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- 1. (c. 500 bc), Greek philosopher. He believed that fire is the origin of all things and that permanence is an illusion, everything being in a process of constant change.
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Heraclitus was born to an aristocratic family c. 535 BC in Ephesus (presently Efes, Turkey) in the Persian Empire. His dates of birth and death are based on a lifespan of 60 years, the age at which Diogenes Laërtius says he died, with his floruit in the middle. Heraclitus's father was named either Blosôn or Herakôn.
- Life and Work
- Philosophical Principles
Little is known of Heraclitus’ life; most of what has been handed downconsists of stories apparently invented to illustrate his character asinferred from his writings (Diogenes Laertius 9.1–17). His nativeEphesus was a prominent city of Ionia, the Greek-inhabited coast ofAsia Minor, but was subject to Persian rule in his lifetime. Accordingto one account, he inherited the honorific title and office of“king” of the Ionians, which he resigned to hisbrother. He is generally considered to have favored aristocraticgovernment as against democracy, based on his own politicalobservations. His city lies close to Miletus, where the first thinkers recognizedin later tradition as philosophers lived; but there is no record of hishaving made the acquaintance of any of the Milesian thinkers (Thales,Anaximander, Anaximenes) or having been taught by them, or of his everhaving traveled. He is said to have written a single book (papyrus roll), and depositedit in the great temple of Artemis at Ephesus....
Heraclitus made every effort to break out of the mold of contemporarythought. Although he was influenced in a number of ways by the thoughtand language of his predecessors, including the epic poets Homer andHesiod, the poet and philosopher Xenophanes, the historian andantiquarian Hecataeus, the religious guru Pythagoras, the sage Bias ofPriene, the poet Archilochus, and the Milesian philosophers, hecriticized most of them either explicitly or implicitly, and struckout on his own path. He rejected polumathiê orinformation-gathering on the grounds that it “does not teachunderstanding” (B40).He treated the epic poets as fools andcalled Pythagoras a fraud. In his fragments Heraclitus does not explicitly criticize theMilesians, and it is likely that he saw them as the most progressive ofprevious thinkers. He does tacitly criticize Anaximander for notappreciating the role of injustice in the world (B80), while he mighthave expressed some admiration for Thales (B38). His views can besee...
Although his words are meant to provide concrete vicariousencounters with the world, Heraclitus adheres to some abstractprinciples which govern the world. Already in antiquity he wasfamous for advocating the coincidence of opposites, the flux doctrine,and his view that fire is the source and nature of all things. Incommenting on Heraclitus, Plato provided an early reading, followedtentatively by Aristotle, and popular down to the present (sharpenedand forcefully advocated by Barnes 1982, ch. 4). According toBarnes’ version, Heraclitus is a material monist who believesthat all things are modifications of fire. Everything is in flux(in the sense that “everything is always flowing in somerespects,” 69), which entails the coincidence of opposites(interpreted as the view that “every pair of contraries issomewhere coinstantiated; and every object coinstantiates at least onepair of contraries,” 70). The coincidence of opposites,thus interpreted, entails contradictions, which Heraclitus can...
Although Heraclitus is more than a cosmologist, he does offer acosmology. His most fundamental statement on cosmology is foundin B30: In this passage, he uses, for the first time in any extant Greektext, the word kosmos “order” to mean somethinglike “world.” He identifies the world with fire, butgoes on to specify portions of fire that are kindling and beingquenched. Although ancient sources, including Aristotle (Onthe Heavens279b12–17) as well as the Stoics, attributed toHeraclitus a world that was periodically destroyed by fire and thenreborn, the present statement seems to contradict that view, as Hegelalready noticed. If the world always was and is and will be, thenit does not perish and come back into existence, though portions of it(measures of fire) are constantly being transformed. Heraclitus describes the transformations of elementary bodies: Fire turns into water (“sea”), and then half of thatquantity turns into earth and half into “fireburst”(prêstêr, a fiery, windy kind...
Plato held that for Heraclitus knowledge is made impossible by theflux of sensible objects. Yet Heraclitus does not repudiateknowledge or the wisdom that comes from a proper understanding of theworld. To be sure, he believes most people are not capable ofwisdom; understanding is a rare and precious commodity, which even mostreputed sages do not attain to (B28[a]). Yet wisdom is possible,and it is embodied in Heraclitus’ message, for those who candiscern it. Heraclitus seems to accept the evidence of the senses as in some wayvaluable: “The things of which there is sight, hearing,experience, I prefer” (B55). Sight is the best of thesenses: “The eyes are more accurate witnesses than theears” (B101a). Yet in contrast to those who view knowledgeas an accumulation of information or wisdom as a collection of sayings,he requires much more than sensation and memory: In this statement Heraclitus reviews the leading authorities of hisday, living (the last three) and dead, dealing with religiou...
The aim of Heraclitus’ unusual approach is to produce readerswho have a proper grasp of the world and their place in it. “Sound thinking is the greatest virtue and wisdom: to speak thetruth and to act on the basis of an understanding of the nature ofthings” (B112). Such an understanding can result only froman ability to interpret the language of nature. The properunderstanding allows one to act in a harmonious way. Heraclitus urges moderation and self-control in a somewhatconventional way (B85, B43). He also recommends the conventional Greekgoal of seeking fame: “The best choose one thing above all, theeverlasting fame of mortals; the many gorge themselves likecattle” (B29). To die in battle is a superior kind of death(B24). Those who drink to excess make their souls wet, and accordinglyharm them (B117), for a healthy soul is dry (B118). Those whoexperience better deaths attain better rewards (B25). Those wholie will be punished (B28[b]). “For men who die there awaitthings they do n...
Although Heraclitus is not known to have had students, his writingsseem to have been influential from an early time. He may haveprovoked Parmenides to develop a contrasting philosophy (Patin 1899;Graham 2002), although their views have much more in common than isgenerally recognized (Nehamas 2002). Empedocles seems to haveinvoked Heraclitean themes, and some Hippocratic treatises imitatedHeraclitean language and presented applications of Heracliteanthemes. Democritus echoed many of Heraclitus’ ethicalpronouncements in his own ethics. From an early time Heraclitus wasseen as the representative of universal flux in contrast to Parmenides,the representative of universal stasis. Cratylus broughtHeraclitus’ philosophy to Athens, where Plato heard it. Plato seems to have used Heraclitus’ theory (as interpreted byCratylus) as a model for the sensible world, as he usedParmenides’ theory for the intelligible world. Asmentioned, both Plato and Aristotle viewed Heraclitus as violating thelaw o...
The recently published Derveni Papyrus, discovered in a tomb innorthern Greece, contains a commentary on an Orphic poem. Thecommentator discusses some passages of Heraclitus in connection withthe poem, namely B3 + B94 (which may have been thus joined inHeraclitus’ book) (column 4). See Betegh 2004. The OxyrhynchusPapyri (vol. 53, no. 3710) also show that Heraclitus was interested indetermining the days of the lunar month and thus in scientificquestions. See Burkert 1993. In recent work, scholars have devoted special attention toHeraclitus’ moral and political theory (Fattal 2011, Sider 2013,Robitzsch 2018), to questions of logos and rationality (Hülsz2013, Long 2013), to the material character of soul (Betegh 2007), andto the theory of elemental change (Neels 2018).
A Greek philosopher of the late 6th century BCE, Heraclitus criticizes his predecessors and contemporaries for their failure to see the unity in experience. He claims to announce an everlasting Word (Logos) according to which all things are one, in some sense. Opposites are necessary for life, but they are unified in a system of balanced exchanges. The world itself consists of a law-like interchange of elements, symbolized by fire. Thus the world is not to be identified with any particular substance, but rather with an ongoing process governed by a law of change. The underlying law of nature also manifests itself as a moral law for human beings. Heraclitus is the first Western philosopher to go beyond physical theory in search of metaphysical foundations and moral applications. According to both Plato and Aristotle, Heraclitus held extreme views that led to logical incoherence. For he held that (1) everything is constantly changing and (2) opposite things are identical, so that (3) everything is and is not at the same time. In other words, Universal Flux and the Identity of Opposites entail a denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction. Plato indicates the source of the flux doctrine: \\"Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things go and nothing stays, and comparing existents to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river\\" (Cratylus 402a = DK22A6). Thus, Heraclitus does not hold Universal Flux, but recognizes a lawlike flux of elements; and he does not hold the Identity of Opposites, but the Transformational Equivalence of Opposites. The views that he does hold do not, jointly or separately, entail a denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction. Heraclitus does, to be sure, make paradoxical statements, but his views are no more self-contradictory than are the paradoxical claims of Socrates. They are, presumably, meant to wake us up from our dogmatic slumbers. Heraclitus' theory can be understood as a response to the philosophy of his Ionian predecessors. The philosophers of the city of Miletus (near Ephesus), Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, believed some original material turns into all other things. The world as we know it is the orderly articulation of different stuffs produced out of the original stuff. For the Milesians, to explain the world and its phenomena was just to show how everything came from the original stuff, such as Thales' water or Anaximenes' air. Heraclitus' criticisms and metaphysical speculations are grounded in a physical theory. He expresses the principles of his cosmology in a single sentence: There has been some debate as to whether Heraclitus is chiefly a philosopher of nature (a view championed by G. S. Kirk) or a philosopher concerned with the human condition (C. H. Kahn). The opening words of Heraclitus' book (DK22B1, quoted above) seem to indicate that he will expound the nature of things in a way that will have profound implications for human life. In other words, he seems to see the theory of nature and the human condition as intimately connected. In fact, recently discovered papyri have shown that Heraclitus is concerned with technical questions of astronomy, not only with general theory. There is no reason, then, to think of him as solely a humanist or moral philosopher. On the other hand, it would be wrong to think of him as a straightforward natural philosopher in the manner of other Ionian philosophers, for he is deeply concerned with the moral implications of physical theory.
Heraclitus lived in Ephesus, an important city on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor, not far from Miletus, the birthplace of philosophy. We know nothing about his life other than what can be gleaned from his own statements, for all ancient biographies of him consist of nothing more than inferences or imaginary constructions based on his sayings. Although Plato thought he wrote after Parmenides, it is more likely he wrote before Parmenides. For he criticizes by name important thinkers and writers with whom he disagrees, and he does not mention Parmenides. On the other hand, Parmenides in his poem arguably echoes the words of Heraclitus. Heraclitus criticizes the mythographers Homer and Hesiod, as well as the philosophers Pythagoras and Xenophanes and the historian Hecataeus. All of these figures flourished in the 6th century BCE or earlier, suggesting a date for Heraclitus in the late 6th century. Although he does not speak in detail of his political views in the extant fragments, Heraclitus seems to reflect an aristocratic disdain for the masses and favor the rule of a few wise men, for instance when he recommends that his fellow-citizens hang themselves because they have banished their most prominent leader (DK22B121 in the Diels-Kranz collection of Presocratic sources).
Most people sleep-walk through life, not understanding what is going on about them. Yet experience of words and deeds can enlighten those who are receptive to their meaning. (The opening sentence is ambiguous: does the 'forever' go with the preceding or the following words? Heraclitus prefigures the semantic complexity of his message.) What Heraclitus actually says is the following: We can measure all things against fire as a standard; there is an equivalence between all things and gold, but all things are not identical to gold. Similarly, fire provides a standard of value for other stuffs, but it is not identical to them. Fire plays an important role in Heraclitus' system, but it is not the unique source of all things, because all stuffs are equivalent. Ultimately, fire may be more important as a symbol than as a stuff. Fire is constantly changing-but so is every other stuff. One thing is transformed into another in a cycle of changes. What is constant is not some stuff, but the overall process of change itself. There is a constant law of transformations, which is, perhaps, to be identified with the Logos. Heraclitus may be saying that the Milesians correctly saw that one stuff turns into another in a series, but they incorrectly inferred from this that some one stuff is the source of everything else. But if A is the source of B and B of C, and C turns back into B and then A, then B is likewise the source of A and C, and C is the source of A and B. There is no particular reason to promote one stuff at the expense of the others. What is important about the stuffs is that they change into others. The one constant in the whole process is the law of change by which there is an order and sequence to the changes. If this is what Heraclitus has in mind, he goes beyond the physical theory of his early predecessors to arrive at something like a process philosophy with a sophisticated understanding of metaphysics. This world-order, the same of all, no god nor man did create, but it ever was and is and will be: everliving fire, kindling in measures and being quenched in measures. (DK22B30) Here again we find a unity of opposites, but no contradiction. One road is used to pursue two different routes. Daily traffic carries some travelers out of the city, while it brings some back in. The image applies equally to physical theory: as earth changes to fire, fire changes to earth. And it may apply to psychology and other domains as well.
Describing the practice of religious prophets, Heraclitus says, \\"The Lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither reveals nor conceals, but gives a sign\\" (DK22B93). Similarly, Heraclitus does not reveal or conceal, but produces complex expressions that have encoded in them multiple messages for those who can interpret them. He uses puns, paradoxes, antitheses, parallels, and various rhetorical and literary devices to construct expressions that have meanings beyond the obvious. This practice, together with his emphasis on the Word (Logos) as an ordering principle of the world, suggests that he sees his own expressions as imitations of the world with its structural and semantic complexity. To read Heraclitus the reader must solve verbal puzzles, and to learn to solve these puzzles is to learn to read the signs of the world. Heraclitus stresses the inductive rather than the deductive method of grasping the world, a world that is rationally structured, if we can but discern its shape.
The second sentence in B88 gives the explanation for the first. If F is the same as G because F turns into G, then the two are not identical. And Heraclitus insists on the common-sense truth of change: \\"Cold things warm up, the hot cools off, wet becomes dry, dry becomes wet\\" (DK22B126). This sort of mutual change presupposes the non-identity of the terms. What Heraclitus wishes to maintain is not the identity of opposites but the fact that they replace each other in a series of transformations: they are interchangeable or transformationally equivalent.
This passage contains the earliest extant philosophical use of the word kosmos, \\"world-order,\\" denoting the organized world in which we live, with earth, sea, atmosphere, and heavens. While ancient sources understand Heraclitus as saying the world comes to be and then perishes in a fiery holocaust, only to be born again (DK22A10), the present passage seems to contradict this reading: the world itself does not have a beginning or end. Parts of it are being consumed by fire at any given time, but the whole remains. Almost all other early cosmologists before and after Heraclitus explained the existence of the ordered world by recounting its origin out of elemental stuffs. Some also predicted the extinction of the world. But Heraclitus, the philosopher of flux, believes that as the stuffs turn into one another, the world itself remains stable. How can that be?
Heraclitus's paradoxical exposition may have spurred Parmenides' rejection of Ionian philosophy. Empedocles and some medical writers echoed Heraclitean themes of alteration and ongoing process, while Democritus imitated his ethical observations. Influenced by the teachings of the Heraclitean Cratylus, Plato saw the sensible world as exemplifying a Heraclitean flux. Plato and Aristotle both criticized Heraclitus for a radical theory that led to a denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction. The Stoics adopted Heraclitus's physical principles as the basis for their theories.
Heraclitus, also spelled Heracleitus, (born c. 540 bce, Ephesus, Anatolia [now Selçuk, Turkey]—died c. 480), Greek philosopher remembered for his cosmology, in which fire forms the basic material principle of an orderly universe. Little is known about his life, and the one book he apparently wrote is lost.
Jul 14, 2010 · Heraclitus of Ephesus (l. c. 500 BCE) was one of the early Pre-Socratic philosophers who, like the others, sought to identify the First Cause for the creation of the world. He rejected earlier theories such as air and water and claimed that fire was the First Cause as it both created and destroyed.
- Joshua J. Mark
- “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” ― Heraclitus.
- “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” ― Heraclitus, Fragments.
- “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” ― Heraclitus.
- “Even a soul submerged in sleep. is hard at work and helps. make something of the world.” ― Heraclitus, Fragments.
Jan 22, 2014 · Heraclitus was born in Ephesus, an important ancient city located on the Ionian Coast, in about 535 BCE. Living relatively close to Miletus, the birthplace of westernphilosophy, he undoubtedly would have been familiar with Thales and the rest of the Milesian school. It is likely that Heraclitus would have been born to aristocracy.
- “Much learning does not teach understanding.” – Heraclitus.
- “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus.
- “The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.” – Heraclitus.
- “There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus.
Greek - Philosopher 544 BC - 483 BC No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
Heraclitus was an eminent pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who was a native of the city of Ephesus which was then part of the Persian Empire. Not much is known about his early life and education except the fact that he was of distinguished parentage. He is considered a pioneer of wisdom and regarded himself as self-taught.