Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
67. The Discovery of Herakleitos 69. Fire

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

68. The One and the Many
Anaximander had taught that the opposites were separated out from the Boundless, but passed away into it once more, so paying the penalty to one another for their unjust encroachments. It is here implied that there is something wrong in the war of opposites, and that the existence of the opposites is a breach in the unity of the One. The truth Herakleitos proclaimed was that the world is at once one and many, and that it is just the "opposite tension" of the opposites that constitutes the unity of the One. It is the same conclusion as that of Pythagoras, though it is put in another way. The use of the word ἁρμονίη suggests that Herakleitos had come under the influence of his older contemporary to some extent.

Plato clearly states that this was the central thought of Herakleitos. In the Sophist (242 d), the Eleatic stranger, after explaining how the Eleatics maintained that what we call many is really one, proceeds

But certain Ionian and (at a later date) certain Sicilian Muses remarked that it was safest to unite these two things, and to say that reality is both many and one, and is kept together by Hate and Love. "For," say the more severe Muses, "in its division it is always being brought together" (cf. fr. 59); while the softer Muses relaxed the requirement that this should always be so, and said that the All was alternately one and at peace through the power of Aphrodite, and many and at war with itself because of something they called Strife.

In this passage the Ionian Muses stand, of course, for Herakleitos, and the Sicilian for Empedokles. According to Plato, then, Herakleitos taught that reality was at once many and one. This was not meant as a logical principle.57 The identity which Herakleitos explains as consisting in difference is just that of the primary substance in all its manifestations. This identity had been realised already by the Milesians, but they had found a difficulty in the difference. Anaximander had treated the strife of opposites as an "injustice," and what Herakleitos set himself to show was that, on the contrary, it was the highest justice (fr. 62).

Burnet's Notes


57. This was the mistake of Lassalle's book. The source of his error was Hegel's statement that there was no proposition of Herakleitos that he had not taken up into his own logic (Gesch. d. Phil. i. 328). The example which he cites is the statement that Being does not exist any more than not-Being, for which he refers to Arist. Met. A, 4. This, however, is not there ascribed to Herakleitos, but to Leukippos or Demokritos, with whom it meant that space was as real as body (§ 175). Aristotle does, indeed, tell us in the Metaphysics that "some" think Herakleitos says that the same thing can be and not be; but he adds that it does not follow that a man thinks what he says (Met. Γ, 3.1005 b 24). This is explained by B, 5. 1062 a 31, where we are told that by being questioned in a certain manner Herakleitos could be made to admit the principle of contradiction; as it was, he did not understand what he said. In other words, he was unconscious of its logical bearing.

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