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Form: Herakleitos
of Ephesus. A Greek philosopher, who lived from about 535-475 B.C., during the time of the first Persian domination over his native city. As one of the last of the family of Androclus the descendant of Codrus, who had founded the colony of Ephesus, Heraclitus bad certain honorary regalprivileges, which he renounced in favour of his brother. He likewise declined an invitation of king Darius to visit his court. He was an adherent of the aristocracy, and when, after the defeat of the Persians, the democratic party came into power, he withdrew in ill-humour to a secluded estate in the country, and gave himself up entirely to his studies. In his later years he wrote a philosophical treatise, which he deposited in the temple of Arte mis, making it a condition that it should not be published till after his death. He was buried in the market-place of Ephesus, and for several centuries later the Ephesians continued to engrave his image on their coins. His great work On Nature, in three books, was written in the Ionian dialect, and is the oldest monument of Greek prose. Considerable fragments of it have come down to us. The language is bold, harsh, and figurative; the style is so careless that the syntactical relations of the words are often hard to perceive; and the thoughts are profound. All this made Heraclitus so difficult a writer, that he went in antiquity by the name "the obscure." Knowledge, according to Heraclitus, is based upon perception by the senses. Perfect knowledge is only given to the gods, but a progress in knowledge is possible to men. Wisdom consists in the recognition of the intelligence which, by means of the universe, guides the universe. Everything is in an eternal flux; nothing, therefore, not even the world in its momentary form, nor the gods themselves, can escape final destruction. The ultimate principle into which all existence is resolvable is fire. As fire changes continually into water and then into earth, so earth changes back to water and water again to fire. The world, therefore, arose from fire, and in alternating periods is resolved again into fire, to form itself anew out of this element. The division of unity, or of the divine original fire, into the multiplicity of opposing phenomena, is "the way downwards," and the consequence of a war and a strife. Harmony and peace lead back to unity by "the way upwards." Nature is constantly dividing and uniting herself, so that the multiplicity of opposites does not destroy the unity of the whole. The existence of these opposites depends only on the difference of the motion on "the way upwards" from that on "the way downwards"; all things, therefore, are at once identical and not identical.
Type: Standard
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