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Thousands of years ago, when philosophy was not the concern of humanity, there was a mythology that considered heroes to be gods. These gods were believed to control the lives of all people and a man was simply a tool. When religions came into existence, the rules for worshipping were formulated. With the emergence of philosophy, people started to question whether the gods exist and two concepts (being and becoming) were considered.
Early Greek philosophers such as Thales, Anaximenes, and Anaximander were the first to raise the questions about being (objects) and becoming (change). Becoming was seen as driven by cycles (a year, for example) modulation of objects (Copleston, 1993). Thales believed that water was the first principle; the air was considered to be of primary importance for Anaximenes. In 500 BC, Pythagoras attached numbers to physical events and introduced the idea that formulas are reality, the generators of everything. Forty years later, Heraclitus noted that everything in the world was in permanent state of flow. Thus, becoming as the concept was introduced as the most important principle and if becoming disappears, being would disappear as well. In other words, being was the result of becoming.
Lao Tzu (570 BC) wrote that being and not being arose from one another. Notably, the difference between these two concepts is still debated and the term not being is either equal to being or is opposite to it. Parmenides, on the contrary, believed that non-being did not exist, that everything was being. Melissus supported the belief of Parmenides. However, added that being is infinite while becoming or change did not exist. His follower Zeno of Elea perceived becoming to be an illusion, as well as continuity was (Copleston, 1993).
Greek philosophers were not focused on becoming while paid more attention to being. Aristotle wrote that when a person holds what is immune to influence from others, he is superior to the person who depends on others or things. For example, the son depends on his father and the son is inferior to father for this reason. St. Thomas (theological philosopher) related being and becoming to the concept of eternity and noted that all events are like people on the road who cannot see ahead of them even though can be seen by the one who is high above the road. Philosophies of being consider becoming of less importance and it is worth to note that process philosophy is originated in religious doctrines.
Philosophers of being believe that change or becoming is unreal, the principle under which one being is substituted with another. Reality consists of beings, not changes. From religious perspective, there is only one the highest being which is perfect, while the other beings are changing because of their imperfection. Lequier, Kames, Sartre, and Dewey all believed that people do make their own decisions according to the theory of self-creation (Copleston, 1993). In summary, becoming is seen as the special case of being. It is the mixture of being and non-being – the new moment created by every change.
The research on philosophy of being and becoming was confusing in defining the clear distinction between the two concepts. The major debate was found in the fields of metaphysics and theology. Theology does not reject either of the concepts and grants equal attention to both being and becoming; while metaphysics is more focused on being with minor importance attributed to becoming. There is no single definition of being or becoming as well as no clear theory of either one. In the result of the study, I understood that becoming is the change of being, thus being is the part of the becoming.
Copleston, F. (1993). History of Philosophy. Image Publication.