really is. Reality, she says, is uncreated, indestructible, unchanging, indivisible; it is “immovable in the bonds of mighty chains, without beginning and without end; since coming into being and passing away have been driven afar, and true belief has cast them away.” The fundamental principle of his inquiry is stated in a sentence which would not be out of place in Hegel: “Thou canst not know what is not—that is impossible—nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be.” And again: “It needs must be that what can be thought and spoken of is; for it is possible for it to be, and it is not possible for what is nothing to be.” The impossibility of change follows from this principle; for what is past can be spoken of, and therefore, by the principle, still is.
The great conception of a reality behind the passing illusions of sense, a reality one, indivisible, and unchanging, was thus introduced into Western philosophy by Parmenides, not, it would seem, for mystical or religious reasons, but on the basis of a logical argument as to the impossibility of not-being. All the great metaphysical systems—notably those of Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel—are the outcome of this fundamental idea. It is difficult to disentangle the truth and the error in this view. The contention that time is unreal and that the world of sense is illusory must, I think, be regarded as based upon fallacious reasoning. Nevertheless, there is some sense—easier to feel than to state—in which time is an unimportant and superficial characteristic of reality. Past and future must be acknowledged to be as real as the present, and a certain emancipation from slavery to time is essential to philosophic thought. The importance of
- “With Parmenides,” Hegel says, “philosophising proper began.” Werke (edition of 1840), vol. xiii. p. 274.