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Due to the oracular and paradoxical nature of his philosophy, and his fondness for word play , he was called "The Obscure" even in antiquity. He wrote a single work, On Nature , but the obscurity is made worse by its remaining only in fragments.
His cryptic utterances have been the subject of numerous interpretations. He has been seen variously as a " material monist or a process philosopher ; a scientific cosmologist , a metaphysician , or mainly a religious thinker; an empiricist , a rationalist , or a mystic ; a conventional thinker or a revolutionary; a developer of logic or one who denied the law of non-contradiction ; the first genuine philosopher or an anti-intellectual obscurantist.
He was of distinguished parentage but eschewed his privileged life for a lonely one as a philosopher. Little else is known about his early life and education. He regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. He was considered a misanthrope given to depression ; he was also called "the weeping philosopher", in contrast to Democritus , "the laughing philosopher".
Heraclitus believed the world was in accordance with Logos literally, "word", "reason", or "account". He also believed the world was ultimately made of fire.
He was committed to a unity of opposites and harmony in the world. He was most famous for his insistence on ever-present change , or flux or becoming , as the characteristic feature of the world, as stated in the famous saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice" as well as "Panta rhei", everything flows. This aspect of his philosophy is contrasted with that of Parmenides , who believed in being , and that nothing changes. Both had an influence on Plato and thus, some speculate, on all of Western philosophy.
The dates for Heraclitus are uncertain. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides, though opinion on who was responding to whom has varied over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Heraclitus is silent on Parmenides, yet Parmenides seems possibly to refer to him, and Heraclitus refers to the likes of Pythagoras.
Heraclitus was born to an aristocratic family c. Burnet states in any case that " Xenophanes left Ionia before Herakleitos was born.
He was not afraid of being a contrarian. He said "Corpses are more fit to be cast out than dung. Heraclitus was no advocate of equality , "One is ten thousand to me, if he be the best. Of them does the saying bear witness: 'present, they are absent. He also compares the ignorance of the average man to dogs; "Dogs, also, bark at what they do not know.
He criticizes Hesiod , Pythagoras, Xenophanes , and Hecataeus as lacking understanding though learned,  and has the most scorn for Pythagoras. He also thought that Homer and Archilochus deserved to be beaten.
They follow the poets and take the crowd as their teacher, knowing not that "the many are bad and few good. He hated the Athenians and his fellow Ephesians, wishing the latter wealth in punishment for their wicked ways. Heraclitus' life as a philosopher was interrupted by dropsy. The physicians he consulted were unable to prescribe a cure. In one account, however, the philosopher "buried himself in a cowshed , expecting that the noxious damp humour would be drawn out of him by the warmth of the manure", while another says he treated himself with a liniment of cow manure and, after a day prone in the sun, died and was interred in the marketplace.
According to Neathes of Cyzicus, after smearing himself with dung, Heraclitus was devoured by dogs. He said fr. We are therefore told that he refused to take any part in public life, and went to play with the children in the temple of Artemis. Lastly, he is said to have argued at great length with his doctors because of fr.
For these tales see Diog. Heraclitus was known to have produced a single work on papyrus , On Nature. As with the other pre-Socratics, his writings survive now only in fragments quoted by other authors. In the case of Heraclitus, there are over one hundred. These are catalogued using the Diels—Kranz numbering system.
We are told that it was divided into three discourses: one dealing with the universe, one political, and one theological. It is not to be supposed that this division is due to Herakleitos himself; all we can infer is that the work fell naturally into these three parts when the Stoic commentators took their editions of it in hand.
We do know the work's opening lines, proving it was indeed a continuous work. Aristotle quotes part of the opening line in the Rhetoric to outline the difficulty in punctuating Heraclitus without ambiguity; whether "forever" applied to "being" or to "prove".
For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos , they are like the unexperienced experiencing words and deeds such as I explain when I distinguish each thing according to its nature and show how it is.
Other men are unaware of what they do when they are awake just as they are forgetful of what they do when they are asleep. Many subsequent philosophers in this period refer to the work. Says Kahn : "Down to the time of Plutarch and Clement , if not later, the little book of Heraclitus was available in its original form to any reader who chose to seek it out. Antisthenes was another. At some time in antiquity he acquired this epithet denoting that his major sayings were difficult to understand, with frequent paradox, metaphor, and pregnant utterances.
In the Metaphysics Aristotle mentions how some say Heraclitus denied the law of noncontradiction , and accuses him of not reasoning. A later tradition referred to Heraclitus as the "weeping philosopher", as opposed to Democritus , who is known as the "laughing philosopher".
If Stobaeus writes correctly, Sotion in the early 1st century AD was already combining the two in the imaginative duo of weeping and laughing philosophers: "Among the wise, instead of anger, Heraclitus was overtaken by tears, Democritus by laughter.
The view is also expressed by the satirist Juvenal : . The first of prayers, best known at all the temples, is mostly for riches Seeing this then do you not commend the one sage Democritus for laughing The motif was also adopted by Lucian of Samosata in his "Sale of Creeds", in which the duo is sold together as a complementary product in the satirical auction of philosophers. Heraclitus's philosophy of change is commonly called becoming , and can be seen in a dialectical relationship and contrasted with Parmenides ' concept of " being ".
The later Stoics understood the Logos as "the account which governs everything,"  and Hippolytus , a Church Father in the 3rd century AD, identified it as meaning the Christian Word of God , such as in John , "In the beginning was the Word logos and the Word was God. John's Gospel in The Expositor , , pp. Heraclitus's ideas about the Logos are expressed in three famous but obscure fragments, with the first cited above, and two others. He seems to say the Logos is a public fact perhaps like a proposition or formula , though he would not have considered such things as abstract objects or even immaterial.
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. Listening not to me but to the Logos Like the Milesians before him, Thales with water, Anaximander with apeiron , and Anaximenes with air, Heraclitus considered fire as the arche , the most fundamental element, which gave rise to the other elements, perhaps because living people are warm.
It is also speculated this shows the influence of Persian Zoroastrianism , with its concept of Atar. This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made.
But it always was and will be: an ever-living fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out. All things are an interchange for fire, and fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods.
The thunderbolt that steers the course of all things. The first quote is the earliest use of kosmos in any extant Greek text. This he found in Fire, and it is easy to see why, if we consider the phenomenon of combustion.
This is just what we want. In a seeming response to Anaximander ,   Heraclitus also believed in a unity of opposites. This is most famously expressed with his claim "Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one living the others' death and dying the others' life". He was fond of speaking this way.
He also said "Man kindles a light for himself in the night-time, when he has died but is alive. The sleeper, whose vision has been put out, lights up from the dead; he that is awake lights up from the sleeping,"  and "All the things we see when awake are death, even as all we see in slumber are sleep. Heraclitus is the original philosopher to claim that war is a good thing. He also wrote "Every beast is driven to pasture by blows. We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being through strife necessarily.
War is the father of all and king of all; and some he shows as gods, others as men, some he makes slaves, others free. Gods and men honor those who are slain in battle.
The people must fight for its law as for its walls. In a metaphor and one of the earliest uses of a force in the history of philosophy, Heraclitus compares the union of opposites to a strung bow or lyre held in shape by an equilibrium of the string tension : . He claims this shows something true yet invisible about reality; "a hidden harmony is better than an apparent one.
From this it follows that wisdom is not a knowledge of many things, but the perception of the underlying unity of the warring opposites. That this really was the fundamental thought of Herakleitos is stated by Philo.
He says: " For that which is made up of both the opposites is one; and, when the one is divided, the opposites are disclosed.
Is not this just what the Greeks say their great and much belauded Herakleitos put in the forefront of his philosophy as summing it all up, and boasted of as a new discovery? It is the same conclusion as that of Pythagoras, though it is put in another way. This was not meant as a logical principle.
The identity which Herakleitos explains as consisting in difference is just that of the primary substance in all its manifestations. This identity had been realised already by the Milesians, but they had found a difficulty in the difference. Heraclitus also said "The way up and the way down is one and the same. One interpretation is that it shows his monism , though perhaps a dialectical one. Heraclitus does believe all is one.
Panta rei everything is changing! Heraclitus was born somewhere between and B. Very little of his work has been preserved - what is left are dozens of quotes, or rather fragments of text that have been quoted by others. The River. Heraclitus' philosophy can be captured in just two words: "panta rei", literally everything flows, meaning that everything is constantly changing, from the smallest grain of sand to the stars in the sky. Thus, every object ultimately is a figment of one's imagination. Only change itself is real, constant and eternal flux, like the continuous flow of the river which always renews itself.
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