The Logos of Heraclitus

Just a few scribbles on Heraclitus as JR Hematite’s gets his game back…

For the neophytes out there: Logos is λογος, which is to say it’s a Greek word, often translated as, well, “word”. Word? In Heraclitus it is the essential structure underpinning all of reality and every aspect of our experience. That there is called λογος. Why? Because (bear in mind the semantic net of λογος is huge) it is the langue, the reason, the account, the proportion, the definition, the thing of it… that’s λογος. Hence our English cognates for the scientia, the knowledge of a thing: biology, geology, paleontology, epistemology, anthropology, sociology, etc… even zero theology. It is even … (Relatedly? That’s not for me to say. This blog is Not Theology.) … according to John the Divine, bound up in the mystery of God. “In the beginning was the λογος…”

Apparently, so says ancient testimony, Heraclitus’ book began as follows:

With this λογος , which is for ever human, people are out of touch both before they have heard it and once first they have heard it; for although all things take place in accordance with this λογος, they are like beginners experimenting with both words and practices such as these that I am going through as I divide each thing according to nature and say how it is. But it eludes other people what they are doing when they are awake, just as it eludes them what they do in their sleep.

So what is Heraclitus trying to tell us? Well, … I don’t know. I can’t make it out. Nor can most scholars either, otherwise I would report on them here. λογος appears to be here basically dharma. Oh, not helpful? The Reason, the Rationale, the Plan, the Ultimate Expression, the Way It Is And The Verbal Expression Of That Way. Yeah? And it eludes everyone. Except Heraclitus apparently. So, he says (I paraphrase) people need to shut up and listen more as he reveals to them the λογος, to which they are meant to be awake.

Whatever. What’s clear is his message is a radical departure from the material monism of his predecessors. The Fire of Heraclitus is not a material substrate, like Thales’ water or Anaximenes’ air. It is, rather, the mechanism of “the perpetual flow of differences in the world: change is endemic, opposites flip into one another depending on your point of view, fire consumes what was there before and gives back something quite different. Nothing remains: the world exists in its pattern of dying and rising to new life, not in its material remnants.” (Osborne, Presocratic Philosophy, p. 95.)

In fine, everything flows. but not in a hip-hop sense, thank God. Nietzsche, of course, digs Heraclitus.

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About J. Rhombohedral Hematite

Not a Theoblogger. Nota bene.
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