The Difference between Truth and Opinion: Parmenides’s Views

Parmenides was one of the most famous and prominent pre-Socrates philosophers, founder and principal agent of the Eleatic school in ancient Greek.  Most times he was addressed as the father of metaphysics. Parmenides had a significant influence on Plato who most times spoke about him with admiration. His best contribution to the field of philosophy was possibly how he reasoned proof for assertions. In his attempt to dispute the truth of change as a part of his Monist philosophy, the scholar brought about a turning point to western philosophy. This turning point brought about a challenge that will later determine the way inquiries are defined by successive philosophers that include Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Democritus. This equally led to an academic revolution that can still be felt today.

Who was Parmenides?

Parmenides was born in Elea, a Greek colony in the southern part of Italy. The exact date of his birth was not known. The accounts of Plato and Diogenes Laertius about the date of Parmenides birth contradict each other, but there was the likelihood that he was born around 540B.C and 510B.C, and 515 B.C being the reasonable optimal guess of his birth date.

The philosopher was a student of Xenophanes of Colophon according to historical records, and the writings of Xenophanes played a significant role in the life of Parmenides. In his account, Diogenes Laertius described the scholar as being a student of Aminas, a Pythagorean philosopher, even though Parmenides thinking seems to deviate much from that of Pythagoras. 

Parmenides was credited with being the founder of the Elea school of thought that included philosophers like Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. Fellow citizens of the town accorded him great respect for his exceptional legislation which they claim contributed to the progress and prosperity of the city. There are suggestions that the scholar wrote the laws of the town that was founded around 535 B.C. His lifestyle was one that was admired by all and it was common among the Greeks to hear sayings as “Parmenidian life.”

Not much was known about his history again beyond the fact that he embarked on a journey and made a rendezvous at Athens when he was around sixty- five years where he came in contact with Socrates who was then a youth; He was believed to have died around 440 B.C or 450 B.C.

Parmenides views about truth and opinion

In his only known writing titled “On Nature,” which was a poem written around 475B.C, which he divided into two parts. The thinker gave a description of the two views of reality, “The Way of Truth” and “The Way of Opinion.” He expressed his opinion in favor of the way of truth and opposed the way of opinion. We will now critically examine his views about the two concepts.

Parmenides views about truth

In the part of his book titled The Way of Truth, he discussed what the truth was and disputed what an opinion was. Here the scholar argued that two ways of inquiry exist, they are that which was and that which was not. He then continued his argument by saying that the argument that something was existing cannot be in existence was not possible, there was no way a thing cannot be in existence that was existing. However, a lot of philosophers hold a different view from that of Parmenides on the above explanations. They hold that existence was a fact that was an intuition and that non-existence a wrong part of something cannot just disappear, the same way that something cannot derive from nothing.

 In a section, in the poem, Parmenides stated that thinking and thoughts are the same because you will not find thinking outside what it was, in relation to what it was uttered. He also said that it was important to speak and reflect on what exists. His writings are somehow confusing as he seems to speak interchangeably about what was existing and what does not exist as being the same thing and at the same time as not being the same thing.

The philosopher continued by saying that “Is” couldn’t have “come into being” since “nothing comes from nothing.” He went on by saying that which truly was, has always been and was not becoming; that which was becoming was never anything, but will never actually be. From the above it is clear that the scholar was not in any way attempting to invent the laws of conservation of energy and preservation of mass; he was besieged with the metaphysics of change, which today remains an important topic in philosophy.  He argued further that movement was not feasible because it requires entering a void. Parmenides recognized the void as nothing and therefore concluded that it does not exist.

Parmenides view about opinion

Parmenides argued that the daily view of reality about the physical world was wrong, that the world was “One Being”: an indestructible, unchanging, and ungenerated whole. The philosopher set out a different but usual view of the world where he viewed perception as an early example of the duality of truth and opinion. To Parmenides and his disciples, the phenomenon of change and movement are just the appearing of an unchanging, eternal view.  It cannot be said if the scholar disputed what we know as perception because in his thinking it will be difficult to accept that perception was only in the head. His work was mostly represented in poetry form.  In one of his writings, he points out that his philosophy was given to him by a goddess, though his writings rarely represent anything close to that.

Final Words

Parmenides was one of the famous philosophers that preceded Socrates. His part and that of Socrates crossed when he was sixty-five years old and on a visit to Athens while Socrates was just a youth as at then. His main work that was known was a poem he wrote titled On Nature. Not much was known about the exact date of his birth and death. It was not clear whether the thinker ever got married or had a family of his own. His attempt to dispute the truth of change as a part of his monist philosophy brought about a turning point in western philosophy.

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