Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. I / by Ralph McInerny

Part I: Presocratic Philosophy

Chapter II

The Ionians

First we shall examine three thinkers, all natives of Miletus and each seeking a basic nature or stuff as the ground of the visible universe. Xenophanes of Colophon does not seem to share the interest of Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes in the physical world, but his attitude towards the official religion and his obvious acquaintance with the efforts of the natural Philosophers is what makes him of interest here. Heracitus is difficult to classify. There is a temptation to see him as an erratic but genuine natural Philosopher and thereby reduce the import of his ethical utterances; on the other hand, it is easy to succumb to the view that he is primarily a moralist and that his cosmological fragments are unimportant. In treating his dark and difficult dicta, we shall try to strike a balance between these extremes.

A. Thales of Miletus

While Thales of Miletus is traditionally hailed as the first philosopher -- a designation we find in Aristotle -- most things concerning him are matters of dispute. We are not certain when he lived or whether he wrote; nor is there anything like general agreement as to the meaning of the doctrines attributed to him by later authors. Our main source for his doctrine is Aristotle. Herodotus has a number of things to say about his life and what he is reputed to have done, but neither Aristotle nor Herodotus seems to have much more than hearsay to go on; both express some doubt as to what is said about Thales. What underpins the doctrine attributed to him is particularly open to conjecture. Diogenes Laertius'{9} account of Thales teems with anecdotes, most of which are nowadays rejected; one safe fact recounted by him, however, is that Thales always finds a place in the changing lists of the seven sages of the ancient world.

Herodotus and others speak of Thales' knowledge of astronomy, and it is the mention of Thales' prediction of an eclipse of the sun during the war between the Medes and the Lydians which enables us to fix the time in which he lived. The eclipse in question is thought to have been that of 585 B.C. In the ancient doxographical tradition, it was a simple matter to move from such an important accomplishment to the date of Thales' birth and death -- he is said to have had a long life -- the date of the eclipse locates Thales early in the sixth century before Christ.

Did Thales' prediction of the eclipse involve knowing what an eclipse really is? This question refers to the tradition that Thales spent time in Egypt where he learned geometry from priests and brought it to Greece.{10} Connected with the possibility of such a sojourn is the view that Thales "actually measured the pyramids by their shadows, having observed the time when our own shadow is equal to our height." (Diogenes Laertius I,27) Moreover, a theory on the flooding of the Nile is ascribed to Thales and recorded by Herodotus (II,20), which makes a visit to Egypt at least probable.

We have mentioned that Thales probably learned geometry from priests in Egypt. The Greeks, from the time of Herodotus (II,4,109), had a tendency to speak glowingly of the wisdom of the East -- of Egypt and Babylon. Aristotle bears witness to this penchant in the beginning of his Metaphysics. Connecting the rise of wisdom with leisure, he writes: "Hence it was in Egypt that the mathematical arts were first developed; for there the priestly caste was set apart as a leisure class." (981b23-5) What we know of Babylonian and Egyptian mathematics gives little support to the view that the Greeks could have borrowed geometry from them, certainly nothing on a plane with the geometry of Euclid.{11} The renown of Thales as a geometer is based on the tradition that he computed the heights of the pyramids and the distance of ships from shore. But neither of these feats demands a knowledge of geometrical science, though of course the problems involved are later seen as simple applications of known geometry. The mathematics of the Egyptians appears to have been a matter of more or less crude calculation, no more than this need be attributed to Thales. Proclus, in his commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elements, reports the view of Eudemus that Thales knew that two triangles are equal then they have one sade and the two adjacent angles equal. The calculation of the distance of ships from shore was thought to depend upon the truth of this proposition. Since a simple rule of calculation would suffice to solve the problem, there is no need to think that Thales knew geometry in the rich sense of science or that he had learned it from the Egyptians. What he could have gotten from them, directly or indirectly, is a rule of calculation, such as that recorded in the Rhind papyrus.{12}

The same reservation must be made about Thales' prediction of the eclipse. Such a prediction can be made without knowing the cause of the eclipse; and since this was certainly not known by the immediate successors of Thales at Miletus -- and it does not seem likely that such an important bit of knowledge could have been lost so soon -- it seems safest to hold that Thales himself had no knowledge of the true nature of the eclipse. Priests in Babylonia had compiled records of eclipses for religious purposes and could have gained a knowledge of a cycle of solstices within which eclipses could be predicted to occur at certain intervals. Since the Greeks traveled a great deal, it is not at all unlikely that Thales gained access to these records and made his prediction on their basis. This leaves unexplained, however, the implication that his prediction was exact although Herodotus seems to suggest only that Thales said that an eclipse would occur in a given year. This relative inexactness would not, of course, detract from the wonder the actual occurrence elicited. The fact that it came about on the day of an important battle, though presumably explainable only in terms of chance, would serve to increase the wonder and make Thales himself the object of a good deal of adulation.

These remarks are not intended to minimize the reputation Thales enjoyed in antiquity nor the role he plays in the history of thought. The esteem in which Thales was held in ancient times has a wider base than we have hitherto indicated. He is pictured as urging the Ionians to unify and name a single capitol (Herodotus, 1,170), and as having averted the streams of a river to make it fordable by King Croesus and his army (Herodotus is somewhat dubious about this incident). He is credited as well with the discovery of the Little Bear as an aid to navigation; indeed, the book ascribed to Thales was called "The Nautical Star Guide." The picture that emerges is one of a legendary sage, statesman, engineer, geometer, astronomer; so great was his reputation that any man of great practical wisdom came to be called "a veritable Thales" (Aristophanes, Birds, 1009). In Plato, Thales becomes the type of the absent-minded professor or philosopher.

I will illustrate my meaning, Theodorus, by the jest which the clever witty Thracian handmaid is said to have made about Thales, when he fell into a well as he was looking up at the stars. She said that he was so eager to know what was going on in heaven, that he could not see what lay before his feet. This is a jest which is equally applicable to all philosophers." (Theaetetus, 174A).

The incident is not considered to be historical, no more than that recorded by Aristotle which shows the other side of the coin. In this story, Thales, knowing that it was to be a good year for olives, obtained a corner on all the olive presses in the country and hired them out at a handsome profit when the crop came in. "Thus demonstrating that it is easy for philosophers to be rich, if they wish, but that it is not in this that they are interested." (Politics, I,II)

But it is his doctrines which have won for Thales the title of the first philosopher -- doctrines for the knowledge of which we are indebted almost exclusively to Aristotle. The three ascribed to Thales may be stated thus: (1) Water is the nature of all things. (2) All things have soul in them. (3) The all is divine. The passages are so brief it is worth letting Aristotle speak himself.

(1) Thales, the founder of this kind of philosophy, says that the principle is water Land therefore declared the earth to be on water] perhaps taking the supposition from the fact that the nutriment of all things is moist and that heat comes to be and is sustained by the moist, that from which they come to be is the principle of things . . . He also noticed that the seeds of everything have a moist nature and that water is the beginning of the growth of moist things . . . Thales at any rate is said to have explained the principles and origins of things in this way. (Metaphysics, I, 3, 983b20-984a2)

(2) Thales seems also, from what they say, to have supposed that soul was something moving, if he said that the stone possesses soul because it moves iron. (De anima, I, 2, 405a19)

(3) And some say that soul pervades everything, for which reason, perhaps, Thales thought that all things are full of gods. (De anima, I, 5, 411a7)

Notice that in each of these passages there is an indication that Aristotle is dependent on reports and not on any written work of Thales himself. If there was a book or books, we would expect a more positive tone; moreover, when Aristotle attempts to give reasons which might underlie what Thales is reported to have said, he has to settle for probability and his conjectures are framed in terms of his own more advanced understanding. Although these passages tend to bolster the view that no written work of Thales was known in Aristotle's time, Galen gives the following as a direct quote from Thales: "Water is the substrate and all things are derived from it; the manner has already been described by me in Book One." But this sounds very much like a later description of what Thales said.

Of the doctrines attributed to Thales, the first includes the view that water is the principle (arche) of all things and that the earth floats on water. This last point, mentioned as an aside in the Metaphysics, is criticised in Aristotle's De Caelo. (II,13,294a28):

Others say the earth rests on water. For this is the most ancient account, which they say was given by Thales the Milesian, that it stays in place by floating like a log or some other such thing . . . as though the same argument did not apply to the water supporting the earth as to the earth itself.

To call water a principle in Aristotle's sense of "principle," namely "that from which a thing comes and which remains within it" (Metaphysics, V, 1,1013a4), is most likely to go beyond what Thales meant. Perhaps we can put it in the most general terms by saying that Thales held that water is somehow involved in the origin or becoming of things.

What prompted him to take this stand? The reasons Aristotle gives as possible ones are all biological. Nutriment is moist and seeds are moist. Another supporting factor was his observation that corpses dry out. Burnet thought the idea would have been suggested to Thales by meteorological rather than biological considerations. For example, he would have noticed that water is now liquid, now solid, now a mist, and this would have suggested a cosmological view, since neither air nor fire -- certainly not earth -- appears in this diversity of states. Water is drawn up in evaporation and descends in rain; in ancient times it may even have been thought to turn to earth because of the Nile delta. While Burnet's contention that biological considerations could not have influenced Thales must be ruled out, for reasons given by Kirk and Raven (p. 89) as well as by Freeman,{13} there is no need to rule out Burnet's own suggestion. In any case, we can see why Thales is considered the founder of science and was so thought of in antiquity. He sought to name what underlies the diverse things around us, that from which all things take their origin. Water seemed to him to fill the bill and plausible reasons can be adduced for his choice. In putting it this way, we do not intend to overlook Aristotle's reminder that the primacy of water had a long history before Thales, particularly in mythology.

Some think that those ancients who, long before the present generation, were the first to theologize, had a similar idea of nature, because they presented Ocean and Tethys as the parents of becoming and water as that by which the gods swore, which these people styled the Styx. (983b27-32)

Aristotle takes the primitiveness and antiquity of the opinion to be questionable, but the mention of theology is noteworthy in view of what we considered earlier. Other doctrines attributed to Thales include the view that soul pervades the universe -- that is, all things are alive, a view said to be suggested by the magnet and by amber. Notice that the general proposition is based on observation of the magnet; if something as seemingly inanimate as a stone has soul (i.e., a power to move) in it, well, what might not be alive? The view is also said to be based on amber which becomes active only when rubbed. (Diogenes Laertius, I, 24) As Freeman remarks:

It has been thought odd that he should posit 'life' in all inanimate objects on the strength of the magnet, which was a unique manifestation; but if he treated amber and got the same manifestation, it may be that he thought that all objects had the same power if one knew how to invoke it; and that he therefore thought that the whole Cosmos was a living thing, nourished by the life-giving water of which it was composed, and that each particular object in it was likewise alive. (pp. 53-4)

All things are full of gods or daemons. The note of divinity is power as well as immortality; and it seems to be as much the former as the latter which connects this remark (also quoted by Plato, Laws, X, 899B, though not there attributed to Thales) to that which says all things have soul in them. There is a force or power -- call it soul -- which pervades all things and from which they take their origin; it is water.

The putting together of these three things -- water, soul, god, or, abstractly, nature, life, divinity -- is something which we cannot ignore in any appraisal of Thales as the first philosopher. The connection or the identification of these three with mythical thought is one which many scholars feel is too easily overlooked when we stress the first doctrine and let the other two fade away or find their explanation solely in the function of water as principle. This, however, is a question wider than the interpretation of Thales.

We can say, in conclusion, that Thales himself is a somewhat mythical figure. Remarkable engineering feats, political wisdom, uncanny calculations, a cosmology -- all these are attributed to Thales, but by way of legend or hearsay. In written accounts, there does not seem to be one sentence that can be pointed to with certainty as the written or spoken words of Thales. Hence, inevitably guesswork attends any assessment of his scientific or philosophical importance. One thing at least is certain. The beginning of philosophy is shrouded in obscurity.

B. Anaximander of Miletus

In 547-6 B.C. Anaximander was sixty-four and he died soon after. Thus, he was not a great deal younger than Thales of whom, according to tradition, he was a kinsman, student and successor at the "school" of Miletus. Tradition tended to describe in terms of later history the relationships between the early philosophers, and we need not take too literally the talk of a school of Miletus and of masters and disciples. The very least we must say is that Anaximander carried on what was considered to have begun with Thales, that he was younger than Thales and a citizen of Miletus. Of course, it is not pure conjecture to say that Anaximander knew and learned from Thales, given the considerable reputation of the latter.

Anaximander was the first one known to the later Greeks to have ventured a written account of Nature. The title was thought to be just that, On Nature; but it was common to attribute a book of that title to each of the ancients Aristotle designated as physical philosophers. A number of other specifically titled works were said to have been written by Anaximander, but we can have no certitude that they were actually written by him. What we can be sure of, however, is that he did write; for a sentence of his is preserved by Simplicius in his commentary on Aristotle's Physics, and it is thought that Simplicius in his turn is indebted for the information to Theophrastus, Aristotle's disciple. It is with that fragment that we shall begin our consideration of Anaximander. A few remarks on the difficulties of intepretation provide a concrete example of the character of our sources for thinkers prior to Parminides. More importantly, we shall use the doctrine of the fragment to control our other more indirect information though, of course, not all of the latter should be considered operative in the fragment.

Anaximander . . . said that the principle and element of things is the Boundless, having been the first to introduce this very term 'principle;' he says that "it is neither water nor any other of the so- called elements, but some different, boundless nature, from which all the heavens arise and the world within them; out of those things whence is the generation for existing things, into these again does their destruction come to be, according to necessity; for they make amends and give reparation to one another for their offence, according to the disposition of time,' speaking of them thus in rather poetical terms. It is clear that, having observed the change of the four elements into one another, he did not think fit to make any one of these the material substratum, but something else besides these. (After Kahn){14}

In placing the quotation marks where we have, we are adopting the interpretation of Kahn; the more common interpretation would restrict the direct quote in such a way that it begins "out of these things. . . ." That a direct quote, whatever its length, is involved in this passage from Simplicius seems assured by the comment on the poetical style of Anaximander. Those who feel the quotation is shorter than we have made it point out that, since Theophrastus, like Aristotle himself, inevitably sees early philosophy from a Peripatetic viewpoint we must be on our guard against attributing to the earliest philosophers notions elaborated only much later. In the present instance, "generation" and "corruption" ("destruction" in the given translation) are taken to be technical terms of later philosophy and said not be have been used by the pre-Socratics. Kahn (pp. 168-78) has argued that these terms, in a sense close to that Anaximander requires, are used even in pre-philosophical literature (we have seen that Homer uses genesis, Hesiod genet') and that it is not utterly impossible that these very words and, at the least, the thoughts they convey are Anaximandrian. If his arguments are valid, the passage gives us a solid textual base in Anaximander for much of what has been traditionally ascribed to him.

The doctrine of Anaximander is often epitomized by observing that, while Thales gave water as the origin or principle of everything in the universe, his pupil Anaximander said that none of the elements could serve such a function and that consequently it must rather be some boundless or indefinite (apeiron) nature. The passage brings this doctrine immediately to the fore and we must ask what Anaximander meant by the boundless and what relation this bore to the elements. We notice that Simplicius speaks of the four elements, which is perhaps a later restriction of their number. What could Anaximander's own view of the elements have been?

At the end of the quotation, Simplicius gives a reason for Anaximander's choice of the boundless as the origin of things, namely that, having seen that the elements change into one another, Anaximander would have concluded that no one of them could be the source of all else. There is a passage in Aristotle which makes the same point and is thought to have been written with Anaximander in mind.

But yet, nor can the infinite body be one and simple, whether it be, as some say, that which is beside the elements, from which they generate the elements, or whether it be expressed simply. For there are some people who make what is beside the elements the infinite substance; for the elements are opposed to each other (for example, air is cold, water moist, and fire hot), and if one of these were infinite the rest would already have been destroyed. But, as it is, they say that the infinite is different from these, and that they come into being from it. (Physics, III, 5, 204b22ff.)

The elements are considered to be opposites which change into one another; the boundless of Anaximander is not one of the elements because then it would seem necessary that sooner or later all things would change into it. Not being an element, the boundless is not opposed to any of the things that are, to any of the elements which are in opposition to one another. There seem to be two notes of the boundless, namely, indeterminateness in quality or nature and boundlessness in extent -- that which cannot be traversed. It is this latter sense which accords best with previous usage of the term apeiron, we are told, and indeed it answers best to the later discussion of infinity. Indefiniteness in quality seems to follow from the denial that the boundless is one of the elements.

From the boundless nature are said to arise the heavens and the worlds within them.

For some posit one substance only, and this some posit as water, some as air, some as fire, some as finer than water and thicker than air; which they say surrounds all the heavens, being infinite. (De Caelo, 111,5)

The boundless here seems in the present state of things to be a kind of enclosure for the heavens. "And this is the divine; for it is immortal and indestructible, as Anaximander says;" it is said "to be the beginning of the other things and to surround all things and to steer all." (Physics, 111,4) It seems that Anaximander taught that things had their beginning when the opposites "separated off" (Physics, 1,4) from the boundless nature due to the eternal motion of the latter.

He says that that which is productive from the eternal of hot and cold was separated off at the coming to be of this world, and that a kind of sphere of flame from this was formed round the air surrounding the earth, like the bark round a tree. When this was broken off and shut off in certain circles, the sun and the moon and the stars were formed. (Ps.-Plutarch, Strom. 2; Kirk and Raven)

The picture suggests the separation of fire and mist from the boundless with the fire encircling the mist like bark or skin. At the core of the air or mist, the earth condensed and its shape is that of cylinder whose diameter is to its height in a proportion of three to one. The fire encircling air bursts, forming wheels of fire enclosed by air. The earth is at the center of things, not floating on water as for Thales, but it is where it is from considerations of geometrical symmetry. Men live on one side of the cylinder of earth and the sea is what remains of the original mist. The heavenly bodies are simply the fire, disclosing itself through holes in the wheels formed in the way indicated a moment ago. Eclipses are explained as the temporary closing of these holes in the fire-encircling wheels of mist. Since Anaximander explained eclipses in this way, it is thought to be highly unlikely that Thales had hit upon the true explanation earlier.

With this sketch of Anaximander's picture of the universe, we can turn once more to our basic text. Just as the position of the earth is dictated by the notion of geometrical symmetry -- if it is at the center, why should it go elsewhere? -- so the alterations of the opposites separated off from the boundless are seen in terms of a proportion expressed by a judicial metaphor. "Out of those things from which is generation for existing things, into these again does their destruction take place" -- the plural here is sign enough that the passage does not say that as all things come from the boundless nature so do they return to it, but rather, the elements originally separated off are such that one comes to be from another and ceases to be in the reverse change. If we think of day coming to be from night and then once more giving way to night, Anaximander asks us to see something like injustice in the coming to be, an imbalance which is righted when day is destroyed by night. In some such way, the elements are related and the rhythm from hot or cold and back again is seen as injustice and retribution, according to necessity, according to the disposition of time. The world is thus looked upon as governed by a law likened to human justice; proportion is achieved in time. One wants to see here a connection with the geometric inspiration operative in the view of the place of earth and in the proportion of its dimensions. The interchange of opposites everywhere observable in the world is what arrests Anaximander's attention in the extant fragment, and Simplicius' comment on his style must, in the light of the previous chapter, arrest ours. The "rather poetical terms" of Anaximander refer to the justice metaphor. The opposites Anaximander has in mind are first of all the hot and cold, namely fire and air, and then wet and dry, corresponding to water and earth. We have recognized here what were to become, with Empedocles, the four elements, but there is no cogent reason for saying that the Empedoclean doctrine is already taught by Anaximander. Indeed, Aristotle tells us that Empedocles was the first to speak of four elements. We should add that a striking point of continuity with Thales is found in Anaximander's teaching that living things come from the moist element.

The view that some boundless, unlimited, indefinite thing was the first stage in the coming to be of the world and even now surrounds and steers the universe is something of a giant step beyond Thales. This is true if Anaximander made his choice from a consideration of the consequences of singling out one of the elements as the origin and beginning of all else. Moreover, the sentiment expressed by the fragment is that the ceaseless changes in the world around us are governed by a law likened to that of the courts and attributed to the divine which steers all things. In his cosmological teachings, the heavenly bodies are explained in terms of wheels rotating above the earth, with the sun ring being the farthest from earth; the aperture through which what we call the sun is visible is said to be approximately the diameter of the earth cylinder. The moon ring is closer and then comes the star wheel which, of course, has many openings.

There are far fewer anecdotes connected with the name of Anaximander than with that of Thales. We might mention the story that he set up a gnomon at Sparta, that is, an instrument for measuring time, presumably erected on an inscribed surface on which the hour and the seasons could be read. He is also credited with having made a map of the known world.

C. Anaximenes of Miletus

Citizen of Miletus, pupil of Anaximander, Anaximenes is the last major figure of the Milesian school. That he wrote a book is known from the description of his style (". . . he used simple and unextravagant Ionic speech." [Diogenes Laertius, 11,3]) and from a remaining fragment. His continuity with Thales and Anaximander is found in his choice of the material principle. "Anaximenes and Diogenes make air, rather than water, the material principle above the other simple bodies." (Metaphysics, 1,3) Air took on the characteristic of Anaximander's primary stuff, namely, infinity, and a new method of origination is hit upon by Anaximenes which is more determinate that the "separating off" of Anaximander.

Anaximenes, son of Eurystratus, of Miletus, a companion of Anaximander, also says that the underlying nature is one and infinite like him, but not undefined as Anaximander said but definite, for he identifies it as air; and it differs in its substantial nature by rarity and density. Being made finer, it becomes fire, being made thicker it becomes wind, then cloud, then (when thickened still more) water, then earth, then stones; and the rest come into being from these. He too makes motion eternal, and says that change, also, comes about through it. (Simplicius, Physics, 24,26; Kirk and Raven)

We are also told that Anaximenes made "gods and divine things" come from air. A first form of air is such that it is invisible; it becomes perceptible insofar as it is hot or cold or wet -- forms taken on because of the changing density of air. Thus Anaximenes has hit upon a stuff from which the basic elements and consequently all else can be derived. He indicates the method of such deriviation, namely, the condensation and rarefaction of the basic material. By making air the boundless, Anaximenes seems to imply that he recognizes the two meanings of the term and intends it only in the quantitative sense -- there is an inexhaustible supply of air -- but not in the sense of qualitative indetermination. If the elements are simply different states of the basic stuff, we might wonder why it is designated as air, since air could be explained as a different state of fire or earth. It may be that Anaximenes is here influenced by Anaximander and the other meaning of "infinite," for of all the elements air seems the least determined. The comparison of air and breath in the extant fragment suggests a more anthropomorphic motive for Anaximenes' choice.

A primary stuff from which the other elements arise by a change of density, and the difference of density seems joined with the notion of temperature, since the hot and cold are caused by rarefaction and condensation. Condensed air is cold; expanded air is hot. Anaximenes is said to have offered proof for this by observing that when we blow on our hand with compressed lips, the stream of air is cold, while when the mouth is open our breath feels warm on the hand. Aristotle was to reject this by pointing out that when the lips are puckered, we are blowing the air in front of our face onto our hand, whereas when the mouth is open, it is the warmth of our breath that we feel. What is of interest here is both the appeal to an easily conducted experiment to ground the point and the resultant scale of elements which differ in density and, accordingly, in temperature. Moreover, unlike the "separating out" process taught by Anaximander, the principle of change among the elements that Anaximenes chose enables the process to go in either direction with equal ease.

Our earth is formed by the condensation of air. In shape it is cylindrical; and Anaximenes spoke of it as riding on air, thereby rejoining Thales who had thought earth needed some support. The flatness of the earth is used to explain its buoyancy; it presses down on the air beneath it and is thereby supported like a cosmic hovercraft or, better, kite. In much the same way, it is their flatness which explains the heavenly bodies; they are borne upon the air and, indeed, can be blown from their courses by strong winds. In the heavens there are said to be fiery bodies as well as earthy ones. This is difficult to interpret, since Anaximenes is said to have given the earth as the origin of heavenly bodies; the sun is earth and gets its heat from the swiftness of its motion. It has been conjectured that the bits of earth which differ from the heavenly bodies were appealed to for an explanation of eclipses. Anaximenes denied that the heavenly bodies pass under the earth, as was the case with Anaximander's wheels of fire; at night the sun goes out of sight behind mountains in the north and the earth is apparently thought to be raised at its northern end as well. This does not seem to accord well with the doctrine of the flatness of the earth nor with the doctrine -- also attributed to Anaximenes -- that holds the sky is a hemisphere which fits snugly to the edges of the earth somewhat like an overturned cup set on a diminutive saucer. The bodies are said to swing above the earth as a cap spins on the head, an allusion which has called forth much ingenuity from commentators. There are as well fixed stars, studding the surface of the heavens.

The following passage from Aetius is thought to contain a fragment of Anaximenes' writings.

Anaximenes . . . said that air is the principle of existing things; for from it all things come to be and into it they are again dissolved, 'As our soul,' he says, 'being air holds us together and controls us, so does wind and air enclose the whole world.' Air and wind mean the same thing here. (Diels, B2; Kirk and Raven)

We added quotation marks around the words thought to be those of Anaximenes. What is the intent of the simile? Perhaps what it means is something like this. We require air to breathe and are surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of it. Now air is the origin of all things in the world and the world is surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of air which can be drawn in and, by rarefaction and condensation, produce many things. If this is the meaning of the comparison, we might ask if Anaximenes conceived the world as some kind of giant animal, alive and breathing much like ourselves. Although no certain answer is possible, in each of the Milesians there is an identification of the material principle and of the divine; in Thales and Anaximenes, soul and life are also referred to as the primal stuff. It is this which leads to the view that the mythological cosmologies only gradually cease to influence the efforts of the first philosophers.

D. Xenophanes

Xenophanes, first non-Milesian we will consider -- like Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes -- was an Ionian. He was a native of Colophon and 570 B.C. is the likely year of his birth. Tradition has it that he was expelled from his native city and spent the rest of a very long life wandering throughout Greece, particularly in the western part. He tells us he left Colophon in his twenty-fifth year and was still on the move at the age of ninety-two. "Seven and sixty are now the years that have been tossing my cares up and down the land of Greece; and there were then twenty and five years more from my birth up, if I know how to speak truly about these things." (Diogenes Laertius, IX,2) Several towns in Sicily are mentioned in the tradition as well as Elea, on the Italian peninsula, which has led to the assertion that he was the founder of the Italian or Eleatic school of philosophy. Although Xenophanes is much influenced by the Milesian school, whose doctrines he could have known as a boy, there are significant differences between him and his Ionian predecessors, not the least of which is the fact that he wrote in verse. In his wanderings, Xenophanes declaimed his own poetry; some have thought that he was a Homeric rhapsode, i.e., one who publicly recited the Homeric epics. Inevitably, a work On Nature was attributed to Xenophanes, but this seems unlikely since the natural world was not as such a major concern of his. His poetry has been described as satire, doubtless due in part to his attacks on Homer from whom, as he said, all men have learned from the beginning. This attack on earlier poets is aimed principally at their depiction of the gods and it is in his theological obiter dicta that we find Xenophanes' importance for the beginnings of philosophy.

We have seen the change in the discussion about the gods which takes place in Hesiod. The Theogony attempts to derive the Olympian gods from earlier generations by a method which is either unabashedly that of human reproduction or something modeled on it, with the possibility that Hesiod was attempting to achieve a notion of becoming that escaped the limits of anthropomorphism. Despite this effort at a systematic theology, Hesiod's statements about the gods do not satisfy; and it is this that Xenophanes may be thought of as insisting on first of all. "Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods all things that are a shame and blameworthy among men, stealing and committing adultery and deceiving each other." (Fr. 11) "But men consider that the gods are born, and that they have clothes and speech and bodies like their own." (Fr. 14) This complaint of Xenophanes -- that the gods of the epics are allowed to do things for which men would be punished and that these same epics were the chief instrument of instruction of the young -- was destined to find a responsive echo in later writers until, in the early books of the Republic, it received its masterly statement. It is not merely the description of the gods in terms of what is reprehensible in men that bothers Xenophanes, however; the more innocuous anthropomorhism which attributes generation, dress, bodies and speech to the gods also earns his censure, for it is this that leads to an utterly provincial attitude towards the divine. "The Ethiopians say their gods are snubnosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have blue eyes and red hair." (Fr. 16) What Xenophanes is getting at in his negative way is that the divine should not be localized, so that there is a god or gods of the Greeks, and other gods for the different barbarian peoples. We have already seen that this was a sentiment in some ways shared by Xenophanes' countrymen, since they made great efforts to reduce the numerous gods of local cults to the Olympian deities. Moreover, in the Iliad, Homer does not think of the Olympians as the gods of the Greeks alone. Despite this, the Homeric deities are still made in the image of man. When we consider the animal gods of the Egyptians and the snake god of Othonic religion, we might wonder how, with those in mind, Xenophanes would have rephrased the following remark. "But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves." (Fr. 15) We can imagine that Xenophanes would only show greater disgust for men who fashioned gods after the animals. The import of these censures of Xenophanes is that anthropormorphism must be abandoned in talking about the divine. But Xenophanes' influence is not confined to negative statements -- to what we must not say of the gods; he has also more positive remarks.

Thales and the other Milesians applied the note of divinity to the underlying nature and have nothing to say of any god even remotely resembling the Homeric deities. From this silence we can conclude that they had either rejected such gods as anthropomorophic or, at the very least, that they saw no need to accord a cosmological function to such imaginative entities. As the quotations indicate, Xenophanes did not content himself with a switch of interest away from the divine; indeed, he may be said to differ from the Milesians in this above all: that divinity is his major concern.

Nonetheless, we may feel that the Milesians' search for unity had its effect on Xenophanes. "One god, greatest among gods and men, in no way similar to mortals either in body or in thought." (Fr. 23) Let us see what Xenophanes has to say of this greatest of gods.

Always he remains in the same place, moving not at all; nor is it fitting for him to go to different places at different times, but without toil he shakes all things by the thought of his mind. (Fr. 26,25)

No doubt inevitably, Xenophanes' more affirmative remarks about god proceed by way of denying him what he conceives as imperfections. God is immovable and unchanging, primarily in terms of place; the reason is that it would not be fitting for god to go from place to place to accomplish his desires. Rather, he operates without toil, simply by thinking a thought. The model for Xenophanes' statement is the king immobile on his throne, for whom it is not fitting to run his own errands. Still there is no need to see a latent anthropomorphism in Xenophanes' theology; even if it were present, what transcends the world of man is the dictum that god accomplishes his effects by his thoughts. Not that Xenophanes wants us to think of god as somehow parceled out in his being. He has no limbs distinct from one another, certainly; but neither are his faculties multiple. "All of him sees, all thinks, all hears." (Fr. 24)

How seriously can we take this talk of one god? If we take Xenophanes' pronouncements as indicative of an unequivocal monotheism, we run into the difficulty of explaining why he called this god the "greatest among gods and men." Obviously there is either one god or many. There are several ways of handling this problem. One is to take the mention of many gods as a concession on Xenophanes' part to the polytheism of the multitude. In this view, Xenophanes, while holding to his conviction that there is but one god -- supreme and quite unlike man -- nevertheless makes use of the familiar gods to speak of the widespread power of the one god. Thus, the rainbow is the god Iris, and this would mean that this striking phenomenon is only one manifestation of the divine power.

It is possible, on the other hand, to doubt seriously that Xenophanes gives us anything like a clear-cut view on the one and the many as applied to the divine. One finds it all too easy to read the fragments of. Xenophanes as if they referred to a transcendant deity like the Judaeo-Christian God. To get a true picture, we must take into account Aristotle's judgment. In the Metaphysics (986b21 ff.) he writes, "Xenophanes, however, who first expounded the theory of unity (Parmenides is said to have been his disciple), made no clear statement and seems not to have understood either material or formal explanation; but, gazing at the whole sky, he says: 'Unity is God.'" Later in this passage, Xenophanes is dismissed, together with Melissus, for being too crude. We see in this remark the suggestion of an affinity between Xenophanes and Parmenides, an affinity bolstered by the conjecture that the former was the teacher of the latter. Quite possibly Aristotle was here influenced by Plato's remark in the Sophist (242D) "Our Eleatic tribe, beginning from Xenophanes and even before, explains in myths that what we call all things are actually one." But Plato's references to his predecessors are seldom objective, and the remark in question is not meant to convey any historical fact. Xenophanes' relation to the Eleatic school aside, what are we to make of his one god? It is clear that, as Aristotle understands him, Xenophanes is saying that the one or the all -- this is, the world -- is divine, and god is coextensive with the universe. This shifts the ground entirely, and we are bound to think of the Milesian attribution of divinity to the stuff out of which everything comes -- the stuff which permeates the universe. On this, Xenophanes himself says in the fragments that, "All things come from the earth and in earth all things end." (Fr. 27) "All things are earth and water that come into being and grow." (Fr. 29) These words show we are faced with a view very much like those of Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, but with a change of emphasis to the divinity of the stuff from which things come. Burnet aptly comments that Xenophanes would have been quite amused to learn he would gain the reputation of a theologian in later times.

Aristotle, however, does not give us a license for this interpretation -- at least not as an exclusive view. What is perhaps most important in Aristotle's account of Xenophanes is that the wandering poet made nothing clear. In other words, Aristotle can be taken as drawing our attention to the many contradictions in the statements of Xenophanes. God, for Xenophanes, has a body and yet he moves all things by intellect; god is motionless and yet all things move -- can the all be god? By saying that Xenophanes made nothing clear, then, Aristotle appears to recognize that some of the poet's remarks suggest the interpretation of a transcendent deity, others that the world is god, and that the incompatibility of these two lines of thought vitiates the effort of Xenophanes to arrive at a clear position.

Surely, if the notion of a transcendent god, clearly other than the corporeal world, were obvious in the doctrine of Xenophanes, Aristotle would have seized on it as an indication of a truth he himself wished to establish. But Xenophanes does not get the consideration from Aristotle that Anaxagoras does. This shows that, unless Aristotle was here uncharacteristically insensitive to a hint of the truth in his predecessors, the doctrine of a transcendent deity was hopelessly obscured in the writings of Xenophanes.

Difficult though it is to settle on Xenophanes' positive contribution to philosophical theology, he is not thereby bereft of all importance. His eloquent rejection of the naive anthropomorphism of the earlier poets was at least an important adjunct to the efforts of the natural philosophers to lay aside the seductive myth explanation and turn to the things themselves. His critique of the Olympian gods is accompanied by an obviously sincere belief in divinity; he is clearly calling for a purification of belief rather than its rejection. While the Milesian's retention of the notion of divinity in speaking of the ultimate stuff may seem ambiguous (and even indicative of a kind of conscious hypocrisy to hide his atheism), Xenophanes' attitude towards the divine is clearly that of a man convinced. It is for this reason that we can confidently reject the guess that Xenophanes was a public reciter of the Homeric epics. The man who emerges from the fragments is not one who could declaim the very poems he thought conveyed a gross and reprehensible picture of the gods.

From the side of natural philosophy, Xenophanes' importance may lie principally in creating a climate in which the new science was welcomed throughout Greece. The fragments which speak of the derivation of things from water, of living things from water and earth, i.e., mud, are clearly reminiscent of Thales and Anaximander. Nevertheless, Xenophanes, apparently made direct contributions to natural science, by way of observation and interpretation. In one of his fragments, he observes that water oozes from the ceilings of caves, which may have been taken to suggest that water is indeed in everything since it shows up in such unlikely places. More importantly, Xenophanes reports on the finding of fossils of fish imbedded in rock far inland, and of shells and seaweed found in many landlocked places. These are taken as indicative of a time when earth and water were mixed, a time which was followed by a period of separation which will lead finally to a return to water; and so on in cyclic progression.

A final consideration should be drawn from another theme of the fragments of Xenophanes.

"There never was nor will he a man who has certain knowledge about the gods and about all the things I speak of. Even if he should chance to say the complete truth, yet he himself knows not that it is so." (Fr. 34)

We have here a conviction of the limitations of human knowledge which can be looked on once more as a criticism of earlier attempts to give the genealogy of the gods.

"Yet the gods have not revealed all things to men from the beginning; hut by seeking, men find out better in time." (Fr. 18)

Although Xenophanes seems to request that his own remarks be taken only as resembling the truth, not as conveying it whole, more likely than not, he principally intends to censure the presumption of the earlier poets.

It may seem somewhat surprising that Xenophanes, the first we have considered who wrote in verse, is the first to level an explicit criticism at the poets. Their anthropomorphism is the main object of his attack; and by pointing it out with the sharpness he did, he is implicitly calling for another kind of approach to the things that are. Even if he himself makes at best but slight contributions to philosophical knowledge, he had an important role in the movement of thought then gaining momentum, and which he, in the course of his long life, saw moving steadily away from the kind of assessment of reality found in the poems of Homer and Hesiod. His negative role seems easy to describe. When we seek to determine his positive contributions, however, we encounter difficulties which baffled even the Greeks and continue to provide grounds for conflicting interpretations today.

E. Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus, an Ephesian who lived out his life in his native town, was in his prime between the years 504 and 501 B.C. According to the doxographical tradition, this would place his birth about 540 B.C. and his death around 480 B.C. All we can be sure of is that Heraclitus was active in the year 500 B.C. Of his life we know little. It is said that he refused an hereditary kingship in Ephesus in favor of his younger brother; and, on the basis of the fragments, we get a picture of a proud misanthrope, bitterly critical of the multitude.

That Heraclitus wrote is certain from the wealth of quotations from him found throughout ancient literature. When these are brought together, we have a list of approximately 120 fragments. The question naturally arises whether these were originally in one book or many; or, as has also been suggested, simply individual utterances. The difficulty with this last interpretation is that one of the fragments seems to suggest a connected plan.

Of the Logos which is as I describe it men always prove to be uncomprehending, both before they have heard it and when once they have heard it. For although all things happen according to this Logos men are like people of no experience, even when they experience such words and deeds as I explain, when I distinguish each thing according to its constitution and declare how it is; but the rest of men fail to notice what they do after they wake up just as they forget what they do when asleep. (Fr. 1)

This would indicate that the fragments we have formed part of whatever literary plan he contemplated. It is something else again, however, to agree with the tradition recorded by Diogenes Laertius (IX,5) according to which Heraclitus' book was entitled On Nature and contained three divisions, the first dealing with the universe, the second with politics, the last with theology. We have already seen that anyone whom Aristotle considered to have contributed to natural philosophy was assigned a book with the generic title On Nature.

If it is always hazardous to attempt the construction of a coherent doctrine from a few direct quotes and the comments of ancient writers, the matter becomes a good deal more complicated in the case of Heracitus. Even in antiquity he had a reputation for opaqueness, and "the obscure" was usually appended to his name. The fragments are largely gnomic, oracular utterances, highly paradoxical, replete with metaphors and puns. Aristotle tells us that Heracitus is difficuff to understand because his sayings are difficult to punctuate. (Rhetoric 111,5) The contents of several of the fragments suggest that his was a studied obscurity.

The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, and reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her. (Fr. 92) The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign. (Fr. 93)

Since Heracitus does not have a high opinion of men's ability to understand what he has to say, it is not unlikely that he deliberately chose his arresting style to sting his readers to think. He does not advocate knowledge of many things -- polymathy -- since this does not make one wise (if it did, he suggests, Hesiod, Xenophanes and others would have been wise [Fr. 40] ); Heracitus would draw our attention to the one thing which will guide us through the maze of particular understandings. "Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with many particulars." (Fr. 35) He uses the term Logos to convey this central point, and by it he does not mean what he says precisely as what he says. "Listening not to me, but to the Logos, it is wise to agree that all things are one." (Fr. 50) Heracitus is not communicating a private vision, but drawing attention to what is public and common. "Therefore it is necessary to follow the common; but although the Logos is common, the many live as though they had a private understanding." (Fr. 2)

What is the common Logos which is the burden of the Heraclitean fragments? Heraclitus' remark that the all is one is reminiscent of the Milesian philosophers; now when we consider the role that Heraclitus assigns to fire and that, living but a few miles from Miletus, he would have been acquainted with the teachings of Thales and his followers, it is all too easy to conclude that we have here a different choice for the primal stuff out of which all things come to be and into which they return.

All things are an exchange for fire and fire for all things, as wares for gold and gold for wares. (Fr. 90) The transformations of fire are, first, sea; and half the sea becomes earth, half the lightning flash. (Fr. 31) Such remarks as these have led to the listing of Heracitus as the fourth in a sequence which exhausts the possibility of choices for the underlying nature, given the list of the five elements -- Thales: water, Anaximander: the boundless; Anaximenes: air; Xenophanes: earth (?); Heraclitus: fire. There is clearly something to be said for this interpretation as the fragments indicate; the difficulty is that it tends to make us overlook what is most characteristic of Heraclitus. For, while it is true that water and air, for example, have rather startling properties attributed to them by the Milesians, something more than this seems to be operative in Heraclitus' remarks about fire. If fire plays a role similar to that of water and air in Milesian cosmologies, it also is a symbol of what the word Logos means. The unity in all things that Heraclitus sees is not simply that of an indestructible stuff, the whence and whither of whatever is, but the unity of a law, of proportion, of balance and harmony. It is this what we must see; and the best approach is through the fragments whose paradoxical tone almost seems to defy understanding.

The note of paradox is sounded even in the fragments which speak of the undertaking of the inquiry itself. We have seen Heracitus say that knowledge of many things does not make a man wise (Fr. 40) and that men who love wisdom should be acquainted with many things. (Fr. 35) So, too, he says, "Nature loves to hide," (Fr. 123) and, "The things of which there can be sight, hearing, learning, these are what I especially prize." (Fr. 55) "Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men having barbarian souls." (Fr. 1O1a) Heraclitus seems to be saying that a multiplicity of knowledge without a unifying goal is pointless; that nature is difficult to know, but reveals itself to careful observation, if we are able to read the testimony of the senses. If the senses speak an alien tongue, if, as we should say, it is all Greek to us (or all barbarian to a Greek), then nature will remain hidden. If we read correctly, we will see that all things are one and our wisdom will be one. "Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things." (Fr. 41) This, Heraclitus finds lacking in the teaching of others. "Of all whose discourses I have heard, there is not one who attains to understanding that wisdom is apart from all." (Fr. 108) What is the one thing?

"This world, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be, an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures." (Fr. 30) Fire emerges here as of central importance for Heraclitus, but its importance is somewhat overshadowed by the notion of proportionate give and take which is also present in this fragment. There is a balance in the coming and going of fire and indeed of all things and once this is recognized, opposed things seem not so opposed since they are part of a harmony or proportion. "Sea is the most pure and the most polluted water; for fish it is drinkable and healthy; for men it is undrinkable and harmful." (Fr. 61) "Disease makes health pleasant; hunger satiety, weariness rest." (Fr. 111) Much more is involved here than the relativity expressed by Xenophanes: "If god had not made yellow honey, men would consider figs to be sweeter than they do." (Fr. 38) The difference is clear in the following, much quoted remark. "The path up and the path down is one and the same." (Fr. 60) Before looking at the possible cosmological intent of that dark saying, let us consider another statement. "And as the same thing there exists in us living and dead and the waking and the sleeping and young and old: for these having changed around are those, and those changed around are these." (Fr. 88) Heracitus' concern is with change as taking place between opposites. But since the change binds the opposites together and the change can go in either direction, what originally appear utterly other are seen to be in some way the same. This unity of opposites can be interpreted first of all in a cosmological sense. Things taken together are whole and not whole, something which is being brought together and brought apart, which is in tune and out of tune; out of all things there comes a unity, and out of a unity all things. (Fr. 10) Notice that the emphasis here is not on a common substrate. Anaximander tended to look on change as the encroachment of one element on the territory of another so that what results from change is an instance of injustice calling for retribution, that is, corruption. That Heraclitus has a different view -- one that has sometimes been taken as an implicit criticism of Anaximander -- is clear from the fragments. "It is necessary to know that war is common and right is strife and that all things happen by strife and necessity." (Fr. 80) "War is the father and king of all .. ." (Fr. 53) Strife and encroachment is not an aberration, not unjust; the warring of things with one another is precisely justice. Heraclitus wants to find unity in the strife itself. "Men do not apprehend how being brought apart, it is brought together with itself: there is a back-stretched connection, as in the bow and lyre." As the two hands of the bowman pull apart from one another, the tips of the bow come together, and we must see in this tension of opposites rectitude and justice.

But what has this metaphor to tell us of the natural world? In what is without a doubt his best known fragment, Heraclitus says, "You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are continually flowing on." (Fr. 91,12) The sameness of the river depends upon the ceaseless change of its constituent parts. So too the universe is one and the same in the ceaseless warring of its components; the way up and the way down are one and the same. It is possible, of course, to interpret this quite simply as meaning that ascent and descent are accomplished along the same road, that one does one or the other depending on his starting point. There is as well, however, a cosmological interpretation insofar as it refers to the emanation of all things from fire and their subsequent return to this source.

Fragment 31 indicates that from fire, sea comes to be, and that earth and what is called the lightning flash come from the sea. Is this process irreversible? If that is the downward path from fire, is there an upward path at the term of which all things disappear into fire? There are partisans of both viewpoints.

The Stoics, who taught that our world would end in a fiery conflagration, found support for their view in Heraclitus. The Stoic view was that this conflagration was a periodic one, occurring at the end of what was called the Great Year, which was sometimes said to be a period of 18,000 years, sometimes 10, sometimes 800. The last figure was arrived at by taking 30 years as representing a human generation and multiplying it by 360. That is, the Great Year is a year of human generations. In the theory that interests us, the world is destroyed by fire at the end of the Great Year and is replaced by another which has a duration of one Great Year, and so on and on. It was generally held in ancient times that this was the view of Heracitus. The apparently opposed view expressed in Fragment 30 was explained by saying that Heracitus is not there talking of a particular world, but the pattern or order (cosmos) involved in any world, and this is indeed unchanging. The cycle is explained in terms of the downward and upward paths. Heraclitus is faced with the fiery heavenly bodies, the dry land, and the sea. Rain comes from above, from the fiery region and the land seems to come in some way from the sea. Earth returned to sea when islands sank and when new springs and streams welled up from below, washing away the earth. The sea was drawn up again in the process of evaporation. When the upward path is looked upon as total and cataclysmic, we have the ecpyrosis, the consuming of the world by fire. Did Heracitus teach this? Aristotle (De Caelo, I,10) seems to say so and after Theophrastus the judgment becomes fairly fixed.

What are the arguments against it? Kirk gives five.{15} (1) Ecpyrosis goes contrary to the whole tenor of Heraclitean thought as expressed in the fragments. The unity of opposites, balance, constant strife without ultimate victory -- these seem to underpin the notion of Logos. Homer is rebuked by Heraclitus for thinking strife unnatural. "Homer was wrong in saying, 'Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!'" (2) Ecpyrosis would entail the abandonment of the balance and measure in the exchange of fire with all things. (3) Fragment 30 quite clearly speaks of this world or order. (4) Plato (Sophist, 242 D) is clear in saying that unity and multiplicity coexist and do not succeed one another. (5) Even some Stoics doubted this interpretation of Heraclitus.

Wheelwright addresses himself to each of these five points {16} (1) He finds this the strongest argument, but thinks it not unassailable.

If the dominance of fire in an ecpyrosis were to entail the destruction of all strife, then admittedly a situation would arise -- an interval of absolute peace and rest -- such as is expressly denied by several of Heraclitus' statements (p. 52)

Wheelwright finds no need to see the conflagration, which would be decisive with regard to the destruction of this world, as in itself pure and total. "Surely the cosmic fiery state would have to be somehow impure in order to allow the seeds of a future universe to emerge from it." (p. 53) Wheelwright feels this consideration weakens (2) and (3) as well. As for (4), are we to take Plato as an unimpeachable source for what Heraclitus really meant? With respect to other Platonic remarks on Heraclitus, it is rather generally agreed that Plato has in mind contemporaries of his own, like Cratylus. Argument (5) does little more than indicate that all the evidence is inconclusive, be it Stoic or otherwise. And that is just how Wheelwright would leave the issue -- unsettled. While he is alive to the arguments that can be adduced to support either side of the matter, he is convinced that this is one of many points where our knowledge can be at best conjectural and inconclusive. It is easy to subscribe to this view.

From ancient times Heraclitus has been taken as the founder of the eternal flux school of thought. All things flow, says a phrase attributed to Heraclitus. This, some have argued, is not so much an explanation of knowledge as the destruction of its very possibility. If everything is always changing, nothing is ever fixed enough to be an object of knowledge. What these two views fail to take into account is the notion of Logos, for beyond fire as substrate and the constant change of it and everything else, there is the Logos -- the orderly process whereby all change takes place. The Logos, it has been argued, is the true One in the doctrine of Heracitus. Wisdom is one; Heraclitus has said, "Wisdom is one and unique; it is both willing and unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus." (Fr. 32) "Zeus" is the name we give that which governs all things in so far as we conceive it anthropomorphically, and this is all right so far as it goes. There is a law governing things in the universe, which prevents the sun from overstepping its bounds. (Fr. 94) Fire is the vehicle for expressing this divine governance: "The thunderbolt steers all things." (Fr. 64) The thunderbolt, in mythology, was the missile whereby Zeus expressed his displeasure and, by extension, his will and governance. Logos conveys the idea of law, intelligence, something apart from the material. Yet in Heraclitus it is inextricably bound up with fire. Thus for him, fire is a symbol. The measures of the ceaseless changes in the universe are not, however, immediately obvious to us. "An invisible harmony is better than a visible one." (Fr. 54) This harmony is the basis for wisdom; to attain to a recognition of it is the task of philosophy and its attainment sets the philosopher off from the mass of men. They are as men asleep; he alone is awake.

When men are asleep, each has his own private world; awake there is one world common to all. (Fr. 89) The waking state enables us to participate in the Logos which governs all and is common to all things. The soul is said to have its source in the moist (Fr. 12); while in this sense it is a thing among other things, "You could not discover the limits of the soul if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depth of its meaning." (Fr. 45) One is tempted to see in this a switch to an ethical perspective, a warning as to the difficulties involved in obeying the oracle's injunction, "Know thyself." The same may be said of some other remarks about soul. "A dry soul is wisest and best." (Fr. 118) But "Souls take pleasure in becoming moist." (Fr. 77) The cosmological priority of fire is here applied to soul and made to serve an ethical function. To be fiery and dry is best for soul, but there is a contrary tendency towards moistness, symbolized by intemperance. "A drunken man has to be led by a young boy, whom he follows stumbling, not knowing where he is going, for his soul is moist." (Fr. 117) "It is death to souls to become water, and it is death to water to become earth. On the other hand, water comes into existence out of earth, and souls out of water." (Fr. 36) Once more there is present the cosmological perspective, the upward and downward paths. The tendency in our nature to what is harmful to us is summed up in. the following fragment. "It is hard to fight against pride; whatever it wants it will buy at the cost of soul." (Fr. 85) The ethical message of Heraclitus is difficult to discern. We will be morally awake insofar as we are alive to the Logos; dry and fiery, insofar as we see the hidden harmony in the constant strife which is the universe. This strife is microcosmically present in ourselves; we must not be led by the masses or allow ourselves to sink into drunkenness where it is difficult to hide our ignorance. (Fr. 95) In vino veritas -- but this is not the truth of the Logos. Wisdom comes when we expect the unexpected and are stirred up in our nature to the proper proportion, for "Even the sacred barley drink separates when it is not stirred." (Fr. 125) If there is a conflict in nature we must, like the universe as a whole, impose a Logos on the warring opposites to achieve a harmony -- like a drink which requires constant stirring.

The very character of our contact with the thought of Heraclitus -- fragmentary, enigmatic, oracular and paradoxical -- invites prolonged speculation. But the further we go along the path of interpretation, the deeper we get into mere conjecture. But we can safely conclude by saying in Heraclitus there seems little or no distinction between statements about the universe, the constitution of our soul and the ethical demands made on the individual.

{9} Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 2 vols., edited and translated by R. D. Hicks (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1950).

{10} See Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Berlin: Weldmann, 1954).

{11} Leon Robin, Greek Thought and the Origins of the Scientific Spirit (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928) pp. 30ff; see also Paul Tannery, Pour l' histoire de la science hellene (Paris: F. Alcan, 1930); and R. Bacon, Histoire de la science grecque (Paris: Aubier, 1951).

{12} See John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (New York: Meridian Books, 1957), p. 45.

{13} Kathleen Freeman, The Presocratic Philosophers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946), p. 52.

{14} See Charles H. Kahn, Anaximander and the Origins of Greek Cosmology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), p. 166.

{15} G. S. Kirk, Heraclitus, The Cosmic Fragments (Cambridge: University Press, 1954), pp. 335-8.

{16} Philip Wheelwright, Heraclitus (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959).

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