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Here we have opposites which might seem contradictory but are not in virtue of the fact that a road is traversable in both directions: the road is the hidden uniter of these seeming opposites.

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It is here, however, that the fragmentariness of the fragments becomes a problem. How shall we interpret these claims? This is a clear move toward the prophecy of the Delphic oracle and the primacy of thought. The principle of contradiction regulates thought first and only by implication the object of the thought which is doomed to decay and destruction.

But Heraclitus is also famed for his discussions of Aletheia and a fragment which claims that Aletheia reveals what is hidden. This fragment should be viewed together with the fragment which claims that what is hidden is the logos of the one rather than the many. Parmenides is an interesting thinker from many different perspectives but we are going to concentrate on his critical relation to Heraclitus whose aphoristic style of proclamations must have irritated the Philosopher who was possibly one of the first to believe that proclamations must be replaced by demonstrations or arguments that something is the way it is and not in some other way.

Change is an illusion. Plato used this fragment as the guiding light for the construction of his theory of forms or ideas. Aristotle also referred to this fragment in his Metaphysics and transformed it into a principle of all metaphysical reflection whilst at the same time acknowledging the fragment of Heraclitus relating to change by insisting that of course change is real and it is so because we perceive change in the bird hopping from one branch of the tree to another. But Aristotle would have agreed that change without any reference to some enduring thing that is changing cannot be thought about.

It is after all the bird that is hopping and not a nothing. The counterargument to this position is one that Heraclitus may have embraced in order to save his position from the Aristotelian attack. This is a complex argument which cannot be resolved here but suffice it to say that the assumption of this work will be in this respect at least, Aristotelian through and through.

We will discuss Socrates the next but one issue of the journal. Fragments at an archeological excavation are attended to by being placed in the midst of a circle of instruments and encircled by a group of concerned viewers. Such has not been the case with the fragments of ancient texts from the Early Greek Philosophers which are often found embedded in other authors texts hundreds of years after their production.

Heidegger in Delphic Oracle fashion points out that the process of translating a fragment requires a certain amount of self-translation before the meaning of the fragment is revealed.

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We moderns, it is claimed, think in terms of having the right attitude toward whatever object we confront or are confronted with, and this does not seem to Heidegger to capture the spirit of the meaning of the fragments which seem to have orbited in a different universe of discourse to ours: one in which one has sought to talk about an all-inclusive reality or being which is the source of all existence and thought about existence. For Heidegger, we moderns appear to have forgotten something or at the very least appeared to have been transformed into beings for whom our very being is an issue.

Only religious thinking appears to have retained this sense of man having fallen from a greater understanding and this not via texts composed of argument and evidence but rather via texts composed of myths, legends, and prophecies. On this view, we once lived in a paradise and engaged in actions which compromised our being in that world and that in turn set us in search of a lost and promised land, set us off on a journey along a road we are still wandering today.

The oldest of the fragments that Heidegger discusses is a fragment of Anaximander which reads:. Readers of the Republic will surely detect an echo of the ancient prophecy Socrates referred to, namely that everything which comes into existence is fated or destined for ruin and destruction.

A prophecy which appears to reflect upon the ultimate beginning and end of all things. An understanding of Language is, of course, an important key for translating the words the Greeks used for Being or reality. But the problem with this requirement is that the Greeks used a language which inhered in a mind, context or landscape of thought which are largely lost to us.

Aristotle was one of the key bearers of this tradition of thought and therefore a standard by which to measure the fragments of Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. Heidegger questions this traditional assumption, however, on the grounds that Aristotle takes the essence of substance, being or reality for granted in his system of categories.

Aristotle assumes, that is, that the continuum of reality is divided or categorized in the way depicted by his system of categories. Aristotle, Heidegger claims, looks at being through the lens of the proposition which fixes upon what is present and seen as an end in itself rather than as a process of unconcealment: a process in which being presences and thinking originates because thinking in accordance with the process of unconcealment is the thinking of Being. When thinking is not in accordance with this process of unconcealment there is a falling away from reality, as is the case in our modern thinking, according to Heidegger.

This is nothing less than a tragedy, a tragedy with far-reaching consequences.

Perhaps this tragedy was already foreseen in the fragment of Anaximander cited above. In the fragment of Anaximander there appears to be a vision of a state of disorder prevailing when beings come into existence, and a restoration of order when they pass away. This appears a reversal of everyday attitudes toward the passing away of valued existences. This is part of the mystery of the prophecy of the oracle that everything which has come into being shall pass away and be transformed into the stuff of the universe from which it arose.

Heidegger has an image in relation to Anaximander of someone journeying on a woodpath in the middle of a wood and the path suddenly comes to an abrupt end. What disorder!

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Lightning is, of course, not to be identified with an event of lightning in the universe but rather it manifests the light of the universe by virtue of which all things appear. Thought enlightens and steers through wisdom and rationality—an effortless steering very different to the hard work of the helmsman who is steering a vessel over the waves into the wind in order not to founder on the rocks.

One might also wish to insist that lessons are events in the world in which saying and talking articulate the essence of what is being talked about or said. The pupil hears the lesson when he understands the meaning of the sounds that are being articulated and he tarries or dwells or belongs in the realm of Being that is being talked about. This hearing is determined by Logos.

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Heraclitus, Heidegger argues is claiming that Logos and proper hearing are the same for us mortals and this hearing is simultaneously Legen. Logos non-instrumentally belongs to a realm of discourse which includes Aletheia and the idea of oneness implied by both these terms. The road is the One that reveals its different aspects of being traversable in opposite directions.

Words here appear to be like the lightning: they steer, illuminate and reveal Being. In the course of this transition, language and the lightning of being shifted in its function from expressing oneness and the All, to the instrumental expression where something expresses something else. The arena for all cosmological and anthropomorphic thinking became the arena for the thinker to use language instrumentally to express thought.

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Socrates, his pupil, was perhaps closer to Anaximander and Heraclitus. He began his life as a philosopher by investigating cosmological issues and in the beginning he was probably more inspired by the prophecy that all created things are doomed to destruction and ruin, doomed to return to the stuff from which they emerged.


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In this seismic shift from the cosmological to the anthropomorphic, one detects a shift from thinking about the Being of beings to thinking about the relation of thinking to Being. If it is really possible to think nothing, one of the primary premises of the Parmenidean argument is overturned.

Parmenides was adamant that one cannot think nothing: that without the something that one is thinking about, there can be no thinking.

Aristotle: Matter, Form and The Four Causes

In modern analytical language thought and its object is logically related. He rehearses the position that separates the elements of the whole—the thought and the object that which one is thinking about. We have the thought of the cat present at hand and the thought of the cat lounging on the living room mat also present at hand presented theoretically. This, Heidegger argues, cannot be what Parmenides means.


  • Aristotle on the Cause of Being and of Coming to Be;
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  • Objects present at hand are part of the whole and at best can only symbolize the One and the All, e. Thought in such a context loses its universal steering character when reduced to beings present at hand. Epistemology is then, in turn, called upon to transform what was essentially a metaphysical and logical investigation of reality into a pursuit to know objects present at hand. For Hegel, it appeared that the road up could be represented as the road down in the stream of thought which had curiously become somehow identical with the Being of beings that were being thought about.

    The idea of thinker thought and object that in itself is a condensation of the relation between things present at hand dominated what Heidegger called the process of presencing in which Being and beings is revealed.

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    Logos, as we saw is related to the hearing of the pupil. Logos is also concerned with the saying of Being. It is not just concerned with the object, with what is said. Saying here is concerned with bringing something into view, as lightning does when it illuminates or reveals. Saying is also concerned therefore with aletheia. Moira, on the other hand, is the destiny and governing principle of the presencing of All.

    In experience, time is the great discloser of the meaning of events. We should not, it is argued, think of helos as a measuring instrument of the time of the world but rather that which makes the seasons possible and which brings everything into being. Such abstraction of time is impossible with the seasons which are defined by their content and not by their succession one upon the other. The expressions we find in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible are in this anthropological spirit: in particular the expression that. What follows from this prophecy is a picture of existence in which anthropomorphic choices reveal the importance of freedom for the being for whom his being is in question.

    It should be pointed out, however, that this challenge is not a challenge to know myself as an individual but rather a challenge to know my place as a human being in the above context of involvements. It is a challenge to know the forms or principles that drive the world forming process. It is a challenge to understand the world forming moods or attitudes of Ecclesiastes when it is claimed, for example, that there is a time to rejoice cf the Kantian boundless outlook onto the world and a time to mourn cf the Kantian melancholic haphazardness of everyday life.

    Emerging from these reflections on the fall of man, the telos of man over the two thousand years since the Pre-Socratics, is a picture of the being for whom his being is in question.