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Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος, Herakleitos; c. 535 BC – 475 BC) was a Greek philosopher, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe, and for establishing the term Logos (λόγος) in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the Cosmos.
- τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν
- πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει
- Everything changes and nothing stands still.
- As quoted by Plato in Cratylus, 402a
- Variants and variant translations:
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All flows, nothing stays.
- Πάντα ῥεῖ
- Everything flows.
- This statement occurs in Simplicius' Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, 1313.11; while some sources attribute to Simplicius the coining of the specific phrase "πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei)", meaning "everything flows/is in a state of flux", to characterize the concept in the philosophy of Heraclitus, the essential phrasing "everything changes" and variations on it, in contexts where Heraclitus's thought is being alluded to, was current in both Plato and Aristotle's writings.
- Everything flows.
- δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.
- You could not step twice into the same river.
- As quoted in Plato, Cratylus, 402a
- τὴν μεταβολὴν ὁδὸν ἄνω κάτω, τόν τε κόσμον γίνεσθαι κατ' αὐτήν.
- Change he called a pathway up and down, and this determines the birth of the world.
- From Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, Book IX, section 8
- αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων, πεττεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη.
- Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
- Quoted by Hippolytus, Refutation of all heresies, IX, 9, 4 (Fragment 52), as translated in Reality (1994), by Carl Avren Levenson and Jonathan Westphal, p. 10
- History is a child building a sand-castle by the sea, and that child is the whole majesty of man’s power in the world.
- As quoted in Contemporary Literature in Translation (1976), p. 21
- A lifetime is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
- As quoted in The Beginning of All Wisdom: Timeless Advice from the Ancient Greeks (2003) by Steven Stavropoulos, p. 95
- Time is a game played beautifully by children.
- As quoted in Fragments (2001) translated by Brooks Haxton
- Lifetime is a child at play, moving pieces in a game. Kingship belongs to the child.
- As quoted in The Art and Thought of Heraclitus (1979) translated by Charles H. Kahn
- χαλεπώτερον ἡδονῇ μάχεσθαι ἢ θυμῷ
- It is harder to fight against pleasure than against anger.
- As quoted by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, Book II (1105a)
- χρὴ γὰρ εὖ μάλα πολλῶν ἴστορας φιλοσόφους ἄνδρας εἶναι
- Men that love wisdom must be acquainted with very many things indeed.
- As quoted Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 140, 6 (Fragment 35)
- Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.
- War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.
- War is the father and king of all, and has produced some as gods and some as men, and has made some slaves and some free. (G. T. W. Patrick, 1889)
- Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9 (Fragment 53). Context: "And that the father of all created things is created and uncreated, the made and the maker, we hear him (Heraclitus) saying, 'War is the father and king of all,' etc."
- Plutarch, de Iside 48, p. 370. Context, see frag. 43.
- Proclus in Tim. 54 A (comp. 24 B).
- Compare Chrysippus from Philodem. P. eusebeias, vii. p. 81, Gomperz.
- Lucianus, Quomodo hist. conscrib. 2; Idem, Icaromen 8.
- See also: πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς
- Martin Heidegger, Parmenides (1942–1943)
- Τίς γὰρ αὐτῶν νόος ἢ φρήν; [δήμων] ἀοιδοῖσι ἕπονται καὶ διδασκάλῳ χρέωνται ὁμίλῳ, οὐκ εἰδότες ὅτι πολλοὶ κακοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἀγαθοί. αἱρεῦνται γὰρ ἓν ἀντία πάντων οἱ ἄριστοι, κλέος ἀέναον θνητῶν, οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ κεκόρηνται ὅκωσπερ κτήνεα.
- The best people renounce all for one goal, the eternal fame of mortals; but most people stuff themselves like cattle.
- For what sense or understanding have they? They follow minstrels and take the multitude for a teacher, not knowing that many are bad and few good. For the best men choose one thing above all – immortal glory among mortals; but the masses stuff themselves like cattle. (G.T.W. Patrick, 1889)
- "The passage is restored as above by Bernays (Heraclitea i. p. 34), and Bywater (p. 43), from the following sources:
- Clement of Alex. Strom. v. 9, p. 682.
- Proclus in Alcib. p. 255 Creuzer, = 525 ed. Cous. ii.
- Clement of Alex. Strom. iv. 7, p. 586."
- "The passage is restored as above by Bernays (Heraclitea i. p. 34), and Bywater (p. 43), from the following sources:
- Ten thousand do not turn the scale against a single man of worth.
- in Eric Hoffer, Between the Devil and the Dragon (New York: 1982), p. 107
- Greater fates gain greater rewards
- As quoted by The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus on Nature; Translated from the Greek Text of Bywater, with an Introduction Historical and Critical, by G. T. W. Patrick. Page 108
- Alternative translation: Big results require big ambitions.
- The many are mean; only the few are noble.
- in Eric Hoffer, Between the Devil and the Dragon (New York: 1982), p. 108
- Different sources sometimes number many of these fragments of the expressions of Heraclitus differently.
- τοῦ λόγου δ' ἐόντος ξυνοῦ ζώουσιν οἱ πολλοὶ ὡς ἰδίαν ἔχοντες φρόνησιν
- Though wisdom is common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
- Fragment 2, as quoted in Against the Mathematicians by Sextus Empiricus
- Variant translation: So we must follow the common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
- οὐ γὰρ φρονέουσι τοιαῦτα [οἱ] πολλοί, ὁκόσοι ἐγκυρεῦσιν, οὐδὲ μαθόντες γινώσκουσιν, ἑωυτοῖσι δὲ δοκέουσι.
- The majority of people have no understanding of the things with which they daily meet, nor, when instructed, do they have any right knowledge of them, although to themselves they seem to have.
- Source: Clement, Stromates, II, 8, 1
- Fragment 5, as translated by G. W. T. Patrick
- συνάψιες ὅλα καὶ οὐχ ὅλα, συμφερόμενον διαφερόμενον, συνᾷδον διᾷδον, καὶ ἐκ πάντων ἓν καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντα.
- Couples are wholes and not wholes, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant. From all things one and from one all things.
- Fragment 10
- Variant translation: From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars.
- ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ.
- Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.
- Fragment 12
- ἐὰν μὴ ἔλπηται ἀνέλπιστον, οὐκ ἐξευρήσει
- He who does not expect will not find out the unexpected, for it is trackless and unexplored.
- Fragment 18, as quoted in The Art and Thought of Heraclitus: An Edition of the Fragments (1981) edited by Charles H. Kahn, p. 105
- He who does not expect the unexpected will not find it out.
- The Art and Thought of Heraclitus: An Edition of the Fragments (1981) edited by Charles H. Kahn, p. 129
- He who does not expect the unexpected will not find it, since it is trackless and unexplored.
- As quoted in Helen by Euripides, edited by William Allan (2008), p. 278
- Unless you expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is hidden and thickly tangled.
- Rendering ἐὰν μή "unless" is more English-friendly without being inaccurate. As for the last clause, the point is that you can neither find it nor navigate your way through it. The alpha-privatives suggest using similar metaphoric adjectives to keep the Greek 'feel.' (S. N. Jenks, 2014)
- ἄνθρωπος ἐν εὐφρόνῃ φάος ἅπτεται ἑαυτῷ [ἀποθανὼν] ἀποσβεσθεὶς
- Man, like a light in the night, is kindled and put out.
- Fragment 26
- κόσμον τόνδε, τὸν αὐτὸν ἁπάντων, οὔτε τις θεῶν οὐτε ἀνθρώπων ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ' ἦν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον, ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα
- This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.
- Fragment 30
- Variant translations:
The world, an entity out of everything, was created by neither gods nor men, but was, is and will be eternally living fire, regularly becoming ignited and regularly becoming extinguished.
This world . . . ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in measure going out.
- That which always was,
and is, and will be everlasting fire,
the same for all, the cosmos,
made neither by god nor man,
replenishes in measure
as it burns away.
- Translated by Brooks Haxton
- ἓν τὸ σοφὸν μοῦνον λέγεσθαι οὐκ ἐθέλει καὶ ἐθέλει Ζηνὸς ὄνομα
- The wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.
- Fragment 32
- πολυμαθίη νόον οὐ διδάσκει
- Much learning does not teach understanding.
- Fragment 40
- μάχεσθαι χρὴ τὸν δῆμον ὑπὲρ τοῦ νόμου ὅκωσπερ τείχεος
- The people must fight for its law as for its walls.
- Fragment 44
- B49a. potamois tois autois …
- Into the same rivers we step and do not step, we are and are not. (Heraclitus Homericus)
- Fragment 49a.
- Translated by Daniel W. Graham, "Heraclitus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2021 Edition), <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/heraclitus/>.
- οὐκ ἐμοῦ, ἀλλὰ τοῦ λόγου ἀκούσαντας ὁμολογεῖν σοφόν ἐστιν ἓν πάντα εἶναί
- It is wise to listen, not to me but to the Word, and to confess that all things are one.
- Fragment 50, as translated in the Loeb Classics edition
- Variant translations:
Listening not to me but to reason, it is wise to agree that all is one.
Listening not to me but to the Word it is wise to agree that all things are one.
He who hears not me but the logos will say: All is one.
It is wise to hearken, not to me, but to my Word, and to confess that all things are one.
- The word translated in these quotes and many others as "The Word" or "Reason", is the greek word λόγος (Logos).
- ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή
- The road up and the road down is one and the same.
- Fragment 60
- Variant translations:
The road up and the road down are one and the same.
The road uphill and the road downhill are one and the same.
The way up and the way down are one and the same.
- ὁ θεὸς ἡμέρη εὐφρόνη, χειμὼν θέρος, πόλεμος εἰρήνη, κόρος λιμός
- God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.
- Fragment 67
- ταὐτό τ' ἔνι ζῶν καὶ τεθνηκὸς καὶ [τὸ] ἐγρηγορὸς καὶ καθεῦδον καὶ νέον καὶ γηραιόν
- And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old.
- Fragment 88
- τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι, τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι
- The waking have one world in common; sleepers have each a private world of his own.
- Fragment 89
- Plutarch, Of Superstition
- ποταμῷ γὰρ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμβῆναι δὶς τῷ αὐτῷ
- You cannot step twice into the same river.
- Fragment 91
- Plutarch, On the EI at Delphi
- Although the Law of Reason is common, the majority of people live as though they had an understanding of their own.
- Fragment 92, as translated by G.W.T. Patrick, trans.
- Men are at variance with the one thing with which they are in the most unbroken communion, the reason that administers the whole universe.
- Fragment 93
- Friedrich Nietzsche's translation: The law under which most of them ceaselessly have commerce they reject for themselves. (The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, Chapter 10)]
- νέκυες γὰρ κοπρίων ἐκβλητότεροι
- Corpses are more fit to be cast out than dung.
- Fragment 96
- κύνες γὰρ καὶ βαΰζουσινὃν, ἂν μὴ γινώσκωσι.
- Dogs, also, bark at what they do not know.
- Fragment 97
- ἀμαθίην κρύπτειν ἄμεινον
- It is better to conceal ignorance than to expose it.
- Fragment 109
- Variant translation: Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it.
- ἀνθρώποις γίνεσθαι ὁκόσα θέλουσιν οὐκ ἄμεινον
- It would not be better if things happened to people just as they wish.
- Fragment 110
- Variant translation: It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish.
- Τίς γὰρ αὐτῶν νόος ἢ φρήν; δήμων ἀοιδοῖσι ἕπονται καὶ διδασκάλῳ χρέωνται ὁμίλῳ, οὐκ εἰδότες ὅτι πολλοὶ κακοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἀγαθοί. αἱρεῦνται γὰρ ἓν ἀντία πάντων οἱ ἄριστοι, κλέος ἀέναον θνητῶν, οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ κεκόρηνται ὅκωσπερ κτήνεα.
- For what sense or understanding have they? They follow minstrels and take the multitude for a teacher, not knowing that many are bad and few good. For the best men choose one thing above all—immortal glory among mortals; but the masses stuff themselves like cattle.
- Fragment 111, as translated by G.W.T. Patrick
- Speaking with sense we must fortify ourselves in the common sense of all, as a city is fortified by its law, and even more forcefully. For all human laws are nourished by the one divine law. For it prevails as far as it will and suffices for all and is superabundant.
- Fragment 114, as Translated by Daniel W. Graham
- All human laws are nourished by one divine law.
- Fragment 114
- ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων
- Character is destiny.
- Fragment 119
- Variant translations:
Character is fate.
Man's character is his fate.
A man's character is his fate.
A man's character is his guardian divinity.
One's bearing shapes one's fate.
- φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ
- Nature is wont to hide herself.
- Fragment 123
- Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.
- As translated by Philip Wheelwright in Heraclitus (1959)
- Many statements paraphrase or extend upon his famous assertions that "everything changes" in ways which arguably diverge from valid translation, and yet have become widely attributed to Heraclitus:
- Change is the only constant.
- There is nothing permanent except change.
- Of Every One-Hundred Men, Ten shouldn't even be there, Eighty are nothing but targets, Nine are real fighters... We are lucky to have them... They make the battle. Ah but the One, One of them is a Warrior... and He will bring the others back.
- Attributed to "Hericletus c. 500 B.C." [sic] in The Tactical Rifle (1999) by Gabriel Suarez; no earlier source has been found.
Quotes about Heraclitus
- It was not Zeno, the founder of the Stoics, alone, who taught that the Universe evolves, and its primary substance is transformed from the state of fire into that of air, then into that of water, etc. Heraclitus of Ephesus maintained that the one principle that underlies all phenomena in Nature is fire. The intelligence that moves the Universe is fire, and fire is intelligence. And while Anaximenes said the same of air, and Thales of Miletus (600 years b.c.) of water, the Esoteric Doctrine reconciles all these philosophers, by showing that though each was right, the system of none was complete.
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1 of 4 (1888)
- Heraclitus (2.0) 3 4 1 2 3 (His point in evolution & rays)
- Benjamin Creme in The List of Initiates, Their rays and stage of evolution, as published in Maitreya’s Mission Volumes One, Two and Three, as well as those published in Share International between April 1997 and August 2014.
- [With Heraclitus] we see land; there is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my Logic.
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1892), trans. E. S. Haldane, p. 279
- I walked on to the next corner, sat on a bench at a bus stop, and read in my new book about Heraclitus. All things flow like a river, he said; nothing abides. Parmenides, on the other hand, believed that nothing ever changed, it only seemed so. Both views appealed to me.
- Ross Macdonald, The Chill (1963), Vintage Crime/Black Lizard edition, pp. 209-210.
- In other countries, too, the idea of a creation was sternly rejected, as, for instance, by Heraclitus, who declares that no god and no man made this world, but that it was always and is and will be, an eternal fire, assuming forms and destroying them. And this protest, it should be remembered, came from a man who was able to say with equal honesty that 'God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and hunger—and that he is called according to the pleasure of every one.'
- Max Müller, Natural Religion (1892) p. 253.
- Herakleitos, about 460 B.C., one of the boldest thinkers of ancient Greece, declared that Homer deserved to be ejected from public assemblies and flogged...
- Max Müller, Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873) p. 343.
- If the flow is steady, the field velocity vectors and the system of streamlines remain unaffected by the progress of time. Looking at the vector field and its streamlines we do not notice any change. Yet if we could distinguish the different particles of fluid from each other, we could observe incessant change...
We have here two aspects of a steady flow, one of unchanging persistence, the other of incessant change. ...Heraclitus was called the "Dark Philosopher"; his views of human affairs were sombre and his sayings obscure. ...
"You cannot look twice at the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in."
"We look and do not look at the same rivers; we are, and we are not."
What is the intended meaning of these sentences? I do not venture to find out. Yet I think that the originator of these senteces came pretty close to formulating the concept "steady flow of a fluid."
- George Pólya, Mathematical Methods in Science (1977)
- When... Heraclitus names the world an ever-living fire that... extinguishes itself and again kindles itself, when... all is exchanged for fire and fire for all... he can only understand by this that fire, this restless, all-consuming, all-transmuting, and equally (in heat) all-vivifying element, represents the constant force of this eternal alteration and transformation, the notion of life, in the most vivid and energetic manner. ...the means of which the power of motion that is precedent to all matter avails itself for the production of the living process of things. Heraclitus... explains the multiplicity of things... [fire] condenses itself into material elements, first air, then water, then earth. ...These two processes of extinction and ignition... alternate... in perpetual rotation with each other and... in stated periods the world resolves itself into the primal fire, in order to re-create itself out of it again. ...[F]ire is to him... the principle of movement, of physical as of spiritual vitality; the soul itself is a fiery vapour; its power and perfection depend on its being pure from all grosser and duller elements.
- Albert Schwegler, Handbook of the History of Philosophy (1868) pp. 21-22.
- The part I understand is excellent, and so too is, I dare say, the part I do not understand; but it needs a Delian diver to get to the bottom of it.
- Socrates, when asked his opinion of Heraclitus's treatise, as quoted in Diogenes Laërtius's Lives of Eminent Philosophers (ed. R. D. Hicks), Book II, Ch. 5, sec. 22.
- I cannot approve of Heraclitus, who, being self-taught and arrogant, said, "I have explored myself." Nor can I praise him for hiding his poem in the temple of Artemis, in order that it might be published afterwards as a mystery; and those who take an interest in such things say that Euripides the tragic poet came there and read it, and, gradually learning it by heart, carefully handed down to posterity this darkness of Heraclitus.
- Tatian, Address to the Greek P. 7 Pratten translation
- If neither sub-atomic particles nor organic species exemplify the 'permanent entities' of Greek metaphysics, what else in the real world does so? ...Two hundred years of historical research have had their effect. Whether we turn to social or intellectual history, evolutionary zoology, historical geology or astronomy—whether we consider explanatory theories or star-clusters, societies or cultures, languages or disciplines, organic species or the Earth itself—the verdict is not Parmenidean but Heraclitean. As we now understand it, nothing in the empirical world possesses the permanent unchanging identity which all Greek natural philosophers (the Epicureans apart) presupposed in the ultimate elements of Nature. So, if we... are to entertain metaphysical thoughts about the nature of things-in-general consistent with the rest of our late-twentieth-century ideas, we must explore the consequences of the modern, post-Darwinian or 'populational' approach, as applied not just to species, but to historical entities of all kinds. Confronted with the question, 'How do permanent entities preserve their identity through all their apparent changes?', we must simply deny the validity of the question itself. In its place, we must substitute the question, 'How do historical entities maintain their coherence and continuity, despite all the real changes they undergo?'
- Stephen Toulmin, Human Understanding (1972) Vol. 1 The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts.
- Heraclitus at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Fragments (original Greek text)
- Philoctetesː Fragments (original Greek text)
- Fragments of Heraclitus – parallel Greek with links to Perseus, French, and English
- Heraclitus Fragments in Greek (Unicode) and English
- Heraclitus: The Complete Fragments, William Harris (translator), Greek and English (DK numbers) with commentary (PDF file)
- Heraclitus Bilingual Anthology (in Greek and English, side by side)
- Heraclitus of Ephesus by Giannis Stamatellos