It is often attempted, in the pursuit of inner fulfillment, to understand the nature of being and how it comes to be. Pre-Socratics, such as Parmenides, simply ignore the nature of becoming because they cannot give a logical explanation of it. Other philosophers, such as Plato, attempt to render the problem by attributing it to a higher realm, beyond man. Still other philosophers, such as Aristotle, will truly understand the nature of becoming and why the other philosophers could not understand it.Parmenides says that there are two ways of inquiry: is and is not, “.
. . the decision about these matters lies in this: it is or it is not,” (Fr. 8, ln 14-16). However, he rejects the “is not” because he concludes that the method is unlearnable and unthinkable since it is not possible to know that which is not. If it were possible for that which is “is not” to exist, then, in actuality, it “is not” is “is.” In other words, “is not” is beyond the realm of our capabilities of comprehension and thus, unknowable.
The one that “is” is the way of persuasion because it depends on truth. The one that “is not” is the way of the Doxa, the beliefs or opinions held by man. Parmenides claims that the way of the Doxa is false because it depends on “. .
. the opinions of mortals, in which there is no true reliance,” (Fr. 1, ln 29). Man’s senses cannot be trusted because they can lead to falsehoods.
A person can perceive through the senses a thing one way, while another perceives the same thing differently. For example, a man can taste an apple and claim that it is sour. Mean while, another man can taste the same apple and claim its sweetness rather than its sourness. Therefore, relying on the senses leads to confusion and that what was thought to be known is doubted.
He says that those who follow their senses also believe that reality is plural, changing, temporal, and material. These are illusions. Instead, reality is one, immutable, eternal, and immaterial. This will be understood if man “. . . judges be reason,” (Fr.
7, ln 5). Reason is the way of truth because when man “. . .gazes upon things which although absent are securely present in thought… man will not cut off what is from clinging to what is, neither being scattered everywhere in every way in order nor being brought together, (Fr.
4). In other words, only through the thought of something can the being or existence of it be understood. This is what Parmenides means when he says, “for the same thing is for thinking and for being,” (Fr. 3).
By concluding that thought is being and thinking is thought (Fr. 8, ln 34), then being is intelligibility. Therefore, something that is capable to be thought is thought, i.e. known, and that which is unintelligible is nonsense. Thus, “is” is all there is and “is not” does not exist.
Parmenides wants to conclude that thought is a necessary and sufficient condition of being. In doing so, the way of truth denies plurality. For instance, in the statement, a is not b, a and b cannot be distinguished by stating “is not” because “is not” is nothing. If “is not” cannot be described, only “is” can be used”. But the statement would be: a is b, and a and b would be the same.
If they are the same, they are one thing and plurality is nonexistent. It is evident that he also claims that changing is false through his statements, “how could what is be in the future? How could it come to be? For if it came into being, it is not, nor if it is ever going to be,” (Fr. 8, ln 18-20). Parmenides does not understand how a can become b because he thinks that if a is b, then it is no longer a. Otherwise, it would be a. In other words, a is something other than b.
But, there is no other because other is an “is not.” So if reality becomes something else, it is unreal, which cannot exist. Therefore, reality is unchanging. Reality is also eternal because time is the same concept of changing. The way of being, Parmenides claims, is also immaterial. If it were material, it would be divisible which is impossible since “it all is alike,” (Fr.
8, ln 23). Therefore, in trying to explain thought and being, Parmenides has rejected becoming, “coming to be has been extinguished,” (Fr. 8, ln 21). It is rejected because he associates becoming with change and difference.
Since he has denied change and difference, he believes he must also deny becoming. He cannot explain becoming without contradicting himself. Therefore, it can be seen that Parmenides concludes that being comes from nonbeing, since he assumes becoming to be unlearnable.In the Phaedo, Plato attempts to resolve Parmenides’ problem that becoming is unlearnable, and thereby nonexistent, through the doctrine of forms and participation. Plato assumes “ the existence of a Beautiful, itself by itself, of a Good and a Great and all the rest. . .
if there is anything beautiful beside the Beautiful itself, it is beautiful for no other reason than it shares in the Beautiful…” (100b-c). In other words, something is the way it is because it participates in the form of that thing. From this reasoning, he concludes that something “. . . can come to be by sharing in the particular reality in which it shares,” (101c).
In other words, becoming exists because an object can partake in the Form of it. However, the thing can have several characteristics. “It is true then about some of these things that not only the Form itself deserves its own name for all time, but there is something else that is not the Form bu has its character whenever it exists, “103e).
For example, the number three is always three, but it is also always odd. Three participates in two forms, the three itself and the odd. Since it consists of the odd, three can never be even, or three can never admit of the even. Plato uses this example to reason that things contain opposites so that they can never “admit that Form which is opposite to that which is in them,” (104c).
However, Plato distinguishes between “opposite things” and the “opposite themselves.” To refer to “opposite things” means to refer to the things and their opposite qualities. On the other hand, the “opposite themselves” is to explain the presence of which in things get their name. This distinction is important because it results in the fact that the opposite themselves “cannot tolerate the coming to be from one another,” (103b-c). This implies that Plato agrees with Parmenides’ denial of changing and plurality in the discussion of a becoming b.
But by discussing how something can share in more than one Form, he believes that this is how becoming can be explained and thus known. By positing the objects of the sensible world into the intelligible world, and thus explaining the relationship of being and nonbeing, Plato believes that he has explained how becoming is unlearnable. Therefore, he assumes that the Parmenidian problem is solved.
Aristotle, however, believes that Plato is flawed in his solution to the Parmenidian problem. In order to understand Aristotle’s criticism, his own solution to the Parmenidian problem must be explained. First, Aristotle claims that there is a dual equivocity of being and of prediction. There are two ways of predication: essentially and accidentally. Essential predication means to designate the whatness of the subject.
For example, in the statement, Socrates is a man, the word – man is predicated essentially because man is the whatness of being of Socrates. Meanwhile, in the statement, Socrates is musical, the word – musical is predicated accidentally because it does not describe the essence of Socrates. The definition of musical and Socrates are distinct.
Musical is present in but not said of Socrates. To explain, musical describes a feature belonging to Socrates – viz. one of his accidents. In an accidental predication, the name but not the definition is predicable of the subject (Categories, 5.2a). Therefore, there are two ways of referring to being, by its whatness, or substantially, and by its attributes, or accidentally. Parmenides’ “way of truth” failed to account for this dual equivocity because plurality is denied.
Instead, he treats “is” as uniequivocal and therefore as one type or homogenous.With this reasoning, Aristotle understands how Parmenides dismissed becoming or change. Only with the understanding of the dual equivocity of being can one understand the process of change.
Change consists of three basic principles, according to Aristotle. These principles are matter, privation of form, and form, itself. While the nature of change exists as contraries, there is an underlying subject to the change, the hypokeimenon. In other words, privation and form are the contraries while matter is the hypokeimenon.
“We call “composite” both the thing generated and that which is in the process of becoming,” (Physics I, 7, 109a5). For example, A becomes B can also be said as B coming to be from A, in most cases. It cannot be said that “musical came to be from man” if “man became musical,” because it is illogical.
Aristotle claims that there must be an underlying subject if “of simple things that come to be something, some of them persist throughout the generation but others do not. . .
there must be always be something which underlies that which is in the process of becoming and that this, even if numerically one, in kind at least is not one” (Physics I, 7, 109a10-17). When a man becomes musical, he “persists during the generation and is still a man, but the not-musical or the unmusical does not persist” (Physics I, 7 190a12). Therefore, there are two types of becoming or change, the accidental, in which it exists only of substance, and the substantial, in which there is an underlying matter.
An example of a change without qualification is that which is generated by a shape change as in a statue from unformed bronze. However, everything which is generated is generated form a subject and a form. The musical man is composed of a man and the musical. Therefore, change consists of three principles.
Parmenides was wrong in his denial of becoming because he assumed that, “no thing can be generated or be destroyed because a thing must be generated either from being or from nonbeing; but both of these are impossible, for being cannot become something since it already exists, and a thing generated cannot come to be from nonbeing since there must be some underlying subject” (Physics I,8, ln 25-31). Since he also assumed no plurality of things and being only exists as itself, he was wrong in his conclusion. Parmenides fails to make the distinction that in expressing as being generated form being or from nonbeing, the expressions have two senses. “Generation from being in a qualified sense exists with respect to an attribute” (Physics I, 8, ln 14). Being is generated from nonbeing through privation. Generation from being is also through privation since the generation only exists in respect to an attribute.In addition to Parmenides, Plato also fails to distinguish between the two different senses of nonbeing.
Plato has distinguished that there is a need for an underlying nature but posits the triad as a dyad. He does not distinguish between the accidental and substantial change. According to Aristotle, Plato does this because what would result, otherwise, is that the “contrary desires its own destruction” (Physics I, 9, ln 20). Rather than expound on this thought, Plato simply agrees with Parmenides. Also, Aristotle criticizes Plato because his solution of the forms does not actually answer or solve the problem. What Plato has done is simply put the problem in the realm of the ethereal.
Even by doing this, he does not give a solution as to how becoming can exist. He has merely just explained how there can exist more than one characteristic in one thing.Therefore, Aristotle solves the problem of becoming by distinguishing the fact that there are three principles of change. Within the generation from nonbeing, there are exists two types – a substantial change and an accidental change. The hypokeimenon underlies these changes. When Socrates turns from pale to red, it is an accidental change, because Socrates as a man is underlying this change. But when a statue comes from unformed bronze, it is a substantial change, because the substance changes.
However, the underlying thing is the bronzeness of it. Thus, becoming exists and is knowable. It is because it is.Bibliography: