Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
71. The Upward and Downward Path 73. Man

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

72. Measure for Measure
How is it that, in spite of this constant flux, things appear relatively stable? The answer of Herakleitos was that it is owing to the observance of the "measures," in virtue of which the aggregate bulk of each form of matter in the long run remains the same, though its substance is constantly changing. Certain "measures" of the "ever-living fire" are always being kindled, while like "measures" are always going out (fr. 20). All things are "exchanged" for fire and fire for all things (fr. 22), and this implies that for everything it takes, fire will give as much. "The sun will not exceed his measures" (fr. 29).

And yet the "measures" are not absolutely fixed. We gather from the passage of Diogenes quoted above that Theophrastos spoke of an alternate preponderance of the bright and dark exhalations, and Aristotle speaks of Herakleitos as explaining all things by evaporation.65 In particular, the alternation of day and night, summer and winter, were accounted for in this way. Now, in a passage of the pseudo-Hippokratean treatise Περὶ διαίτης, which is almost certainly of Herakleitean origin,66 we read of an "advance of fire and, water" in connexion with day and night and the courses of the sun and moon.67 In fr. 26, again, we read of fire "advancing," and all these things seem to be closely connected. We must therefore try to see whether there is anything in the remaining fragments that bears on the subject.

Burnet's Notes


65. Arist. De an. B, 2. 405 a 26, τὴν ἀναθυμίασιν ἐξ ἧς τἆλλα συνίστησιν.

66. The presence of Herakleitean matter in this treatise was pointed out by Gesner, but Bernays was the first to make any considerable use of it in reconstructing the system. The older literature of the subject has been in the main superseded by Carl Fredrichs' Hippokratische Untersuchungen (1899). He shows that (as I said already in the first edition) the work belongs to the period of eclecticism and reaction briefly characterised in § 184, and he points out that c 3, which was formerly supposed to be mainly Herakleitean, is strongly influenced by Empedokles and Anaxagoras. I think, however, that he goes wrong in attributing the section to a nameless "Physiker" of the school of Archelaos, or even to Archelaos himself; it is far more like what we should expect from the eclectic Herakleiteans described by Plato in Crat. 413 c (see p. 145, n. 1). He is certainly wrong in holding the doctrine of the balance of fire and water not to be Herakleitean, and there is no justification for separating the remark quoted in the text from its context because it happens to agree almost verbally with the beginning of c 3.

67. Περὶ διαίτης, i. 5. I read thus: ἡμέρη καὶ εὐφρόνη ἐπὶ τὸ μήκιστον καὶ ἐλάχιστον· ἥλιος, σελήνη ἐπὶ τὸ μήκιστον καὶ ἐλάχιστον· πυρὸς ἔφοδος καὶ ὕδατος. In any case, the sentence occurs between χωρεῖ δὲ πάντα καὶ θεῖά καὶ ἀνθρώπινα ἄνω καὶ κάτω ἀμειβόμενα and πάντα ταὐτὰ καὶ οὐ τὰ αὐτά which are surely Herakleitean utterances.

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