Plato spent a great deal of his time trying to reconcile Heraclitus and Parmenides who held divergent views on identity and being. This is the problem that logically, one thing cannot change with time and remain identical or the same. Parmenides’ view is that being is at rest while Heraclitus’ view is that being is changing. Heraclitus maintained that reality was constantly changing. On the other hand, Parmenides insisted on the unified and changeless nature of reality. The antagonism between Heraclitus and Parmenides, two philosophers who lived in the pre-Socratic age, provoked a lot of arguments which at some point seem to challenge logic. Plato tried to reconcile them with ultimate success.
The logic behind the problem of identity and change in a more simplified manner can be explained in the following way: change involves both qualitative and quantitative aspects. For instance, taking X and Y to represent whatever items, if there is a qualitative variance between them then there is some quality Z such that X is Z and B is not Z. so if X and Y are one then one thing is at once Z and not Z, which is incredible; hence X and Y cannot be one, must be two. The logic behind this is that one particular entity cannot travel through time and change as it moves: it will either have to remain one (no change) or undergo change and lose its identity.
Heraclitus had a simple yet immensely powerful opinion. He taught the doctrine of universal flux. He held the stand that there is no identity and only change is real. He goes ahead and illustrates this using a river where he proves that it is not possible for one to step into the same river twice, since the river will have changed into a different river and the individual stepping the river will also have changed into a new individual. Heraclitus held that change is the only permanent thing. Reality is a chronological process where things continuously come in and out of being. Parmenides took a contrary position that in a way countered Heraclitus’ view. He rejected the doctrine of universal flux. He argued that all change is delusion and only identity is real.
Both positions were refuted. Excitingly, Plato reconciliation was to agree with both Parmenides and Heraclitus. He proclaims that there is no real paradox between their views. To Plato, both views were correct simply because each was talking of a different reality. Plato tries to reconcile them in the battle of the Gods and Giants. Plato gave a definition of being that apparently seemed to integrate the two conflicting views. Plato defines being as “capacity to remain the same (rest) and to act on or be affected by other things (change)”. In his theory of “forms”, Plato synthesizes the views of Parmenides and Heraclitus. In this theory, he so skillfully and intelligently reconciles the divergent view by explaining that the physical world is inconstant and always varying, just as Heraclitus thought, but above the physical world is a world of forms that is constant and invariable, just as hypothesized by Parmenides. Plato’s explanations and definitions try to lessen the resentment between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Through, Plato the two philosophers become tolerant of each other’s perception of the world. This might be the motive behind Plato’s formulation of the forms theory.
Heraclitus believed that since things encounters changes, they, must contain some elements that they never had before. Therefore, he held that change was accountable for such contradiction. On the other hand, Parmenides argued that identity does not involve the idea of contradiction. The difference between Parmenides and Heraclitus was based on the fact that they were the proper object of thought. Parmenides believed that the thing people encounter in their experience go toward poor objects upon which they fix their thoughts. Certainly, the things people experience does not have capacity to provide the sort of knowledge that Parmenides, and his followers wanted. The sort of knowledge they wanted was the knowledge that was certain and fixed. Thus, Parmenides established the idea of being itself into which the notion of change would fail.
Plato reconciles opposition between Parmenides and Heraclitus by saying that two worlds exists; the real world and the sensible world. The real world was considered to be one that is perfect and never changes whereas the sensible world was a world of our perceptions and its very imperfect compared to the real world. The sensible world is illusory as it’s associated with numerous appearances of a changing world. There are other illusions that are associated with the sensible world like saying that the world is a visible space that shrinks with distance. In the modern world, we still have two worlds; the empirical world (illusory world) and the world of theoretical science. The modern worlds supports the idea of Plato land they are an evidence that he tried to reconcile the rift between Parmenides and Heraclitus ideas. To critique Plato, it is said that the original opposition was not fully solved. This is because; the claim that the world is an illusion needs further explanation that tries to prove what an illusion is. The passage of time as illusion is very inexplicable. The lessons that we learn from Plato argument is that there was much truth that was common in the opposition between the two philosophers.
Plato claims against the opposition is viewed in two perspectives; the Heraclitean view that claims that there exists a changing being and the Parmenidean view that human beings are aspects of rest. Plato repudiates the existing opposition and decides to reconcile them in the sophist: the Battle between the gods and the giants. He goes ahead in explaining being as act that will be always affected by change and also a capacity that always remains the same. As he continues with his arguments, he comes to notice a dialectical pattern that renders human being as totally mysterious.
Heralictus always believed that ultimate reality was a subject to change whereas Parmenides argued that reality was something unified and never changed. Parmenides argued that there is no way that becoming could be being making the world to be perceived as illusory. To counter this argument, Plato tried to base his solution on a very decision and powerful basis that linked with the ideas that there are degrees of intensity of being. The real world was associated with an intense being whereas the world of appearances was considered to be lesser being. Plato’s powerful decision concluded that there existed the degree of realness in the world.
The Pythagoreans also wanted the objects of thought that were certain and fixed, for which those objects were provided by mathematics. Plato too required such objects of thought and established the otherworldly forms that were immutable and eternal. Based on the platonic forms, similar to Parmenidian being and Pythagorean numbers, the laws of thought are definitely applicable.as a result Plato agreed with Parmenides on the laws of non-contradictions.
The aim of Plato was to establish a point where and when t law of though should be applied and when and where they are not applicable. The limits subjected to the law of though by Plato are attempts to separate the object of thought from all time but the current and all compliments but one. Despite the fact that individuals are involved in many relationships, when they rationally think about themselves they have to limit their thinking to single relationship at a time, to enhance the applicability of law of thought. Therefore, it is not only Platonic forms that are nonconcrete and far from the experience world, but also idea to which the laws are to be applicable. These ideas must be inattentive from the reality of human experience which is multi-temporal and multi-rational.
While Heraclitus believed that to be is to change and Parmenides held that change is an illusion, Plato developed doctrine based on the two worlds; flux, an opinion world and permanence, a true knowledge world. The world of knowledge is made of universals while the world of opinion is made up of objects. Thus, Plato argues that the primary being is considered to be universal while particulars are only considered to be real since they participate in the universals. Hence, in mere exactitude, particulars have no being at all.
Plato, Benjamin Jowett, and Hayden Pelliccia. Selected Dialogues of Plato: The Benjamin Jowett Translation. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print