Heraclitus

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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.

Ηράκλειτος (Herakleitos; Heraclitus) of Ephesus (c.535 BC - 475 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.

Sourced

  • 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.
  • Nothing endures but change.
    • From Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
    • Variant translations:
      There is nothing 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 in Hippolytus
    • Variant translations:
      A lifetime is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
      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. Time is a game played beautifully by children. (penguin, 2001)

On the Universe

Different sources sometimes number many of these fragments of the expressions of Heraclitus differently.
  • It is wise to listen, not to me but to the Word, and to confess that all things are one.
    • Fragment 1
    • 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).
  • Though wisdom is common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
    • Fragment 2; Quoted by Sextus Empiricus in Against the Mathematicians
    • Variant translation: So we must follow the common, yet the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
    • Fragment 41; Quoted by Plato in Cratylus
    • Variant translations:
      You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in.
      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 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 alseep, young and old.
    • Fragment 78
  • Corpses are more fit to be thrown out than is dung.
    • Fragment 85
  • 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 121
    • 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.

Unsourced

  • A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.
    • Variant: Invisible harmony is better than visible.
  • Abundance of knowledge does not teach men to be wise.
  • Big results require big ambitions.
  • Deliberate violence is more to be quenched than a fire.
  • 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.
  • If it were not for injustice, men would not know justice.
  • If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out, and difficult.
    • Variants: If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trial.
      If we do not expect the unexpected, we will never find it.
  • Immortal mortals, mortal immortals, one living the others death and dying the others life.
  • It is in changing that things find purpose.
  • Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses.
  • Men who are lovers of wisdom must be inquirers into many things.
    • Variants: Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars.
      Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.
  • Much learning does not teach understanding.
  • No one that encounters prosperity does not also encounter danger.
  • One must know that war is common, justice is strife, and everything happens according to strife and necessity.
  • One must talk about everything according to its nature, how it comes to be and how it grows. Men have talked about the world without paying attention to the world of their own minds, as if they were asleep or absent-minded.
  • Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.
  • Poor witnesses for men are their eyes and ears if they have barbarian souls.
    • Variants: Eyes and ears are poor witnesses to people if they have uncultured souls.
      Evil witnesses are eyes and ears of men, if they have souls that do not understand their language.
  • The best people renounce all for one goal, the eternal fame of mortals; but most people stuff themselves like cattle.
  • The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.
  • The Lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither reveals nor conceals, but gives a sign.
  • The most beautiful ape is ugly when compared to a human. The wisest human will seem like an ape when compared to a god with respect to wisdom, beauty, and everything else.
  • The most perfect mind is a dry light.
  • The phases of fire are craving and satiety.
  • The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way.
  • The sun is new each day.
  • The world is nothing but a great desire to live and a great dissatisfaction with living.
  • There is exchange of all things for fire and of fire for all things, as there is of wares for gold and of gold for wares.
  • To do the same thing over and over again is not only boredom: it is to be controlled by rather than to control what you do.
    • Variant: To do the same thing over and over is not only boredom; it is to be controlled by rather than to control what you do.
  • To God everything is beautiful, good, and just; humans, however, think some things are unjust and others just.
    • Variant: To God all things are beautiful, good, and right; human beings, on the other hand, deem some things right and others wrong.
  • Uncomprehending when they have heard, they are like the deaf. The saying describes them: though present they are absent.
  • War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.
  • We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.
    • Variant: Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
  • Where there is no strife there is decay: The mixture which is not shaken decomposes.
  • Wisdom is one thing — to know how to make true judgment, how all things are steered through all things.
  • All men are deceived by the appearances of things, even Homer himself, who was the wisest man in Greece; for he was deceived by boys catching lice, they said to him, "What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us."

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