It originally may have had verses but only fragments survive, roughly in number but some consisting of only one word. The poem is cast as the story of a young man accompanied by the maiden daughter of Helios into the halls of Night where a goddess instructs him in the nature of a Truth that is neither contingent, incomplete, nor differentiated. This stunning edition of the poem features twenty relatively coherent fragments translated by Robert Bringhurst, an award winning poet and author of the influential The Elements of Typographical Style It has five beautiful color wood engravings by Richard Wagener which dramatically accent the text.
It was designed and produced by Peter Koch , a long-time and frequent collaborator with Wagener. Two new Greek typefaces were designed especially for this edition. The left verso of each opening features Parmenides Greek designed and cut into steel type by Dan Carr at the Golgonooza Letter Foundry in New Hampshire and the right recto of each opening features the translation in a roman typeface in Monotype Dante also set at Golgoonoza.
His views of what Parmenides may have thought, and his ideas con- cerning the imagery likely to have suggested itself to Parmenides, can have no authority whatever. He says : "In these lines, Parmenides says he is borne by coursers — that is, the irrational impulses and appe- tites of the soul — along the noble and glorious pathway of a goddess — that is, the path of contemplation based on philosophic reason.
For reason, like a guiding deity, conducts to the knowledge of all things. And her daughters go before — namely, the senses. He refers to the ears when he says : 'It was urged by a couple of wheels well-rounded' by the wheels circles , that is, of the ears, through which they receive sound. He says he came to Bike or avenging Justice, ' who keepeth the keys of requital,' that is, to thought, which has the sure and steadfast comprehensions of things. She, having received him, promises to teach him two things, ' First of the Truth's unwavering heart that is fraught with persuasion,' that is, the unswerving step of science ', 'Then of the notions of mortals, where no true conviction abideth,' that is, whatever is matter of opinion, as being, for that reason, uncer- tain.
In the end she makes the clear declaration, that the senses are not to be trusted, but only the reason. She says : ' Neither let habit compel thee, while treacling this pathway of knowledge, Still to employ a visionless eye, or an ear full of ringing, Yea, or a clamorous tongue 5 but try this vext demonstration Uttered by me, by Reason. See note 7. The allegory here is very simple. Pindar calls the sun's ray the " Far- seeing mother of the eyes," and the sun himself the "Birth-giving father of the sharp rays," and the "Lord of the fire-breathing steeds.
ITolios is called Phaothon, and also the glittering eye of Heaven or of Zeus ; because the eye is the light of the body, and has therefore, in all times, been used as an expression for all the radiant and gleaming phenomena of the sky. For the same reason Helios is the all-seeing 7rayo7rr7jc , all-observing, all-investigating, the general spy of gods and men, to whom nothing is hidden or secret.
Prom this, the further transition to the principle of wisdom and cognition was easy ; and, in this sense, Parmenides, in the opening of his philosophico-didactic poem, tells us that he rose to the heights of knowledge riding in the chariot of the sun, and guided by the daughters of Helios ; while Pindar, in a very beautiful poem, composed on the occasion of a solar eclipse, had called the ray of the sun the "mother of the eyes, and the fountain of wisdom.
Hekabe, ; Soph. The chariot of the sun is not mentioned in Homer. It is first noticed in the so-called Homeric Hymn to Helios. No particular meaning is to be attached to the axles or wheels ; they are mentioned simply to show the ease and rapidity of the motion. In the passage quoted from Homer in note 2, we learn that the gates of the sky were kept by the Soros.
Thus Parmenides, in making Justice the guardian of the gates of the sky, adheres to the ordinary mythology. We learn also from Hesiod — Works and Days, sq. The Horse, it must be remembered, are the daughters of Zeus and Themis Eight. The Goddess 0ed here meant is evidently the same as the one referred to in line 3, and there called Aaqnov. Patter, in his History of Philosophy, misled perhaps by Sextus Empeiricus, supposes Dike to be meant.
But this is evidently wrong; for Dike is merely the gate- keeper in the mansion of a higher power. Mullach sees this and cor- rects Eitter, but is nearly as far wrong himself when he affirms that the goddess meant is Wisdom. There are two things particularly to be remarked in regard to the personages mentioned in this poem ; — first, their names are always significant; second, not one of them is a personification made by the poet himself, but all are taken from the Parmenides.
There is no mention of Zeus, or Athene, or Apollo, or any of the Olympians, neither do we meet with any mere abstract term personified. I cannot find any proof that the Greeks ever personified Wisdom. If we observe carefully, we shall, I think, be able to discover the name of the goddess meant. In lines 26, 27, we are informed that it was not an evil fate Mot pa that had brought the philosopher to the goddess, but that it was Justice and Right Themis. Now we know already what part Justice Dike has taken in bringing him thither; but, so far as we know, Themis has done nothing towards it.
Pindar tells us, that "First the Fates bore the well-counselled, celes- tial Themis in their golden chariot from the springs of Ocean to the awful slope of Olympus, along the shining path, to be the time-honored spouse of Zeus the Saviour. However this may be, if we consider all the attributes and the lofty position of Themis, we shall probably be convinced that she is the goddess referred to by Parmenides. If this be true, Parmenides may be supposed to have meant that insight led him to justice or right action, from which he passed to the mother or source of justice, which explained everything to him.
Critical Notes on the Fragments of Parmenides (First Part)
The goddess here mentions two paths, and, a few lines farther on, adds that they are the only ones open to thinking. In line 45, she mentions another path, which however is not open to thinking, being trod only by "unreasoning cattle. This line I have translated in a manner entirely different from that of any of the editors of the Fragments. In doing so, I have re- jected Mullach's entirely unauthorized reading, and retained that of one of the best MSS.
I understand the line to mean, that every concept which sets itself up as the first principle must be tested by being made universal. If it can stand without any presuppositions, then it is the "True First Principle"; if it does not, it must be rejected. See Jour, of Spec. Some space has been devoted to elucidating this Introduction, 1 2 Parmenides. The goddess now begins her discourse on Truth, the burden of which is that is is the universal predicate, and that there is no not-is.
She warns her hearer to avoid believing the opposite doctrine. She sustains the true one by the argument that nothing can be thought or affirmed of that which has no being, and thence arrives at the famous conclusion that being and thinking are identical. Plotinus remarks upon this passage: "Previously to Plato Parmenides likewise touched upon this view, inasmuch as he reduced Being and mind to the same thing, and affirmed that mind did not lie in the objects of sensation.
For when he says that to think and to be are the same thing, he says that this is immovable, and, although he attributes to it the power of thinking, he deprives it of all corporeal movement in order that it may remain unchanged, and likens it to the bulk of a sphere because it holds and comprehends everything, and because thinking is not outside but inside of itself.
Proklos's interpretation of these lines runs thus : "For Parmeni- des saw Being itself as has been said before , that which is abstracted from all things, and the highest of things that are, that wherein the existent was primarily manifested : not that he ignored the multipli- city of objects of intelligence; for it was he who said, 'For Being ap- proaches to Being'; and again, ' To me 'tis indifferent Whence I begin, for thither again thou shalt find me returning;' and elsewhere, ' Everywhere distant alike from the centre' line By all these expressions he shows that he considers that the objects of intelligence are many, and that there is a hierarchy among them of first, and middle, and second, and an ineffable union y thus not ignoring the multiplicity of the things that are, but seeing that the whole of this multiplicity has proceeded from the one Being.
For there is the foun- tain of Being, and the home thereof, and the hidden Being from which the things that are draw their unity. Plato, in a connection similar to this, says : "For these things are mere word-puzzles, and it is impossible to affirm in thought whether Being, or Non-Being, or both, or neither, belongs to any one of them. Neither Parmenides nor Plato had an opportunity of reading Hegel's Logic, in which it is expressly affirmed that pure Being and pure Nothing are the same.
Plato says : "For the was and the shall be are generated forms of time, although we inadvertently and wrongly apply them to the Parmenides. For we say that it was, is, and shall be ; yet the is only belongs to it truly, whereas was and shall be are properly predi- cated of that generation which goes forward in time. The whole of this fragment bears a striking resemblance to one of the hymns in the tenth book of the Big-Yeda. What covered all? Was it the water's fathomless abyss? There was not death — hence was there naught immortal, There was no confine betwixt day and night; The only One breathed breathless in itself, Other than it there nothing since has been.
Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled In gloom profound — an ocean without light. The germ that still lay covered in the husk Burst forth, one nature, from the fervent heat. Comes this spark from earth, Piercing and all-pervading, or from heaven? Then seeds were sown and mighty power arose — NatujjB below, and Power and Will above. WtuFknows the secret? Accordingly the former affirms that the One is finite, the latter that it is infinite. Having an end, it has a limit and a boundary. This is a very clear statement of the doctrine promulgated by Spinoza — the Parmenides of modern philosophy.
Hegel History of 14 Parmenides. Philosophy, Vol. It is the oriental view, which Spinoza was the first to utter in the "West. In general, we may remark that thought had of necessity to occupy the standpoint of Spinozism; that is the true beginning of all philosophy. If one begins to philosophize, ho must begin by being a Spinozist.
The soul must bathe in this ether of the one substance, wherein all that was held to be true has vanished. It is to this negation of all particularity that every philosopher must come: it is the freeing of the spirit, and forms its absolute basis. The difference between the latter and the Eleatic philosophy is simply this, that, owing to the influence of Christianity in the modern world, there is present in the mind generally a more concrete individuality. Not- withstanding this infinite demand for the wholly concrete, however, substance is not defined as concrete in itself.
Inasmuch, therefore, as the concrete does not lie in the content of substance, it must fall back upon the reflective thinking, and then it is only from the infinite antitheses of the latter that the unity results. Of substance as such nothing more can be predicated; we can speak only of philosophizing concerning it, and of the antitheses cancelled in it.
All distinction depends simply upon the nature of the antitheses that are cancelled in it. Spinoza has been very far from demonstrating this as clearly as the ancients took the trouble to do. JBesides God no substance can be or be conceived. Since God is an absolutely infinite Being, of which no attribute expressing the essence of substance can be denied, and he exists of necessity ; if there were any substance besides God, it would have to be explained by some attribute of God, and thus two substan- ces having the same attribute would exist, which is absurd.
Where- fore there can be no substance besides God, and hence none such can be conceived. For if it could be conceived, it would necessarily be conceived as existing, and this, according to the former part of this demonstration, is absurd. Book II. Thought is an attribute of God, or God is a thinking thing. Simplicius, in commenting upon this passage, says : " We need not wonder if he says that the one Being is Hike to the bulk of a well- rounded sphere'; for by this figure he merely aims at a sort of mytho- logical image.
Aristotle, Metaph. I, 5, says : u Parmenides seems to speak more circumspectly. For laying down Being, and considering ]STot-Being to be nothing, he of necessity thinks Being to be one, and nothing eke. The former of these, the hot, he arranges on the side of Being, the other on that of Non-Being. He gives it the name of arecpdvq, as encircling with a glow of light the sphere which surrounds the heav- en, and which he calls God, wherein no one can perceive either divine figure or sense. There is extant a hymn of Proklos To the Sim, of which the opening lines may be translated thus : " Give ear, O'king of intellectual light; Gold-reined Titan, light's Dispenser, hear!
Stay in touch
O king, that holdest in thy hands the key Of life's sustaining fount, and from above Dost lead throughout the wide material worlds, In streams, the brimming fount of harmony, Give ear; for, seated on the central throne Above the ether, in the fulgent orb, The Universe's heart, thou fillest all With thine own spirit-waking forward thought. The planets, life-lit at thy fadeless torch, Forever in their ceaseless and unwearied rounds Send life-engendering beams to all on earth, While underneath thine ever-circling car, By firm decree, the sister seasons spring.
The din of clashing elements was staid When thou appeard'st, sprung from a nameless sire. To thee the Fates' unvanquished band gave way, And backward twist the thread of destiny At thy behest; for thou art mightier far, And rnlest mightily with royal power. Erdmann, in his Grundriss der Ge- 16 Parmenides. They did not prevent him from having, for his time, important astronomical information. Theogony, Compare also note 14, and Preller's Griechische Mythologie, Yol. We know also from Aristotle that Parmenides made Love one of the prime movers.
The other of the two primal causes afrtac' , mentioned by Aristotle, was doubtless Hate, as indeed we are told by Cicero.
The Fragments of Parmenides & an English translation
Theophrastos's note on this passage is: "Since there are two elements, the cognition is according to the one that prevails ; for, ac- cording as the hot or the cold has the upper hand, the thought will differ. The following Latin version of a passage of Parmenides, proba- bly connected with this, but no longer extant, occurs in Ccelius Aure- lianus De Morb. Tlitf Chart c. Contents of No. To the Reader. The Speculative. Herbert Spencer. Introduction to Fichte's Science ol Knowledge. Raphael's Transfiguration. Introduction to Philosophy. Seed Life. Schopenhauer on Immortality.
Goethe's Theory of Colors. Second Part of Goethe's Faust. Fichte's " Criticism of Philoso- phical Systems. Notes on Milton's Lycidas.
- Schaums outline of theory and problems of genetics!
- Parmenides of Elea: Fragments by Parmenides.
- Author Information.
- Parmenides and Sense-perception.
- Indian Mathematics: Engaging with the World from Ancient to Modern Times.
- A Selection of Critical Studies on the Poem of Parmenides?
Hegel's Philosophy of Art. Music as a Form of Art. The Alchemists. VI1L Editorials. Translation of Leibnitz's Monad- ology. Fichte's "Criticism of Philosophi- cal Systems. Schelling's "Introduction to Ideal- ism. The Metaphysics of Materialism. Letters on Faust. The Philosophy of Baader. In the Quarry. Schelling's Introduction to the Philosophy of Nature. Hegel's Philosophy of Art Sculp- ture. Dialogue on Music.
Schopenhauer's Doctrine of the Will. A Thought on Shakespeare. Paul Janet and Hegel.