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Response to Heraclitus

By reading the text it is noticeable that the author emphasizes that only secondary sources of Heraclitus’ ideas survive until this day. Even the most popular philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle refused to reflect or reflected little on his philosophy since it was considered vague1. Nevertheless, Heraclitus does contemplate on archē of things, the soul and even at a certain extent, the reason behind the world’s existence.

Heraclitus considered that the principle of everything in our Universe is Logos—consisting of water and fire. By that, I don’t think he meant it literally, even though physically speaking, hydrogen is the most abundant element in our Universe; and ironically, is contained in water. What he meant instead, was that water’s essence is the principle from which our whole world is made, but not necessarily from water itself. Fire, just to water, is the principal of everything as well—it keeps a balance in the “cosmic fire”. These two principles of fire and water, are in a constant balance with each other, and play different roles on the soul. According to Heraclitus, water diminishes the soul in capacity and upon the death of the body, the soul becomes part of the “cosmic fire”.2

Whether water is the principle of everything, or not; Heraclitus made many interesting observations based on it essence. Anything can produce two opposite effects, and go in opposite directions; be beneficial in one way, and detrimental in another way.3 If this statement is true, then multiple instances of archē can coexist. Therefore, an opposite of our world can exist, and a reverse of our world can exist. Contrary to our intuitive judgement however, there is never a clear division of an opposite from another opposite. 4 Nevertheless, the whole world is dependent on the constant balance between opposites, and once one opposite outweighs the other—the whole world collapses.5

Human actions, decisions and conflicts according to Heraclitus, resemble the nature of our Universe.6 Just like random phenomena such a cosmic noise, earthquakes, and encounters with asteroids; human actions like wars, crises, prosperous periods, etc—need to happen one way or another—simply because the possibility of these actions exists.

Heraclitus also made an interesting observation about humans that fail to understand reality by fabricating “private and deceptive intelligence”, making it hard for us to grasp basic philosophic concepts.7

  1. Heraclitus, pp. 185 

  2. Heraclitus, pp. 204-7 

  3. Heraclitus, pp. 199-202 

  4. Heraclitus, pp. 190 

  5. Heraclitus, pp.193 

  6. Heraclitus, pp. 211 

  7. Heraclitus, pp. 187