Beliefs of Xenophanes
Xenophanes rejected the anthropomorphic deities of Homer and Hesiod and considered there to be one incorporeal god. He may have been the first skeptic [but see Pyrrho the Skeptic], according to James H. Lesher, in "Xenophanes' Scepticism," (Phronesis , Vol. 23, No. 1 (1978), pp. 1-21) in that Xenophanes may have asserted that men may have beliefs, but they don't have certain knowledge.
Aristotle on Xenophanes
In his Metaphysics 986.b, Aristotle slights Xenophanes when he writes:
But Xenophanes, the first exponent of the Unity (for Parmenides is said to have been his disciple), gave no definite teaching, nor does he seem to have grasped either of these conceptions of unity; but regarding the whole material universe he stated that the Unity is God. This school then, as we have said, may be disregarded for the purposes of our present inquiry; two of them, Xenophanes and Melissus, may be completely ignored, as being somewhat too crude in their views.
Limitations on Our Knowledge of the Pre-Socratics
We have first hand material of the Pre-socratics only from the end of the sixth century/start of the fifth B.C. Even then, material is spotty. So our knowledge of the Pre-Socratic philosophers comes from fragments of their works included in the writing of others. The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts, by G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven provides these fragments in English. Diogenes Laertius provides biographies of the Pre-Socratic philosophers: Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Loeb Classical Library. DK=Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, by H. Diels and W. Kranz, is the standard edition on the Pre-socratics.
- "Studies in Xenophanes" by Aryeh Finkelberg; Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 93, (1990), pp. 103-167
- Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet
Quotations Attributed to Xenophanes
- No man has seen certain truth, nor will there ever be a man who knows about the gods and about everything of which I speak; for even if he should fully succeed in saying what is true, even so he himself does not know it, but in all things there is opinion.
- Poets should only tell stories about the gods which are socially uplifting.
Quotation About Xenophanes
- Much learning does not teach one intelligence or it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again, Xenophanes and Hecataeus.