The Roots of Enlightenment and the Crisis of Reason

18 Aug

Karl Popper in “The World of Parmenides: Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment” clarifies two fundamental points of the essence of contemporary thought in its Greek roots: Parmenides’ problem with regard to truth, where there is already a certain amount of relativism and negation from ontology, where the being is not seen as having a relationship with the entity, an original separation between subject and object.

Popper describes the origin of doxa, through the poem (fragments) of Parmenides, through the revelation of the goddess Diké:

“The revelation is divided into two parts as the goddess makes clear. In the first part the goddess reveals the truth – the whole truth, about what really exists: about the world and things in themselves. In the second part, the goddess talks about the world of appearances, about the illusory world of mortal man” (Popper, 2014, p. 134).

Popper clarifies this division of revelation: “…usually differentiated as the “Via da Verdade” and the “Vay of Opinion”, it creates the first and biggest unresolved problem about the work of Parmenides” (idem), and asks why the goddess “… contained not only a true explanation of the universe, but also an untrue explanation, as she explicitly says” (idem), it is easy to explain even today with the enormous advance of Enlightenment science, little do we know.

However, the initial idealism of Parmenides, whose foundation being is and non-being is not, which is not an ontology, is also Popper who defends this contrary to many philosophers: “I do not believe that there is such a thing as an ontology or theory of being or that one can seriously attribute an ontology to Parmenides” (Popper, 2014, p. 137).

His attempt to “prove” an ontological statement is tautological, said thus “only that it is (exists) is (exists)”, but there is no way from a tautological theory to create or derive a non-tautological one, so the theory of being there is empty, as Popper explains, and I would say a dualistic view.

But it is this kind of eidos, transformed into the idea of being is or is not, that arrived at idealism, Popper even goes so far as to say that a true epistemology was born of Parmenides, and the Enlightenment vision developed in Popper’s book as “the enlightenment pre-Socratic”.

This means that we inherited from Parmenides, through the Enlightenment, the dualism of the “way of truth” and the ‘way of opinion”, and these two paths have always haunted philosophers, says Popper.

So we live today with the sophisms, in logics more and more worked, after all the power of the sophists has always been to sophisticate their arguments, but we do not leave this heritage and the Enlightenment in fact has Parmenidians roots, and the forgetfulness of being is still present today .

POPPER, K. The World of Parmenides: Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment. trans. Roberto Leal Ferreira. 1st. ed. Brazil, São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2014.




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