An Introduction to Philosophy: Heraclitus and Parmenides

I happen to enjoy philosophy. I have been into the subject for a while, and am always on the hunt for good books on the subject. So, at the recent recommendation of my cousin, I picked up “An Introduction to Philosophy: Perennial Principles of the Classical Realist Tradition” by Bernard and Danial Sullivan:


The Modern Cover. Sadly, I only have an old yellow copy, but the contents just as rich as the modern cover suggests!


Upon receiving it, I put this book on my pile of books near my bed. Of course, this proved to be a dumb idea, to say the least, since when I finally ended up reading it, one evening, instead of sending my brain to sleep, the book got woke me up more effectively than a 5 teabag tea!

Anyway, I’m on the second chapter now (I find it difficult to read this books particularly fast, as they do make you think), and it’s starting on the usual Hereaclitus vs. Parmenides speil. I had some thoughts on the subject, along with the odd idea of sharing them. So for those that care to know, here they are:

Heraclitus is known as the philosopher who asserted that everything is in a permanent state of flux. “You can never step in the same river twice”. Due to this, naming things is essentially useless (like trying to pin down an angry snake with one finger).

Parmenides, in contrast, argued that change simply can’t exist. When a thing changes, it ceases to become what it is, and instead becomes what it’s not. But if something doesn’t exist, then it can’t exist, because it doesn’t yet exist, and if something does exist, then it can’t not exist. Therefore: Change is impossible. (I don’t no how either of these philosophers practically applied their philosophies, but I digress…)

Now, this is the stage where they explain Aristotle’s brilliant solution to this contradiction of ideas (which I don’t want to bore you with repeating, despite its brilliance) but that’s not really what I want to talk about today. What I’m arguing today is that if you pit one against the other, without looking for an alternative, Parmenides presents a better argument.

Why is Parmenides’s argument any better? Well, Heraclitus is a purely observation-based thoery. Heraclitus says: Everything around me changes, all the time, even in the slightest way: Therefore everything is flux.
However, Parmenides goes a step further: His argument proceeds from an assertion (that which exists cannot exist, and vice versa) to a conclusion (therefore change is impossible, and all things are unchanging). I think if anything, Parminedes is closer to home because he get’s to the real heart of the matter: Metaphysics: The basic laws that govern our reality. So I guess what I mean by “better” is going deeper and explaining more, which certainly sounds better to me!

Ok, so I haven’t read the writings of either philosopher, I have just read a chapter in an introduction to philosophy, meant, no doubt, more as a ideological doorway that an oasis of precise explanations. I know it isn’t much, and I only expect you to take all this with a grain of salt! If anything, I hope this article sparked your interest in philosophy, and if so, I urge you to pick up a copy of this well-written introduction!


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