Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
69. Fire 71. The Upward and Downward Path

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

70. Flux
This necessarily brings with it a certain way of looking at the change and movement of the world. Fire burns continuously and without interruption. It is always consuming fuel and always liberating smoke. Everything is either mounting upwards to serve as fuel, or sinking downwards after having nourished the flame. It follows that the whole of reality is like an ever-flowing stream, and that nothing is ever at rest for a moment. The substance of the things we see is in constant change. Even as we look at them, some of the stuff of which they are composed has already passed into something else, while fresh stuff has come into them from another source. This is usually summed up, appropriately enough, in the phrase "All things are flowing" (πάντα ῥεῖ), though this does not seem to be a quotation from Herakleitos. Plato, however, expresses the idea quite clearly. "Nothing ever is, everything is becoming"; "All things are in motion like streams"; "All things are passing, and nothing abides"; "Herakleitos says somewhere that all things pass and naught abides; and, comparing things to the current of a river, he says you cannot step twice into the same stream" (cf. fr. 41)—these are the terms in which he describes the system. And Aristotle says the same thing, "All things are in motion," "nothing steadfastly is."59 Herakleitos held, in fact, that any given thing, however stable in appearance, was merely a section in the stream, and that the stuff composing it was never the same in any two consecutive moments. We shall see presently how he conceived the process to operate; meanwhile we remark that this is not the most original feature of the system. The Milesians had held a similar view.

Burnet's Notes


59. Plato, Theaet. 152 e 1; Crat. 401 d 5, 402 a 8; Arist. Top. A, 11. 104 b 22 ; De caelo, Γ, 1. 298 b 30; Phys. Θ, 3. 253 b 2.

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