Explain and interpret the notion of being in Parmenides.

Parmenides is the head of the Eleatic School of Greek Philosophy. He is the one who developed the concept of “being” in opposition to the concept “becoming”.

Concept of ‘Being’

Parmenides developed the conception of ‘Being’ in opposition to the ‘Becoming’ of Heraclitus. First of all we have to study the truth – the philosophy of ‘Being’. This being is indestructible, perfect and intelligible. He regarded being as material. He thinks that this being is finite, since he thinks that this is one. Being is for the time being infinite, as having neither beginning nor end, but it is spatially finite. He has also difference of opinion compared to Pythagoras’ concept of abstract essences. For Pythagoras’ reality consisted of geometric points, then everything is reduced to abstract essences, just as the point, the line, the triangle, the circle, the cube etc., are abstract. Pythagoras says that the existence must be protected; the existent cannot be reduced in to logical elements. The existent exists before thought. Before arithmetic and geometry, a philosophy of being is or metaphysics exists on which thought depends, and not vice versa.

Interpretation of ‘Being’

What is this ‘Being’, which is expressed as ‘to be’ as infinitive, and with the singular participle ‘being’, and the third person present indicative ‘is’? There are six interpretations on this ‘Being’.

1) Mystical interpretation: Plotinus interpreted the being of Parmenides as to be Xenophanes’ Unum, god.

2) Idealistic interpretation: This is done by Hegel and Stenzel. The existent of Parmenides is a production of thought; to think means to be.

3) Materialistic interpretation: it is the sum of material bodies.

4) Logical interpretation: Being is the copula of a proposition. No being exists before the predication and hence before grammar and Logic.

5) Platonic-Aristotelian or categorical interpretation: It is a transcendent concept with various meanings: substance, quality, quantity, place etc., they are modes of being. Being is a concept which is spoken in many ways.

6) Existential or metaphysical interpretation: Being is the original and primary form of existence in the world.

Due to many reasons, according to Dario Composta, the first four and the sixth interpretations cannot be accepted. This being cannot be god because it is never called a god in the texts; and this would make Parmenides a pure monist. The idealistic interpretation does not show the attitude of the Greeks, because those philosophers were mainly objectivistic. The materialistic theory is also not acceptable, since being is not the “arche” of the Ionian philosophers. Logical interpretation cannot be taken, because he is not working from a judgment to arrive at reality.

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