The Nature Of Reality: Parmenides, Heraclitus, And Plato

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The nature of reality is a primary concern for Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Plato. Parmenides believes that the substance of the universe is one and unchanging. Heraclitus argues counter to this view, that substance is constantly in flux. Plato agrees with some aspects of Parmenides’s and Heraclitus’s ideas but comes to a fundamentally different conclusion, that the universe is divided by what can be observed by the senses and what can only be understood through reason. Plato’s view allows for the ability of humans to know the universe, whereas the Pre-Socratic views would strip mankind of either their free-will or ability to find objective truths. Parmenides believes that existence is the most fundamental principle. In fact, “being” is the only principle, since “becoming” cannot happen according to his rationale. Parmenides’s arguments are included in Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics which reads, “That which is there to be spoken and thought of must be. / For it is possible for it to be, / but not possible for nothing to be (46). Parmenides is not arguing that one cannot think of something which does not exist. Things which do not exist can readily be thought of: unicorns, purple trees, nine hours of sleep, and other such unrealistic fantasies. Rather, this statement means that an idea of nothingness cannot be formed because that would be illogical. In other words, for something to be a thing, it cannot be nothing, making nothingness an impossible concept. In this vein,

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