Parmenides Fragment 8 Translation

And yet one narrative of the path remains, that it exists. And on this path are a great many signs: namely, that being had no beginning nor can it have an end because it is firmly established, unmoved and eternal. It did not exist once in the past nor will it exist, since it exists at the same time all together, (5) one and continuous. For what origin of it will you seek out? In what way and from where has it increased? I defy you to speak and to think by that which does not exist. For it is not possible that the unspeakable and unthinkable exist. And what compulsion roused it to grow, either sooner or later, even though it began from nothing? (10) Therefore, it is necessary that it exists entirely or not at all. Not once from non-being will credibility allow anything to come-to-be alongside being. On account of this, Justice did not allow being to come-into-being nor for it to pass away by loosening its shackles, but she holds it fast. The judgment concerning these things amounts to this. (15) It either exists or does not exist. It has been decided, as a logical necessity, to leave the one path unthought and unnamed (because it is not a true path), while the other path exists and is true. And how then would what exists perish?  And how could it come into being? For if it was becoming, it is not being, and if it will come-to-be at some time, it is not being. (20) Thus coming-to-be has vanished and passing away is unheard of. It is not divisible, since all is the same. Nor is anything more there, which would hinder it from being held together, and it is not lesser, but it is entirely full of being. Everything is continuous for being. For it is being that engages with being. (25) Moreover, unmoving in the limits of a great bondage, it is without a beginning and without end, since coming-to-be and passing away wandered very far off, and it is good sense which pushed it away. And it remains the same in the same thing in conformity with itself, and it is ordained and in this way it stands fast in that position. (30) For stern Fate holds it in a constrained determinancy, which binds it all around, because it is established that being is not imperfect. For being does not lack. But non-being lacks everything. Thought and that thing on account of which thought exists are both the same thing. For not without being, within which thought has been expressed, will you discover thinking. (35) For nothing else either exists or will exist except being, since Fate fettered it to be whole and unmoving. Every name will belong to being, as many names as mortals establish which they believe are true, believing that named things are coming-into-being and being destroyed, and that they are existing and not existing, (40) and that they exchange one location for another and alter their conspicuous color. But since there is a determinate limit, being is complete from all directions, resembling the body of a well-rounded globe, equally balanced in every direction from the middle. For it is necessary that being exists neither greater to an extent here, nor that it exists greater to an extent there. For neither does non-being exist, which would prevent being from attaining this unification, nor does being exist in any way whatsoever that there would be more of being here and less of being there, since in every way being is an inviolable sanctuary. For equal to itself from every direction, it equally attains itself within the limits. So at this point, I stop the trusted account and thought concerning truth; (50) instead, learn the opinions of this mortal, by listening to the cunning arrangement of my epic poem. For they have settled their mind on naming two forms; of the two, it is not right to name one— on this point they have strayed— and judged them to be opposite things in form and gave them identities apart from each other, (55) for one form there is an etherial flaming fire, it is favorable, surpassingly light weight and not dense, the same to itself from every direction and not the same as the other. But the other is opposite in comformity to itself, a dark night, a dense and heavy body. I declare to you that this arrangement is probable in every way, so that some judgment of mortals will never overtake you.

3 thoughts on “Parmenides Fragment 8 Translation

  1. This is very helpful for my friends taking the History of Philosophy: Ancient Greek course. I am going to share it with my club. Thank you.

  2. This fragment is hard to make sense of. “Cunning arrangement” is right i guess. I get that being can’t also no be, but a few things raise questions. One is, the fragment seems to equate thinking and being. “Thought and that thing on account of which the thought exists are the same thing.” Is there a necessary connection between them? Why then is it necessary to struggle so hard to say anything true? How do those who assert non being go off the track? Another thing is that being is without end in either time or space, and yet it is a sphere. It is both unlimited and has limits.
    Another thing that is puzzling is the talk of “mortals.” Mortals seem to be the ones who talk of things in motion or changing color or coming into being and being destroyed. Is it a good inference to say only immortals talk of “being?” It seems that being is not living: a “heavy dense dark night.” Life seems to be the thing that is not being. Which I guess is why the poem helps us escape the judgement of mortals. Anyway….

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