Eleatic school

Eleatic school

(ēlēăt`ĭk), Greek pre-Socratic philosophical school at Elea, a Greek colony in Lucania, Italy. The group was founded in the early 5th cent. B.C. by ParmenidesParmenides
, b. c.515 B.C., Greek philosopher of Elea, leading figure of the Eleatic school. Parmenides' great contribution to philosophy was the method of reasoned proof for assertions.
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, its greatest thinker. He denied the reality of change on the ground that things either exist or do not. Hence, there are no in-between stages, as the concept of change, or "becoming," ordinarily implies. His disciples were Zeno of EleaZeno of Elea
, c.490–c.430 B.C., Greek philosopher of the Eleatic school. He undertook to support in his only known work, fragments of which are extant, the doctrine of Parmenides by demonstrating that motion and multiplicity are logically impossible.
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, who used a series of paradoxes to show the indefensibility of common-sense notions of reality, and Melissus of Samos, who systematized Eleatic views. The ultimate reality for the Eleatics was an undifferentiated "being," in contrast to the illusory testimony of the senses.


See J. E. Raven, Pythagoreans and Eleatics (1966, repr. 1981).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eleatic School


a school of Greek philosophy of the sixth to fifth centuries B.C. Its founder was Xenophanes of Colophon, and its chief adherents were Parmenides and Zeno of Elea (a Greek colony in southern Italy that gave the school its name) and Melissus of Samos.

The Eleatic school was the first to contrast thought (and existence that is capable of being conceived) to sensory perception (and existence perceived by the senses); it pointed out the instability and transience of human sensations and of sensory existence, and it asserted the preeminence of thought as the agent of cognition. For the first time in the history of philosophy, the Eleatic school proposed the concept of the unity of being and made this the foundation of philosophical speculation. Such being is regarded by the Eleatic school as continuous, unchanging, indivisible, and equally present in each tiny element of reality, and it is held to exclude any kind of plurality or motion of things (as in the famous arguments by Zeno of Elea about the impossibility of motion). Later the concept of one unchanging being served as a source of Platonic philosophy and of Neoplatonism.


Diels, H. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, griechisch und deutsch, 9th ed., vol. 1. Edited by W. Kranz. Berlin, 1959. Pages 21,28,29, 30.


Mandes, M. I. Eleaty. Filologicheskie razyskaniia v oblasti istorii grecheskoi filosofii. Odessa, 1911.
Losev, A. F. Istoriia antichnoi estetiki (Ranniaia klassika). Moscow, 1963.
Pages 327–39. Prauss, G. Platón und der logische Eleatismus. Berlin, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
By the fourth century BC, a substantial body of philosophy emanated from several schools: from Thales and his followers in the city of Miletos in Ionia in Asia Minor, from the Pythagorean school in Croton (Crotone) in Calabria, and from the Eleatic School in Sicily.
It is well known that Hegel's presentation of the history of philosophy in its Greek beginnings follows the development of dialectic from its merely subjective forms in the Eleatic school to the recognition of its objectivity in Heraclitus.
But I have also found some important ideas in Heidegger's essay on the physis in Aristotle (translated in Questions II), where there is a commentary on Aristotle's critical dialogue with the sophist Antiphon from the Eleatic School. The question is what truly is, or, as Heidegger puts it, where is the `truly being' situated.
The Stranger's method is thus consistent with the criticism the founder of the Eleatic school made of the young Socrates in their initial conversation when he observed that Socrates paid too much attention to the opinions of human beings, especially about the noble and base.(21) In the Symposium, Plato indicates, Socrates sought to resolve the difficulties he found in the doctrines of his predecessors, including Parmenides, by inquiring into the meaning of what is [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].(22) Whereas Socrates subsequently attempted to discover what is truly noble and good by examining the opinions of others, the Stranger emphasizes the importance of ridding oneself of a false concern with precedence.(23)
Although several ancient writers report that Parmenides was a Pythagorean, at least for a time, he is usually thought to have been the pupil of Xenophanes, the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy.
The simplicity of neo-Darwinian ontology invites comparisons with the Eleatic school of philosophy headed by Parmenides and Zeno -- whose singular accomplishment was to prove that change was impossible.
Greek poet and rhapsode (reciter of epic poetry), religious thinker, and reputed precursor of the Eleatic school of philosophy, which stressed unity rather than diversity and viewed the separate existences of material things as apparent rather than real.
Here the Peripatetics may be assimilating Xenophanes (called by later tradition the head of the Eleatic school) to Parmenides.
Plato's Socrates attests to the fact of the conversation in two later (in terms of their dramatic setting) dialogues: in the Theaetetus,(10) when he recalls his youthful meeting with Parmenides, whom he found, in Homer's words, to be "venerable" and yet "terrible"; and in the Sophist,(11) when, conversing with a member of the Eleatic school, Socrates remembers the nobility or beauty of Parmenides' arguments.
This takes us back to the ancient dispute between the Eleatic school and the Pluralists.