Heraclitus and the Informational Condition of HumansJune 27, 2021
Heraclitus divides people in terms of their status in knowledge; those who know and those who do not. Those who can understand are inquisitive people. Others are like deaf. Even if they hear, they don’t understand. Their presence and absence are one.
They are never even aware of the extraordinary things happening around them. They do not know how to learn from events and gain experience. In fact, most people are like that. They cannot see the harmony in the universe and live in darkness. These are people whose souls are far from the fire. Because these are people who do not see the light and fire next to them. Heraclitus expresses their situation in fragment 17 with the following sentences:
“Many people go through a lot of events, but they cannot understand these events, they travel as if they understand. I told people to follow the logos, but they didn’t understand me. Because they did not listen to my voice. They are like those who live in sleep. I said obey the law in the universe, the common. They did not suit me. It’s as if each of them had a special view.”
Heraclitus does not distinguish between natural laws and divine laws, that is, between nature and divine structure. He sees them parallel to each other.
People who do not understand the law of the universe i.e. logos
In fragment 14, it is said: “These people are people who do not understand the divine law in the universe. Every human being should live in accordance with the divine law in the universe.” According to him, “The laws of all men must be nourished by divine law.” In this fragment, it is understood that Heraclitus advised his citizens to establish a city order in accordance with the divine law prevailing in the universe and to adapt the laws of the city to the divine law in the universe.
Considering these fragments, it can be said that Heraclitus did not make a distinction between natural laws and divine laws, that is, between nature and divine laws, and he thought that they were parallel to each other. According to him, the vast majority of people cannot see the divine law in the universe. In this sense, Heraclitus followed the path of Xenophanes, who advocated a monotheistic understanding. He identified God with the universe and called it logos. When the fragments remaining from Heraclitus are scrupulously examined as a whole, it is possible to summarize Heraclitus’s assessment of the divine law prevailing in the universe and the situation of people in the face of this law as follows:
People do not understand this law (i.e. its logo), nor do they understand the events going on around them. They are like blind and cannot draw a lesson from the events.
The main reason people don’t understand the logo is because it’s subjective. In other words, they behave as if they know everything, and try to be content with their own insufficient knowledge of the universe.
An objective attitude should be adopted in philosophy as well as in doing science (in other words, questioning nature).
However, according to Heraclitus, people try to do science with sparse information.
The power of thinking (mind) is common to all people. Everyone can understand, but people blunt the power of reason in them. The main reason for this is their laziness.
People who do not understand the logo, which is the divine law in the universe, live like animals. This is due to their excessive attachment to bodily passions. Instead of developing and sharpening their minds, they bring their bodily needs to the fore.
Heraclitus despised these bodily pleasures, which distract man from grasping the universal law of harmony and drag him into the darkness of ignorance, and described the pursuit of desires as the worst thing. Because in exchange for desires, a person almost sells his soul and becomes his slave, not the master of his body. However, according to Heraclitus, the first important step on the path to wisdom is to be the master of the body, not the slave, and this is to dominate bodily desires. However, because people live like animals, they do not have time to produce art, science and philosophy.
While discussing the situation of the soul on the path of wisdom, Heraclitus says that the worst soul is the watery soul and the best soul is the dry soul, and thus he uses the fire, which he identifies with the universal law, logos, in the wisdom of the human soul. As the human soul purifies it of passions and makes it wiser, the soul will cease to be a watery structure and will become a dry soul closer to the fire that Heraclitus identifies with the universal law of harmony. According to Heraclitus, he describes this war that takes place in one’s own soul and tends to defeat passions as the greatest war.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook