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Heraclitus’ Philosophy: Theory of Flux or becoming

Heraclitus—a pre-Socratic philosopher who saw the changing world with a philosophy based on a unity of opposites. Explore his life and writings now.

Heraclitus’ Philosophy

The writings of Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher who lived around 500 BC in what is now modern Turkey, challenge our notions of how we think about the world and its changing nature. His philosophy was based on the unity of opposites and  Flux or becoming - an idea that had both philosophical and philosophical implications. Dive deeper into his life, works and the wider impact of his thought now .

Heraclitus philosophy flux or becoming

Who was Heraclitus and what was his philosophy ?

Heraclitus was born about 535 B.C. This places his death at 475 B.C. He was thus subsequent to Xenophanes, contemporary with Parmenides, and older than Zeno. In historical order of time, therefore, he runs parallel to the Eleatics. One sure way to live in philosophical memory is to issue striking remarks that are obscure or ambiguous  or better still a mixture of both. Heraclitus is an example. Known as ‘the Obscure’, ‘the Dark’ and ‘the Riddler.'  His family were part of the city’s ruling elite. He lived a rustic hermit’s life, though he returned to the city when he fell ill, and died at about the age of sixty.

Heraclitus  of Ephesus in Asia Minor. He was an aristocrat, descendant of a noble Ephesian family, and occupied in Ephesus the nominal position of basileus, or King. This, however, merely meant that he was the Chief Priest of the local branch of the Eleusinian mysteries, and this position he resigned in favour of his brother. He appears to have been a man of a somewhat aloof, solitary, and scornful nature. He looked down, not only upon the common herd, but even upon the great men of his own race. 

 He mentions Xenophanes and Pythagoras in terms of obloquy. Homer, he thinks, should be taken out and whipped. Hesiod he considers to be the teacher of the common herd, one with them, “a man,” he says, “who does not even know day and night.” Upon the common herd of mortals he looks down with infinite scorn. Some of his sayings remind us not a little of Schopenhauer in their pungency and sharpness. “Asses prefer straw to  gold.” “Dogs bark at everyone they do not know.” Many of his sayings, however, are memorable and trenchant epitomes of practical wisdom. “Man’s character is his fate.” “Physicians who cut, burn, stab and rack the sick, demand a fee for doing it, which they do not deserve to get.” From his aloof and aristocratic standpoint he launched forth denunciations against the democracy of Ephesus. 

Heraclitus  embodied his philosophical thoughts in a prose treatise, which was well-known at the time of Socrates, but of which only fragments have come down to us. His style soon became proverbial for its difficulty and obscurity, and he gained the nickname of Heraclitus  the “Dark,” or the “Obscure.” Socrates said of his work that what he understood of it was excellent, what not, he believed was equally so, but that the book required a tough swimmer. He has even been accused of intentional obscurity. But there does not seem to be any foundation for this charge. The fact is that if he takes no great trouble to explain his thoughts, neither does he take any trouble to conceal them. He does not write for fools. His attitude appears to be that if his readers understand him, well; if not, so much the worse for his readers. He wastes no time in elaborating and explaining his thought, but embodies it in short, terse, pithy, and pregnant sayings.

Heraclitus  was the first Western philosopher to go beyond physical theory in search of metaphysical foundations and moral applications.

Heraclitus writings

He wrote dark (evil) book. he have written in a consciously oracular style. 

what did Heraclitus say about change
Opposites are necessary for life, but they are unified in a system of balanced exchanges. The world itself consists of a law-like interchange of elements, symbolized by fire. Thus the world is not to be identified with any particular substance, but rather with an ongoing process governed by a law of change. The underlying law of nature also manifests itself as a moral law for human beings. 

He was chiefly famous in antiquity for his doctrine that everything is in a state of Change and Flux , but this, as we shall see, is only one aspect of his metaphysics.

Some people said, Heraclitus was confident person, some said that Heraclitus was arrogant person. He said that  Pythagoras had no much knowledge. Heraclitus said that Homer was bad thinker. It is difficult to read Heraclitus. He hated mob. He had lived in the forest and ate grass. Heraclitus don't care of the world.

 Heraclitus was weeping philosopher. Heraclitus was the dark. why was he called the dark ? The reason is that he was in depression, melancholy. he had a psychology illness.  Heraclitus is recognised as the father of dialectic.

Philosophy Heraclitus 

   ''The death of fire is air and the death of air is birth of water''

Heraclitus, though an Ionian, was not in the scientific tradition of the Milesians.  He was a mystic, but of a peculiar kind. He regarded fire as the fundamental substance; everything, like flame in a fire, is born by the death of something else. "Mortals are immortals, and immortals are mortals, the one living the other's death and dying the other's life." There is unity in the world, but it is a unity formed by the combination of opposites. "All things come out of the one, and the one out of all things"

Many commentators see Heraclitus as conforming to the tradition of the earlier Ionians in being a material monist, that is, as holding the view that there is a single underlying material arche. As we saw, his predecessors had successively nominated water, the infinite and air; he nominated fire. ‘The cosmos, which is the same for all, was not made by gods or men, but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be, an ever-living fire, parts of it kindling, and parts of it going out … fire is lack and abundance.

He regards the soul as a mixture of fire and water, the fire being noble and the water ignoble. The soul that has most fire he calls "dry." "The dry soul is the wisest and best." "It is pleasure to souls to become moist." "A man, when he gets drunk, is led by a beardless lad, tripping, knowing not where he steps, having his soul moist." "It is death to souls to become water." "It is hard to fight with one's heart's desire. Whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of soul." "It is not good for men to get all that they wish to get." One may say that Heraclitus values power obtained through self-mastery, and despises the passions that distract men from their central ambitions.

Theory of Flux or becoming 

His philosophical principle is the direct antithesis of Eleaticism. The Eleatics had taught that only Being is, and Becoming is not at all and the only constant is change . All change, all Becoming is mere illusion. For Heraclitus, on the contrary, only Becoming is, and Being, permanence, identity, these are nothing but illusion. All things sublunary are {74} perpetually changing, passing over into new forms and new shapes. Nothing stands, nothing holds fast, nothing remains what it is. “Into the same river,” he says, “we go down, and we do not go down; for into the same river no man can enter twice; ever it flows in and flows out.” Not only does he deny all absolute permanence, but even a relative permanence of things is declared to be illusory. We all know that everything has its term, that all things arise and pass away, from the insects who live an hour to the “eternal” hills. Yet we commonly attribute to these things at least a relative permanence, a shorter or longer continuance in the same state. But even this Heraclitus will not allow. 

Nothing is ever the same, nothing remains identical from one consecutive moment to another. The appearance of relative permanence is an illusion, like that which makes us think that a wave passing over the surface of the water remains all the time the same identical wave. Here, as we know, the water of which the wave is composed changes from moment to moment, only the form remaining the same. Precisely so, for Heraclitus, the permanent appearance of things results from the inflow and outflow in them of equivalent quantities of substance. “All is flux.” It is not, for example, the same sun which sets to-day and rises to-morrow. It is a new sun. For the fire of the sun burns itself out and is replenished from the vapours of the sea.

Not only do things change from moment to moment. Even in one and the same moment they are and are not the same. It is not merely that a thing first is, and then a moment afterwards, is not. It both is and is not at the same time.

The at one ceness of “is” and “is not”  is the meaning of Becoming. We shall understand this better if we contrast it with the Eleatic principle. The Eleatics described all things under two concepts, Being and not-being. Being has, for them, all truth, all reality. Not-being is wholly false and illusory. For Heraclitus both Being and not-being are equally real. The one is as true as the other. Both are true, for both are identical. Becoming is the identity of Being and not-being. For Becoming has only two forms, namely, the arising of things and their passing away, their beginning and their end, their origination and their decease. Perhaps you may think that this is not correct, that there are other forms of change besides origination and decease.

A man is born. That is his origination. He dies. That is his decease. Between his birth and his death there are intermediate changes. He grows larger, grows older, grows wiser or more foolish, his hair turns grey. So also the leaf of a tree does not merely come into being and pass out of being. It changes in shape, form, colour. From light green it becomes dark green, and from dark green, yellow. But there is after all nothing in all this except origination and decease, not of the thing itself, but of its qualities.

The change from green to yellow is the decease of green colour, the origination of yellow colour. Origination is the passage of not-being into Being. Decease is the passage of Being into not-being. Becoming, then, has in it only the two factors of Being and not-being, and it means the passing of one into the other. But this passage does not mean, for Heraclitus, that at one moment there is Being, and at the next moment not-being. It means that Being and not-being are in everything at one and the same time.

Being is  not-being. Being has not-being in it. Take as an example the problem of life and death. Ordinarily we think that death is due to external causes, such as accident or disease. We consider that while life lasts, it is what it is, and remains what it is, namely life, unmixed with death, and that it goes on being life until something comes from outside, as it were, in the shape of external causes, and puts an end to it. You may have read Metchnikoff’s book “The Nature of Man.” In the course of that book he develops this idea. 

Death, he says, is always due to external causes. Therefore, if we could remove the causes, we could conquer death. The causes of death are mostly disease and accident, for even old age is disease. There is no reason why science should not advance so far as to eliminate disease and accident from life. In that case life might be made immortal, or at any rate, indefinitely prolonged. Now this is founded upon a confusion of ideas. No doubt death is always due to external causes. Every event in the world is determined, and wholly determined, by causes. 

The law of causation admits of no exception whatever. Therefore it is perfectly true that in every case of death causes precede it. But, as I explained in the last chapter, to give the cause is not to give any reason for an event. Causation is never a principle of explanation of anything. It tells us that the phenomenon A is invariably and unconditionally followed by the phenomenon B, and we call A the cause of B. But this only means that whenever B happens, it happens in a certain regular order and succession of events. But it does not tell us why B happens at all. The reason of a thing is to be  distinguished from its cause. The reason why a man dies is not to be found in the causes which bring about his death. The reason rather is that life has the germ of death already in it, that life is already death potentially, that Being has not-being in it. The causation of death is merely the mechanism, by the instrumentality of which, through one set of causes or another, the inevitable end is brought about.

Heraclitus religions

The attitude of Heraclitus to the religions of his time, at any rate the Bacchic religion, is largely hostile, but not with the hostility of a scientific rationalist. He has his own religion, and in part interprets current theology to fit his doctrine, in part rejects it with considerable scorn. He says, for example: "The mysteries practised among men are unholy mysteries." This suggests that he had in mind possible mysteries that would not be "unholy," but would be quite different from those that existed. . He would have been a religious reformer, if he had not been too scornful of the vulgar to engage in propaganda.

Heraclitus repeatedly speaks of "God" as distinct from "the gods." "The way of man has no wisdom, but that of God has.  Man is called a baby by God, even as a child by a man. The wisest man is an ape compared to God, just as the most beautiful ape is ugly compared to man." God, no doubt, is the embodiment of cosmic justice.

 Heraclitus metaphysics

The metaphysics of Heraclitus, like that of Anaximander, is dominated by a conception of cosmic justice, which prevents the strife of opposites from ever issuing in the complete victory of either.  

"This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out." 

"The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind." In such a world, perpetual change was to be expected, and perpetual change was what Heraclitus believed in.

Heraclitus quotes

Life is flux - Greek philosopher Heraclitus 

Heraclitus - ''Motion is the existence of thing''

Heraclitus river quote meaning -His belief in universal change is commonly supposed to have been expressed in the phrase "all things are flowing  "We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are, and are not."

 "You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you."  and "The sun is new every day." 

The metaphysics of Heraclitus are sufficiently dynamic to satisfy the most hustling of moderns:

 "This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out."

 "The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind."

In such a world, perpetual change was to be expected, and perpetual change was what Heraclitus believed in.

"The only thing constant is change and change is the law of life."

 logos Heraclitus

logos meaning in Greek - a word used by Greek philosophers in such a variety of ways that it can be taken to mean any and more of ‘account’, ‘theory’, ‘framework’, ‘word’, ‘reason’, ‘significance’, ‘principle’ and as we might say ‘the underlying logic (of something)’. One reasonable reconstruction of Heraclitus’ account is as follows. Heraclitus  claims to announce an everlasting Word (Logos) according to which all things are one, in some sense.

Heraclitus' logos is part of his ethic. In politics he advocated the rule of law ‘The people must fight for [the city’s] laws as for its walls’  and a wise choice of rulers. Both pieces of advice are consistent with the idea that there is a cosmic logos (which can be interpreted as saying: the cosmos is governed by universal laws) and that rationality  the rational apprehension of these universal laws   applies as much to ethics and politics as in cosmology. But he was not a protodemocrat;

he had no time for ‘fools’ and ‘the many … the mob’. ‘Most men’s teacher is Hesiod; they are convinced he knew most things  he, a man who could not recognize that day and night are one.’

 war and justice

Heraclitus believes in war. "War," he says, "is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some men, some bond and some free." "We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife."

Heraclitus opposites - Heraclitus seems to have held that it is by the conflict or tension that holds opposites together that existence itself is made possible: ‘Homer was wrong to say, “Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!” He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe, for if his prayer were heard all things would pass away . 

'' All things come into being and pass away through strife''. 

 '' strife is justice, all things happen according to strife and necessity.’'

 unity of opposites

He had, however, another doctrine on which he set even more store than on the perpetual flux; this was the doctrine of the mingling of opposites. "Men do not know," he says, "how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre." His belief in strife is connected with this theory, for in strife opposites combine to produce a motion which is a harmony.  There is a unity in the world, but it is a unity resulting from diversity:

The doctrine that everything is in a state of flux is the most famous of the opinions of Heraclitus, and the one most emphasised by his disciples, as described in Plato Theaetetus.

His belief in universal change is commonly supposed to have been expressed in the phrase "all things are flowing," His works, like those of all the philosophers before Plato, are only known through quotations, largely made by Plato or Aristotle for the sake of refutation. Plato and Aristotle agree that Heraclitus taught that "nothing ever is, everything is becoming" Plato, and that "nothing steadfastly is" Aristotle.

Heraclitus the only constant is change, Heraclitus himself, for all his belief in change, allowed something everlasting. The conception of eternity (as opposed to endless duration), which comes from Parmenides, is not to be found in Heraclitus, but in his philosophy the central fire never dies: the world "was ever, is now, and ever shall be, an ever-living Fire." But fire is something continually changing, and its permanence is rather that of a process than that of a substance though this view should not be attributed to Heraclitus. 

Heraclitus cause of death

Heraclitus death is shocked. Heraclitus was filled with water internally and died smeared all over with mud.


Bibliography

A History of Western Philosophy Book by Bertrand Russell
The-history-of-philosophy-by-a.-c.-grayling
Graham, D. W. (ed.), The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010
Barnes, J., The Presocratic Philosophers, 2nd edn, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982
Hussey, E., The Presocratics, London: Duckworth, 1995 Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven and M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers,
2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984 Osborne, C., Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004

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