Heraclitus

Posted by on July 11, 2011

In the introduction to Heraclitus in the AGP textbook, it mentions Heraclitus ideas on the divine law, as something that is the unifying thing in everything. Several of his fragments elaborate on this idea of a divine law, or logos, which “rules and guides the cosmos” (24).  His major assertion about the logos is that while everything occurs within the logos, most people are not able to comprehend it.  This is idea is further expressed in the fragments 25 and 26.

Fragments 25 and 26 expound on this idea of the divine law. In fragment 25, he mentions that human beings have no insight, while divine nature does. This goes along with his idea that while everything is ruled by the logos, the divine law, human beings are not able to understand it.  Part of this understanding is being able to have insight into all the things that are occurring and especially “seeing how all that is known constitutes a unity.”  This understanding of the unity is apparently only possibly comprehended by the divine. By all of this, in practical terms, I think that he means that human beings are only able to observe and making connections regarding what they can relatively see or know, but that the divine would be the one that has the ultimate understanding of everything since it governs or rules all things.

Fragment 26 expounds on this above-mentioned idea by making a comparison of human understanding to that of a child, with respect to the divine. Heraclitus is essentially stating that regardless of anything the human being could ever conceive or come to know, the divine would always know much more since it constitutes the unity by governing everything.   This fragment is meant to make the human being awe at the incredible tremendous nature of divine law, its magnitude.  Human beings tend to take pride in their ability to reason, taking a higher stance in nature in comparison to everything else.  Therefore, it would be awing to think that the human reason that is known to be highest in our nature is nothing in comparison to that of the logos.

Both fragments 25 and 26 work to build Heraclitus’ concept of the divine, in making the divine seem much larger than any capacity of the human being.  This concept of the one logos determining everything begs some questions.  One of my questions would be how to effectively defend against an argument that everything in the Universe is run by not one law, but several separate laws?  Sure, Heraclitus could defend by saying “oh yes there are several laws but really there is one law that is ruling and guiding everything including those other laws.” But, there is no sure fire way to rule out the idea that the Universe is run by separate random laws and not one law.  This is because you can never actually determine which one is true, because both are un-testable theoretical ideas, just as the existence of God, being the one divine that rules and governs everything, is an un-testable idea. Furthermore if someone were to propose the idea that everything is guided and ruled by several gods, the argument would have just as much legitimacy as the one with one God.  The problems with Heraclitus’s ideas of the logos are very similar to ideas and discussions on God or gods.

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