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The controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides

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The controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides

In this lesson from a TEACHER we explain what the controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides consists of, one of the most important controversies of all time and one that has fueled Greek philosophy for more than 150 years. Thinkers of the stature of Plato and Aristotle wanted to enter the debate, being the stagirite the one that solves this problem. Heraclitus affirmed that everything moves, everything changes, while Parmenides claimed that movement and change are impossible.

Keep in mind that for the Greeks, movement and change were exactly the same, and they found no difference between the two concepts. Thus, they used the same word for both. If you want to know more about the controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides, continue reading this article by a PROFESSOR. Start the class!

You may also like: Plato's thought

Index

  1. The controversy begins with the approach of Heraclitus
  2. Becoming is the basis of the philosophy of Heraclitus
  3. Parmenides responds to the thesis of Heraclitus and the controversy arises
  4. There is only being, according to Parmenides
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The controversy begins with the approach of Heraclitus.

Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Dark One, initiates the controversy by stating that everything moves and everything changes. The universe is dynamic, things change, they are modified, they stop being what they are to become other things. In addition, this change is unpredictable, therefore, `We enter the same rivers and do not enter, (well) we are and we are not (the same) ´.

Everything changes, neither the bathers are the same, nor the river either. When a person enters a river for the first time, the waters of this river will never be the same. But neither is the person the same, since being is changing all the time.

Based on this, all possibility of knowledge is eliminated, since it is not possible to know a substance that changes continuously, in the same way that a person cannot know.

Becoming is the basis of Heraclitus' philosophy.

Becoming is the basis of Heraclitean philosophy. There is a universal flow between all beings, 'Everything flows' (Panta rei). What makes this change possible is the conflict, the contradiction, which in turn constitutes the unity of the opposites, in a kind of tension similar to the string that joins the ends of the bow. There is therefore a harmony between opposites, if not a dynamic balance, which can be observed in nature, man / woman, light / dark, heat / cold... There is, says the Ephesian, a unity based on difference.

"War is the father of all things." The Heraclitus logos serves as a bridge of union to the opposites, it gives unity to things. Because knowledge is 'one and one thing'. Thus, the philosopher defends that being and not being are at the same time. "Reality is one and it is multiple" because "becoming is the essence of everything there is." Becoming is like fire, in its creation and destruction of the world, that is why every day there is a new sun.

Parmenides responds to the theses of Heraclitus and the controversy arises.

'Being is and not being is not'. To change, to move is 'to go from being to not being or from not being to being' and this is not possible. Everything that exists is born from another that already exists. Things are not born out of nowhere. 'There is only being' without parts.

From experience the human being may think that Parmenides' statements are not true, since it is possible to observe the change in nature. The senses perceive that change. But, in addition to not being as unpredictable as Heraclitus assures, the change that can be seen in things is nothing more than a deception of the senses.

The controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides - Parmenides responds to the thesis of Heraclitus and the controversy arises

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There is only being, according to Parmenides.

'Everything that is, is and what is not, is not', states Parmenides. If only being exists, the human being cannot exist as a full entity. Knowledge also does not exist because being has no parts and, therefore, it is impossible to have any knowledge of anything. "You cannot recognize non-being, you cannot talk about it, because thought and being are the same thing," Elea's would say.

For Parmenides the world did not come out of nowhere, but has always existed: Everything that exists has always existed. Nothing can come from nothing. And something that exists cannot be converted into anything either. There is only the being that is uncreated, imperishable, whole, unique, firm and complete.

The two philosophers deny the possibility of knowledge. Heraclitus affirms that nothing can be known because everything moves, and Parmenides says that nothing can be known because there is no change, only being and it has no parts.

From here all the greek thought It will focus on three fundamental issues:

  1. How is change or movement possible
  2. How is it possible to be
  3. How is knowledge possible

Later authors will try to resolve this controversy, answering these three questions.

If you want to check that you have understood what was explained in today's class, you can do the printable exercises with their solutions that we have left you on the web.

If you want to read more articles similar to The controversy between Heraclitus and Parmenides, we recommend that you enter our category of Philosophy.

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