Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
65. The Fragments 67. The Discovery of Herakleitos

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

66. The Doxographical Tradition
Some of these fragments are far from clear; and there are probably not a few of which the meaning will never be recovered. We turn, then, to the doxographers for a clue; but unfortunately they are less instructive with regard to Herakleitos than we have found them in other cases. Hippolytos, on whom we can generally rely for a fairly accurate account of what Theophrastos said, derived the material for his first four chapters, which treat of Thales, Pythagoras, Herakleitos, and Empedokles, not from the excellent epitome he afterwards used, but from a biographical compendium,51 mostly consisting of apocryphal anecdotes and apophthegms. It was based, further, on some writer of Successions who regarded Herakleitos as a Pythagorean. The link between him and the Pythagoreans was Hippasos, in whose system fire played an important part. Theophrastos, following Aristotle, had spoken of the two in the same sentence, and that was enough for the writers of Successions.52 We are forced, then, to look to the more detailed of the two accounts of the opinions of Herakleitos given in Diogenes,53 which goes back to the Vetusta Placita, and is, fortunately, pretty full and accurate.

Another difficulty we have to face is that most of the commentators on Herakleitos mentioned in Diogenes were Stoics.54 Now, the Stoics held the Ephesian in peculiar veneration, and sought to interpret him as far as possible in accordance with their own system. Further, they were fond of "accommodating"55 the views of earlier thinkers to their own, and this has had serious consequences. In particular, the Stoic theories of the λόγος and the ἐκπύρωσις are constantly ascribed to Herakleitos, and the very fragments are adulterated with scraps of Stoic terminology.

Burnet's Notes


51. See Diels, Dox. p. 145. We must distinguish Ref. i. and Ref. ix. as sources of information about Herakleitos. The latter book is an attempt to show that the Monarchian heresy of Noetos was derived from Herakleitos, and is a rich mine of Herakleitean fragments.

52. Arist. Met. A, 3. 984 a 7 (R.P. 56 c); Theophr. ap. Simpl. Phys. 23, 33 (R.P. 36 c).

53. For these double accounts see Note on Sources, § 15.

54. Diog. ix. 15 (R.P. 30 c). Schleiermacher rightly insisted upon this.

55. The word συνοικειοῦν is used of the Stoic method of interpretation by Philodemos (cf. Dox. 547 b, n.), and Cicero (N.D. 1. 41) renders it by accommodare.

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