Parmenides is a Greek philosopher born in Italy and is among the Greek thinkers known as pre-Socratic. These philosophers are famous for their contribution for they introduced a new way of thinking about the world and the place of human beings in it. The contribution of these thinkers made them to be known as the first philosophers and scientists of the western tradition. (Popper 79).Parmenides philosophy which was inspired to his by the gods is presented in form of poetry. His work consisted of a single poem titled 'the nature'. This poem only exists in fragment and scholars depend on the compilation of the later philosophers to obtain its content. It estimated that only about 160 lines remain today. (Popper 81).This imperfect preservation of his fragments makes understanding his thoughts complicated since some are incomplete.
This poem though in fragments managed to influence the later days philosopher especially Plato who developed more theories in response to Parmenides arguments. In his poem 'the nature' he attempts to describe the way reality should be viewed. He describes it in two parts 'the way of the truth' and 'the way of the opinion'. In the 'the way of the truth' he expresses his opinion about the truth which was instilled in him by the goddess. We can therefore conclude that Parmenides was a believer in gods and he got his inspirations for this poem from the goddess.
At the beginning of the poem (Popper 84) he starts by describing a journey an imaginary young man undertook in his search for the truth. In this journey the man was taken by a chariot to the goddess of justice who welcomed him and so that he can be taught the truth about reality and the illusions man has about realty. This journey could be viewed as movement from 'dark' to 'light' in search of. The man has to learn not only about the truth but also about human opinions which though untruthful has to be understood fro better understanding of the world.
Parmenides terms the 'way of the truth' as the correct way of understanding of being whereas 'the way of the opinion' from which majority view the world, is full of illusions made possible through senses but these senses cannot be trusted. In this 'way of opinion' people use their senses to view the universe and because of this they stray. In these two ways he seems to argue against one and seems to be in favor of another. He seems to agree with the way of the truth as the other he says is not learnable. He starts by pointing out the existence of being. In his poem the goddess told him 'It is necessary to say and to think that What Is is; for it is to be, / but nothing it is not'.(Popper 84)
What matters is how you interpret his suggestion. If one can make distinction between reality and appearance then there is no sense in explaining appearance using reality for in reality it is either 'it is' or 'it is not' but both cannot be and be at the same time. The world or sense is non existent and what does not exist cannot be. Parmenides viewed reality as 'one' and that one being have characteristics. The way of the truth shows the world as united and if there are two ways to look at things that it is and that it is not which is not worth since nothing is can not.
First of all there can only be one thing and this thing has to be complete. The being has to be complete otherwise it would create an empty space in the universe filled with nothing. The being should not come into existence since this would imply the universe was empty which is not possible. Since this being does not come into existence it cannot cease to exist. Thus we can say there is no generation and destruction of things. When our senses tell us something has been destroyed and thus cease to exist, this is just an illusion since a being will exist even after its destruction since it is deathless. "that is cannot be 'that is not'(Pooper 86) always judge things based on reason not through senses. Generation and destruction is not possible because for existence to be or to cease to exist there has to be time differences hence change and this according to the 'way of the truth' is non-existent.(Popper 86) From this we can interpret that Parmenides recognizes no difference between the past the present and the future. For if this time difference existed it would mean one thing has to go out of existence to give way to the other. I can agree with his argument since I from my perception what happens are just developments of existing things but our sense see this as passage of time.
The argument that the being does not come into existence tell us that there can be no movement. The being has to be static because for it to move there has to be space where nothing else exists but Parmenides on his case does not believe in empty space for empty space is the same as nothing and not being cannot be so no movement . Parmenides rejected the notion of time difference and for movement to occur there has to be change of time. For example when you move go from one state to another does it mean you existence in different times of the world? There can be no two different times. Parmenides goes ahead and denies there can exist many things. That is he never believed in pluralism. But many scholars however, agree (Popper 87) that it is hard to understand why Parmenides thought there can never exist many things which are static, deathless, unchanging and so on. He has no solid argument on plurality but the tradition has called him a monist though recent interprets have denied this claim.
On change the predecessors before him viewed change as exiting though it could only be understood in relation to something else. But, Parmenides brought a different view of this notion when he denied the realities of change. According to him change is impossible and incoherent. He does not conclude this based on his own observation as this is deceitful rather based on the truth he got from the goddess. His arguments startled many especially when he says that there is no coming into existence and everything that exists does not change. Since he did not believe in time difference then it means there is no change for change to happen it would mean a different time and a different time would mean out of existence. In this way of opinion he demonstrates that our sensual perception of change is just an illusion of appearance. When we perceive something to have changed it is just an appearance but not the state of being. It is for this reason he says that our senses are deceitful and should not be used to see things. When through our sense we perceive thing as changing it is just appearance but the reality remains static and eternal. Sense cannot be used to gauge what is the truth since they are full of illusions thus deceptive
The way of the truth describes the way 'that it is' this ways concludes that there is no possibility of knowing 'what is not' while way of opinion describes 'that it is not'. These two ways are contrast to each other and this creates tension. Scholars of Parmenides have put across three opinions in trying to study these two truths. The first lot advises us to view the way of the truth as reality but take the way of the opinion as a joke and we should not borrow its opinions in our search of knowledge about the world. The way of opinion which is full of strange ideas should be discarded. The second lot point out that the way of opinion is Parmenides awareness of how the world came to be. The point to note is that it contradicts the first opinion of that 'it is' and 'it is not'. The third lot is of the opinion that we should view this two ways as we view light and dark.
Though latter philosophers tried to refute Parmenides claim how the world came into be they found it hard to advance their argument without refereeing to Parmenides for example Plato in 'Timeaus' this means there is shortage of knowledge on the existence of the world(Popper, 89)
From the above study I can thus conclude that Parmenides central concept was that it is impossible to have knowledge of that which does not exist therefore nothing comes into existence. This means if there no object there are no thoughts about that non existing entity and hence no knowledge. Thought and being are one entity and thus if there is no object to think about no knowledge. And since there is no generation of things hence there can be no destruction for destruction would bring nothing and nothing can not exist. Ceasing to exist could also bring about movement which is not possible unless there is void and the world cannot be void. Movement in return would mean change of time and there can be no difference in time for if the difference was there it could bring change which according to Parmenides is just but an appearance but non-existent.
In summary we can thus say according to Parmenides what is in existence is static, uniform, deathless, singular and unchangeable. Change is still a philosophical issue even today. Is there change or is it just a human illusion depending on his senses which are deceitful?