Monday, January 30, 2006

Parmenides is taken to have argued for the following conclusions:

1. There is no coming into existence or ceasing to exist.
2. There is no change.
3. There is no movement.
4. There is no plurality. (Note: There is a plurality if, and only if, at least two things exist.)

The assignment for Wednesday, 2/1, is to extract a valid argument from Parmenides, presented in numbered premise-conclusion form, for at least one of the above conclusions. The Parmenides readings are available from the course website. Feel free to comment to this post with attempts, questions, concerns, etc.


Blogger linford86 said...


I've been having a pretty hard time understanding Parmenides... But you wrote that we could post attempts, so here goes mine:

Parmenides Argument

1. The impossible cannot be learned

2. One cannot know (accomplish/experience) impossible things

3. One cannot say impossible things

4. One cannot think impossible thoughts or be in impossible states

5. But since stuff is spoken and there is thought, something (S) must be

6. Things that do not exist cannot exist

7. S is whole, it is now, altogether, continuous

8. S was not created and cannot be destroyed

9. If S did not grow, then S must be full or not exist at all

10. Everything comes to be from that which is beside it

11. S was not born

12. S did not grow

13. If something does not exist then, then it is impossible for it to exist in the future

14. There is no coming to be (i.e. creation does not exist)

15. There is no destruction

16. Members of the set S cannot increase in amount

17. Members of the set S cannot decrease in amount

18. The number of members of S is fixed, so if S lacked one part, then S would lack all parts

19. Therefore, nothing ever changes

1:11 PM  
Blogger Chris Tillman said...

There are, in general, two strategies for extracting arguments. According to the first, one tries to represent every bit of reasoning in the premises. Such arguments tend to be rather long (and are often invalid--it's just harder to keep track of all the inferences in a longer argument). According to the second, one tries to construct a short argument in which the premises express the "main points" or "highlights" of the argument. This tends to result in much shorter arguments. The second strategy is usually preferable.

This leads to the question: How can I determine whether I'm incorporating a "main point" of the argument vs. something that is not a main point? There are a couple of ways to do this. First, try to determine whether any of the proposed premises of your argument really give reasons for some other premise, rather than the conclusion. If you have such premises, they may be omitted from the presented argument and instead incorporated in an explanation of the premises. Second, try to determine the smallest set of premises that you need for the argument. It often helps to work backward on this. Start with the conclusion. Ask yourself, 'Why does Parmenides think that's true?' When you find a succinct answer, you've found a premise. You are then on your way to turning that premise into a valid argument for the conclusion, via the methods we discussed in class.

5:59 PM  

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