Knowledge Criticism of HeraclitusJune 27, 2021
Heraclitus criticized philosophers as well as poets for their lack of knowledge of universal truths. He attacks Pythagoras, one of the most important and influential thinkers before him, as the head of liars. He criticizes Xenophanes with the words “One cannot be wise by seeing much”. According to Heraclitus, it is important not to gather information, but to obtain information by understanding.
These criticisms of Heraclitus towards Pythagoras and Xenophanes give important clues about his understanding of knowledge. Along with the philosophy of nature, philosophy of knowledge entered the Greek world with Xenophanes, and a tradition of knowledge criticism began. Thus, the Greek natural philosophy, which was oriented only to the research of nature, started to take knowledge as a problem with Xenophanes, and the problem of criterion and value in knowledge came to the fore.
In accordance with this tradition of knowledge criticism, Heraclitus tried to criticize the understanding of knowledge of the Greek natural philosophers before him, Pythagoras and Xenophanes. Heraclitus criticizes the efforts of some thinkers before him to gain much knowledge, namely the polymathos situation. Instead of Xenophanes’ understanding of knowledge based on accumulation or accumulation, he put forward an active understanding of knowing. According to Heraclitus, botnes, which means knowing a lot, that is, knowing deeply instead of polymathos, should be considered.
Because according to him, to be a philosopher, in other words, to be wise, it is necessary to understand, reproduce, produce, and in a sense, knead the structure. Because according to him, knowledge is an active process and wisdom arises from an active act of knowing. This aspect of informational criticism in Heraclitus is extremely important because it is based on the assumption that understanding is active learning. Heraclitus expresses this situation in fragment 40 with the following words: “Knowing a lot does not make one wise. If that were the case, Hesiod and our other teachers and Xenophanes and Hekataios would have been wise.” The thoughts expressed in fragment 129 are in parallel with these evaluations: “Pythagoras, the son of Menasortus, is the most researcher among people (here he appreciates it), but he also made all his wisdom out of the books of others. The worst art is hoarding knowledge.”
According to Heraclitus, there are three ways to obtain knowledge; a. Learning from someone else, b. Obtaining from personal experience, c. Researching oneself, gathering knowledge from within.
In this fragment, Heraclitus accepted Pythagoras’ investigative personality, openly stated that he had read the wisdom of the east, but criticized him for not understanding them. Based on all this information, it is understood that according to Heraclitus, the majority of people acquire their knowledge in three ways:
– The first way to acquire knowledge is to learn it from others. Heraclitus says that this information may not always be wrong, but it should always be questioned and critically considered.
– The second way to obtain knowledge is to obtain it as a result of personal experiences and experiments. In order for people to benefit from such knowledge, they must first know how to experience, that is, to see and hear. However, most people do not know how this will happen. Heraclitus says that he prefers what is seen and heard over knowledge, but they do not know how people can see and hear (here it is understood that he means Xenophanes). Because in the eyes of Heraclitus, nature is a book and is read with properly written words. Nature speaks to people, but it is necessary to listen to it. Since most people do not know how to hear and see, they fail to benefit from this great book. Heraclitus states that “those whose souls are barbarian do not understand the language of nature” and states that the knowledge of the truths about nature is also linguistic in one aspect. The expression barbarian used here is used to mean people who do not know any language. In another place it is said: “Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to people whose souls are barbaric.”
We try to understand nature and existence with our eyes and ears. Both nature, society and individual people speak to us in a way, and people who do not know this language can never understand the truth of nature and man. Therefore, in order to prepare for the knowledge of nature, man must prepare his soul for the language of nature. Considering all these, it is understood that experience, seeing and hearing alone will not make a person wise. The important thing is to have an understanding to evaluate the data obtained as a result of vision and hearing. According to Heraclitus, the real problem is not seeing, but knowing how to see, and the vast majority of people do not know how to use their sight and hearing.
– The third way to obtain knowledge is to search for oneself and to gather knowledge from within. Heraclitus says “I discovered myself” in fragment 101.