Eleatic School >>
ELEATIC SCHOOL, a Greek school of philosophy which came into existence towards the end of the 6th century B.C., and ended with Melissus of Samos (fl.
Its foundation is often attributed to Xenophanes of Colophon, but, although there is much in his speculations which formed part of the later Eleatic doctrine, it is probably more correct to regard Parmenides as the founder of the school.
In these main contentions the Eleatic school achieved a real advance, and paved the way to the modern conception of metaphysics.
XENOPHANES of Colophon, the reputed founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, is supposed to have been born in the third or fourth decade of the 6th century B.C. An exile from his Ionian home, he resided for a time in Sicily, at Zancle and at Catana, and afterwards established himself in southern Italy, at Elea, a Phocaean colony founded in the sixty-first Olympiad (536-533).
According to Aristotle, "the first of Eleatic unitarians was not careful to say whether the unity which he postulated was finite or infinite, but, contemplating the whole firmament, declared that the One is God."
"The Eleatic school," says the Stranger in Plato's Sophist, 242 D, "beginning with Xenophanes, and even earlier, starts from the principle of the unity of all things."
Aristotle, in a passage already cited, Metaphysics, A5, speaks of Xenophanes as the first of the Eleatic unitarians, adding that his monotheism was reached through the contemplation of the oupavos.
The demonstrations of the unity and the attributes of God, with which the treatise De Melisso, Xenophane et Gorgia (now no longer ascribed to Aristotle or Theophrastus) accredits Xenophanes, are plainly framed on the model of Eleatic proofs of the unity and the attributes of the Ent, and must therefore be set aside.
Again, Aristotle's description of Xenophanes as the first of the Eleatic unitarians does not necessarily imply that the unity asserted by Xenophanes was the unity asserted by Parmenides; the phrase, "contemplating the firmament, he declared that the One is God," leaves it doubtful whether Aristotle attributed to Xenophanes any philosophical theory whatever; and the epithet a ypoLKOTEpos discourages the belief that Aristotle regarded Xenophanes as the author of a new and important departure.
If then he was indifferent to the problem, he can hardly be credited with the Eleatic solution.
The Pythagorean and Eleatic systems of philosophy had their chief seat in Magna Graecia.
But into combination with this' he brought the Eleatic doctrine of Unity.
Perceiving the difficulty of the Socratic dictum he endeavoured to give to the word "knowledge" a definite content by divorcing it absolutely from the sphere of sense and experience, and confining it to a sort of transcendental dialectic or logic. The Eleatic unity is Goodness, and is beyond the sphere of sensible apprehension.
See also Eleatic School; Cynics; Stoics; and, for the connexion between the Megarians and the Eretrians, Menedemus and Phaedo.
A new departure was taken by the Eleatic Parmenides (q.v.), who, expressly noting that, when Thales and his successors attributed to the supposed element changing qualities, they became pluralists, required that the superficial variety of nature should be strictly distinguished from its fundamental unity.
MELISSUS OF SAMOS, Greek philosopher of the Eleatic School, was born probably not later than 470 B.C. According to Diogenes Laertius, ix.
Thus, though, in so far as he asserted his fundamental doctrine without doubt or qualification, he was a dogmatist, in all else he was a sceptic. Again, the Eleatic Parmenides, deriving from the theologian Xenophanes the distinction between E 71'caT77 /, 07 and (W a, conceived that, whilst the One exists and is the object of knowledge, the Multiplicity of things becomes and is the object of opinion; but, when his successor Zeno provided the system with a logic, the consistent application of that logic resolved the fundamental doctrine into the single proposition " One is One," or, more exactly, into the single identity " One One."
If Eleatic thought stands over against Pythagorean thought as what is valid or grounded against what is ungrounded or invalid, we are embarked upon dialectic, or the debate in which thought is countered by thought.
It was Zeno, the controversialist of the Eleatic school, who was regarded in after times as the " discoverer " of dialectic.3 Zeno's amazing skill in argumentation and his paradoxical conclusions, particular and general, inaugurate a new era.
The result is a selflimiting dialectic. This higher dialectic is a logic. It is no accident that the first of the philosophical sophists, Gorgias, on the one hand, is Eleatic in his affinities, and on the other raises in the characteristic formula of his intellectual nihilism' issues which are as much logical and epistemological as ontological.
The nihilism of Gorgias from the Eleatic point of view of bare identity, and the speechlessness of Cratylus from the Heraclitean ground of absolute difference, are alike disowned.
Between Euclides and Antisthenes the Socratic induction and universal definition were alike discredited from the point of view of the Eleatic logic. It is with the other point of doctrine that Plato comes to grips, that which allows of a certainty or knowledge consisting in an analysis of a compound into simple elements themselves not known.
(a) The first of these characters is described by anticipation in Plato's Sophist (246 C seq.), where, arguing with those " who drag everything down to the corporeal " (vcnµa), the Eleatic stranger would fain prove to them the existence of something incorporeal, as follows.
Thus may be explained the selection of an Eleatic stranger to be the chief speaker in the latter, and of Parmenides himself to take the lead in the former.
"One of the most notable victims of posterity's lack of judgment," says Bertrand Russell, "is the Eleatic Zeno.