Moral Understanding of HeraclitusJune 27, 2021
According to Heraclitus, the moral situation of man displays a two-sided view. In the first of these, there is the understanding spirit, and in the other, the spirit that acts in accordance with the law. The soul that understands these is the spiritual state of the wise person who has deeply grasped the law of logos prevailing in the universe.
But for wisdom this is not enough. Man must also act in accordance with this profound universe law. According to him, while the physical law of nature is valid for animals, a certain law of nature is also valid for humans. In the final plan, one must definitely engage understanding. Because for a person who does not understand, everything in the universe will be contradictory. For a person in this situation, there is good and bad, beautiful and ugly in the universe. Yet these are the judgments of people who do not understand the universal law. In fact, they are all one. In other words, for a person who can look at the universe divinely, everything is good, everything is beautiful. In other words, good and bad, beautiful and ugly are one. A person who understands can rise above these contradictions and grasp everything in unity.
A direct necessity prevails in the universe, and people must comply with this obligation. In this necessity, good, bad, beautiful and ugly have no meaning. With this law of the universe based on necessity, Heraclitus does not leave man any room for maneuver, on the other hand, he says that man’s personality is his own destiny, and that in a sense he will determine his own destiny. According to him, the personality of man is his own destiny. But in another trailer, “life (aion) is a child playing checkers. He makes some slaves and some kings”.
According to Heraclitus, there is no such thing as innate nobility or degeneracy. Because being born in a certain family is not in one’s own hands. In this sense, there is nothing one can do. But man can create his own possibilities in the next stage. He must first accept his destiny. Then he should see the opposites as a whole with a universal wisdom. Man is an intelligent being and should always act according to reason. Man is destined to be wise, and this destiny must be appropriately carried by man. In this way, a person should always be measured and always think about the opportunities given to him. While using these possibilities, he has virtues such as justice, wisdom, temperance and valor. They provide an important strength and criterion to man in the war in question. In the process of moral progress, man must constantly strive to surpass himself. Because the vast majority of people are slaves to their passions, and the greatest war is based on self-harming. There is a conflict in the universe, but the greatest war is the war within.
Human morality is based on virtues such as justice, wisdom, temperance and valor. The site and moral order should be built on these virtues.
According to Heraclitus, in the last instance, the duty of being moral passes through man’s understanding of the law of the universe and acting in accordance with this law. Therefore, here, self-knowledge is based on the condition of knowing the cosmic law. But man will also seek the knowledge of this law within himself. Thus, the mind and thought world of man and the laws prevailing in the cosmos are positioned in a certain sense of interdependence. The law of the universe commands us to be wise. It is necessary to both collect and criticize knowledge and live with it.
“Man’s self-knowledge depends on his knowledge of the law prevailing in the cosmos.”
In addition to this virtue of wisdom, man should always be just, measured and valiant in both thinking and acting. These four, namely wisdom, justice, temperance, and valor, as the four basic virtues, should become the slogan of every human being as a reflection of the cosmic law that prevails in the universe. Site laws should also be built on the same virtues, according to the same universal law. In this sense, Heraclitus follows the line of the Ancient Greek philosophers, who derived the law of the city from the law of the universe. It is impossible to establish order in any religion or belief system without these four virtues. Finally, God can be added to these four virtues, and unless the universe is based on such a great will, the existence of these four virtues will have no meaning. Heraclitus’ understanding of morality and politics was ultimately built on these principles.
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