Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
68. The One and the Many 70. Flux

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

69. Fire
All this made it necessary for him to seek out a new primary substance. He wanted not merely something from which opposites could be "separated out," but something which of its own nature would pass into everything else, while everything else would pass in turn into it. This he found in Fire, and it is easy to see why, if we consider the phenomenon of combustion. The quantity of fire in a flame burning steadily appears to remain the same, the flame seems to be what we call a "thing." And yet the substance of it is continually changing. It is always passing away in smoke, and its place is always being taken by fresh matter from the fuel that feeds it. This is just what we want. If we regard the world as an "ever-living fire" (fr. 20), we can understand how it is always becoming all things, while all things are always returning to it.58

Burnet's Notes


58. That the Fire of Herakleitos was something on the same level as the "Air" of Anaximenes is clearly implied in such passages as Arist. Met. A, 3. 984 a 5. In support of the view that something different from literal fire is meant, Plato, Crat. 413 b, is sometimes quoted; but the context shows the passage will not bear this interpretation. Sokrates is discussing the derivation of δίκαιον from δια-ιόν, and certainly δίκη was a prominent Herakleitean conception, and a good deal that is here said may be the authentic doctrine of the school. He goes on to complain that when he asks what this is which "goes through" everything, he gets inconsistent answers. One says it is the sun. Another asks if there is no justice after sunset, and says it is simply fire. A third says it is not fire itself, but the heat which is in fire. A fourth identifies it with Mind. Now all we are entitled to infer from this is that different accounts were given in the Herakleitean school at a later date. The view that it was not fire itself, but Heat, which "passed through" all things, is related to the theory of Herakleitos as Hippo's Moisture is to the Water of Thales. It is quite likely, too, that some Herakleiteans attempted to fuse the system of Anaxagoras with their own, just as Diogenes of Apollonia tried to fuse it with that of Anaximenes. We shall see, indeed, that we still have a work in which this attempt is made (p. 150, n. 2).

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