The main doctrines of the Eleatics were evolved in opposition, on the one hand, to the physical theories of the early physical philosophers who explained all existence in terms of primary matter (see Ionian School), and, on the other hand, to the theory of Heraclitus that all existence may be summed up as perpetual change.
As against these theories the Eleatics maintained that the true explanation of things lies in the conception of a universal unity of being.
Most famous in connexion with this kind of poetry are Xenophanes and Parmenides, the Eleatics and Empedocles of Agrigentum.
Illingworth has said very concisely: " The physical speculations of the Ionians and Atomists rendered a God superfluous, and the metaphysical and logical reasoning of the Eleatics declared Him to be unknowable."
Among the pre-Socratic nature-philosophers of Greece, Heraclitus and the Eleatics are the chief representatives of this polemic. The diametrical opposition of the grounds on which the veracity of the senses is impugned by the two philosophies (see Heraclitus, Parmenides, Eleatic School) was in itself suggestive of sceptical reflection.
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