Berkeley's argument is in direct line of descent from Parmenides. (The Presocratic Philosophers, by Jonathan Barnes)

J. Barnes was interpreting what Parmenides means by "to think is the same as to be". Then he resorts to Berkeley to make the discussion easier to understand. Does Barnes mean that Berkeley has inherited Parmenides's idea, and there is a historical connection between them? If so, it will be an unnecessary statement,because it will attract too much attention, and need to be defended, so that the attempt to make things easier will be in vain. Or, it just means that their thoughts are very close to each other, very similar, without any claim to historical connection?

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    I would interpret it as meaning that Berkeley drew upon the ideas/arguments of {<someone> who drew upon the ideas/arguments of} Parmenides, where the text between {} might be repeated multiple times.
    – user24964
    Oct 18, 2013 at 16:01
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    Barnes does not quote Berkeley "to make the discussion easier to understand" but as a possible modern defense of Parmenides' position: "Can we perhaps come to Parmenides' defense and offer him more powerful weapons from our own logical arsenal?" Oct 18, 2013 at 16:01
  • Thank you for reminding me that, I agree with you. But in my view, to defend from modern point of view, in some way, is an attempt to bring closer the ancient text to us. I donot mean he trys to make it simpler, but more familiar.
    – benlogos
    Oct 19, 2013 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


"Direct line of descent" usually means that you are in the direct family tree of another person. A son and grandson would be in a direct line of descent from the grandfather.

However sometimes the term is used for the passing of ideas or practitioners in a field. I often hear a similar thing being said when discussing both NFL coaching trees and coaching ideology.


Mike Holmgren is in direct line of descent from Bill Walsh. (Mike Holmgren coached under Bill Walsh and then went on to coach in the NFL)

Cam Cameron's style is in direct line of descent from Bill Walsh. (Cam Cameron never coached under Bill Walsh but started using his offensive philosophies later in his career)

If you notice I had to add the word "style" as a qualifier. As the author had to add "argument" as a qualifier to yours. So I would imply that it means that Berkeley's argument aligns with Parmenides and that Berkeley is continuing the discussion.

  • Berkly & Berkley misspell Berkeley Oct 18, 2013 at 16:04
  • @jwpat7 - Maybe your time could be better used if you just edited the answer? Oct 18, 2013 at 16:08
  • I made my comment 2 minutes after you posted the answer, ie 3 minutes before your 5 minute re-editing period ended; I prefer to not edit another's post within that period Oct 18, 2013 at 16:16
  • @jwpat7 - I never mind edits to my posts as long as they are logical. I often am typing on a pad and for some reason the stack edit box is not very big. Oct 18, 2013 at 16:38
  • On desktop or laptop, I usually drag the edit boxes larger if editing at any length. On my phone, even with the bluetooth mouse I often use when choosing between close-together options, it's difficult to select the little gray dotted area for dragging. Probably the same on a pad, if it registers as a mobile device. Oct 18, 2013 at 17:54

I think this is just a forceful way to affirm the author's claim that Berkeley's argument was not independently developed, i.e., developed in isolation from knowledge of Parmenides' argument, whether from the original text or by virtue of being passed down via contacts of Berkeley's (and likely modified along the way). So yes, it most certainly does affirm a historical connection, one that Berkeley might not be aware of, might disagree with, etc.

Note that the metaphor with pedigree is intrinsically weak, since unlike people, there is no technical sense in which an idea 'descends' from another in any natural sense of the word. (There is the idea of the 'meme', but that is more about the spread (replication) of an idea, then its evolution into another one. But for a more evolutionary/genetic model, consider this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memetics)

An example of the opposite phenomenon (i.e., independent development), the concept of the wheel has been said to have been independently invented over and over again. Also I believe the concept of the number zero was independently invented in India and in the Americas.

Finally, I think that the examples of the other poster here are not the best examples since, unlike Berkeley and Parmenides, it is almost unimaginable that two same (or similar) styles of American football could have been developed 'independently' for the simple reason that members of the American football community are not very separated in place or time. American football has only been around for 150 or so years, and has been played continuously in a place where travel and communication is easy. By contrast Berkeley and Parmenides are separated by about 2200 years, during which texts were frequently lost and areas of philosophical focus frequently changed.

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