First Notes on Parmenides (1991)

	Consider the arrival of Parmenides' thought of Unique Being as a moment of
completion that is simultaneously the initiation of dispersion: Parmenides
culminates, through the discovery of logic, a feeling for the sacred that is evinced
in the temple architecture of Egypt and Greece: sacred geometry, proportion, and
number prefigure the strictures of Parmenidean justice and logic. With the three
generations that follow Parmenides (Zeno, Socrates, Plato), the worship, intellect,
and constitution of the polis focused in Eleatic vision fall asunder. It is the
Parmenidean sparagmos—the body of the law ravaged—the light, too hot . . .


	The Parmenidean demand was that nothing except "Being itself" be said "to be." The
discipline that might have followed from this demand would have

	• that thinkers refrain from asserting being of anything other than Being

	• that "the things that appear" in every case be understood as reporting
Being, but, in themselves, failing of Being;

	• that the impulse to assert that the appearances "are," (an impulse arising
from the unique "it is" to which all such appearances refer) be inhibited.

Such a discipline would have been motivated by an experience of the sacred that
felt the accumulation of the divine epiphanies of prior ages now to reside and be
fulfilled in an act of mind that had achieved an abstraction adequate precisely to
such an experience: for Parmenides, intelligence is sacred praxis.
	The quest for universal form in Plato has already been accomplished with
Parmenides, but the Eleatic insight is lost in Plato's assertion of a kind of quasi-
being for the appearances through the concept of "becoming." For Plato the
appearances both are and are not—one of the "paths of thought" interdicted by


	For Parmenides, only the most universal concept and its object can
perfectly coincide. A thought that admits a diversity of objects is itself diverse
from at least some of its objects. But to think Parmenidean Being is to achieve
unification with that Being. As diversity as such is denied, certainly there can be
no diversity between thinker, thought, and object. To think that some particular
thing IS, is to lose access to unique Being altogether. If each and every thing that
appears might plausibly have Being (rather than that each thing appear as a sign
that Unique Being has taken on, in particular, this appearance)—then Being
becomes grounded in the experience of appearance, the contradictions of
experience become the conditions of Being, and the sacral character of Being is
rendered absurd or enigmatic as the universal vision becomes impossible. If,
however, nothing that can be experienced explicitly is anything other than an
occasion for the appearance of unique Being itself, then the mind that lifts itself
to this conception, upon each occasion wherein it acknowledges an appearance
as an appearance of Being, gains access at such a moment to its own condition as
one with Being as well.


	The mind's epiphanies are its moments of cognition. When there is no
cognition, there is no access to mind. But the mind as such does not have an
appearance: the occurrence of appearance, nevertheless, evinces an occasion of
	If that which appears, in such an occasion, is said to Be, (if I say of the
stone I recognize as a stone that it truly IS a stone) the mind will appear not to
exist, since the criterion for the being of something is now that something
appear—but the mind does not appear.
	What it means for the appearance to implicate the being of the thing that
appears becomes an enigma. The sense impression must be supplemented by the
“form” or "class" to which the thing is assigned; the existence of a realm of forms
independent of sense and diverse from the materiality of the object seems
indicated. The mind as the hypothetical ground for the forms arises.
	But mind here is no longer linked to the actual occurrences of its own
cognition. It is posited inferentially, rather than known on its own ground.
	In the Parmenidean vision, knower and known coalesce at the intimate
 center of the moment of cognition. The mind that thinks Platonic forms is,
therefore, decidedly not the thinker of Parmenidean Being.


	That the things do not exist but that they appear, is not to challenge the
dignity of the things. Rather, all appearances—all particular things—are situated
as occasions of the unique value.
	Liberated from conflicting claims of being, from assertions of identity,
from competition for existence, survival, status or worth, the intimacy that every
apparent thing shares with unique Being becomes accessible as its value.
	Each thing, in its appearance, communes from its nothingness with Being.
	Each thing rests in its concreteness, its individual character, precisely to the degree that
it abrogates the claim of being and allows its own apparency to settle into a transparency to
	Whereas Platonic thought denigrates the specificity of each transitory
existent before the ideality of the form it instantiates, Parmenidean Being allows
each appearance to participate in the sacredness of Being by pointing through
itself, towards it.
	Here no hierarchy is possible. For each appearance provides an access to
Being itself. To recognize that something appears is to access Being as that to
which, through its instigation of the claim of being, it truly refers.
	The sacred reeks of the violence that severs the sacred thing from the
profanity in contrast to which it shines. But where Unique Being is recognized as
the sacred, no such violence arises, for Being is at once rejoined to its other—the
appearances—since every thing that seems must seem to Be.


	Sacred art prior to the Parmenidean moment embodied abstract principles
insufficiently general for the mind to discern its own event or for Being as such
to articulate itself as the unique  subject/object of sacred concern. But the feeling
of the sacred embodied in such art nevertheless points toward the Parmenidean
moment. Sacred art experiences the development of geometric and proportional
abstraction in a sacred context and for sacred ends. The embodiment of
geometrical techniques controlled by arithmetical proportion orients  spiritual
attention in an ascent toward an experience of the universal that need not deride
the values of the particulars. In the intellectual contemplation achieved at the
Parmenidean moment, axiomatic geometry and the generalization of the logical
character of that geometry (the demand of Parmenides that thought be judged by
proof), an aspiration implicit in previous sacred art is realized.
	In the development of "philosophy" thereafter—a project which Plato saw
could not be prosecuted without abandoning the Parmenidean strictures on the
provenience of Being—we seen the progressive desacralization of the intellectual life.

Comments are closed.