To Think like God: Pythagoras and Parmenides, the Origins of Philosophy

To Think like God: Pythagoras and Parmenides, the Origins of Philosophy

To Think like God: Pythagoras and Parmenides, the Origins of Philosophy

To Think like God: Pythagoras and Parmenides, the Origins of Philosophy

Excerpt

But the first to use the term "philosophy", and to call himself a
philosopher or lover of wisdom, was Pythagoras; for, said he, no
man is wise, but God alone.

—Diogenes Laertius

Parmenides' logic must have seemed to him … a path beyond
the limits of mortality." A mortal must think mortal, not immor
tal, thoughts," had been the common belief. And mortal thoughts
never strike certainty; by common consent this was the privilege
of the gods. Yet in his doctrine of Being, Parmenides found certi
tude and security such as no god could surpass.

—Gregory Vlastos

Gods know. They enjoy an immediate, unfettered access to truth, a truth that is certain, errorless, and complete. Mortals, on the other hand, are not capable of attaining the same; they can only express opinion, not truth. This view was held by some of the earliest pioneers of philosophy, Greek thinkers who theorized that knowledge came in two forms, divine and human. This twofold distinction was quite a novelty at the time, a shift in thinking which challenged Homer's and Hesiod's depictions of the gods as flawed or depraved beings, obsessed only with their Machiavellian ploys and their insatiable sexual appetites.

While some changes are so obvious that no one questions them, a few, perhaps the really momentous ones, pass by without notice, but, irreversibly, humanity's course has been altered. This was the case with the concept of deity in ancient Greece. Between the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., the concept underwent a subtle yet significant modification when a handful of thinkers argued for a more sublime characterization of the divine, one that was less human or anthropomorphic. It was a most revolutionary idea, and

8 D.L., 1.12.

9 Vlastos "594", 'Parmenides' Theory of Knowledge,' (TAPA 77) 75.

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