From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"With high reverence I put the name of Heraclitus apart from the others. If the mob of the other philosophers rejected the testimony of the senses because they exhibited plurality and alteration, he rejected their testimony because they exhibited things as if they possessed permanence and unity. [...] Heraclitus will always be right in this that being is an empty fiction. The " seeming " world is the only one." --Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche
Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. From the lonely life he led, and still more from the riddling nature of his philosophy and his stress upon the needless unconsciousness of humankind, he was called "The Obscure" and the "Weeping Philosopher".
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice" (see panta rhei). He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that "the path up and down are one and the same", all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties. His cryptic utterance that "all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos" (literally, "word", "reason", or "account") has been the subject of numerous interpretations.
The weeping philosopher
Diogenes Laertius ascribes to Theophrastus the theory that Heraclitus did not complete some of his works because of melancholia. Later he was referred to as the "weeping philosopher", as opposed to Democritus, who is known as the "laughing philosopher". 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 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 ... and the master of the other school Heraclitus for his tears?"
Subsequently they were considered an indispensable feature of philosophic landscapes. Montaigne proposed two archetypical views of human affairs based on them, selecting Democritus' for himself. The weeping philosopher makes an appearance in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. And so on.
Panta rhei, "everything flows"
Πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) "everything flows" either was not spoken by Heraclitus or did not survive as a quotation of his. This famous aphorism used to characterize Heraclitus' thought comes from Simplicius, a neoplatonist, and from Plato's Cratylus. The word rhei (cf. rheology) is the Greek word for "to stream, and to the etymology of Rhea according to Plato's Cratylus."
Compare with the Latin adages Omnia mutantur and Tempora mutantur (8 CE) and the Japanese tale Hōjōki, (1200 CE) which contains the same image of the changing river, and the central Buddhist doctrine of impermanence.
The following articles on other topics contain non-trivial information that relates to Heraclitus in some way.
- Dialectical monism
- Ephesian School
- Fragments of Heraclitus
- Heraclitus' Influence on Hegel
- Introduction to Metaphysics
- Ionian School (philosophy)
- Marcel Conche
- Metaphysics (Aristotle)
- Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks
- Philosophy of space and time
- Process philosophy