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Text and bibliography updated to reflect current scholarship. Keywords and summary added.

Updated on 26 March 2019. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 16 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Parmenides of Elea, Zeno of Elea, and Melissus of Samos are often considered as a group within Presocratic philosophy because of the supposed similarity of their doctrines. Some ancient reports, drawing on Plato (Soph. 242d), identify Xenophanes of Colophon as their forebear. Although these thinkers were variously associated throughout antiquity, the notion that Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus comprised a distinct school of thought is more a historiographic invention than a historical reality, given that there were no actual philosophical schools in antiquity prior to the founding of Plato's Academy. In modern times, advocacy of strict monism and the concomitant denial of all change and radical denigration of the evidence of the senses have been regarded as the characteristic doctrines of the Eleatic school. Only Melissus, however, indisputably propounded these views. It has become increasingly controversial whether Parmenides did so and whether Zeno designed his ingenious paradoxes to support them. Although the notion of an Eleatic School is historically unreliable, Parmenides’ profoundly original metaphysical poem should nevertheless be seen as engendering a broader trend of Eleatic-style ontology in works as diverse as Gorgias's On Nature or On What Is Not and the dialectical exercise in Plato's Parmenides.

Keywords: Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus, Xenophanes, Gorgias, Elea, Eleatic, monism

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