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As the first philosopher to inquire into the nature of existence itself, he is incontrovertibly credited as the “Father of Metaphysics.” As the first to employ deductive, arguments to justify his claims, he competes with Aristotle for the title “Father of Logic.” He is also commonly thought of as the founder of the “Eleatic School” of thought—a philosophical label ascribed to Presocratics who purportedly argued that reality is in some sense a unified and unchanging singular entity. Some have taken Plato’s precise mention of Parmenides’ age as indicative of veracity.
Other thinkers, also commonly thought of as Eleatics, include: Zeno of Elea, Melissus of Samos, and (more controversially) Xenophanes of Colophon. The narrative setting describes a young Socrates (about 20) conversing with Parmenides, who is explicitly described as being “about 65.” Since Socrates was born c. Plato is not necessarily a reliable historical source.
Parmenides’ only written work is a poem entitled, supposedly, but likely erroneously, (prelude) features a young man on a cosmic (perhaps spiritual) journey in search of enlightenment, expressed in traditional Greek religious motifs and geography. Choosing between these accounts can have significant historical implications regarding Parmenides’ possible relationship to other thinkers, particularly Heraclitus.
This is followed by the central, most philosophically-oriented section (). The reliability of this account is esteemed for its historical focus (as opposed to any philosophical agenda) of these authors. For instance, if one accepts Plato’s later date, this would seem to require denying that Parmenides influenced Heraclitus (540-480 B. E., also based upon Diogenes’ reports) as Plato suggests ( 242d-e).
Here, Parmenides positively endorses certain epistemic guidelines for inquiry, which he then uses to argue for his famous metaphysical claims—that “what is” (whatever is referred to by the word “this”) cannot be in motion, change, come-to-be, perish, lack uniformity, and so forth. This account claims Parmenides “flourished”—a euphemism conventionally understood to correspond with having reached forty years of age, and/or the height of one’s intellectual career—during the sixty-ninth Olympiad (between 504-500 B. However, the lateness of the account can be considered a weakness, and the “flourishing” system of dating is quite artificial, vague, and imprecise. On the other hand, if one accepts the earlier dating by Diogenes, it makes it very unlikely Heraclitus’ work could have influenced Parmenides, as there would not have been sufficient time for his writings to become known and travel across the Greek world from Ephesus, Ionia.