Essay on Heraclitus

Free essay about Heraclitus:

Heraclitus ( Greek Ήράκλειτος), was a Greek philosopher from the city of Ephesus, who lived towards the end of 500 BC, he is considered one of the pre-Socratics, that is, those philosophers who lived and worked before Socrates. Nothing is certainly known of his life or person.

Heraclitus wrote some sort of book that in its complete form has been lost, but parts of the text are preserved in the form of more than a hundred quotations by various ancient writers during a time span from Plato’s generation up to 300 century AD.

The fragments, which were published in a critical edition by the German philologist Hermann Diels at the turn of the century, are of varying length and quality. In total, Diels collection includes 139 passages. Some seventy regarded as more or less authentic, some are confirmed by several independent sources. Others should be paraphrases or summaries of Heraclitus words with varying relevance. Still others are regarded by researchers as pure fakes, for example, in our days sometimes panta rei (everything flows), which is originally Socrates’ opinion of Plato’s dialogue Kratylos, is cited.

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The words “You cannot step twice into the same river” has often been attributed to Heraclitus, but is not regarded today as an authentic fragment, but is a paraphrase of what Heraclitus meant by Plutarch, who lived about 600 years later.

Heraclitus has been called the first dialectician. It means that he formulated the first known doctrine of the struggle of opposites and unity. He has also been called the “Obscure,” which the fragments were ambiguous and difficult to interpret. Nevertheless, they have had a not insignificant influence on the recent passage of European philosophers such as Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Logos (Greek for word, reason, ratio), which is treated in the longest surviving fragment, appear to play a central role in Heraclitus teachings. It could possibly be interpreted as an ordering principle, a rationality of the struggle of opposites and unity in constant change, operating both in the objective (world, universe) and the subjective (human thinking, ideas). Its real meaning is, according to Heraclitus, hidden from most people.

There is a linguistic structure of the best-preserved fragments, which can be meaningful and relevant for the understanding of what Heraclitus meant to say to those who were wise enough to realize what was hidden under the shell. This structure is similar to the ancient rhetorical figure CHIASMUS (X – form), i.e., a sentence like “The sun is yellow, blue is the sea.” Some of the longer fragments, such as the above mentioned by Diels, appears to be formed by such an enlarged pattern, where both sides really describe the same thing, but have in one instance the objective and the others the subjective sense. Perhaps this can be interpreted as Heraclitus was one of the first that reflected the relationship between idea and matter, one of the descendants of philosophic speculation.

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