What Follow Are a List of Fragments from Various Sources. the Themes Are Limited to Topics

What Follow Are a List of Fragments from Various Sources. the Themes Are Limited to Topics



What follow are a list of fragments from various sources. The themes are limited to topics in the area of epistemology, pedagogy, and metaphysics. (translation, R.D. McKirihan Jr., Philosophy Before Socrates).

This logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be (or happen) in accordance with this logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when they awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep.

For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the logos is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding.

Heraclitus judged human opinions to be children’s playthings.

We should not be children of our parents.

A fool is excited by every word.

Dogs bark at that which they do not know.

Every beast is driven to pasture by blows.

Much learning (polymathy) does not teach insight. Otherwise it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras and moreover Xenophanes.

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to people if they have barbarian souls.

Uncomprehending when they have heard, they are like the deaf. The saying describes them: though present they are absent.

One ought not to act and speak as one asleep.

For the waking there is one common world, but when asleep each person turns away to a private one.

Human nature has no insight, but divine nature does.

Thinking is common to all.

It belongs to all humans to know themselves and to think rightly.

Eyes are more accurate witnesses than ears.

Nature loves to hide.

The Lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign.

Listening not to me but to the logos it is wise to agree that all things are one.

An unapparent connexion is stronger than an apparent one.

What is opposed brings together; the finest harmony is composed of things at variance, and everything comes to be (or occurs) in accordance with strife.

The sea is the purest and most polluted water; to fishes it is drinkable and to humans it is deleterious.

The road up and down is the same and not the same.

It is not possible to step into the same river twice.

Disease makes health pleasant and good, hunger satiety, weariness rest.

Heraclitus is often times referred to as “the Dark” or “the Riddler”. The reason for this is his reputation for being a misanthropist. Indeed, Heraclitus speaks very abusively of his fellow man. Abusive epithets are entirely in reference to man’s lack of interest and curiosity about anything beyond the most readably available and obvious. This attitude of man, Heraclitus would conjecture, is entirely responsible for man’s overall superficiality. This superficiality follows man in all his endeavors (personal, moral, political, professional).

Heraclitus claims that all man can acquire knowledge if only he would commit himself to the search. Knowledge would mean to become “acquainted” with the logos. Logos would probably be the underlying infrastructure that governs all things. Logos is common, Heraclitus retorts, but man goes about his business with a private understanding of things. That is man takes what s/he happens to experience at any given time as the whole truth about how things actually all. In other words man passively takes things as they happen to appear. Knowledge is out their in public view, therefore, but man turns a blind eye to it. Nature, or the truth about how things are, loves to hide and indeed the unapparent connexions are stronger than the apparent ones. Hence, it would seem that Heraclitus accepts that the truth is hard to come by. In order to ‘discover’ the truth one must do more than just accumulate different truths about different things at different times (like Xenophanes did apparently) as a polymath would. A man with a ‘barbarian’ soul would probably mean someone with no judgment/intelligence. To discover logos, then, one must appeal to his reason and reveal the connections that hold things together in a shared and unified whole. Everything is related and interrelated. These are the connexions to which Heraclitus refers. The more one expands his perspective to include a greater whole the more complex becomes his understanding of how things are and the more in depth becomes the picture that he paints of the world.

Heraclitus’ style of writing is uninviting and purposively obscure. Most commentators understand the reason for this to be pedagogic. Heraclitus did not want to write a treaty that could be read like a story that one would not have to work at. Heraclitus believed that the truth must be “acquired”, “earned”, “owned” because knowledge short of that would just be (if at all) a feat in mental gymnastics, so to speak, but would mean nothing to the actual neophyte. Another reason for writing in a manner that requires decoding is the very philosophy that his words comprise. The truth that Heraclitus has discovered is that the world is a complex of interrelated parts. In turn, these interrelated parts are forever brought together and apart as a result of the strife or conflict that imbues throughout. Without conflict things would be static, dead. ‘War is the father of all things’, Heraclitus says, so that we are left with the understanding that the interrelated parts that make up the complexity of universe at the same time and with regularity unify and destroy each other.

‘Everything is in a constant state of flux’, is a fragment that is attributed to Heraclitus. These are not Heraclitus’ words, they are Plato’s but it is pretty easy to see where he got this view from. Heraclitus has been recorded as having said that “you can not step into the same river twice”. The commonplace interpretation that is offered for this fragment relies on the view that the world is constantly changing. It would be impossible to step into the same river twice because by the time you place your second foot into the river you have already changed as has the river (note that this is a far cry from actually saying that the river and you are entirely changed so that we are talking about a different river and a different person). Hence to use strictly descriptive language would betray the notion of flux.

Many have been tempted to argue that Heraclitus is a relativist as a result of a group of fragments pertaining to opposition. For instance, “the path up and down is the same and not the same” can be interpreted as saying that the direction of a path is relative to which way one is going on the path. Yet, we should resist this interpretation since Heraclitus is clearly stating that Logos is the only truth, that the truth is common and that all man has the equal and same capacity to discover it.