Friday, December 21, 2007
Tallis, Raymond. "Parmenides." PROSPECT MAGAZINE 142 (January 2008).
Alfred North Whitehead famously described the European philosophical tradition as "a series of footnotes to Plato." Whether or not this is fair to the thinkers that followed Plato, it is a gross injustice to those that preceded him. Pre-eminent among these was Parmenides. Elizabeth Anscombe's riposte that Plato might be regarded as "Parmenides's footnote" is not as perverse as it seems. While Plato's dialogues are among the supreme philosophical works of the western tradition, it was Parmenides who established the implicit framework of their debates.Plato acknowledged that Parmenides had "magnificent depths." But there is more to Parmenides than this: in his thought, human consciousness had a crucial encounter with itself. This was, I believe, a decisive moment in the long awakening of the human species to its own nature. From this self-encounter resulted the cognitive self-criticism, the profound critical sense that gave birth to the unfolding intellectual dramas of metaphysics and science that have in the last century or so approached an impasse. Compared with Socrates, through whom Plato ventriloquised his own thoughts in a series of dramatised dialogues, Parmenides remains a shadowy figure. Pretty well all we know of him is that he was a handsome patrician, born in Elea in southern Italy "of a rich and honourable race" (in Hegel's words), and that he flourished in the first part of the 5th century BC. It took another genius, Nietzsche, to make Parmenides live as a human being. . . . Read the entire article here: http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=9972.