For Episode #79 (to be recorded in late June and released in July), we'll be reading Eva Brann's The Logos of Heraclitus and interviewing her about it. She was a colleague of Dylan's at St. John's, and her book exhibits that love of etymology that has come up recently on PEL whenever Heidegger is mentioned, for which St. John's is notorious. This is pretty much what you have to do to talk about Heraclitus, as there are no surviving full texts by the guy. He's just quoted by other ancient writers. You can view all of his fragments here along with where they were quoted, but Eva really goes all out to weave a narrative out of this, bringing in Pythagoras and others whose work she thinks Heraclitus was responding to. The "logos" is about meaning, about patterns: she sees Heraclitus as the first real philosopher of science, who noted that nature performs according to regularities and asked about the relation between that lawlike behavior and the regularities themselves.
He seems to come down on something like Spinoza's view that the lawgiving force is immanent in the matter itself, that everything is in some sense all the same stuff, but that this stuff (which he sometimes calls fire) transmutes according to its internal laws (something like the law of conservation of matter) into the other elements in fixed ratios. The "ratio" part comes from Pythagoras, and is the basis of "rationality:" consistent mathematical relations displays the underlying order of the universe. So there's more to Heraclitus than "the world is a constant flux" in contrast to Parmenides who says "the world is fundamentally unified, static Being."
It's not too late to join the Not School group that I'm running on this. The book is available as an e-book (Kindle, which you can view right on a PC or mac without owning Kindle) as well as in paper (it's cute little pocket book), and though I need to be done with it by 6/20 to record this episode, I plan on running the discussion into July to allow people to take the time they need to get through as much as they want to of it.
Seems like a really awesome book on a truly awesome philosopher!!!!!!
The reference to him as the first philosopher and that the philosophical West began in Asia minor.
I think is a reference to the Ionian school.
From movies like 300 we tend to have a negative thought about the Persian empire. But it was due to the Persian empire uniting parts of Greece (Ionia) and India that the two cultures intermingled.
But we should not forget that ancient Greek language was in many ways closer to ancient Sanskrit than it was to classical Latin. And in ancient Sanskrit literature it speaks of “Yona”= Greeks = Ionians.
Thomas McEvilley on “The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies”
And Greek philosophy was hugely important in the development of Indian thought.
Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Graeco-Buddhism, refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism
The close association between Greeks and Buddhism probably led to exchanges on the philosophical plane as well. Many of the early Mahayana theories of reality and knowledge can be related to Greek philosophical schools of thought. Mahayana Buddhism has been described as the “form of Buddhism which (regardless of how Hinduized its later forms became) seems to have originated in the Greco-Buddhist communities of India, through a conflation of the Greek Democritean-Sophistic-Skeptical tradition with the rudimentary and unformalized empirical and skeptical elements already present in early Buddhism” (McEvilly, “The Shape of Ancient Thought”, p503).”
“In the Prajnaparamita, the rejection of the reality of passing phenomena as “empty, false and fleeting” can also be found in Greek Pyrrhonism.
The perception of ultimate reality was, for the Cynics as well as for the Madhyamakas and Zen teachers after them, only accessible through a non-conceptual and non-verbal approach (Greek Phronesis), which alone allowed to get rid of ordinary conceptions.
The mental attitude of equanimity and dispassionate outlook in front of events was also characteristic of the Cynics and Stoics, who called it “Apatheia”
Nagarjuna’s dialectic developed in the Madhyamaka can be paralleled to the Greek dialectical tradition.”
“Cynicism, Madhyamaka and Zen
Numerous parallels exist between the Greek philosophy of the Cynics and, several centuries later, the Buddhist philosophy of the Madhyamika and Zen. The Cynics denied the relevancy of human conventions and opinions (described as typhos, literally “smoke” or “mist”, a metaphor for “illusion” or “error”), including verbal expressions, in favor of the raw experience of reality. They stressed the independence from externals to achieve happiness (“Happiness is not pleasure, for which we need external, but virtue, which is complete without external” 3rd epistole of Crates). Similarly the Prajnaparamita, precursor of the Madhyamika, explained that all things are like foam, or bubbles, “empty, false, and fleeting”, and that “only the negation of all views can lead to enlightenment” (Nāgārjuna, MK XIII.8). In order to evade the world of illusion, the Cynics recommended the discipline and struggle (“askēsis kai machē”) of philosophy, the practice of “autarkia” (self-rule), and a lifestyle exemplified by Diogenes, which, like Buddhist monks, renounced earthly possessions. These conceptions, in combination with the idea of “philanthropia” (universal loving kindness, of which Crates, the student of Diogenes, was the best proponent), are strikingly reminiscent of Buddhist Prajna (wisdom) and Karuṇā (compassion).” (copy and paste)
(panta rhei) “everything is in a state of flux” Heraclitus
“On those stepping into rivers the same, other and other waters flow.” Heraclitus
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.” Heraclitus
“Ceaselessly the river flows, and yet the water is never the same, while in the still pools the shifting foam gathers and is gone, never staying for a moment … “Kamo no Chomei
“All beings going and remaining not at all” Plato
“Whatever arises passes away” Buddha
“That which has become must also perish” Epictetus
“Nature which puts things together also will take them apart” Plato’s Academy Skeptic Carneades
“Our desires and aversions are mercurial rulers…Desire commands us to run off and get what we want. Aversion insists that we must avoid the things that repel us.” Epictetus
“In attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds grow” zen master Dogen
Pyrrho went to India and came back founding Skepticism/Pyrrhonism and if you put Sextus Empiricus side by side with Nagarjuna much of each is almost word for word identical.
“walled towns in Bactria (India). … on wings of gold, … Cadmus from Sidon, who sowed the fields”
In Buddhism there is “prajna” in Greek this is pra=pro and jna is gnosis.
Buddhism and Christianity
Buddhism and the Roman world
Buddhism and Gnosticism
I forgot to add that in the oldest Pali texts the Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama makes reference to the Yona=Ionians/Greeks in an argument against the Indian cast system.
Knowledge from the interaction of Greeks and Persians and Indians, perhaps around Taxila university.