Notes on Philip Wheelwright's Heraclitus

These are my digitized handwritten notes and they mostly comprise annotations from the book itself which is currently out of copyright and available for free on the Internet Archive. Wheelwright provides both a translation of the fragments which he presents in his own order as well as his own commentary. My interest in Heraclitus is due to his influence on Hegel and the fact that he comes down to us in 124 numbered fragments instead of multiple volumes. I expect to be finished with this work by the end of next week, as I'm writing this it is May 25th, 2022. My personal favorite passages have been rendered in bold.

Genius intuitions.


The Sixth Century may be called a time of philosophical ferment in many places. There's momentary flashes of philosophic insight in Homer and Hesiod, and the fragments of Orpheus; but in none is there any intellectual coherence or interest in finding a method to distinguish truth from error.

Philosophy in Ionia

The first independent and sustained attempt to work out a philosophic view of the world is found in Ionia. Here, Thales and his two successors Anaximander and Anaximenes began to ask questions in a new way. Described as "physiologues" because they were seeking reasoned understanding (logos) of nature (physis). They formulated two key questions of What and How: 1) What is the primary stuff of which the world is constituted? 2.) How do the changes take place that bring about its manifold appearances? Thales' importance rests on seeking explanations of the natural world from within the natural world itself.

Anaximander made an attempt to answer the first of these questions by his conception of a boundless reservoir of potential qualities. He attempted to answer the second question by his conception of what can be described as existential penance, when things make reparation and do justice to one another. His metaphysical imagination has worked to envision the process of flagrant self assertion together with its self terminating outcome as applying not only to human daily life but to all existing entities. The light of day must yield to the dark of night.

Anaximander's doctrine as it deals with change is a forerunner to Heraclitus' doctrine in two respects:

1) It conceives of change in purely qualitative terms. Change is an ontological passage from contrary to contrary; from one perceptible state of being to its opposite.
2) He conceives of the relation between contraries as in some sense a periodic/cyclic interchange.

Anaximenes too offers two teachings that make him a significant forerunner of Heraclitus.

1) He takes the primary physical reality to be air.
2) His interpretation of change in terms of serial order. Every occurrence in nature, he holds, is a result of outward shows of the rarefication and condensation of air.

Another possible influence to consider is Xenophanes. He comes to the first monotheistic position in the West. God is, to him, the transcendent unifier and the principle of unity that resides amidst all change and multiplicity. With this, metaphysics as cosmology is born.

Pythagoreanism and Eleaticism

These two schools were partly contemporaneous with Heraclitus, doubtful they influenced him. Most of Pythagoras' teaching was done in Italy. The two men were sharply different in intellectual temperament.

The problem of Heraclitus' relation to Parmenides of Elea again involves an uncertain question of comparative dates. It's unsure which came first and that makes questions of influence difficult to ascertain. It's possible Heraclitus was responding to Parmenides, it's possible he wasn't.


Since Heraclitus is one of the most subtle, impatient, and paradoxical of philosophers, any attempt to reduce his doctrine to a few plain prepositions could only result in disaster. We become subject, more than we are aware, to idols of the theater.

There are three modes of distinguishing which seem quite natural today, but are relied far less on in the thought and expression of Heraclitus: 1) our grammatical distinction among parts of speech, 2) our logical distinction between the concrete and abstract, 3) our epistemological distinction between subject and object.

Abetted by the comparative fluidity of Greek, the linguistic and corresponding ontological distinctions are somewhat less firm. The coalescence between concrete and abstract is especially evident in Heraclitus' central image of fire.

It wasn't until the Sophists that Greek had the philosophical vocabulary and the dialectical skill to handle the question of the subject/object distinction firmly. Even Aristotle's solution to the riddle is incomplete.

The author finds the sayings of Heraclitus more akin to the Tao Te Ching.

Text and Interpretation

There's two main problems of resurrecting the thought of an ancient writer only known through fragments:

1) The authenticity of the fragments.
2) How to interpret the fragments.

Schleiermacher was apparently the first to compile the fragments [This tickles my interest in German Idealism again]. The author's selection of fragments is meant to be suggestive and perspectival, not exhaustive or definitive. The sayings of Heraclitus do not simply speak nor simply conceal, they give signs.

Chapter I - The Way of Inquiry

1) Although this Logos is eternally valid, yet men are unable to understand it - not only before hearing it, but even after they have heard it for the first time. Although all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos, men seem to be quite without any experience of it. My own method is to distinguish each thing according to its nature, and to specify how it behaves; other men on the contrary, are as forgetful and heedless in their waking moments of what is going on around or within them as they are during sleep.
2) We should let ourselves be guided by what is common to all. Although the Logos is common to all, most men live as if each had a private intelligence of his own.
3) Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars.
4) Seekers after gold dig up much earth and find little.
5) Let us not make arbitrary conjectures about the greatest matters.
6) Much learning does not teach understanding.
7) Of those whose discourses I have heard, there is not one who attains to the realization that wisdom stands apart from all else.
8) I have searched myself.
9) It pertains to all men to know themselves and to be temperate.
10) To be temperate is the greatest virtue. Wisdom consists in speaking and acting the truth, giving heed to the nature of things.
11) The things of which there can be sight, hearing, learning - these are what I especially prize.
12) Eyes are more accurate witnesses than ears.
13) Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men having barbarian souls.
14) One should not speak or act as if he were asleep.
15) The waking have one world in common, dreamers have each a private world of his own.
16) Whatever we see when awake is death, when asleep, dreams.
17) Nature loves to hide.
18) The lord whose Oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives signs.
19) Unless you expect the unexpected, you will never find truth, for it is hard to discover and hard to attain.

Every serious approach to philosophy must begin, whether explicitly or not, with some consideration of method.

Sextus Empiricus appears to interpret Logos as bearing universal and cosmic significance.

Heraclitus appears to bear a fiercely aristocratic temper. Heraclitus regards himself as qualified and privileged to reveal the truth of Logos.

What does Heraclitus mean by describing the truth/Logos as common?

Common - with mind, a bit of Greek wordplay, significant to him. What the pun succeeds in stressing is the natural connection between thinking with rational awareness and allowing one's thoughts to be guided by what is common - that is, to be guided by the Logos which is present in all things and discoverable by all observers if only they open their minds to the fullest extent.

These considerations enable us to distinguish Heraclitus' statement of method from mysticism (used less pejoratively here). Right method involves the kindling of a fiery light of intelligence within one's soul, which is consubstantial with the fiery intelligence that is cosmic activity. One must not merely know it, but become this fire or Logos by word and deed. If there's any element of mysticism in Heraclitus' conception of the upwards way towards the light, it is a mysticism not of sleep but of waking alertness. Knowledge can only be attained by being vigorously awake.

We should recognize that any piece of evidence is limited.

The outward search must be accompanied by an inner search, for each self is a microcosm that reflects, in miniscule, the essential nature of reality at large. One's inward discoveries are not to be cut off from one's discoveries of the outer world.

In no important respect is the search for truth easy, not will its results be obvious, for nature conceals herself beneath vague indications and dark hints. There is a hidden attunement in nature, the discovery of which is far more rewarding than mere surfaces.

Nothing stays fixed, and even in a given moment an event or a situation can be seen from multiple aspects, some of them representing sharply contradictory points of view, such a shifting world cannot be known by static or easy concepts.

Truth can be known only by keeping the mind in active athletic trim, only found by an intellectual risk, a practice of living always on the verge and being ready for whatever may befall. The future may turn out so utterly different for us that it's as if there were no future at all. It is only by looking clearly and boldly into the ever present fact of universal death - the death of what is familiar and the birth of something alien - that we can escape the net of self destruction. Renounce illusions of permanence.

Chapter II - Universal Flux

20) Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
21) You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.
22) Cool things become warm, the warm grows cool; the moist dries, the parched becomes moist.
23) It is in changing that things find repose.
24) Time is a child moving counters in a game; the royal power is a child's.
25) War is both father and king of all; some he has shown forth as gods and others as men, some he has made slaves and others free.
26) It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife.
27) Homer was wrong in saying, would that strife might perish from amongst gods and men. For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.

The theme of unceasing change is a very old one in philosophy.

If we should at last succeed in blowing up the Earth and exterminating mankind, presumably the stars would continue their orbits, majestically unmoved by our mundane fidgetings.

All structures, if you observe them clearly enough, are dissolving slowly; everything is in the process of ceasing to be or passing away. To Heraclitus' concretely philosophical imagination this universal condition is symbolically represented by flowing rivers and volatile fires. (He couldn't have meant molecular motion or lightwaves)

For him, as for most Greek thinkers, qualities are in the main what they appear to be. They are properties of things primarily, of minds secondarily, and the distinction between the thing beheld and the mind beholding was loose and fluctuating.

In the qualitative sense all things are changing because the qualities themselves are wavering, and for Heraclitus a thing is nothing more than the complete set of all qualities and powers that belong to and constitute it.

Examining the concept of qualitative change more closely we may discover two main ways in which it is natural to conceive of such change as occurring: 1) Either as a passage from some quality to its opposite or 2) as a passage from one stage to another in serial order

The concept of series in one form or another has been of the greatest importance in the development of science. Heraclitus gives recognition to the serial concept in his various references to upwards and downwards ways.

With Aristotle we strain to think not dyadically but triadically, in which opposites can inhere in a third something or term. Most people are uneasy in contemplating change in so radical a manner as Heraclitus. In seeking a conceptual prop we are unwitting Aristotelians. Heraclitus, on the contrary, is not an Aristotelian, he doesn't share his need for a third term in any alteration from opposite to opposite. To him every change is a knock down battle between two ontological opposites.

Since conflict is the ultimate condition of everything, it alone merits the epithets of divinity. Conditions may at one time be propitious for life, or even to the higher forms of life and thought, at another time they may be destructive and annihilating. The universe is better described as an irresponsible child moving counters in a game.

Chapter III - The Processes of Nature

28) There is exchange of all things for fire and fire for all things, as there is of wares for gold and of gold for wares.
29) This universe, 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.
30) The phases of fire are craving and satiety. [Desire, satisfaction]
31) It throws apart and then brings together again; it advances and retires.
32) The transformations of fire are: first, sea; and of sea, half becomes earth, and half the lightning-flash.
33) When earth has melted into sea, the resultant amount is the same as there had been before the sea became hardened into earth.
34) Fire lives in the death of earth, air in the death of fire, water in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.
35) The thunderbolt is the pilot of all things.
36) The sun is new each day.
37) The sun is the breadth of a man's foot.
38) If there were no sun, all other stars would not suffice to prevent its being night.
39) The boundary line of evening and morning is the Bear; and opposite the Bear is the boundary of bright Zeus.
40) The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish piled up at random.
41) Every beast is driven to pasture by a blow.

I stopped taking physical notes at about this point since it turns out my ballpoint pens are less comfortable than my fountain pens but I already began the journal I was using in ballpoint so now I feel the need to finish these notes digitally to save my writing hand the trouble. The paragraphs might drone on a little longer.

Fire is the most significant of the several symbols by which the Heraclitean idea of change is expressed. The three main properties of fire that give it so important a symbolic role are its light and brightness, its warmth and consequent ability to effect changes such as in cooking, and its unique agility and power of rapid self-increase.

Heraclitus, like the Milesian philosophers before him, was making a great contribution to the clarification of physical process; but the intellectual sculpting was not yet complete, and a modern critic errs and distorts if he insists upon finding clarity to a greater degree than it exists.

The author also finds those who belittle or downplay the symbolic role of fire and take it to be a purely physical explanation to be wrong and likely influenced by Aristotle's account of philosophers who attempted to explain the universe by reference to one of four the traditionally understood elements.

With Heraclitus, it is necessary to enter his own way of thinking and one of the respects in which this can be done is by a readiness to think in terms of both-and, not merely of either-or. Heraclitus' fire is at once the material element, that which crackles and burns, and yet it is too the embodiment and symbol of change in general. But even this double aspect doesn't exhaust its nature. For fire is also known as the inner light of intelligence and spiritual awareness - a light that is at the same time a warm but self-disciplined activity; and since Heraclitus doesn't think of a sharp demarcation between the inner world of self-knowledge and the outer world of nature, it follows that he thinks of fire as somehow endowed with intelligence.

In Fragment 35 it's a rather particular manifestation of fire, and a very audible one, that he proceeds to call the pilot of all things.

The end of Fragment 29 gives the most natural answer to how change is to be conceived in terms of the dominant imagery: the cosmic fire becomes kindled and extinguished - both processes taking place by regular measures.

There's a bit of debate over what gets rendered as lightning means. Some kind of motion and ignition is usually implied in how it gets translated.

Regardless of words chosen, Heraclitus evidently thought of the upper and lower phases of the process of kindling and extinguishing as mutually continuous and hence as graspable in terms of a single concept.

Even the most original of thinkers reaches out sometimes for other men's conceptual structures, which he may then adapt to his own ideas; and it may well be that Heraclitus was more indebted to certain Milesian ways of thinking regarding evaporation than he realized.

[I just had a thought because of this book that when Heraclitus says that the way upwards and the way downwards are the same, this could apply to the upward search for worldly knowledge and the downward way of inwardly directed self-knowledge.]

Due to the seeming contradictoriness of Fragments 32 and 34, there's debate over whether or not the upwards and downward processes of nature involve three main stages or four.

There's a debate over whether Heraclitus believes in a periodical destruction of the universe by fire or not, this is due to later similar Stoic beliefs and possible misinterpretation of Heraclitus by Plato and Aristotle, the consensus seems to be rather split down the middle. As of now, there's really no way to definitively know for certain.

The final fragment of the present group (Fragment 41) serves as a transition to the material of the next chapter and contains the only surviving statement of Heraclitus that is specifically about the nature of animal impulse. He could've meant a divine ordained blow or the mundane human blow of a whip.

Chapter IV - The Human Soul

42) You could not discover the limits of the soul, even if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depths of its meaning.
43) [Soul] is the vaporization out of which everything else is derived; moreover it is the least corporeal of things and is in ceaseless flux, for the moving world can only be known by what is in motion.
44) Souls are vaporized from what is moist.
45) Soul has its own principle of growth.
46) A dry soul is wisest and best.
47) Souls take pleasure in becoming moist.
48) A drunken man has to be led by a young boy, whom he follows stumbling and not knowing whither he goes, for his soul is moist.
49) It is death to souls to become water, and it is death to water to become earth. Conversely, water comes into existence out of earth, and souls out of water.
50) Even the sacred barley drink separates when it is not stirred.
51) It is hard to fight against impulsive desire; whatever it wants it will buy at the cost of the soul.
52) It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish.
53) Although it is better to hide our ignorance, this is hard to do when we relax over wine.
54) A foolish man is a-flutter at every word.
55) Fools, although they hear, are like the deaf; to them the adage applies that when present they are absent.
56) Bigotry is the sacred disease.
57) Most people do not take heed of the things they encounter, nor do they grasp them even when they have learned about them, although they suppose they do.
58) If all existing things were smoke, it is by smell that we would distinguish them.
59) In Hades souls perceive by smelling.
60) Corpses are more fit to be thrown out than dung.

The question of soul is primarily a question of what it is to be alive - not as life is observed externally in other organisms, but as it is known by one who lives and is reflectively aware of himself as living. Souls form communities, and one's growing awareness of what it is to be oneself is somehow bound up with a growing recognition of the other centers of awareness by which one is surrounded.

One must set aside the theological implications of the word soul as in Heraclitus and Aristotle's time the word didn't have any of those implications.

Some authors choose to render soul with the definite article as in, the soul but such a compromise brings into the English an air of definiteness and a connotation of sustainability which are not present in the Greek.

Soul, to Heraclitus, is quality, substance, and activity all in one.

Soul has its natural place somewhere in the area between water and fire, and contains within it the possibilities of self-transformation in either direction.

Since soul is a dynamical something, always tending by a sort of inner urgency to become other than what it was and is, it may (if it be wise and excellent) struggle upwards to become drier, brighter, and more fiery, or (if it yields to degeneration) it may slip downwards to become more sodden and moist.

In Aristotelian language the soul is a potency that can actualize itself, more or less, in either of the two directions. Heraclitus' vocabulary was not capable of expressing so logically abstract a distinction as that of Aristotle between potentiality and actuality; but one of the most impressive marks of his genius lies in his ability to reach out for, and darkly adumbrate, ideas that are beyond the natural semantic range of his somewhat primitive language.

Heraclitus is trying to convey the idea that the soul comes into existence out of certain moist elements in nature (possibly he may have in mind the moisture of the maternal womb [I certainly have in mind the moisture of semen]), and that the mystery of selfhood, which no theory can ever satisfactorily explain, can be described figuratively as a being exhaled or vaporized from that generative moisture.

To Heraclitus, a soul, during the span of time in which it is alive, possesses a real though limited autonomy. In this connection Fragment 45 is significant; for to say that a soul has its own principle of growth is to say that it must be understood not as being pushed into activity from without, but as bestirring itself from within - like a fire rekindling itself from a tiny spark.

Soul, which is to say selfhood, is unique in that it alone has the double property of existing and of knowing its own existence.

That soul is a more or less accidental product of the natural world and that soul is somehow significantly self determining are two warring but ineradicable truths about soul, which an awakened intellect will always hold in unresolved tension.

An unstirred self, like an unstirred barley drink, tends to decompose, breaking up into dregs of material impulse on the one hand and ghostly ideal aspirations on the other. Truth about the variegated and paradoxical world we live in can come to us only as our thoughts and sensitivities are constantly entering into new amalgams.

A self that tries to avoid choosing makes a choice in that very avoidance, in letting its action be determined by dark impulses instead of by lighted reason.

Of all the paradoxes in Heraclitus' philosophy there is none more fundamental than this one of the simultaneous validity of two attitudes, valuational and trans-valuational.

Chapter V - In Religious Perspective

61) Human nature has no real understanding; only the divine nature has it.
62) Man is not rational; only what encompasses him is intelligent.
63) What is divine escapes men's notice because of their incredulity.
64) Although intimately connected with the Logos, men keep setting themselves against it.
65) As in the nighttime a man kindles for himself a light, so when a living man lies down in death with his vision extinguished he attaches himself to the state of death; even as one who has been awake lies down with his vision extinguished and attaches himself to the state of sleep. [The words in italics are all the same verb but with a double meaning of attaching and kindling]
66) Immortals become mortals, mortals become immortals; they live in each other's death and die in each other's life.
67) There await men after death such things as they neither expect nor have any conception of.
68) They arise into wakefulness and become guardians of the living and the dead.
69) A man's character is his guardian divinity.
70) Greater dooms win greater destinies.
71) Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses.
72) Fire in its advance will judge and overtake all things.
73) How can anyone hide from that which never sets?
74) When some visitors unexpectedly found Heraclitus warming himself by the cooking fire: Here, too, are gods.
75) They pray to images, much as if they should talk to houses; for they do not know the nature of gods and heroes.
76) Night-walkers, magicians, bacchantes, revelers, and participants in the mysteries! What are regarded as mysteries among men are unholy rituals.
77) Their processions and their phallic hymns would be disgraceful exhibitions, were it not that they are done in honor of Dionysus. But Dionysus, in whose honor they rave and hold big feasts, is the same as Hades.
78) When defiled they purify themselves with blood - as though one who had stepped into filth should wash himself with filth. If any of his fellowmen should perceive him acting in such a way, they would regard him as mad.
79) The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice because of the god in her.

Human souls or selves exist not only in relation to the material substratum from which they have been vaporized; they also exist in significant relation, or in possibility of significant relation, to the divine Logos that permeates all things - which is to say, all activities.

For Heraclitus, in sleep as well as mystical trances, we become deceived by dreams and hallucinations; only in waking periods, and in the most intensely alive of them, can we achieve some momentary glimpse of what truly is.

Since the Logos is the principle of continual motion and change, which is also symbolized by the divine fire, it can only be by making our souls dry and fiery, our perceptions keen, and our wills unsubjected to cloying emotions, that we can really participate in the Logos instead of feeding our fancies with mythological vulgarizations of it. Such real participation, through mental alertness to the ever-changing but objective world, is what provides us with the criterion of truth.

Whenever we ascribe ethical characteristics to God we inevitably appeal to idols of the tribe, and usually of the marketplace too.

In the universe as Heraclitus envisages it there is nothing truly immortal in the literal sense - except the endless process of mortality itself.

Similarly a living man, when his [human] vision is extinguished in death, flares into flame on achieving the state of death.

The fundamental principle to keep in mind when reading any of his utterances is that everything has another and contrary aspect, to be seen only by a mind that is active enough to be able to step into a sometimes wildly different perspective from the one with which it started.

Salvation and damnation are not clearly distinguished states, the one allotted to certain fortunate individuals and the other to certain unfortunate ones. The two destinies represent the eternally warring factions of the human soul, with its simultaneous yearning for the light and propensity for mud.

To become flame or to become cinder is the inescapable and constant dilemma to which every moving being must and does make his small contributory response at every moment.

Chapter VI - Man Among Men

80) Thinking is common to all.
81) Men should speak with rational awareness and thereby hold on strongly to that which is shared in common - as a city holds on to its law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are nourished by the one divine law, which prevails as far as it wishes, suffices for all things, and yet is something more than they.
82) The people should fight for their law as for their city wall.
83) Law involves obeying the counsel of one.
84) To me one man is worth ten thousand if he is first-rate.
85) The best of men choose one thing in preference to all else, immortal glory in preference to mortal goods; whereas the masses simply glut themselves like cattle.
86) Gods and men honor those slain in battle.
87) Even he who is most repute knows only what is reputed and holds fast to it.
88) To extinguish hubris is more needful than to extinguish a fire.
89) It is weariness to keep toiling at the same things so that one becomes ruled by them.
90) Dogs bark at a person whom they do not know.
91) What mental grasp, what sense they have? They believe the tales of the poets and follow the crowd as their teachers, ignoring the adage that the many are bad, the good are few.
92) Men are deceived in their knowledge of things that are manifest - even as Homer was, although he was the wisest of all Greeks. For he was even deceived by boys killing lice when they said to him: What we have seen and grasped, these we leave behind; whereas what we have not seen and grasped, these we carry away.
93) Homer should be turned out of the lists and flogged, and Archilochus too.
94) Hesiod distinguishes between good days and evil days, not knowing that every day is like every other.
95) The Ephesians had better go hang themselves, every man of them, and leave their city to be governed by youngsters, for they have banished Hermadorus, the finest man among them, declaring: Let us not have anyone amongst us who excels the rest; if there should be such a one, let him go and live elsewhere.
96) May you have plenty of wealth, you men of Ephesus, in order that you may be punished for your evil ways!
97) After birth men wish to live and accept their dooms; then they leave behind them children to become dooms in their turn.

Heraclitus' attitude toward community is forcefully ambivalent. In a profound sense the community is divine, and all human laws are nourished by the universal and all-sufficient divine law, which is the intelligence that steers all things through all things. On the other hand, any actual community is found to be made up largely of those moist and drunken souls that Heraclitus despises. To characterize the political aspect of Heraclitus' philosophy requires an equable recognition of these two opposing and mutually qualifying ideas.

In every soul there is a tendency to become spiritually loose, riotous, and in this sense egotistical, and the tendency must be mastered if there is to be integrity and upward growth in either the individual or the community.

Hubris is the loosening of one's inner cord, with the result that self-control is lost and the soul becomes moist and slovenly.

Hubris, like everything else, is ambivalent, and can be seen in double perspective. While on the one hand it represents the moist and arrogant vanity that characterizes inferior souls, it has a more universal significance too. For there is a sense in which everything tends to persist in its own specific being, and in which every person to retain and assert his own selfhood. Self-assertion, even flagrant self-assertion, is a universal characteristic; it is what makes possible and inevitable the strife that gives a meaning to existence, and without which all things would cease to be.

The central tragic insight, generalized beyond the boundaries of the stage, regards human self-assertion, which is to say human existence, as always in the long run self terminating. Though termination does not mean defeat, except for those who are its unwilling victims. The wise and serene soul, moving with confidence and grace towards the light, accepts the temporality and the conditions of it by his own choice, and thus he makes himself not a defeated victim of change but a participant in the divine process of self overcoming.

To die in battle, that is, in a condition of intense activity, is far more honorable and excellent than to die in sluggish illness.

The wall of a city in ancient times was far more than bricks and mortar; it was a kind of magical encirclement, representing and guaranteeing some kind of supernatural protection.

The urge to reproduce and the continuation of the paradox of our existences is what we bequeath to our children, and Heraclitus' awareness of mankind's common destiny is what marks alike his philosophy and the crucial moments in the greatest Greek tragedies.

Chapter VII - Relativity and Paradox

98) Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.
99) It is by disease that health is pleasant; by evil that good is pleasant; by hunger, satiety; by weariness, rest.
100) Men would not have known the name of justice if these things had not occurred.
101) Sea water is at once very pure and very foul; it is drinkable and healthful for fishes, but undrinkable and deadly for men.
102) Donkeys would prefer straw to gold.
103) Pigs wash in mud, and domestic fowls in dust or ashes.
104) The handsomest ape is ugly compared with humankind; the wisest man appears as an ape when compared with a god - in wisdom, in beauty, and in all other ways.
105) A man is regarded as childish by a spirit, just as a boy is by a man.
106) To God all things are beautiful, good, and right; men, on the other hand, deem some things right and others wrong.
107) Doctors cut, burn, and torture the sick, and then demand of them an undeserved fee for such services.
108) The way up and the way down are one and the same.
109) In the circle the beginning and the end are common.
110) Into the same rivers we step and we do not step.
111) For wool-carders the straight way and the winding way are one and the same.
112) The bones connected by joints are at once a unitary whole and not a unitary whole. To be in agreement is to differ; the concordant is the discordant. From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars.
113) It is one and the same thing to be living or dead, awake or asleep, young or old. The former aspect in each case becomes the latter, and the latter again the former, by sudden unexpected reversal.
114) Hesiod, whom so many accept as their wise teacher, did not even understand the nature of day and night; for they are one.
115) The name of the bow is life, but its work is death.

Man learns to exercise his mind by shaping his experiences - perceived, remembered, and imagined - into concepts, and this is a useful and clarifying procedure as far as it goes; but then as a kind of mental safety net he tends to regard his network of concepts as equivalent to truth itself, and thus he disposes himself to shut out of serious consideration any intuitive possibilities that do not have a fixable relation to the conceptual system.

Heraclitus' thought moves not by exclusion but more characteristically by coalescence, and always with a sense of otherness.

Heraclitus regards paradox itself, and not its logical transformation, as more truly representing the real state of affairs.

If metaphor and paradox are to serve a metaphysical purpose, each must to some degree involve the other. If metaphor is employed without a touch of paradox, it loses its radically metaphoric character and turns out to be virtually no more than a tabloid simile. If paradox is employed without metaphor, it is no more than a witticism or sophism.

A radical and serious paradox does not hang upon a removable confusion, but is demanded by the complexity and inherent ambiguity of what is being expressed.

Heraclitus employs wordplay in Fragment 111 with serious intent, for to his mind the occasional duplicity of language has an intimate connection with, and reveals, the duplicity and paradoxicality of the thing referred to.

Men perish because they cannot join the beginning with the end.

[I consider this the most difficult chapter in the book and I'm likely to return to it again in the future, thus my notes are rather sparse.]

Final Chapter - The Hidden Harmony

116) The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.
117) People do not understand how that which is at variance with itself agrees with itself. There is a harmony in the bending back, as in the case of the bow and the lyre.
118) Listening not to me but to the Logos, it is wise to acknowledge that all things are one.
119) Wisdom is one and unique; it is unwilling and yet willing to be called by the name of Zeus.
120) Wisdom is one - to know the intelligence by which all things are steered through all things.
121) God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and want. But he undergoes transformations, just as [Missing], when it is mixed with a fragrance, is named according to the particular savor [that is introduced].
122) The sun will not overstep his measures; if he were to do so, the Erinyes, handmaids of justice, would seek him out.
123) All things come in their due seasons.
124) Even sleepers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe.

The contrast between Parmenides and Heraclitus is often taken too far and sometimes Heraclitus' monism tends to be cast into the background.

No attempt to characterize the ultimate unity of things, or the power and tendency toward unity, can possibly succeed, and yet man's inquiring mind cannot permanently abandon the attempt.

Harmony can only exist where there is contrast, there is no harmony of a single note. Musical harmony involves the overcoming, but without the eliminating, of some musical opposition. Harmonies and attunements between person and person, or between person and circumstance, are brought into existence out of diversity and potential strife.

The idea implicit in the connection of bow and lyre, then, is presumably Pythagorean, but the bending back represents Heraclitus' own distinctive emphasis.

Heraclitus would have been in agreement, could he have known it, with the opening remark of the Tao Te Ching: The tao that can be understood is not the real tao.

[Now that I've finished reading this translation of the fragments of Heraclitus I can now definitively say that I've read the entire corpus of at least one philosopher - nevermind that all we have left are 124 fragments, you're not focusing on what's important here! It still counts dammit.]