5. Parmenides of Elea: Sphairos
Towards Hen Kai Pan: Being-At-Rest Within Hylozoism
As stated elsewhere, language is not thinking, is not a conveyor-belt for thought and knowledge. It does not think for us; it is simply a tool -- and a miserable one for all that -- of thought, of social communication; it is not a substitute for thought, and not the only transhistoric transmitter of wisdom. About the thinking and thought of the ancient "Pre-Socratics" we just have scattered fragments, hence, we have no exact idea about their natural and social habitat, about what precisely they have been thinking. Till now erudite experts could tell us anything about them, there is no stringent, scientific, philosophic way to prove them either "right" or "wrong". Some like Diels really tried very hard to unravel their philosophic thoughts, and for this very reason, we'll base our data and analysis on such magnificent works. Nonetheless, together with our own healthy and sane ontic faculties, ex consequenti, let us use the deficient, patrian language tool to explain the neither right nor wrong, magnificent, emancipatory history of wisdom. In any case, for the patria it is irrelevant what Jesus Christ or Mohammed, Thales or Parmenides, Marx or Hegel, really thought; imperative is what the patria wants them to think, wants them to say; wants us to believe what it thinks that they wanted to achieve; and exactly this is what we are dealing with here in detail, what we are criticizing and excelling here.
With Parmenides of Elea (around 500 B. C.), the Paradox of Truth, the aporia that Truth is not apólytos, not absolute, entered ancient Greek philosophy. Pará was what contradicted the dóxa (opinions), and thus the philosophic search for Patrian Truth, for Labour Alétheia begun. Formally and logically this paradox has to be resolved, dissolved: A, the universal, spherical principle has to be established.
The Philosophic Link between Pýr and Sphairos As we have noted in Heracleitus' materialism, if Becoming-Being is Fire-in-flux, then truly veritas must reflect ever-changing reality, hence, it cannot be absolute. Thinking and Truth themselves necessarily have to be in permanent flux. However, before we expound Eleatism, the main philosophic current contradicting Heracleitism, which was against its doctrine of eternal change, let us fleetingly visit Parmenides’ contemporaries: Xenophanes, Alkmaion (Alcmaeon) and Epicharmus, who, generally, do not receive the full philosophic merit which they certainly deserve, - and this, in spite of the insufficient, fragmentary data which we have concerning their lives and works.
Xenophanes of Colophon: Water and Earth According to the ancient Greek historian, Apollodorus of Athens (180 - 110 B. C.), as recorded in his Chronica, Xenophanes of Colophon, the famous Greek rhapsodist, satirist and philosopher, was born around 580 B. C. Derived from a preserved fragment of Xenophanes, we could conclude that he had lived for at least 92 years (See: Diels, Frag. 8, 18). As far as we know, Xenophanes was the first Greek ancient hylozoist who had chosen two primordial elements: water and earth. (Frag. 29)
„The certain truth there is no man who knows, nor ever shall be, about the gods and all the things whereof I speak, Yea, even if a man should chance to say something utterly right, still he himself knows it not, there is nowhere anything but guessing“. (Diels, Frag. 34, p. 20. Also, see: Russell, op. cit., pp. 58 - 59)
Thus, as early as the beginning of the 5th Century, the paradox of truth and agnosis had entered ancient Greek philosophic thought. As we will note later, Gorgias will drive it to its logical, nihilist extreme. Delivered from physical toil, the ancient Greek philosophers had enough time, a fertile social environment, to labour intellectually, to think in peace. They knew that gnosis is power, and they edified a powerful cradle for "Western Civilization".
Gnosis is Knowledge; its opposite is Agnosis, is Ignorance. From the above, it follows that Xenophanes had argued that Truth can never be known, neither through sense-perception, nor through cognitive or even apperceptive reflections. Precisely how he had explained Being-Becoming is very difficult to ascertain from his few preserved fragments:
„Everything came from earth, and everything passes away into earth“ (Frag. 27), but, another fragment states: „Earth and Water is Everything, which becomes and grows“ (Frag. 29). Significant, however, is that he explained Being-Becoming-out-of-itself through the dialectical method, through natural, universal evolution and involution. Like Heracleitus, he explained the Divine in a hylozoistic, materialist manner, by giving the concept God physical attributes: „God is total Eye, total Spirit, total Ear„ (Frag. 24); furthermore there exists „a single God, who is greater than all gods and all men; in shape, He has no similarity with any mortal, not even in thought" (Frag. 23), and this One, the to hen „without toil swayeth all things by force of his mind“ (Frag. 25). Here Xenophanes talks about himself, about the parasitical ancient Greek upper classes, that lived from toiling slave labour. Also, very precisely he defines the coming monotheistic God, Man himself that will sway all things "by force of his mind", by thought and mind control.
Seen a posteriori, although Xenophanes was a pagan hylozoist, yet we can already detect traces of the growing contradiction within ancient Greek materialism, of the germination of the idealist spermata which will later blossom in Platonism, bloom in Neo-Platonism, and rot away in Catholic theology of the Dark Ages. He, however, still gave a natural explanation for the evolution of the Divine within Western, social, ruling class consciousness:
„Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and disgrace among mortals, stealing, adultery and insincerity. ... Mortals deem that gods are begotten as they are and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form ... yes, and if oxen, horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, they would produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the imago of their many kinds. ... The Ethiopians make their gods black, and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair.“ (See: Fragments 11, 12, 14, 13, 15 and 16).
This is really an excellent fragment, revealing already the archetypes of future social discrimination, of apartheid: "black and snub-nosed" Ethiopians, probably like the Sphinx, and Thracian whites "having blue eyes and red hair". Furthermore, it shows the real origin, the mental creations of the gods, which Ludwig Feuerbach will explain to us later. Moreover, it indicates that the mental creations of Gods, of Creation itself, is a specific social product at a definite level of production. Hence, production gave birth to creation, and not vice versa. And, we are still predominantly in this process of creative production, not only of illusory gods, but more so, of productive creation of real God-Men and Men-Gods.
As mentioned before, in Xenophanes’ naturalism, the arché is in motion and is alive: „The ocean is the source of Water, the fount of the wind. ... the great pontos is the creator of clouds, winds and streams (Frag. 30). Thus Thales’ water and Heracleitus’ flowing river are still prevalent in Xenophanes’ Being-Becoming.
Social contradictions continued to reflect themselves in Greek hylozoism and even affected the philosophic thought of „minor“ thinkers, such as Alkmaion and Epicharmus.
Alkmaion of Croton
Alkmaion (or Alcmaeon) of Croton (571 - 497 B. C.), a medical doctor and hylozoist, according to Aristotle (Metaphysics, 5, 986 a 22 ff.), in his writings had utilized „contradictory concepts“ like „black-white“, „sweet-bitter“, „good-bad“ and „large-small“.
Well, what could be more contradictory, more dialectical than these philosophic paradigms? And, yet, billions are afraid to contradict themselves, to think. Religion, ideology, mind and thought control, currently, newspeak and double-think, across the millennia have played havoc with human intellect and reason, have unleashed a real mental holocaust already. Generally, Homo ignoramus, the arch-enemy of gnosis, over-flooded with arrogance, everywhere launches a real witch-hunt against any independent thinkers; surely, many people, swallowed by the labour process, are just too lackadaisical, too lazy to think, to read, to study at all.
Besides Alkmaion had considered the arché as being eternal and in permanent motion; this also applied to the psyché. (See: Aristotle, De Anima; A 2, 405 a 29ff.)
What specifically he had taken as the arché we do not know, but he had considered the sun, moon, stars and heavens as „divine beings”, which are in eternal motion (See: Diels, pp. 38 - 39). However, having been living in Croton, we know that he was influenced by Pythagoreanism, and, as we will see later, he should be "classified" as forming part of the Pythagorean „Left“, that will continue as the Aristotelian "Arab" Left, and that eventually will become the Hegelian "Marxist" Left.
Epicharmus of Crastos
Epicharmus of Crastos (whose acme had been around 486 B.C., and who probably had reached the age of 97 years) declared water, earth, fire, sun, stars and winds as „divine“ beings. He really still had natural geocentric inclinations, but a mysterious heliocentric outlook.
However, he felt the fire and brimstone of the heart-beat of the primitive accumulation of capital already very strongly, and thus "correctly" identified the future Gods, Silver and Gold. As transhistoric, true affirmation of the labour system, he downgraded useless "divine gods", and upgraded money and capital. According to him, all gods are material and natural, thus, the „useful gods for us are simply gold and silver money“. (Diels, Frag. 8, p. 34).
What a straight, honest capitalist revelation! Just like Maquiavelli, he stated things as they are; nothing so bombastically embellished, so slimy and occult, like the terms: humanity, health, human values, noblesse or grandeur. Nowadays the brainless ideologues of globalization simply hide behind empty phrases like the "masses", the "people", "man", the "human being", "absolute evil", "infinite justice", "nobility", "glory", "humanity", "human rights" and "democracy".
Among the various elements, that compose the arché, Epicharmus considered „water, earth, air and the sun as the (primordial) elements of the world“ (Frag. 49). In Greek philosophic chemistry, it should be noted that although one or more elements form the arché, yet they are not identical to the arché.
Perhaps, exceptis excipiendis,* excluding the very few surprising, lonely cases like the ancient nihilist Gorgias, who negated Being, Universal Being, thrice, or the Middle Age mysticist, Meister Eckhart, who claimed that Nothing and God are identical, as far as we know, in all probability, no other ancient or modern philosopher ever left the formal-logical (or even dialectical) circumference of the infinite, eternal Universal One, the One and Only Principle, the Arché.
Since yestermillennium until today, praxically and theoretically possibly no thinker had the academic bravour independently to transcend, to excel universal immanence. Hence, all accepted the hocus-pocus of original divine or cosmic creation out of Nothing, out of the nihil, but they cannot conceive that this very nihil in its zilliferent spheres is far more extensive, magnificent and probably unimaginable than any one of its so-called patrian magnanimous creatures or phantoms; they all, even the most radical agnostics, atheists, existentialists and nihilists amongst them, in the final analysis, awfully shiver or genuflect in front of the gaping, yawning abyss of Nothing, nihil, nothingness; yet, without much ado about nothing, most of them, in daily life, earning their daily bread, just simply adore or fear their heaven, limbo, purgatory and hell, their sacred phantasmagorias, chimeras, souls, divinities, saints, angels, devils and gods. What they do not realize is that this very One has converted, alienated the very lives of billions into earthly nothing, and has "enriched" Nothing itself with billions of sky-rocketing emancipatory sighs. Who the ancient, monistic, monolithic, Eleatic father of all this tragic hen kai pan, of this tragicomical unomnia was, we'll see just now.
Anyhow, continuing our lonesome, unaccustomed sojourn through Ancient Greek Philosophy, according to Epicharmus, Man is a „body-mind“ contradiction and „the human body is earth, but the mind is fire“ (Frag. 48). Definitely, here the body is cosmic, and the mind, the soul, is intellectual, is social, or should we say divine. All this is already an idealistic premonition of the coming Platonic soma sema; the body is the grave of the soul.
At least, Epicharmus’ psyché retained the Heracleitean-Promethean Fire, and human intellect is directed towards eternal light, towards lumen naturale, an important element in Heracleitean philosophy. Mind is directed upwards, towards the upper classes, towards Helios, the Divine Sun, which is „Total Mind“, (Frag. 50/50a), Total Control, Totalitarian Control of the Mind.
Imperialistically, in the dawning cosmopolitan spirit of Alexander the Great, and much later of Cecil John Rhodes, who dreamt about annexing the planets, Epicharmus was already yearning to escape geocentricism; his dream was: per aspera ad astra; not in a physical sense, he was already reaching out for the stars.
Notwithstanding, he also placed Creation in the Thalean-Heracleitean, hylozoist tradition: „Through the mixture of fire and water, heaven and earth were created, because phýsis, through them (fire and water), mixes warmth and coldness, dryness and wetness.“ (Frag. 51). Definitely, here the Arché, Cosmos or Phýsis, is the creative force, the contradictory womb of everything. Mother Earth „gives birth to all mankind and takes it back again“ (Frag. 52). Here we have the archaic form of "to dust shallst thou return", but also Hegel's "all that comes into being deserves to pass away into oblivion."
This is the sadistic, productive, Socratic Thanatos drive within patrian Western Philosophy, that euphemistically talks so much about "hope".
Already in Heracleitean hylozoism, we have witnessed a fiery, dialectical, conflicting evolution-involution of all things, a germinating génesis and revolutionary epígénesis in Fire, and, having reached their cruising zenith, thereafter the decaying nadir, an inverse process sets in, that of ekpyrosis, of apokatastasis, of the apocalypse, that returns everything to its archaic hýstera (womb), that converts everything back into Fire again (Diels, 22B 31, 65). It seems that contemporary, globalized Corporate America and NATO are fulfilling, are carrying out this universal death sentence, are materializing this absolute, eternal, infinite justice.
Nowadays, to draw our attention away from a possible global, fascist nuclear ekpyrosis, a fiery holocaust, supplemented by the latest sophisticated deadly weapons of mass destruction, modern physicists would warn about the enthropic, atrophic, and even ectropic, solar dangers which threaten Mother Earth; knowing their fatherland and its "hopeful future", to the ancient philosophers, Epicharmus and Heracleitus, the coming katastrophé was simply natural, cosmic, so to say already a long awaited fait accompli, an intrinsic part of universal recycling, of eternal palingénesis, that is, in the style of the Arabian Phoenix, it was a permanent inflammable process of infinite cosmic rebirth and renewal.
Nonetheless, for Epicharmus the cosmic mater, archaic Nature, is the creative matrix and creating force - later, in the African-Arab world, she will appear again as natura naturans and natura naturata in the materialist philosophy of Avicenna, Averroes and Avicebron, and she will continue in the Italian Renaissance, in the upcoming bourgeois materialism of Ficino, Telesio, Patrizzi and Pomponazzi. However, because of his atheist bravery, let us now say farewell to Epicharmus with an epitaphic epigram, which he had coined himself:
„I am a corpse. A corpse is manure; manure is earth. If the earth is a divinity, then I am no corpse, but a God“. (Frag. 64).
Parmenides of Elea: Sphairos
Parmenides of Elea, together with his monistic Eleatic School, continued a philosophic stream, which already had its origin as stated before, in Anaximander’s apeiron, the Infinite. In a general sense, Parmenides-Heracleitus is the logical contradiction which resulted from Anaximander’s hylozoism, and, in our view, only in our outlook, the two heathen materialists themselves form a major contradiction:
Being-At-Rest (Being) ("A") -- Becoming-Being ("Non-A").
Parmenides, the pupil of Xenophanes, stated that the arché is the hen kai pan, the One, the Unomnia, a Static World Sphere, which is infinite, eternal and indivisible -- in other words, it is a Super-Democritean Atom. Thus, Being is not Becoming-Being, it is immobile; but, please note, for him, it is material, archaic. Consequently, objective, cosmic, material reality cannot be known by sense-perception; according to him, we do not have the sensorial capacity to perceive phenomena, we simply have no phantasía; our dóxa, our common sense, our opinions, transmitted by socialization and educational processes are deceptive, illusionary, are mere appearances.
Within this context, he stated: "Thought and immobile Being is the same, ... hence it is only names when mortals call Being Becoming and Pass Away, when they speak about change of place or change of a glittering colour“ (Diels, op. cit., Frag. 7/8, pp. 45-46). Actually he is saying very interesting things. Firstly he attacks Heracleitus, by affirming himself; with his attack against Becoming-Being, what he calls Not-Being (Nothing), he denies Motion, Becoming-Being and Being-Becoming. Secondly, he declares all flux or change as illusions, as mere appearances, not realities, and expressis verbis, he denies the existence of space, and therewith, of time. In short, he is laying the very philosophic foundations of Formal Logics, of "A", of the labour process.
Furthermore, he continues: „It is necessary to say and think that only Being is, because Being is; on the contrary, Nothing is non-existent“ (Frag. 6).
Thus, for him, it is really the super essential question: To-Be or Not To-Be? That is: Being or "Nothing"? He defends only Being. Like all formal logicians, here he eliminates Nyx, Chaos, Nothing, thus consolidating a non-contradictory Universe. Knowing this, in our own philosophy, we will counter this philosophic coup. Of course, for us, Nothing is, exists, transcends; it is not simply "non-existent".
Thus, for Parmenides, nóesis and nóema, cogitare and cogitatio, Thinking and Thought, are both equivalent to immobile Being. The arché, matter, substance, the hen kai pan, but also, the hen to pan, that is, the cosmos, are all static, at rest, in repose, on vacation.
As indicated before, although invaluable for affirmation, for identification, for anything else, this type of philosophic reasoning is itself static, conservative, anti-praxical, against empeiría and étymon. It forms the ontological basis of formal logics and the Aristotelian syllogism, its limits are the demarcations of Heracleitus’ „appearances“, of relative temporal rest; its extremes can be found in Berkeley’s subjective idealism, esse est percipere, and in Descartes’ dubito, cogito, ergo sum.
In Parmenides’ One, in his Being, Arché, no change, no time, no space exist; it is not cognizable, it cannot be mediated, but, it is material Being. In our understanding of his term, it is Non-Related-Being; cum grano salis, this hen kai pan, this One and All is onlyEssence, but it is not Nothing; rather it is an essential "part" of Nothing, it is that what it is, is What-Is, is Cosmos.
Switching back to ancient Greek mode, the real "Negation" of Parmenides’ One, of his "Being", is Gorgias’ "Nothing" (as we will see later). Gorgias of Leontinoi (483 - 375 B. C.), the nihilist Sophist, had "negated" Being threefold:
„Being cannot be known, because it cannot shine; it has no shining power to be mediated, because it cannot be“. (See: Diels, Frag. 26, p. 126)
In nuce, for Gorgias, Being cannot be, it cannot be cognized and it cannot be mediated. (See: Ernst Bloch, Das Materialiemusproblem, seine Geschichte and Substanz, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1972, p. 25).
Strange enough, Parmenides’ hen kai pan is related to the Sanskrit Advaita, often personified in Brahman or Krischna; notwithstanding, essentially, the difference is that it is not divine; au contraire, it is archaic, material.
The Fiery Test: Our Philosophic Exegesis
Definitely, Parmenides had driven Greek agnosticism to its extreme: we know nothing and we never ever will know anything about the cosmos, but, the emanating capitalist „spirit“, the coming Ratio was still weak, young and materialist, it still found itself in the primitive accumulation stage.
Heracleitus could not „step twice into the same river“, but he did not realize, that he could, indeed, „step a n d not step into the same river“.
In the first action, Becoming-Being is still relative; in the second action, a relative-absolute unity and contradiction of opposites is momentarily allowed. (Parmenides did not allow space and time in Heracleitus’ pánta rhei, he totally denied them as mere „appearance“ forms.) In fact, referring to the first action, Cratylos had rebuked Heracleitus by absolutely stating, that not even once could he step into the same river, „because fresh waters are ever flowing in upon him“.
Thus, in the two preserved fragments of Heracleitus, concerning pánta rhei, there exists a major contradiction, a paradox, an aporia. But, as we know, this ancient hylozoist was a dialectician ex consequenti -- not a trialogician par excellence -- : from the above, we can gather that pánta rhei - everything changes - itself is not absolute; even Change can change, which again confirms, what Heracleitus could not see, the zilliversal truth of "Eternal Change", that is, in our sense, of trialogical Bezug, Spherical Relations, simply because ex hypothesi patrian "Change", Motion ("Non-A" or "Non-Relation") cannot "change" into its own Affirmation ("A"), into that what it is already, into unilinear Rest, rather, if anything at all, historically, it can only be negated towards Einai ("B"), and can excel towards Nothing, exto Nihil ("C").
It becomes obvious that Parmenides’ One, that his patrian, systemic Universe, not only knows no kínesis, no change, but that it also denies variety, multiplicity, many things, many outlooks. For the Eleatics, there exists only an eternal-internal "present", a boring carpe diem, nothing New, no Aurora, "nothing new under the sun", no oriens, no orthros, - in contrast, Heracleitus had stated: „The sun is new every day“.
Furthermore, the hen kai pan knows no particular-universal, no absolute-relative, no earthly praxis-theory; it has no other arithmós (number) than One. The Eleatics, and therewith all universal patrians, cannot count more than one. As we will see in the next chapter, the Pythagorean School, especially Philolaos, was elevating this One, this numerus (expressing eternal repose) to a differentiation of its continuum to more numbers, thus, transforming the arché itself into an arithmós, into „all things are numbers“ (Pythagoras).
Summing up Parmenides’ Contradiction; for Heracleitus, sense-perception, at least, indicated Becoming, while the dóxa, opinions and „common sense“ promoted mental ossification and intellectual petrifaction, leading to philosophic putrefaction. In our times, similar „Marxist-Leninist“ doctrines, actually, Comintern directives, dóxa and orthódoxa had led to the vulgarization, a putrefaction and a petrifaction of dialectical philosophy.
Zeno of Elea (who lived around 460 B. C.), a pupil of Parmenides, had tried to verify his teacher’s doctrine of repose by means of four aporias, that is, paradoxes, contradictions of contradictions. He utilized Heracleitean dialectics against Becoming-Being, against Fire, that is, he used dialectics to disprove dialectics. However, one of the fathers of formal logics, Aristotle, (the other two are Plato and Parmenides) soon revealed the deductive errors of Zeno’s "dialectical reasoning", and postulated instead dynámei on, in-possibility-being.
Unfortunately, Heracleitus could not have known Zeno’s „proofs“ which contradicted Becoming-Being, that is, the paradoxes which contradicted Contradiction and Dialectics, else he could have anticipated Galileo, more precisely, the differential calculus, and probably even the infinitesimal calculus. Contradicting Heracleitus, Zeno elegantly had stated:
„A moving object finds itself, neither in the space in which it is, nor in that, in which it is not“. (Diels, Frag, 4, p. 51).
Well, well, what a Neither-Nor triagorical statement!! We will continue with this philosophic arithmetic in the next chapter, introducing the pythagoréioi (around 582 - 493 B. C.).
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