of Ephesus, known as 'The Obscure,' was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher
from Ephesus in Asia Minor. As with other pre-Socratics, his writings
only survive in fragments quoted by other authors. He disagreed
with Thales, Anaximander, and Pythagoras about the nature of the
ultimate substance, but instead claimed that the nature of everything
is change itself; he uses fire as a metaphor rather than his solution
to material monism. This led to the belief that change is real,
and stability illusory. For Heraclitus everything is "in flux",
as exemplified in Platon´s famous aphorism "Panta Rhei":
flows, nothing stands still"
is recognized as one of the earliest dialectical philosophers
with his acknowledgement of the universality of change and development
through internal contradictions, as in his statements:
cosmic rule, as day yields night, so winter summer, war peace,
plenty famine. All things change. Fire penetrates the lump of
myrrh, until the joining bodies die and rise again in smoke called
do not know how that which is drawn in different directions harmonises
with itself. The harmonious structure of the world depends upon
opposite tension like that of the bow and the lyre."
is famous for expressing the notion that no man can cross the
same river twice:
both step and do not step in the same rivers.
We are and are not."
idea of the logos is also credited to him, as he proclaims that
everything originates out of the logos. Further, Heraclitus said
am as I am not,"
who hears not me but the logos will say: All is one."
held that an explanation of change was foundational to any theory
of nature. This view was strongly opposed by Parmenides, who argued
that change is an illusion and that everything is fundamentally
static. This promotion of change also led Heraclitus, unusually,
to promote warfare and violence, and argue against Homer, as he
saw strife as something that led to change:
is the father of all and the king of all"
"Every animal is driven to pasture with a blow"
view on the random chance inherent in the universe is famously
the direct opposite of Einstein's:
is a child playing dice; the kingly power is a child's."
"God does not play dice with the universe."
appears to have taught by means of small, oracular aphorisms meant
to encourage thinking based on natural law and reason. The brevity
and elliptical logic of his aphorisms earned Heraclitus the epithet
'Obscure'. The technique, as well as the teaching, is redolent
of Zen Buddhism's koans.
the Heraclitean emphasis on the nature of things and existence
as one of constant change, expressed with language of polarity,
is particularly reminiscent of another ancient philosophical tradition,
that of Taoism: the Tao (or "the Way") often refers
to a space-time sequence, and is similarly expressed with seemingly-contradictory
language (e.g., "The Way is like an empty vessel / that may
still be drawn from / without ever needing to be filled").
Indeed, parallels may be drawn between the fundamental concepts
of the logos (as it was understood during Heraclitus's time) and
is described as having a melancholy disposition, and is sometimes
referred to as the "weeping philosopher," as opposed
to Democritus, who is known as the "laughing philosopher."
are several legendary stories about Heraclitus, especially concerning
his eventual death from illness (and supposed attempt to stave
off death using dung and ignoring doctors). These mostly stem
from mis-interpretations of the metaphors in his fragments, and
an attempt to construct a narrative based on these fragments.