Thoughts of Heraclitus
Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher whose work dates back in the 6th century BC. Heraclitus was the first philosopher in the western countries to research beyond physical theory to understand metaphysical foundation, and its moral application. Heraclitus introduced the concept of Logos (reason) in the Western world when he realized that individuals had a problem of understanding concepts (de Beer 13). The theories of knowledge, as well as the unity of opposites, are some of the arguments that marked Heraclitus’ philosophy. Heraclitus observed that through understanding, people could realize that opposite things can come together even when they are composed of different characters.
Heraclitus Theory of Knowledge
Heraclitus is amazed that many people lack understanding of what goes on around them. Heraclitus supports knowledge that emanate from appropriate understanding of the world. His notion affirmed that learning is not in any way a trail of wisdom. Heraclitus termed wisdom as the ultimate goal of philosophy (Lawhead 17). Heraclitus believed that many individuals lacked the capacity to attain wisdom, as understanding tends to be a rare commodity that even the most presumed sages have failed to attain it. The profound knowledge that is based on experience and acquired through enquiry may assist in unearthing the reality and truth that mostly remain concealed (Baloyannis 3). For Heraclitus, wisdom is achievable for those individuals who can distinguish it.
Heraclitus termed mindfulness of all things as the ground of being. He affirmed that people who express their views with insight should endeavor to form a base that is common to all. The true nature of reality is built on Heraclitus’ notion that all sensible things exist in a status of flux; hence, if there has to be any knowledge about anything, then there must be something beyond sensible thing that persists (Gulley 71). Heraclitus asserted that individuals should not strive to learn what they should, since they do not understand everything that they encounter. Additionally, experience does not offer enough knowledge because hearing without comprehending is just like being deaf.
In seeking knowledge, the most important thing is reasoning, which is the path towards understanding. Human beings have a chance to discover the surreptitious characters of the world through their cognitive capabilities. The most essential trait in gaining knowledge is having an advanced approach of comprehending the message (or logos). Logos means “discourse” or “reason” in understanding the rational order of the world (Lawhead 17). Heraclitus theory is full of riddles, puzzles, and short sayings, which contain hidden insights. To comprehend riddles and puzzles, the reader should strive to understand their complexity, which can assist in discovering their unity. According to Heraclitus’ Fragment 2, most individuals live as if they possess their own private understanding, despite the Logos being common (de Beer 14). Heraclitus advised men to follow what is common, rather than creating their own way of understanding things.
Heraclitus tended to support the aspect of senses in acquiring knowledge. He mentioned sight, hearing, as well as experience, as some of the valuable senses, and highlighted sight as the most valuable sense. He claimed that eyes are more perfect witnesses than the ears because eyes have the capacity to select information that can be retrieved, but ears are bound to hear much information, which is not essential for acquiring wisdom. Heraclitus also discussed about language in the process of knowing the universe and emphasized on language as a critical element in the search of knowledge (Monballieu, Praet and Janse 315).
Unity of Opposites
The “unity of opposites” became one of the major accomplishments of Heraclitus, since it managed to demonstrate the freedom philosophy practically. The theory illustrates two key opposites, which are interconnected though not identical. According to Heraclitus, the universe has always been in constant change, but it remained the same. When an object shift from one point to another point, the object experiences a change, but the object remained the same. Heraclitus emphasized that “the road up and down is one and the same road” while the circumference of a circle starts and ends at the same point (Baloyannis 2). The seawater can be most pure and most unhygienic: fish would find it drinkable and life-supporting, but for human beings, the same water could be undrinkable and toxic.
Heraclitus’ theory of flux formed a unique case in the study of unity of the opposites, for instance, an individual stepping and not stepping in the same river. This indicates that the same individual cannot walk through the same river twice because one cannot step on the same water twice. When an individual step in the river for the second time, he/she does not step on the water that he/she had earlier stepped on. Some opposites are only different stages though they exist in one continuous process (Lawhead 18). For instance, the night and the day are just one thing while hot and cold coexist on the same range. A child and an adult are both equal, as human beings but both exist in different phases in the human’s life. Heraclitus does not perceive it as wrong when opposites conflict each other.
The core principle in the theory of unity of opposites is the quality of life together with the immortality in death. Life exists at one edge of the scale whereas immortality exists on the opposite end in a paradoxical reality. Certainly, things that individuals perceive as opposites exist in nature. For example, the forests have large trees as well as small trees while animals exist in different sizes, but this does not bother the nature nor does it create a convulsion of anxiety. An old lion is not swept away by emotions over its approaching death.
Heraclitus’ theory does not conflate the opposites into an identity, but reveals the interconnectedness that is contrary to states in life. According to Lawlead, Heraclitus’ perception of the unity of opposites brings conflict, which is good for the unity to persist (18). The first impression of the opposites brings contradiction, but individual’s experience enables individuals to see the opposites as inseparable. Opposites are real while interconnections are true, but corresponding opposites can never be identical to the other.
Heraclitus’ philosophy is based on researching beyond the physical world. The theory of knowledge that Heraclitus unraveled asserted that people should exercise reason in the search of knowledge, as reasoning encourages understanding while understanding generates wisdom. Knowledge should be established on what is common to all. The unity of opposites formed the elementary idea of Heraclitus’ philosophy. According to Heraclitus, different features of the same object can harbor opposite characteristics. He asserted that opposite things are identical, but sometimes not everything can be something at the same time. The paradox always remain in the opposites, since through experience, they cannot be separated.
Baloyannis, Stavros J. “The philosophy of Heraclitus today.” Encephalos 50 (2013): 1-21. Web. 7 March 2016. http://www.encephalos.gr/pdf/50-1-01e.pdf
de Beer, Vladimir. “The Cosmic Role Of The Logos, As Conceived From Heraclitus Until Eriugena.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 59.1-4 (2014): 13-39. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
Gulley, Norman. Plato’s Theory of Knowledge. Abingdon [U.K.: Routledge, 2013. Internet resource.
Lawhead, William F. Cengage Advantage Series: Voyage of Discovery: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. Satamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Monballieu, Aagje, Danny Praet, and Mark Janse. “Salted With Fire. Biblical Allusions, Heraclitus and Judgement by Fire in Julio Cortázar’s ‘All Fires the Fire’.” Orbis Litterarum 66.4 (2011): 312-340. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.