The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-24-2002

Abstract

Heraclitus is critical of book-learning, yet, unlike Pythagoras, he wrote a book, which presumably he intended to be read. Heraclitus may think himself justified in composing his book because in his composition he remains true to the nature of things, which ‘loves to hide’ (B123). He writes a book that is just as taxing as the nature of things and demands the reader’s careful attention and thorough engagement. Like the Lord in Delphi, and the nature of things, Heraclitus ‘neither speaks out nor conceals, but gives a sign’ (B93). What is more important, he informs his readership about subjects that are not beyond their ability to verify, unlike the stories of the poets and the histores about the strange people and their curious customs and the fabulous animals that inhabit the faraway comers of the world or the stories about the gods and heroes and their amazing adventures of long ago or the reports of the rare and distant marvels of nature. Heraclitus imparts to his readership what they can in principle confirm for themselves. No exceptional or privileged position is called for, of the sort the histores and poets claim for themselves. Men need only engage in self-reflection and linguistic analysis, and use their own senses intelligently. Each man is his own witness, and he requires no further authority than himself: ‘It belongs to all men to know themselves and to reason soundly’ (B116).

Notes

Herb Granger presented “Heraclitus’ Book” to the Society at its meeting with the Central Division in Chicago in 2002. A revised version was published as “Argumentation and Heraclitus’ Book,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26 (2004) 1-17.

Herber Granger is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University.