The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought

By Patricia Curd | Go to book overview

IV
Pluralism after Parmenides

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS have argued that although Parmenides is not a typical physiologos, his views are firmly in the tradition of Presocratic physical thought. Rather than constructing his own account of what there is, both at the fundamental metaphysical level and at the level of cosmology, he criticizes earlier theories of the nature of things and offers criteria for the genuine constitution of a thing by concentrating on the character of what-is (Chap. I). The criteria for what-is that are explored in B8 indicate that Parmenides is a monist of a particular sort. He argues that what-is cannot be subject to coming to be or passing away, and is whole of a single kind, unshaking and complete.1 The key notion here is that of being a whole of a single kind, for this secures the unchanging nature of what-is, as is indicated in lines B8.5–6: “nor was it once nor will it be, since it is now altogether one, continuous”

The single-natured character of what-is prevents any change, whether qualitative change, coming-to-be, or passing-away. Parmenides’ arguments do not indicate that there must exist only one thing; rather, he argues that whatever is a genuine entity must be one in kind, or, as I have called it, predicationally one (Chap. II). The importance of predicational unity in an entity that functions as the nature of something appears in Parmenides’ account of mortal error, the Doxa. The goddess warns that the story she will tell in the Doxa is deceptive (B8.51–52: and I have argued (Chap. III) that the deception lies in the account of Light and Night, which treats them as genuine entities underlying a cosmology, even though, as enantiomorphic opposites, neither can be a predicational unity (a whole of a single kind) of the sort that the Alētheia has shown a genuine entity must be. Nevertheless, the Doxa has a positive story to tell in addition to its deceptive account of Light and Night. Parmenides constructs a cosmology based on entities that do not shift or change in themselves (or at least would not if they were genuine entities rather than enantiomorphic opposites), but that can mix and separate to form the phenomena reported to us by our senses. In this chapter I turn from Parmenides to two of his successors, examining

1 These “signs” on the route “that it is” set out the character of what-is that later lines of B8 will argue for:

(B8.3–4)

-127-

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The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • A Note on Texts and Translations xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction to the Paperback Version xvii
  • Introduction 3
  • I - Parmenides and the Inquiry into Nature 24
  • II - Parmenides' Monism and the Arguments of B8 64
  • III - Doxa and Deception 98
  • IV - Pluralism after Parmenides 127
  • V - Atoms, Void, and Rearrangement 180
  • VI - Final Remarks 217
  • Bibliography 243
  • Index Locorum 257
  • Index Nominum 264
  • General Index 269
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