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And he is not, in fact, the only ancient philosopher with such interests. Plato too, after setting out some criticisms of the theory of Forms in the Parmenides, remarks that if there are no Forms, there is nowhere for us to turn our thoughts and that it will destroy our ability to talk to one another (135bc). Forms are, for middle-period Plato, the necessary conditions of human language and thought. ’. This second question seems more epistemological than ontological; an answer to it will constitute a truth about our conceptual structure, about how things must seem to us, and not a truth about the world.

Thus it is that for his immediate philosophical successors, Parmenides set the first philosophical problem (as distinct from the first philosophical question). The argument seems very powerful; but how can it possibly be right? His successors will attempt to reconcile his epistemology with the common-sense view of the world, or Parmenides’ account of being (of how the world is) with the senses’ account of seeming (of how the world seems to us). To that extent, they will become deflected from empirical investigation of the world and from questions bearing directly on the conduct of everyday life.

But perhaps there is a further significance to the proem. It could be that Parmenides’ journey should serve as our first indication that there is more to what is coming than mere philosophical argument. A complete transformation of worldview will be called for if we are to accept the conclusions of the argument. It may be significant that Parmenides’ route takes him through the gates of the paths of night and day (see fr. 1:11–21); for the crucial mistake we mortals make, according to the goddess, is to accept the existence of two principles, light and night (fr.

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