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Heraclitus

 

1.
They say that Euripides gave [Socrates] a copy of Heraclitus' book and asked him what he thought of it. He replied: 'What I understand is splendid; and I think that what I don't understand is so too - but it would talk a Delian to get to the bottom of it.'

(Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers II 22)

2.
At the beginning of his writings on nature, and pointing in some way at the environment, [Heraclitus] says:
Of this account which holds forever men prove uncomprehending, both before hearing it and when first they have heard it. For although all things come about in accordance with this account, they are like tyros as they try the words and the deeds which I expound as I divide up each thing according to its nature and say how it is. Other men fail to notice what they do when they are awake, just as they forget what they do when asleep.
[B 1]

Having thus explicitly established that everything we do or think depends upon participation in the divine account, he continues and a little later on adds:
For that reason you must follow what is common (i.e. what is universal - for 'common' means 'universal'). But although the account is common, most men live as though they had an understanding of their own. [B 2]

(Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians VII 132)

3.
On the subject of the soul, Cleanthes sets out the doctrines of Zeno [the Stoic] in order to compare them to those of the other natural scientists. He says that Zeno, like Heraclitus, holds the soul to be a percipient exhalation. For, wanting to show that souls as they are exhaled always become new, he likened them to rivers, saying:
On those who enter the same rivers, ever different waters flow - and souls are exhaled from the moist things. [B 12]
Now Zeno, like Heraclitus, says that the soul is an exhalation; but he holds that it is percipient...

(Arius Didymus, fragment 39 Diels,
quoted by Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel XV xx 2)

4.
Heraclitus the Obsure theologizes the natural world as something unclear and to be conjectured about through symbols. He says:
Gods are mortal, humans immortal, living their death, dying their life. [B 62]
And again:
We step and do not step into the same rivers, we are and we are not. [B 49a]
Everything he says about nature is enigmatic and allegorized.

(Heraclitus, Homeric Questions 24.3-5)

5.
For it is not possible to step twice into the same river, according to Heraclitus, nor to touch mortal substance twice in any condition: by the swiftness and speed of its change, it scatters and collects itself again - or rather, it is not again and later but simultaneously that it comes together and departs, approaches and retires. [B 91]

(Plutarch, On the E at Delphi 392B)

6.
Heraclitus says that the universe is divisible and indivisible, generated and ungenerated, mortal and immortal, Word and Eternity, Father and Son, God and Justice.
Listening not to me but to the account, it is wise to agree that all things are one, [B 50]

says Heraclitus. That everyone is ignorant of this and does not agree he states as follows:
They do not comprehend how, in differing, it agrees with itself - a backward-turning connection, like that of a bow and a lyre. [B 51]

That an account exists always, being the universe and eternal, he says in this way:
Of this account which holds forever men prove uncomprehending, before before hearing it ad when first they have heard it. For although all things come about in accordance with this account, they are like tyros as they try the words and the deeds which I expound as I divide up each thing according to its nature and say how it is. [B 1]

That the universe is a child and an eternal king of all things for all eternity he states as follows:
Eternity is a child at play, playing draughts: the kingdom is a child's. [B 52]

That the father of everything that has come about is generated and ungenerated, creature and creator, we hear him saying:
War is the father of all, king of all: some it shows as gods, some as men' some it makes slaves, others free. [B 53]

... That God is unapparent, unseen, unknown to men, he says in these words:
Unapparent connection is better than apparent. [B 54]

He praises and admires the unknown and unseen part of his power above the known part. That he is visible to men and not undiscoverable he says in the following words:
I honour more those things which are learned by sight and hearing, [B 55]

he says - i.e. the visible more than the invisible. <The same> is learned from such words of his as these:
Men have been deceived, he says, as to their knowledge of what is apparent in the same way that Homer was - and he was the wisest of all the Greeks. For some children who were killing lice deceived him by saying: "What we saw and caught we leave behind, what we neither saw nor caught we take with us.' [B 56]

... Heraclitus says that dark and light, bad and good, are not different but one and the same. For example, he reproaches Hesiod for not knowing day and night - for day and night, he says, are one, expressing it thus:
A teacher of most is Hesiod: they are sure he knows most who did not recognize day and night - for they are one. [B 57]

... He says that the polluted and the pure are one and the same, and that the drinkable and the undrinkable are one and the same:
The sea, he says, is most pure and most polluted water: for fish, drinkable and life-preserving; for men, undrinkable and death-dealing. [B 61]

And he explicitly says that the immortal is mortal and the mortal immortal in the following words:
Immortals are mortal, mortals immortals: living their death, dying their life. [B 62]

He also speaks of a resurrection of this visible flesh in which we are born, and he is aware that god is the cause of this resurrection - he says:
There they are said to rise up and to become wakeful guardians of the living and the dead. [B 63]

And he says that a judgement of the world and of everything in it comes about through fire; for
Fire will come and judge and convict all things. [B 66]

He says that this fire is intelligent and the cause of the management of the universe, expressing it thus:
The thunderbolt steers all things [B 64]

(i.e. directs everything) - by 'the thunderbolt' he means the eternal fire, and he calls it need and satiety.[B 65] (The establishment of the world according to him being need and the conflagration satiety).
In the following passage he has set down all his own thought - and at the same time that of the sect of Noetus, whom I have briefly shown to be a disciple not of Christ but of Heraclitus. For he says that the created universe is itself the maker and creator of itself:
God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and famine; but he changes like olive oil which, when it is mixed with perfumes, gets its name from the scent of each. [B 67]

(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies IX ix 1-x 9)

7.
Of those whose accounts I have heard, no-one has come so far as to recognize that the wise is set apart from all things. [B 108]
It is better to hide folly than to make it public. [B 109]
It is not good for me to get all they want. [B 110]
Sickness makes health sweet and good, hunger plenty, weariness rest. [B 111]
To be temperate is the greatest excellence. And wisdom is speaking the truth and acting with knowledge in accordance with nature. [B 112]
Thinking is common to all. [B 113]
Speaking with sense one should rely on what is common to all, as a city on its law and with yet greater reliance. For all human laws are nourished by the one divine; for it is as powerful as it wishes, and it suffices for all, and it prevails. [B 114]
Soul has a self-increasing account. [B 115]
All men can know themselves and be temperate. [B 116]
A man when he is drunk is led by a boy, stumbling, not knowing where he goes, his soul moist. [B 117]
A dry soul is wisest and best. [B 118]

(Stobaeus, Anthology III i 174-180, v 6-8)

8.
Surely nature longs for the opposites and effects her harmony from them... That was also said by Heraclitus the Obscure:
Combinations - wholes and not wholes, concurring differing, concordent discordant, from all things one and from one all things. [B 10]

In this way the structure of the universe - I mean, of the heavens and earth and the whole world - was arranged by harmony through the blending of the most opposite principles.

([Aristotle], On the World 396b7-8, 20-25)

 

 

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