Heraclitus

Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.

Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος, Herakleitos; c. 535 BC475 BC) was a Greek philosopher, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe, and for establishing the term Logos (λόγος) in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the Cosmos.

QuotesEdit

Everything flows, nothing stands still.
Nothing endures but change.
  • Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει
    • Everything flows, nothing stands still.
    • Quoted by Plato in Cratylus, and by Diogenes Laërtius in Lives of the Philosophers Book IX, section 8
    • Variant translations:
      Everything flows and nothing stays.
      Everything flows and nothing abides.
      Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
      Everything flows; nothing remains.
      All is flux, nothing is stationary.
      All is flux, nothing stays still.
      All flows, nothing stays.
  • Nothing endures but change.
    • From Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius
    • Variant translations:
      There is nothing permanent except change.
      Nothing is permanent except change.
      The only constant is change.
      Change is the only constant.
      Change alone is unchanging.
  • Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
    • Quoted by Hippolytus, as translated in Reality‎ (1994), by Carl Avren Levenson and Jonathan Westphal, p. 10
    • Variant translations:
    • History is a child building a sand-castle by the sea, and that child is the whole majesty of man’s power in the world.
      • As quoted in Contemporary Literature in Translation‎ (1976), p. 21
    • A lifetime is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
      • As quoted in The Beginning of All Wisdom : Timeless Advice from the Ancient Greeks‎ (2003) by Steven Stavropoulos, p. 95
    • Time is a game played beautifully by children.
      • As quoted in Fragments (2001) translated by Brooks Haxton
    • Lifetime is a child at play, moving pieces in a game. Kingship belongs to the child.
      • As quoted in The Art and Thought of Heraclitus (1979) translated by Charles H. Kahn
  • χρὴ γὰρ εὖ μάλα πολλῶν ἴστορας φιλοσόφους ἄνδρας εἶναι
  • Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.
    1. War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.
    2. War is the father and king of all, and has produced some as gods and some as men, and has made some slaves and some free. (G.T.W. Patrick, 1889)
      • Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9. Context: "And that the father of all created things is created and uncreated, the made and the maker, we hear him (Heraclitus) saying, 'War is the father and king of all,' etc."
      • Plutarch, de Iside 48, p. 370. Context, see frag. 43.
      • Proclus in Tim. 54 A (comp. 24 B).
      • Compare Chrysippus from Philodem. P. eusebeias, vii. p. 81, Gomperz.
      • Lucianus, Quomodo hist. conscrib. 2; Idem, Icaromen 8.
    3. See also: πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς
    4. Martin Heidegger, Parmenides (1942–1943)
  • Τίς γὰρ αὐτῶν νόος ἢ φρήν; [δήμων] ἀοιδοῖσι ἕπονται καὶ διδασκάλῳ χρέωνται ὁμίλῳ, οὐκ εἰδότες ὅτι πολλοὶ κακοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἀγαθοί. αἱρεῦνται γὰρ ἓν ἀντία πάντων οἱ ἄριστοι, κλέος ἀέναον θνητῶν, οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ κεκόρηνται ὅκωσπερ κτήνεα.
    1. The best people renounce all for one goal, the eternal fame of mortals; but most people stuff themselves like cattle.
    2. For what sense or understanding have they? They follow minstrels and take the multitude for a teacher, not knowing that many are bad and few good. For the best men choose one thing above all – immortal glory among mortals; but the masses stuff themselves like cattle. (G.T.W. Patrick, 1889)
      "The passage is restored as above by Bernays (Heraclitea i. p. 34), and Bywater (p. 43), from the following sources:

On the UniverseEdit

Different sources sometimes number many of these fragments of the expressions of Heraclitus differently.
You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
Couples are wholes and not wholes, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant. From all things one and from one all things.
Even sleepers are workers and collaborators on what goes on in the universe.
Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.
Character is destiny.
  • Though wisdom is common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
    • Fragment 2, as quoted in Against the Mathematicians by Sextus Empiricus
    • Variant translation: So we must follow the common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
  • He who does not expect will not find out the unexpected, for it is trackless and unexplored
    • Fragment 7, as quoted in The Art and Thought of Heraclitus : An Edition of the Fragments (1981) edited by Charles H. Kahn, p. 105
    • Variants:
    • He who does not expect the unexpected will not find it out.
      • The Art and Thought of Heraclitus : An Edition of the Fragments (1981) edited by Charles H. Kahn, p. 129
    • He who does not expect the unexpected will not find it, since it is trackless and unexplored.
      • As quoted in Helen by Euripides, edited by William Allan (2008), p. 278
    • Unless you expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is hidden and thickly tangled.
      • Rendering εαν μη "unless" is more English-friendly without being inaccurate. As for the last clause, the point is that you can neither find it nor navigate your way through it. The alpha-privatives suggest using similar metaphoric adjectives to keep the Greek 'feel.' S. N. Jenks, 2014


  • Nature is wont to hide herself.
    • Fragment 10
  • Much learning does not teach understanding.
    • Fragment 16
  • 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.
    • Fragment 20
    • Variant translations:
      The world, an entity out of everything, was created by neither gods nor men, but was, is and will be eternally living fire, regularly becoming ignited and regularly becoming extinguished.
      This world . . . ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in measure going out.
    • That which always was,
      and is, and will be everlasting fire,
      the same for all, the cosmos,
      made neither by god nor man,
      replenishes in measure
      as it burns away.
      • Translated by Brooks Haxton
  • ἓν τὸ σοφὸν μοῦνον λέγεσθαι οὐκ ἐθέλει καὶ ἐθέλει Ζηνὸς ὄνομα
    • The wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.
    • Fragment 32
  • Logos is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.
    • Fragment 36
    • Variant translation: God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.
  • δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.
    • You could not step twice into the same river.
    • Fragment 41; Quoted by Plato in Cratylus 402a
    • Variant translations:
      You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in.
      You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
      You cannot step twice into the same stream. For as you are stepping in, other waters are ever flowing on to you.
      You cannot step twice into the same river.
      You cannot step into the same river twice.
      It is impossible to step into the same river twice.
      No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
  • It is wise to listen, not to me but to the Word, and to confess that all things are one.
    • Fragment 50
    • Variant translations:
      Listening not to me but to reason, it is wise to agree that all is one.
      Listening not to me but to the Word it is wise to agree that all things are one.
      He who hears not me but the logos will say: All is one.
    • The word translated in these quotes and many others as "The Word" or "Reason", is the greek word λόγος (Logos).
  • It would not be better if things happened to people just as they wish.
    • Fragment 52
    • Variant translation: It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish.
  • Couples are wholes and not wholes, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant. From all things one and from one all things.
    • Fragment 54
    • Variant translation: From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars.
  • The road up and the road down is one and the same.
    • Fragment 69
    • Variant translations:
      The road up and the road down are one and the same.
      The road uphill and the road downhill are one and the same.
      The way up and the way down are one and the same.
  • Man, like a light in the night, is kindled and put out.
    • Fragment 76
  • When is death not within ourselves?... Living and dead are the same, and so are awake and asleep, young and old.
    • Fragment 78
  • Corpses are more fit to be thrown out than is dung.
    • Fragment 85
  • The waking have one world in common; sleepers have each a private world of his own.
    • Fragment 89
  • Even sleepers are workers and collaborators on what goes on in the universe.
    • Fragment 90
  • Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.
    • Fragment 98, as translated by Philip Wheelwright
  • The people should fight for their law as if defending the city's wall.
    • Fragment 100
  • It is better to hide ignorance, but it is hard to do this when we relax over wine.
    • Fragment 108
    • Variant translation: Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it.
  • Character is destiny.
    • Fragment 119
    • Variant translations:
      Character is fate.
      Man's character is his fate.
      A man's character is his fate.
      A man's character is his guardian divinity.
      One's bearing shapes one's fate.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 10:23