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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [1]

( Παρμενίδης ), a noted Greek philosopher of ancient times, who belonged to the school known as the Eleatic philosophers, was a. native of Elea, in Italy. He was descended from a noble family, and is said to have been induced to study philosophy by Aminias (Diog. Laert. ix, 21). He is also stated to have received instruction from Diocheetes the Pythagorean. Later writers inform us that he heard Xenophanes, the founder of the Eleatic school; but Aristotle (Met . 1:5) speaks of it with some doubt. We read that Parmenides gave a code of laws to his native city, which was so highly esteemed that at first the citizens took an oath every year to observe it (Diog. Laert. 9:23; Plutarch, Adv . Colot . 32; Strabo, 6:252, ed. Casaub.). The time when Parmenides lived has been much disputed. According to Plato ( Parmenid . p. 127), Parmenides, at the age of sixty-five, accompanied by Zeno, at the age of forty, visited Athens during the great Panathenaea, and stopped at the house of Pythodorus. As this visit to Athens probably occurred about B.C. 454 (Clinton, Fast. Hell. p. 364), Parmenides would have been born about B.C. 519. But to this date two objections are urged: first, that Diogenes Laertius (9:23) says that Parmenides flourished in the 69th Olympiad, that is, about B.C. 503; and consequently, if he was born B.C. 519, he would only have been about sixteen in the 69th Olympiad; and, secondly, that Socrates is stated by Plato, if his dialogue entitled Parmenides to have conversed with Parmenides and Zeno on the doctrine of ideas, which we can hardly suppose to have been the case, as Socrates at that time was only thirteen or fourteen. Atheneus (11, p. 505) accordingly has censured Plato for saying that such a dialogue ever took place. But in reply to these objections it may be remarked, first, that little reliance can be placed upon the vague statement of such a careless writer as Diogenes; and, secondly, that though the dialogue which Plato represents Socrates to have had with Parmenides and Zeno is doubtless fictitious, yet it was founded on a fact that Socrates when a boy had heard Parmenides at Athens. Plato mentions, both in the Theoetetus (p. 183) and in the Sophistes (p. 127), that Socrates was very young when he heard Parmenides. We have no other particulars respecting the life of Parmenides. He taught Empedocles and Zeno, and with the latter he lived on the most intimate terms (Plato, Parne. p. 127). He is always spoken of by the ancient writers with the greatest respect. In the Theoetetus (p. 183) Plato compares him with Homer, and in the Sophistes (p. 237) he calls him "the Great" (comp. Aristot. Met. 1:5).

Parmenides wrote a poem, which is usually cited by the title Of Nature Περὶ Φύσεως (Sext.' Empir. Adv. Mathem . vii, 11; Theophrastus, Ap. Diog . Laert. 8:55), but which also bore other titles. Suidas (s.v.) calls it Φυσιολογία ; and adds, on the authority of Plato, that he also wrote works in prose. The passage of Plato ( Soph . p. 237) however, to which Suidas refers, perhaps only means an oral exposition of his system, which interpretation is rendered more probable by the fact that Sextus Empiricus (Adv. Mathen. vii, l111) and Diogenes Laertius (1:16) expressly state that Parmenides only wrote one work. .everal fragments of this work (On Nature) have come down to us, principally in the writings of Sextus Empiricus and Simplicius. They were first published by Stephanus in his Poesis Philosophica (Par. 1573), and next by Fulleborn, with a translation in verse (Zuillichau, 1795). Brandis, in his Commentationes Eleatcae (Altona, 1815), also published the fragments of Parmenides, together with those of Xenophanes and Melissus; but the most recent and most complete edition is by Karsten, in the second volume of his Philosophorum Graecorum veterum, praesertim qui ante Patonem floruerunt, Operum Reliquice (Brux. 1835). The fragments of his work which have come down to us are sufficient to enable us to judge of its general method and subject. It opened with an allegory, which was intended to exhibit the soul's longing after truth. The soul is represented as drawn by steeds along an untrodden road to the residence of Justice ( Δίκη ), who promises to reveal everything to it. After this introduction the work is divided into two parts: the first part treats of the knowledge of truth, and the second explains the physiological system of the Eleatic school. That great search concerning the substance of things occupied Parmenides; but, instead of finding unity in nature, he discovered it in mind alone. It is the reason which conceives and bestows unity on plurality; so that true reality is subjective. The scheme of Parmenides is pure idealism, and open to all the objections to which one- sided schemes are' liable. He exercised much influence on the speculations of Plato. See Riaux, Essai Sur Parmenide D'Ele .(1840); Ritter, Hist. Of Philos .; Lewis, Hist. Of Philos .; Ueberweg, Hist. Of Philos . 1:40, 49, 54 sq., 247; Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy, p. 307-309; Cudworth, Intellectual System (see Index in vol. iii); Butler, Ancient History, vol. ii; Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v.; Journal of Spec. Philos. Jan. 1870, art. 1. (See Eleatics), and the literature there appended.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [2]

A distinguished Greek philosopher of the Eleatic school, who flourished in the 5th century B.C.; his system was developed by him in the form of an epic poem, in which he demonstrates the existence of an Absolute which is unthinkable, because it is without limits, and which he identifies with thought, as the one in the many.