The Paradox of Parmenides

from by Michael Levy

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. The Paradox of Parmenides – an improvisation in the intensely introspective ancient Greek Dorian Mode, in my attempt to express the profound view of the apparently timeless nature of the universe, expounded by Parmenides and reinforced by the famous paradoxical arguments of his student Zeno:

“Zeno of Elea was an ancient philosopher who lived before Socrates and Plato. Zeno's teacher was named Parmenides, who believed and taught that the universe is one, and that its contents are unlimited. Parmenides, at the age of sixty five, is said to have met a young Socrates in Athens. Throughout history there have been many philosophers who have believed in the limitlessness of space, however, Parmenides uniquely taught that time is infinite, without beginning, end, or middle.

Parmenides believed everything must exist, which meant to him that change was an optical illusion of some kind. Since both past and future already exist, he argued that the passing of time must be unreal. And so Parmenides denied change, saying it was appearance only, and interestingly out of the same principle taught that existence or being is ultimately a oneness. Existence could not be created and was indestructible. He may have been the first Western philosopher to describe the universe as a permanent single whole, rather than a product of many parts.... Zeno most notably responded by vigorously defending his teacher Parmenides with ingenious arguments about space and time.

Zeno's most popular paradox was meant to show that change is impossible, because space is infinitely divisible. To explain, imagine we take an orange and hold it about waist high from a hard floor. Now we drop the orange. Unless we are in outer space, the orange will fall and smack the ground, coming to rest in contact with the floor. But why is the orange able to move through space if space is infinitely divisible...”
(Parmendies and Zeno – www.everythingforever.com)

To distinguish Parmenides' philosophical view of the nature of the universe from ancient Greek philosophical skepticism, there is a crucial difference – skepticism must remain separate from all modes of thought which assert knowledge of any types of truth statements. Parmenides was declaring to know the underlying nature of the universe: that it is one, uniform, unchanging, and imperishable. To a large extent built upon Pythagorean philosophy, Parmenides asserts the way of truth and the way of deceit. These are opinions in which present suppositions for us to consider right and wrong - whereas within skepticism there is little to no identification with what they are saying. A skeptical philosophy attempts to avoid any claims to truth.

The questioning of the ultimate value of the natural sciences is nothing new to philosophical inquiries, from the ancient world to post-modernity. Socrates had many skeptical qualities but still held belief in the good, just, and divine. The 'new skepticism' of our modern society was reintroduced by Descartes who concludes with "cogito ergo sum" (“I think, therefore I am"), being the only thing that he can "know". But even this ends with a truth statement, for Descartes' point was to strip away his preconceptions to find what he could know to be true (if anything). The ancient skeptics would consider a statement like this asserting more than is possible to the realm of human knowledge. Then again, the skceptics don't know anything so what do they ‘know’?

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from The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre, released August 8, 2015

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Michael Levy UK

Michael Levy is a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, whose musical mission is to create an entirely new musical genre, which could best be described as a 'New Ancestral Music' - dedicated to reintroducing the recreated lyres, ancient musical modes and intonations, back into the modern musical world.. ... more

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