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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF PARMENIDES



I. PARMENIDES, the son of Pyres, and a citizen of Elea, was a pupil of Xenophanes. And Theophrastus, in his Abridgment, says that he was also a pupil of Anaximander. However, though he was a pupil of Xenophanes he was not afterwards a follower of his; but he attached himself to Aminias, and Diochartes the Pythagorean, as Sotion relates, which last was a poor but honourable and virtuous man. And he it was whose follower he became, and after he was dead he erected a shrine, or hêrôon, in his honour. And so Parmenides, who was of a noble family and possessed of considerable wealth, was induced, not by Xenophanes but by Aminias, to embrace the tranquil life of a philosopher.

II. He was the first person who asserted that the earth was of a spherical form; and that it was situated in the centre of the universe. He also taught that there were two elements, fire and earth; and that one of them occupies the place of the maker, the other that of the matter. He also used to teach that man was originally made out of clay; and that they were composed of two parts, the hot and the cold; of which, in fact, everything consists. Another of his doctrines was, that the mind and the soul were the same thing, as we are informed by Theophrastus, in his Natural Philosophy, when he enumerates the theories of nearly all the different philosophers.

He also used to say that philosophy was of a twofold character; one kind resting on certain truth, the other on opinion. On which account he says some where:

And 'twill be needful for you well to know,
The fearless heart of all-convincing truth:
Also the opinions, though less sure, of men,
Which rest upon no certain evidence.

III. Parmenides too philosophizes in his poems; as Hesiod and Xenophanes, and Empedocles used to. And he used to say that argument was the test of truth; and that the sensations were not trustworthy witnesses. Accordingly, he says:

Let not the common usages of men
Persuade your better taught experience,
To trust to men's unsafe deceitful sight,
Or treacherous ears, or random speaking tongue:
Reason alone will prove the truth of facts.

On which account Timon says of him:

The vigorous mind of wise Parmenides,
Who classes all the errors of the thoughts
Under vain phantasies.

Plato inscribed one of his dialogues with his name--Parmenides or an essay on Ideas. He flourished about the sixty-ninth Olympiad. He appears to have been the first person who discovered that Hesperus and Lucifer were the same star, as Favorinus records, in the fifth book of his Commentaries. Some, however, attribute this discovery to Pythagoras. And Callimachus asserts that the poem in which this doctrine is promulgated is not his work.

IV. He is said also to have given laws to his fellow-citizens, as Speusippus records, in his account of the Philosophers. He was also the first employer of the question called the Achilles,1 as Favorinus assures us in his Universal History.

V. There was also another Parmenides, an orator, who wrote a treatise on the art of Oratory.





1.See the account of Zeno the Cittiaean.










Scanned and edited for Peithô's Web from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Some, but not all, of Yonge's spellings of ancient names have been updated.

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