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Being or Becoming

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By shehandal
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Being or Becoming Heraclitus (535-475 B.C.) (Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 2010) and Parmenides (515-440 B.C.) (Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 2010) took philosophy to a new level from trying to understand the changing world to trying to understand change itself. Parmenides being one of the most miss-understood philosophers theorized that “being is; and non-being, is not.” His philosophy was based on that change was simply an illusion and believed that the senses can be deceiving so in order to reconcile the perpetual change he perceived with his sense. Heraclitus focused on the circle of life such as the human body and water. (Hooker, 1996)He explains change and becoming by the theory of “it is not possible to step twice into the same river.” As an example Heraclitus uses the river to make a connection with time. Rivers flow only in one direction such as time, the flow of the river can’t be changed nor the flow of time. (Hooker, 1996) Although their theories are meant to provide concrete vicarious the encounters with the world, Heraclitus and Parmenides adhering to some abstract principles begin to govern the world. Heraclitus didn’t belong to a school of thought. He had independent thinking and actually criticized many philosophers. He developed many important philosophical ideas that are still admired today. Among his most important ideas are "Flux" and "Unity of opposites". Heraclitus is called a monist because he believes fire is the underlying principle. Heraclitus works have influenced Parmenides, Empedocles, and Plato. "You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you. (Thomas, 2007)”This statement is the essence of the concept of "flux" as it means that the river is always different every time you step into it. Heraclitus looked at everything being in the state of change and that only change is permanent. The river is a metaphor for the kind of unity that depends on the preservation of measure and balance in change. The meaning is not that every single thing must be like a river but rather that a complex whole like the world might remain the same while its constituent parts are for ever changing. The unity of the river as a whole is dependent upon the regularity of the “Flux” of its constituent waters. It is a metaphor for the balance of constituents in the world. The passages in Heraclitus book are tremendously hard to read not because of the literature but because of the context. “They do not understand that what differs agrees with itself; this is a very important passage taken from Heraclitus works and it explains the theory of unity of opposites and the logos. Heraclitus theorized that anything which differs has paired opposites such as hot and cold, summer and winter. Heraclitus seen that opposite agreed with each other and he viewed them as an unified whole. Opposites can’t exist without each other and this is where Heraclitus famous passage; “It is not possible to step into the same river twice” connects with the unity of opposites. (Thomas, 2007) Heraclitus implies that the world is constantly changing which describes the water and the world is one unified whole connecting to the river. Opposites are a reality and their interconnections are real but the correlative opposites are not identical to each other. Parmenides was known as a rationalist and was in conscious opposition with Heraclitus and the idea of for whom it is and is not, the same and not the same, and all things travel in opposite directions. Parmenides wrote the poem On Nature where in a goddess instructs him in the two ways, that of the truth and the deceptive way of belief, in which is no truth at all. (Palmer, 2008) The goddess lets him see the "heart of well rounded truth" and it is through this revelation that Parmenides acquires his philosophy. Parmenides' "Way of Truth" has been very influential among modern philosophers and has had a very big impact on the way we study philosophy today. The argument of "The Way of Truth" tells us that there are only three possibilities. Either "it is," "it is not," or "it is and it is not." This idea may be of great challenge to some but it, in a way, makes clear sense. The word "is" is simply a variable that can be replaced by anything. Parmenides says that "it is not" can’t be thought about or spoken of. He tells us that "it is and it is not" is the equivalent to confusion. (Randall, 1996) If something "is not" one must think about something that is not. If some one thinks about something that "is not," he or she is thinking of nothing. Therefore, we cannot think of "it is not." "It is and it is not" is confused, because this idea makes one think about the "it is not." Since it is not possible to think of "it is not," "it is and it is not" is confused. (Randall, 1996) The philosophy of Parmenides, although rather confusing, is never wrong. This is because everything that we perceive "is." The conclusion of Parmenides' argument states that "it is." Since it is impossible for anyone to imagine the "it is not" nothing is "it is not." A prime example of this is the human idea of what is not. People believe that make believe characters such as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are the "it is not." For Parmenides, "What Is" leads us to the truth about our universe, in that it is timeless, eternal, motionless, perfectly uniform, the same all throughout. "There are signs that being un-generated, it is also imperishable." (Cohen, 2003) He believed there was never any change in the universe just as Heraclitus believed it is a constantly changing circle. Parmenides' definition for "What Is" was simple. There weren't many requirements, "Whole and of a single kind and unshaken and complete." If the state of being fits his requirements then it was "What Is." However, his requirements, as simple as they are, are so broad that they exclude most, if not all, of the entire physical world.
“This world-order, the same of all, no god nor man did create, but if ever was and is and will be: everliving fire” is part of a passage that was used by Heraclitus to explain the organization of the world. (Graham, 2005) Heraclitus theorized that the world comes to be and then perishes in a fiery holocaust only to be born again. Heraclitus seems to contradict himself by saying the world itself does not have a beginning or end and that parts of the world is being consumed by fore but remain a whole. Other philosopher before and after Heraclitus predicted the extinction of the world but Heraclitus being the philosopher of “Flux” believes that as the stuffs turn into one another the world itself remains stable.
Parmenides, as did Heraclitus before him, wrote about a state known as "What Is." However, they differed sharply in their view of that state. Parmenides insisted that "What Is" be viewed as a constant. Heraclitus' focus was on elements transferring to and from opposites. Parmenides concentrated on a sense of "being." Heraclitus believed in a flux or "Yin and Yang" in the world that promoted harmony and stability. In response to Heraclitus, Parmenides argued that "What Is" could not change out of what it is; therefore, no opposite can exist. I believe that all of Parmenides descriptions of "What Is" led his contemporaries and followers to understand that "What Is" is not physical in a way that can be described. While his claims of "What Is" might suggest otherwise, it was not Parmenides' goal to throw the traditional vision of the cosmos out the window. He was merely searching for a clearer distinction between truth and appearance. Parmenides believed that "What Is" was so pure that it would hold the basis of truth for everything that has happened in the past will happen again in the future.

Works Cited
Cohen, M.S. (2003, November 17). Parmenides Stage 1. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/parm/.htm.
Graham, D.W. (2005, July 5). Heraclitus. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/heraclit/.
Hooker, R. (1996). Heraclitus. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from Greek Philosophy: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/HERAC.HTM.
Palmer, J. (2008, February 8). Parmenides. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/parmenides
Randall, A. (1996). On Nature. Retrieved October 9, 2010, from On Nature by Parmenides of Elea: http://www.elea.org/parmenides.
Thomas, K. (2007). The Flux and Fire Philosophy of Heraclitus .Retrieved October 6, 2010, From Heraclitus: http://www.thebigview.com/greeks/heraclitus.html.
Wikimedia Foundation Inc. (2010). Heraclitus. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus.
Wikimedia Foundation Inc. (2010). Parmenides. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmenides.…...

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