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Heraclites V. Parmenides Essay

Philosophy serves one purpose, bringing order to reason. This, on so many levels can organize ones way of thinking into a structured manner; therefore rendering it much easier for one to conclude solid conclusions, thereby avoiding error. There have been many independent streams of philosophy from several different parts of the world, such as China, and India. But the most popular school of thought that has created the most impact on the United States, without a doubt would have to be the ancient Greeks (who by the way started philosophy in a fashion of independent religion).

Skipping straight ahead to two of philosophies great philosophers: Heraclitus (540-480 B. C), and one of the most miss-understood, Parmenides (515-440 B. C. ). These two philosophers took philosophy to a new level; from trying to understand our changing world, to trying to understand change itself. If the search for a fundamental substance was to ever progress, it would have to face the inevitable problem of change. In other words, what remains the same when everything else changes of a particular thing? Change “appears “to be a fundamental character in nature/life.

Our experiences tell us that things are definitely in motion (moving) and changing (becoming different) every moment of every day. But however, the question still arrives, what remains the same throughout this process? The two key solutions (in my opinion one) comes from these two well thought philosophers. Like I said, only one has a solid conclusion in which I agree. Parmenides spoke deeply when he said, “being is; and non-being, is not”. Parmenides base philosophy was that change was simply an illusion.

It was perfectly clear to him that the world appeared to be in a constant state of flux; more so though he believed that our senses deceived us. The fundamental substance is being. And in order to reconcile the perpetual change he perceived with his senses; he reasoned that nothing comes from nothing, and that all existing comes from something pre-existing. Parmenides took for granted that the world had always existed, therefore, being must have always existed, and ultimately will always exist. Being is an eternal state he said.

Now comes Heraclitus with the philosophy that everything changes, and nothing stays the same. Diametrically opposed to that of which Parmenides stands for. Heraclitus firmly believed in his assumption that everything changed. He believed becoming was the root to all things. And one of his famous phrases was, “one never steps into the same river twice”. What he meant by this was, when a person interrupts the current of the river in any way form or fashion, he/she has changed the river from what it was to what it is.

Even without interrupting the river and plainly observing the flow on can witness the change. And this can be applied to every day life on all levels. He states that if the consequences of a perpetually changing foundation into existence are profound, and the fundamental elements are inconsistent and unstable, how can there be any laws to govern them? This preference for consistent change led Heraclitus to his theory of fire being the basic element of all things, due to its consistent change in nature and its dynamics.

When interpreting Heraclitus I see him as saying, “since we know from our own experiences that change happens, this is no illusion by far, because one can physically experience the change. Heraclitus also points to his theory of fire, due to the fact that in so many words there’s such an abundance supply of it in nature it’s the basic element for all things. I disagree with him. His views are flawless by far and one can still argue his points today.

Parmenides on the other hand grasps my attention and holds so much stronger with solid conclusions, so much so that one can only think. Parmenides says, “One can only think of what already exists, and can come into existence from the pre-existing”. He argues that no one, and I quote, no one can speak on or even think about what does not exist or even come into existence from nothing. This is because nothing is simply that, nothing, and how can one truly make something out of nothing. For this reason is why I side with Parmenides on this topic.


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