Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library
  PREVIOUSNEXT  

CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · QUICK INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHIES
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · PORTRAITS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Heraclitus (c. 535–c. 475 B.C.)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
HERACLITUS, the most original of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, was born at Ephesus about 535 B.C. His father’s name is uncertain; but he belonged to the nobility, and claimed descent from Androclus the founder of Ephesus, a son of the Athenian king Codrus. He had even a claim to the royal title himself, doubtless as the titular head of the State religion; but resigned it to his brother when he devoted himself to philosophy. He remained, however, always an aristocrat, and bitterly opposed to the growing democracy of Ephesus, which banished his uncle Hermodorus. The latter is said to have gone to Rome and assisted in drawing up the laws of the Twelve Tables. Heraclitus seems to have lived a retired life, and to have died about 475 B.C. He was known in later times as “the weeping philosopher.”  1
  Few men have influenced the world by their thought more deeply than Heraclitus. He was the inventor of the Logos, from which the science of Logic is named, and on which the first principle of Stoicism and the Christian doctrine of “the Word” are based. His one book, ‘On Nature,’ was written in Ionic prose, in a form so difficult as to earn him in subsequent times the title of “the Dark.” This darkness, however, was due far more to the matter than to the style of the book. The latter indeed, if abrupt and terse, is powerful and sublime, reminding us of the Hebrew prophets; while of the former, Socrates said that its depth was so great as to require “a Delian diver.”  2
  Heraclitus claims to be self-taught; nevertheless he shows acquaintance not only with Homer and Hesiod, but also with Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Hecatæus, Archilochus, and Bias—and inveighs against the whole of them, except the last. His originality therefore consisted in the attitude of opposition which he assumed to his predecessors. Combining the material principle of his Ionian predecessors with the numerical proportion of Pythagoras and the all-embracing unity of being of Xenophanes, he set up as his absolute a universal fire, determining itself according to measure and number. Through the regulated self-transformation of this, the universe with all its phenomena, including thought, arises. In this universe everything is in perpetual change, except the Logos or law of change, which is conceived as one with the primal fire. The universal life is a process from fire and to fire,—a continual differentiation and a continual overcoming of differentiation.  3
  Heraclitus is the first materialistic monist, and all subsequent systems of monism descend from him. His views are discussed in the ‘Cratylus’ of Plato, and are often referred to by Aristotle. He founded no school; but about 308 B.C., Zeno of Citium, adopting his leading principles,—his Logos and his monism,—founded Stoicism, which is thus mainly a development of Heracliteanism. Stoicism played a great part in the world for six or seven hundred years, and some of the noblest spirits of the ancient world professed it,—Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca, etc. It finds a very noble expression in the ‘Hymn to Zeus’ by Cleanthes.  4
  In modern times Hegel, by his own admission, adopted into his Logic all the principles of Heraclitus,—the self-determining, world-creating Logos, the identity of opposites, the universal process, etc.,—and thus gave them a new lease of life. Hegel himself by this means reached an all-embracing idealism, which professed to furnish a new basis for all the old notions of Church and State, which the French Revolution had rudely shaken; but his disciple Ferdinand Lassalle, who wrote a large work in two volumes on Heraclitus, emphasizing the latter’s materialism, made it the basis of that view of the world and of society which calls for Socialism as its true expression. Indeed, Socialism is merely Heracliteanism in politics and economics. Thus, in a very important sense, Heraclitus may be said to be the father of Socialism, and to be very much alive among us to-day.  5
  Besides Lassalle’s work, already referred to (‘Die Philosophie Herakleitos des Dunklen von Ephesos’: Berlin, 1858), there are many works on Heraclitus,—by Schleiermacher, Bernays, Schuster, Teichmüller, Pfleiderer, and others. The best edition of the ‘Fragments’ is that by I. Bywater, ‘Heracliti Ephesii Fragmenta,’ Oxford, 1877; of the pseudo-Heraclitean letters, that by Jac. Bernays, Berlin, 1869.  6
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.