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Related to Parmenides: Anaxagoras, Heraclitus


(pärmĕn`ĭdēz), b. c.515 B.C., Greek philosopher of Elea, leading figure of the Eleatic schoolEleatic school
, 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 Parmenides, its greatest thinker. He denied the reality of change on the ground that things either exist or do not.
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. Parmenides' great contribution to philosophy was the method of reasoned proof for assertions. Parmenides began his argument with the assertion that being is the material substance of which the universe is composed and argued that it was the sole and eternal reality. With this as a premise he proceeded to destroy by his dialectic argument the possibility of generation, destruction, change, and motion. All change and motion are illusions of the senses. Since being is spatially extended and is all that exists, there is no empty space, and motion is therefore impossible. Only fragments of his work have survived.


See Parmenides (text, tr., commentary, and critical essays by L. Tarán, 1965); study by A. P. Mourelatos (1970).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Parmenides of Elea [southern Italy]). Born circa 540 B.C. Ancient Greek philosopher; representative of the Eleatic school.

Intellectually, Parmenides is linked with Anaximander through Xenophanes and with Pythagoreanism through the Pythagorean Ameinias. He was interested in legislation as well as in philosophy. The essence of Parmenides’ philosophical position is the fundamental distinction drawn by him between thought and sensation, and, consequently, between the world as it appears to thought and the world as it appears to the senses. This distinction was a genuine philosophical discovery. For Parmenides, thought and the mentally perceived world are above all a “unity,” which he characterized as being, eternity and stasis, homogeneity, indivisibility, and completeness, and to which he juxtaposed becoming and the seeming fluidity of the world. For the gods, there is neither past nor future but only the present.

Parmenides provided one of the first formulations of the idea of the identity of being and thought: “to think and to be are one and the same.” He believed that being can never be not-being, inasmuch as the latter is blind and incognizable. Being cannot issue from not-being, nor can it contain not-being.

Contrary to an opinion dating from antiquity, Parmenides did not reject the sensible world but only sought to prove that sensation alone was inadequate for a philosophical and scientific understanding of the world. He considered the intellect the criterion of truth and rejected sensations because of their lack of precision. In the tradition of early Greek natural philosophy, Parmenides treated the sensible world as a mixture of fire and earth, light and dark, hot and cold, soft and hard, light and heavy.


In Diels, H. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 9th ed., vols. 1 and 28. Berlin, 1960.
In Russian translation:
In Makovel’skii, A. Dosokratiki, part 2. Kazan, 1915. Pages 33–49.


Mandes, M. I. Eleaty: Filologicheskie razyskivaniia v oblasti istorii grecheskoi filosofii. Odessa, 1911.
Fraenkel, H. Parmenides-Studien. Berlin, 1930.
Reinhardt, K. Parmenides und die Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1959.
Verdenius, W. J. Parmenides: Some Comments on His Poem, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1964.
Cornford, F. M. Plato and Parmenides, 5th ed. London, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


5th century bc, Greek Eleatic philosopher, born in Italy. He held that the universe is single and unchanging and denied the existence of change and motion. His doctrines are expounded in his poem On Nature, of which only fragments are extant
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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