People Who Don’t Understand the Law (Logos) of the UniverseJune 27, 2021
In his fragments that have survived to the present day, Heraclitus divides people who do not understand the law that rules in the universe, namely the logo, into three main groups. People in the first group are like idiots who stare open-mouthed at every big word.
They’re scumbags with a rabble-like lifestyle. It should not be thought that Heraclitus here characterizes the low-income and poor classes with the expression rabble or lowly human groups. Because, according to him, being noble or inferior in a way of life is not related to income level or class values. For him, nobility is purely the nobility of thinking. It is the nobleness of man’s thoughts about the universe. In addition, with this evaluation, he does not say that every big word is bad, but he criticizes to look at every big word. Because a significant part of people are lazy and prefer others to talk to themselves. Heraclitus expresses this situation in fragment 104 as follows; “What is their reason or their beliefs? They fall for folk singers and make society their teacher, and they don’t know anything, because they don’t know that many is bad and few are good.”
As we understand from this fragment, multiplicity is not a measure for anything. The real measure is what is good and just. Multitude here is understood to mean all kinds of multiplicity, including having a lot of money or a lot of power. On this basis, man’s duty is to seek, to be on the side of what is right. Thus, Heraclitus advises people to be in an active state of research and inquiry. This means that the vast majority of people admire some ideas that are circulating, but they do not even think of questioning them and investigating their inner aspects. Heraclitus expresses his discomfort with these people with the words “Those who do not keep their word of parents should not come to me”. So, to put it briefly, the people in this first group can be described as idiots who acquire knowledge from any authority and without questioning it.
Heraclitus compares people in the second group to dogs barking at strangers. With these features, they are more dangerous than the idiots in the first group because they attack anyone who comes in front of them with the thought that I know everything. They do not respect the opinions of others. They formed a certain thought and glorified a certain dogma by accepting that thought unconditionally as true. In short, dogs that bark at strangers are people who do not accept what is different. According to Heraclitus, the philosopher should say that he has a different thought. According to him, if a person is not satisfied with his way of life, he should either change the world or change his way of life. When he cannot change the world, he must change his lifestyle. However, most people don’t do that. According to Heraclitus, if a person has a problem in his thinking, he should change his way of thinking. People in this second group have a certain worldview and do not want to be interested in any other thoughts. Moreover, they tend to thwart those who want to go beyond this accepted worldview.
He also attacks Hesiod and argues that these two names almost poisoned the Greek society. The reason why Heraclitus was especially attributed to these two names is that they were the names most worthy of being called authority in the Greek world. Of course, Heraclitus does not find it wrong for people to get some information from other people around them, but it is a big mistake to get this information without questioning. Heraclitus was a very provocative thinker for his time, arguing that one can never be wise based on the ideas of Homer and Hesiod, and this provocative aspect continues to be effective even today.
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