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A History of Greek Philosophy / THE SCHOOL OF MILETUS / HERACLITUS

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He was savage in his criticism of other writers, even the greatest. Homer, he said, and Archilochus too, deserved to be hooted from the platform and thrashed. Even the main purport of his writings was differently interpreted. Some named his work ‘The Muses,’ as though it were chiefly a poetic vision; others named it ‘The sure Steersman to the Goal of Life’; others, more prosaically, ‘A Treatise of Nature.’

 

The fundamental principle or fact of being Heraclitus formulated in the famous dictum, ‘All things pass.’ In the eternal flux or flow of being consisted its reality; even as in a river the water is ever changing, and the river exists as a river only in virtue of this continual change; or as in a living body, wherein while there is life there is no stability or fixedness; stability and fixedness are the attributes of the unreal image of life, not of life itself. Thus, as will be observed, from the material basis of being as conceived by Thales, with only a very vague conception of the counter-principle of movement, philosophy has wheeled round in Heraclitus to the other extreme; he finds his permanent element in the negation of permanence; being or reality consists in never ‘being’ but always ‘becoming,’ not in stability but in change.


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