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A Note on Parmenides' Denial of Past and Future

  • Mohan Matthen (a1)

In à recent issue of Dialogue, Leo Groarke attempts to defend the claim that Parmenides was committed to an atemporal reality.

He argues like this:

(1) In the Parmenidean dictum “[It] is and cannot not be” (B2.4), “is” means “exists”, and is in the present tense (536).

(2) (According to Parmenides) there is nothing that fails to exist (536).

(3) It follows from (1) and (2) that “the past is not” and “the future is not” (537).

(4) If the past and future are not, then the present is not. “All three tenses go down the drain together” (538), and so reality is atem-poral.

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1 Groarke Leo, “Parmenides' Timeless Universe”, Dialogue 24/3 (Autumn 1985), 535541.

2 Owen G. E. L., “Plato and Parmenides on the Timeless Present”, Monist 50 (1966), 317340.

3 It was, ofcourse, Plato who first showed that when we define truth and falsity in terms of existence and non-existence, the Parmenidean dictum leads to the absurd conclusion that false statements cannot be said or thought. See Sophist, 237–242.

4 Matthen Mohan, “Greek Ontology and the ‘Is’ of Truth”, Phronesis 28/2 (1983), 113135. Martin Tweedale has found the same phenomenon in Alexander of Aphrodisias: see his “Alexander of Aphrodisias' Views on Universals”, Phronesis 29/3 (1984), 279–303. I think that it can also be found in medieval authors, for instance, in Anselm's De Grammaticos.

5 De Generatione et Comiptione 319b25–31; Physica 190a10–12.

6 For example, Furth Montgomery, “Elements of Eleatic Ontology”, in Mourelatos Alexander P. D., éd., The Pre-Socratks (New: Anchor Press, 1974), 260.

7 Thanks are due to David Gallop, who was this journal's anonymous referee.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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