Re: [Pythagorean-L] BMCR 2005.10.26, Arnold Hermann, To Think Like God.
- The lost technique of authentic experience is natural resonance -- the 12 nodes around the outside of the body practiced in china as the microcosmic orbit and in India -- featured in Mircea Eliade's book on yoga. The best source is "Taoist yoga: Alchemy and immortality" and you can order the 12 points (cycle of 2:3:4 Tetrad resonance) from www.springforestqigong.com Where I received energy transmissions.
Kepler rediscovered this meaning as did Ficino. The Tetrad inscribing two circles is the 4:5 ratio of 3-d spacetime as Saturn-Jupiter resonance. Actually the Tetrahedral is two Pythagoran 3:4:5 triangles. Number is not line therefore the Pyramid-tetrahedron-full lotus creates an asymmetrical sinusoidal vortex connecting to "authentic experience" which is the fourth dimension of space -- the Klein Bottle -- as nonlocal consciousness or nonpersonal awareness. drew hempel, M.A. (just google my name for more details).
a_pythagorean <babradley@...> wrote:
Arnold Hermann, To Think Like God. Pythagoras and Parmenides. The
Origins of Philosophy. Las Vegas, NV: Parmenides Publishing, 2004.
Pp. xxx, 374. ISBN 1-930972-00-8. $32.00.
Reviewed by Christopher Barrett, University College London
Word count: 2405 words
To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
The main burden of this book is to offer a non-standard
interpretation of Parmenides that identifies him as the first true
Rather than in a metaphysics, Parmenides' originality is said to lie
in his argument for the possibility of a limited range of certain
knowledge (in response to a sceptical challenge from Xenophanes) and
in the use of formal logical techniques to reach that certainty. The
book also offers an interpretation of Pythagoras and of the
Pythagoreans that presents the founder almost purely as a cult
leader and his cult followers mostly as unpopular political
activists. Throughout the book Pythagoras is seen as a counterpoint
to Parmenides, although any connexion between the two beyond this
comparison is not made clear.
Hermann (hereafter referred to as H.) claims that this book is aimed
at scholars of the Presocratics, other classical scholars,
philosophers, classics students, historians of law, and interested
laymen (p.xiv). It is my opinion that this book does not do certain
things one expects from a scholarly work, such as providing proper
discussion of rival views, and that it may be a little too abstruse
for most laymen.
After an interesting preface and some house-keeping sections, the
introduction links the title to the main protagonists of the book.
Gods were held by some of the earliest pioneers of philosophy (p.1)
to have unfettered access to knowledge, mortals having to make do
with something less. Xenophanes arrived and posed a problem which
provoked a crisis: even if we are lucky enough to have the right
idea, how do we know we have it? Parmenides answered Xenophanes'
challenge, according to H., by introducing methods of falsification
(in particular the principle of non-contradiction).
Chapter one introduces the Pythagorean idea of the unit as a perfect
premise (in other words "that whole and wholesome rationale with
enough persuasive power to end all further questions" p.15), but is
largely an investigation of the figure of Pythagoras. He is denied
any reliable claim to the significant philosophical doctrines
associated with his name, unless, H. says, "we consider the
transmigration of the soul, immortality, musical harmony, magic,
vegetarianism, purification rites, and initiations to be proper
philosophical pursuits" (p.17). The first chapter also divides
Pythagoreanism into early, middle, and late periods, during which H.
sees varying degrees of cult, political association, and speculative
Chapter two is the longest in the book and looks at the Pythagoreans
in a social and politico-historical way. H. tries to find a
consistent thread in the accounts of Pythagoras and his followers in
order to describe their life and times, and this section will give an
entertaining picture to the layman, describing, as H. tells us at one
point, a Pythagorean "Go+tterda+mmerung" (p.41) in the anti-
Pythagorean revolts in Croton, the burning of their meeting houses,
and their death or expulsion from the city. He goes on to expound
what the movement's political views might have looked like (p.60) in
eight short bullet points.
Chapter three considers the significance of number to the
Pythagoreans. H. sums up what numerical philosophy meant to the
Pythagoreans, in terms of "the study of suitable proportion" and
the "defense of the integrity of the unit" (p.106), and goes on to
discuss the rather more superstitious aspects of numerical
philosophy with a sceptical eye, starting off with the surprising
statement that "[t]he notion that all things can be reduced to
number is quite absurd" (p.107).
Chapter four marks a bridge from the discussion of Pythagoras to the
discussion of Parmenides by using what H. identifies as a parallel
shift in Plato's philosophical approach. In Plato's Phaedo philosophy
is a preparation for death, a purification for that state alone in
which we will find true knowledge. For H., this position is parallel
to acceding to Xenophanes' challenge and accepting that knowledge is
impossible for mortals. By contrast, H. tells us, in Plato's
Parmenides the emphasis is on training oneself in reasoning now, on
pursuing truth in life. Plato here adopts the Parmenidean approach,
we are told, and it is Parmenidean, H. says, because "to exercise
reasoning, if only for reasoning's sake, was not conceivable before
Parmenides had shown the way as inventor of dialectic" (p.124).
Chapter five opens with an historical look at Parmenides, discussing
the tradition of Parmenides as a lawmaker, and then treats Xenophanes
the epistemologist. H.'s Xenophanes is painted as the traditional
founder of Elea, but more importantly as the writer of fragment 34:
that no man knows, and, even should a man happen to speak the truth,
he would not know that he did. H. goes on to frame Parmenides' poem
as a response to the challenge of Xenophanes, prefacing his later
pages with the twofold statement that, while Parmenides saw the
sensible world as inherently unreliable (p.141), he also saw that
there was a realm in which the tool of contradiction in discourse
In chapter six, after a brief introduction to the poem, H. offers his
own translation of Parmenides' poem. This runs quickly into chapter
seven, which deals in greater depth with a series of points of
detailed interpretation and lays the foundations of H.'s overall
understanding of Parmenides.
The signficance of this overall understanding turns on what the
subject of Parmenides' poem is, and this is where H. situates his
disagreement with most other scholars. He offers a number of
formulations, ranging from the simple: "I believe that esti is
intrinsic to thought. On its most basic level, it is simply the
recognition of that which is." (p.185)
"In Charles Kahn's words, it is the object of knowing, what is or
can be known." (p.187)
To the less simple:
"[W]e can narrow esti down even further by defining it as the result
of a deliberative process, that is to say, a determination of what
is the case brought about by an act of critical judgment. To
substantiate this conclusion we need merely to review the pivotal
function esti has in Parmenides' system, which, only for the sake of
his unusual demonstration, becomes a twofold one: while esti -- or
that which IS -- is generally the criterion that an account must
meet if it is to be reliable, in fragment 8, it itself becomes the
object of judgment of said account, hence the outcome of an
evidentiary method. It is this unprecedented approach by means of
forensic argumentation that seizes upon the is or esti of a thing,
the overriding factor that makes it rationally coherent by allowing
the unity of its formula to be expressed." (p.188)
It should be noted that this is the point at which the layman may
start to get lost. The socio-political history and the retelling of
traditional tales in a number of the previous chapters is apt to
catch the eye and is written in a style the layman will find clear;
moreover, the broader sweep of the large-scale epistemological
points of other parts of the book will be easily accessible to
scholars who are not specialists in Parmenides. However, the
increase in the density of the arguments from the earlier chapters
to this point is precipitous, and H.'s style sometimes lacks
clarity, as indicated by the last quotation (see also the quotation
from Proviso 10 in the next paragraph but one).
If I may attempt to paraphrase the formulations of the subject of
Parmenides' poem, I think I can best express H.'s view by borrowing
terminology from Plato: for H., the subject of Parmenides' poem is
the absolutely abstract notion of a Form or concept, the object of
cognition solely considered as such. Furthermore, the characteristics
of a truly viable Form or concept are those of logical coherence and
consistency, etc.; and any failure in viability is revealed by
Chapter eight sets out twelve guidelines which H. finds in the
fragments of Parmenides and which he claims are necessary for a
reliable account of a thing (or, as I tried to put it just now, for a
truly viable object of cognition), ranging from Proviso 7 ("One
cannot know What IS NOT, neither through thinking nor speaking"
p.221), which will be very familiar to those who have read
Parmenides, to the less familiar Proviso 10 ("The construction
and/or examination of an Evidential Account is an exercise in
separation of concepts or designations, i.e., landmarks, that
prevent the integral unity of such Account. It follows the Principle
of Like according to Like and avoids contradiction" p.223), which is
deeply theory-laden with what has passed before in the book.
Chapter nine looks in some detail at the Methods of Proof and
Disproof used in the poem, ranging from the principle of like
according to like to the principle of sufficient reason, the law of
non-contradiction, and the avoidance of infinite regress.
Chapter ten is an investigation of the effect of the discovery of
irrational numbers on the Pythagorean doctrines: how the discovery of
numbers which cannot be expressed as a ratio of integers undermined
the use of the unit as what H. calls a perfect premise. H. says he
approached this chapter and the next as the "pie\ce de re/sistance"
(p.251) of the book. It is rather disappointing, then, to find that
the section of chapter ten headed "The Indirect Proof of Odd Being
Even", in which H. intends to show how the Pythagorean notion of the
unit fails the Parmenidean test of consistency by embodying the
opposing characteristics of being both odd and even, actually does
not contain a complete proof. A proof would have helped to make
clear why H. says that, in using the Indirect Proof to undermine the
consistency of the unit, we can check whether the square root of two
is odd or even; and that, if we determine it to be one or the other,
then it is evident that we have probed a very long, but nonetheless
finite, number. This is not an easy point and should not have been
Chapter eleven serves as a summary of the significance of Parmenides,
as outlined by H. through this book: the differentiation between two
types of objects, those of truth versus those of opinion, equivalent
to the intelligible on one side and the sensible on the other; and,
most significant, the differentiation of the two ways of accounting
for each, one certain, the other plausible/approximative.
After the main part of the book, there is an appendix describing the
results of H.'s attempt to classify the historical data concerning
Pythagoras into categories ranging from certain to little more than
hearsay. This section does not add much to the main arguments of the
book, and I am not quite certain for what audience the appendix is
Overall, and throughout this work, H. is a little too quick in
dismissing the views of those with whom he disagrees. For example, in
discussing the cosmological interpretation of Parmenides' poem, which
understands its subject as being as a whole rather than concepts, H.
tells us that "[i]t is hard to understand why so many commentators
believe that Parmenides' object of discourse is the tangible
world ... [t]he verses in question are simply too explicit" (p.191).
And yet he does not address the arguments of his opponents in this
However, H.'s contemporaries are not the only ones to be treated
this way: this interpretation of Parmenides, H. tells us, goes as
far back as Aristotle, "and is largely due to a few careless remarks
on his part" (p.192). Unfortunately, these remarks are not
investigated. Carrying on with this topic, H. explains that Zeno's
arguments in defence of Parmenides show us only that "if we follow
some of our assumptions to the end, we may be surprised at the
absurdity of the result" (p.195); and that, even though the
arguments have often been understood as arguments against motion, in
fact "we cannot find any conclusive statements [in the fragments of
Zeno] about the state of the world or of the things that form it"
(p.195). However, the fact that Zeno chose to present reductiones ad
absurdum against ideas of motion is at least interesting in light of
the popularity of the cosmological interpretation of Parmenides, and
this makes it all the more disappointing when the arguments of Zeno
are not presented, and the various interpretations of these
arguments are not weighed in the balance.
The manner in which the cosmological interpretation is rejected moves
me to my next concern. It is not obvious to me that the proponents of
the cosmological interpretation deny that the subject of the poem is
the object of thought. Where they and H. appear to disagree is
concerning the metaphysical status of the object of thought and, as a
consequence, the number and type of objects of thought. H. seems to
want to disengage the object of thought from the world it represents,
in a way which is practically Kantian; but a reading of the subject
of Parmenides' poem which treats it as the object of thought, with
restrictions upon that object of thought which make it necessarily
fit for cognition, is not mutually exclusive with treating that
object of thought as the external world in a pre-Kantian way. The
objects of thought for Plato are separate (in some sense) from the
world of experience but are nevertheless true external realities in a
The other concern I have with this book is H.'s treatment of certain
ancient authors. Most works that deal with the beginnings of
philosophy these days have something to say about systematisation in
Hesiod, for example, or deal with the early poets in some other way.
But the first of a very small handful of references to Homer and
Hesiod (treated together) says that "[t]he twofold distinction
[between human and divine knowledge] was quite a novelty at the time
[of the earliest pioneers of philosophy], a shift in thinking which
challenged Homer's and Hesiod's depictions of the gods as flawed or
depraved beings, obsessed only with their Machiavellian ploys and
their insatiable sexual appetites" (p.1). This hardly seems an
adequate treatment of such important authors.
In summary, this is an interesting but in some ways frustrating work
that tries, ambitiously, to be all things to all readers. Many of
H.'s ideas are surely interesting to scholars, but he does not show
how he has engaged with opposing interpretations of Parmenides; and
he says much that will interest laymen, but not everything is clear
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