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am 7. Dezember 2013
Plato's work Parmenides has been rated by some as a spoof, a less-than-serious work, a work filled with contradictions and errors. This it may well be, but it is also a fascinating account, an experiment in the art of the philosopher and discussion to prove a point.

In essence it attempts to prove the existence of a higher authority, One, which is over and above all else. At the same time it attempts to prove that the One does not exist, that it can neither be inside nor outside of anything else and that the non-existent exists simply because we have thought of it.

According to Marilio Ficino, who wrote many commentaries on Plato in the fifteenth century, the discussion is designed also as a teaching method for Socrates who, through the twists and turns of logic, should learn how to discuss, how to put his ideas across, how to advance in the philosophical arts. For the average reader, however, it is a complicated example of why philosophers can take any subject and twist it, according to their desires, in one direction or another to gain an answer to some problem which could make sense or, with more careful thought, makes no sense at all.

Parmenides manages to prove both the existence of the One, and its non-existence. He shows that what is inside something, what touches something else, is not inside anything and touches nothing else. What is outside and has no connection is closely connected whilst not being outside. In short, it is a play on logic which makes little sense, which throws the thinking mind in all directions, which has contradictory answers to absurd ideas. Which explains, perhaps, why Ficino and others used exactly these arguments, the recounting of the conversation through Plato, to justify the existence of God.

The layout in this edition, whilst following that of the original Greek, forces the reader to work through the arguments quickly. The two protagonists' comments and answers are contained within paragraphs without modern breaks, without any form of attribution to one speaker or the other. The speed of reading, unless one is capable of forcing a slower pace, makes the flawed logic of the whole hard to find, hard to consider. Regardless of this problematic, Parmenides is a discussion worth taking the time to work through, worth deep and considered thought, if only to see how complicated philosophy can be, and how easy it is to get lost in contradictions, falsehood and the entrapment of words.
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