What Are the Main Sources of Knowledge for Heraclitus?June 27, 2021
The issues that play a source role in obtaining information can be listed as follows:
Authorities: These are philosophers. Heraclitus does not say that all of the philosophers put forward wrong things about knowledge, but he accepts that one cannot be wise based on what they put forward. Heraclitus demands both theoretical and practical competence in the subject of knowledge. That is, it must be understood and lived in accordance with what is understood. People who know their research need not set aside authority entirely. However, it is also necessary to review the authority with a critical and selective eye. In fact, Heraclitus can be considered to have laid the foundations of today’s pedagogy with his observations on this subject.
The Senses: According to Heraclitus, the senses also play the role of a main source for information; but the information provided by the senses in Ancient Greek thought always remained as secondary information. Its accuracy was questionable and controversial. Xenophanes also acknowledged this. According to Heraclitus, the senses can become reliable sources for information with accurate testimony (which is based on the mind’s proper interpretation of the data provided by the senses).
Perception or identification information: The view of “who sees a lot, knows” was dominant in ancient Greek thought. Heraclitus, as explained in detail above, changed this situation. Seeing a lot does not make one wise. We need to understand what we are seeing. The senses bring us information from a certain world, but it is necessary to test and criticize them. However, people cannot derive anything from events or senses. According to Heraclitus, as long as only sensory data is satisfied, one is in a passive learning process. However, the ideal is a process in which people actively participate, in which information is obtained by interpreting the sensory data appropriately.
According to Heraclitus, there are three sources of knowledge. One is the knowledge provided by authority and tradition, the other is the sense data provided by the sense organs, and the third is the human mind or understanding, which will process and make sense of both.
Introversion: What Xenophanes meant by not turning inward was the mind. What is expressed here as turning inward is the mental activities of man. It is the sense perceptions that provide the contact between nature, which is outside of man, and man himself. In other words, sense perceptions bring us some information. This is the first aspect of our knowledge. The second aspect is the aspect that will process these sense data, namely the mind. Knowledge arises from the union of these two. This situation will appear again in Kant years later. In this sense, Heraclitus took his place among the pioneers in this field by saying that sense perception (aisthesis) alone would not give information.
So, to put it briefly, according to Heraclitus, both tradition and senses provide us with some data about the universe, but people should question all of these data with an active learning process and actively reach the knowledge of the reality of the universe by making them rational explanations in the process of self-knowledge with an introverted move. .
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