to affirm his fundamental thesis upon which all philosophical systems should be based: that there "are" beings.

In "By Being, It Is," Nestor-Luis Cordero explores the richness of this Parmenidean thesis, which became the cornerstone of philosophy. Cordero's textual analysis of the poem's fragments reveals that Parmenides' intention was highly didactic. His poem applied, for the first time, an explicative method that deduced consequences from a true axiom: "by being, it is." To ignore this reality meant to be a victim of opinions. This volume explains how without this conceptual base, all later ontology would have been impossible. This book offers a clear and concise introduction to the Parmenidean doctrine and helps the reader appreciate the imperative value of Parmenides's claim that "by being, it is."

"This thorough and controversial book will certainly be valued highly by the international community of scholars devoted to the study of ancient philosophy as well as by educated readers worldwide." --Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, Georgetown University

""By Being, It Is" offers a meticulous discussion of one of the most puzzling theses in the history of philosophy. It is a highly challenging piece of work from a philosophical viewpoint, an outstanding model of philological work, and a contribution that causes anyone interested in philosophical matters to reflect." --Marcelo D. Boeri, National Council for Scientific and Technological Research, Argentina

"Parmenides' importance consists in the fact that he represents an absolute beginning in history, and particularly in the history of thought. We can understand why, for more than twenty years now, N.L. Cordero has devoted tremendous efforts to understanding the few verses that remain to us of this Poem. The result is the present book, characterized by its completeness and its rigor. It is an essential work on a seminal author." --Luc Brisson, National Council for Scientific Research, France

NESTOR-LUIS CORDERO is Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Rennes, France. He is the author of "Les deux chemins de Parmenide" (1997), and "Siendo, Se Es" the Spanish edition of "By Being, It Is"] (2005)."


Historians of philosophy usually refer to Plato to confirm the importance that Parmenides' philosophy had acquired, even in his own time. They cite not only the celebrated passage from Plato's Sophist, in which the Eleatic philosopher is described as the Athenian's (obviously spiritual) “father” (241d), but also the text of the Theaetetus, which calls him “venerable” and “fearsome” (183e), according to the Homeric formula applied to the revered Priam (Il. 3.172). Generally speaking, at this point, curiously, quotations from Plato's text peter out. But Plato continues to concern himself with Parmenides, and in the following sentence we find a true confession, proof of the lucidity and sincerity with which the philosopher approaches his ancestor's thought: Parmenides, says Plato, “seemed to me to have a power that denotes a depth absolutely full of nobility. Even so, I am afraid we may not understand his words, and I am even more afraid that what he was thinking of when he said them goes quite beyond us” (184a).

For us these words of Plato's have always been an invitation, indeed, an incitement, to take an interest in Parmenides' philosophy. Less than a century after his death, Plato is already confessing that he is afraid he cannot understand the meaning of the Eleatean's philosophy, but that does not prevent him recognizing its immense value or, especially, from criticizing and even refuting it. This means that whatever the real meaning of Parmenides' ideas, they were taken by Plato in a certain way, and that is the Parmenides whom Plato combats, or, if you prefer, revises and even improves. Today, almost twenty-five centuries later, we see that the Parmenideanism that Plato criticizes is a combination of the Eleatean's own ideas with Zenonian and Melissian ingredients, and that this explosive mixture was very probably represented by Antisthenes at the time the Theaetetus and Sophist were being written (cf. Epilogue). But all this is secondary: it is the image Plato has of Parmenides that leads him to take an interest in him. And this is still going on today. Other philosophers of antiquity (Aristotle, Plutarch, Sextus Empiricus, Simplicius) offer us other aspects of Parmenides, and we might even say they present us with “other” Parmenides. So did the numerous doxographers, who often gave pride of place to a “cosmological” Parmenides.

1 Approximately 369–367 B.C.

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