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Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols continues the argument I've quoted by saying: 'Nothing has yet possessed a more naive power of persuasion than the error concerning being, as it has been formulated by the Eleatics, for example.' And this brings us back to Plato's Sophist.

The Sophist is reckoned to be among Plato's last writings and, like its contemporary, The Statesman, the main spokesperson is not Socrates but an anonymous figure called 'the Eleatic stranger.' The Eleatic Stranger was a disciple of Parmenides whose school was based in the town of Elea in Southern Italy in what is now Calabria, an area which had strong Greek connections right through to the Renaissance. Another of the late Platonic dialogues features a confrontation between the aged Parmenides and the young Socrates, in which Parmenides criticises, in a friendly if rather condescending manner, the young man's revolutionary notion of the 'ideas', the 'forms', which constitute the real being of worldly things. It could be suggested that at the end of his life Plato was transferring his affections from Socrates to Parmenides. 

Heidegger sees Parmenides, together with Heraclitus and Anaximander, as marking the beginning of the age of Western philosophy which has come to an end with Nietzsche. He sees Plato and Aristotle as marking the end of the Greek phase. As with Heraclitus and Anaximander, only fragments of Parmenides' thought have come down to us. These take the form of extracts from a poem which begins (if it is the beginning) with a dramatic description of the first person narrator being carried in a chariot driven by the 'maiden daughters of the Sun' to 'the limits of my heart's desire', a goddess who receives him kindly and sets about teaching him 'everything - Both the steady heart of well-rounded truth and the beliefs of mortals in which there is no true trust. Still you shall learn them too, and come to see how beliefs must exist in an acceptable form, all-pervasive as they altogether are.' (Translation by Robin Waterfield in The First Philosophers, p.57)

It is generally assumed that the lesson of the Goddess is delivered in two parts. The first deals with what is, Reality, Being, while the second deals with appearances, how we experience the world, seeming. In the first part she describes Being, Reality, as a perfectly formed and therefore changeless whole. This naturally evokes the idea of Eternity as a condition radically other than time, and also the idea of an original Unity, posing the problem that obsessed philosophers from Parmenides to Nietzsche of how the One becomes, or stands in relation to, the many. This is 'the error concerning being, as it has been formulated by the Eleatics, for example' of Nietzsche's complaint. Nietzsche prefers Heraclitus and his well-known aphorism that you never step into the same river twice, meaning an acceptance that all things are in a process of constant flux.

But in Heidegger's view, Nietzsche is the victim of a longstanding inability to understand the thought that lies at the beginning of Western philosophy, the thought of Parmenides and Heraclitus. He presents Nietzsche as 'the final victim of a longstanding errancy and neglect but as this victim, the unrecognised witness to a new necessity ...' (Introduction to Metaphysics, p.40). The necessity represented, of course, by Heidegger himself.

In 1942-3, Heidegger gave a series of seminars on Parmenides and, as we have seen, on Heraclitus, arguing that their visions were essentially the same. The seminars on Parmenides are preoccupied not so much with what the goddess actually says in the poem but with the fact that she is a goddess and that what she is offering is 'truth'. We may remember that νους, the ability to see, to experience directly, is, according to Aristotle, a property of the gods, not accessible to human beings. Human beings are confined to σοφια, which is the vision tempered by the need to experience it in words. The Greek word for truth is αληθεια. The 'α' is a negative prefix, signifying 'not', while ληθεια embodies ideas of concealing, hiding, preserving, forgetting. In the Myth of Er at the end of Plato's Republic the dead are required to drink of the waters of ληθη before returning to the visible world. Most people drink deeply and forget everything. The philosophers are those who haven't drunk so deeply. They have a sense, but still only a remote sense, of the reality, the totality from which beings emerge and to which they return. Αληθεια can be translated 'unconcealing'. But the concealing itself is a necessary part of the definition. You can only reveal what is concealed. Consequently αληθεια, the word we translate as 'truth', contains within itself an idea of conflict - or strife, ερις, a key word in what has survived of the thinking of Heraclitus - between concealing and unconcealing. 'Truth' on the other hand, as we understand it, signifies an end to conflict, a certainty, a correct idea. With the Romans αληθεια becomes 'adequatio' - 'Truth is the correspondence of the intellect to the thing.'