Selections from the fragments of Parmenides


   Come now I will tell thee—and do thou hear my word and heed it—what are the only ways of
35 enquiry that lead to knowledge. The one way,

1. Archiv. f. d.Gesch. d. Phil. iii. p. 173.

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assuming that being is and that it is impossible for it not to be, is the trustworthy path, for truth attends it. The other, that not-being is and that it necessarily is, I call a wholly incredible course,
40 since thou canst not recognise not-being (for this is impossible), nor couldst thou speak of it, for thought and being are the same thing.
   It makes no difference to me at what point I begin, for I shall always come back again to this.
   It is necessary both to say and to think that being is; for it is possible that being is, and it is impos-
45 sible that not-being is; this is what I bid thee ponder. I restrain thee from this first course of investigation; and from that course also along which mortals knowing nothing wander aimlessly, since helplessness directs the roaming thought in their bosoms, and they are borne on deaf and like-
50 wise blind, amazed, headstrong races, they who consider being and not-being as the same and not the same; and that all things follow a back-turning course.1
   That things which are not are, shall never prevail, she said, but do thou restrain thy mind from this course of investigation.

1. Stein. Symbol. p. 782; Bernays, Rhein. Mus. vii. 115; Zeller, 738 and n. 1.

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   And let not long-practised habit compel thee
55 along this path, thine eye careless, thine ear and thy tongue overpowered by noise; but do thou weigh the much contested refutation of their words, which I have uttered.
   There is left but this single path to tell thee of: namely, that being is. And on this path there are many proofs that being is without beginning and
60 indestructible; it is universal, existing alone, immovable and without end; nor ever was it nor will it be, since it now is, all together, one, and continuous. For what generating of it wilt thou seek out? From what did it grow, and how? I will not permit thee to say or to think that it came from not-being; for it is impossible to think or to say that not-being
65 is. What thing would then have stirred it into activity that it should arise from not-being later rather than earlier? So it is necessary that being either is absolutely or is not. Nor will the force of the argument permit that anything spring from
70 being except being itself. Therefore justice does not slacken her fetters to permit generation or destruction, but holds being firm.
   (The decision as to these things comes in at this point.)

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   Either being exists or it does not exist. It has been decided in accordance with necessity to leave the unthinkable, unspeakable path, as this is not the true path, but that the other path exists and is true.
75 How then should being suffer destruction? How come into existence? If it came into existence, it is not being, nor will it be if it ever is to come into existence. . . . So its generation is extinguished, and its destruction is proved incredible.
   Nor is it subject to division, for it is all alike; nor is anything more in it, so as to prevent its cohesion, nor anything less, but all is full of being;
80 therefore the all is continuous, for being is contiguous to being.
   Farther it is unmoved, in the hold of great chains, without beginning or end, since generation and destruction have completely disappeared and
85 true belief has rejected them. It lies the same, abiding in the same state and by itself; accordingly it abides fixed in the same spot. For powerful necessity holds it in confining bonds, which restrain it on all sides. Therefore divine right does not permit being to have any end; but it is lacking in nothing, for if it lacked anything it would lack everything.1
90    Nevertheless, behold steadfastly all absent things as present to thy mind; for thou canst not separate

1. Following Karsten and Preller; Stein rejects the interpretation.

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being in one place from contact with being in another place; it is not scattered here and there through the universe, nor is it compounded of parts.
   Therefore thinking and that by reason of which
95 thought exists are one and the same thing, for thou wilt not find thinking without the being from which it receives its name. Nor is there nor will there be anything apart from being; for fate has linked it together, so that it is a whole and immovable. Wherefore all these things will be but a name, all these things which mortals determined in the belief that they were true, viz. that things arise and perish,
100 that they are and are not, that they change their position and vary in colour.
   But since there is a final limit, it is perfected on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere, equally distant from the centre at every point. For
105 it is necessary that it should neither be greater at all nor less anywhere, since there is no not-being which can prevent it from arriving at equality, nor is being such that there may ever be more than what is in one part and less in another, since the whole is inviolate. For if it is equal on all sides, it abides in equality within its limits.


110    At this point I cease trustworthy discourse and the thought about truth; from here on, learn the opinions of mortals, hearing of the illusive order of my verses.

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   Men have determined in their minds to name two principles [lit. forms]; but one of these they ought
115 not to name, and in so doing they have erred. They distinguish them as antithetic in character, and give them each character and attributes distinct from those of the other. On the one hand there is the aethereal flame of fire, fine, rarefied, everywhere identical with itself and not identical with its opposite; and on the other hand, opposed to the first, is
120 the second principle, flameless darkness, dense and heavy in character. Of these two principles I declare to thee every arrangement as it appears to men, so that no knowledge among mortals may surpass thine.
   But since all things are called light and darkness, and the peculiar properties of these are predicated of one thing and another, everything is at the same time full of light and of obscure darkness, of both
125 equally, since neither has anything in common with the other.
   And the smaller circles are filled with unmixed fire, and those next them with darkness into which their portion of light penetrates; in the midst of these is the divinity who directs the course of all.

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   For she controls dreaded birth and coition in every
130 part of the universe, sending female to join with male, and again male to female.
   First of all the gods she devised love.
   Thou shalt know the nature of the heavens and
135 all signs that are in the sky, the destructive deeds of the pure bright torch of the sun and whence they arose, and thou shalt learn the wandering deeds of the round-eyed moon and its nature. Thou shalt know also the sky surrounding all, whence it arose, and how necessity took it and chained it so as
140 a limit to the courses of the stars. How earth and sun and moon and common sky and the milky way of the heavens and highest Olympos and the burning (might of the) stars began to be.
   It (the moon) wanders about the earth, shining
145 at night with borrowed light. She is always gazing earnestly toward the rays of the sun.
   For as at any time is the blending of very complex members in a man, so is the mind in men constituted; for that which thinks is the same in all men and in every man, viz. the essence of the members of the body; and the element that is in
150 excess is thought.
   On the right hand boys, on the left hand girls.
   So, according to men’s opinions, did things arise, and so they are now, and from this state when they shall have reached maturity shall they perish. For each of these men has determined a name as a distinguishing mark.
K.    When male and female mingle seed of Venus
150 in the form [the body] of one, the excellence from the two different bloods, if it preserves harmony, fashions a well-formed body; but if when the seed is mingled the excellencies fight against each other

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and do not unite into one, they will distress the sex that is coming into existence, as the twofold seed is mingled in the body of the unfortunate woman.
   With this there are fineness and heat and light and softness and brightness; and with the dense are classed cold and darkness and hardness and weight, for these are separated the ones on one side, the others on the other.

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