5 - Old Man River: Heraclitus

Peter discusses the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, and tries to discover whether it's possible to step into the same river twice.

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Further Reading: 

R. Dilcher, Studies in Heraclitus (Hildesheim: Olms, 1995).

H. Granger, “Argumentation and Heraclitus’ Book,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26 (2006), 1-17.

C.H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

M. Schofield, “Heraclitus’ Theory of Soul and its Antecedents,” in S. Everson (ed.), Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 13-34.

Stanford Encyclopedia: Heraclitus

History of Philosophy's Greatest Hits: Peter discusses Heraclitus on video

Anonymous's picture

What is was, and was is.

Nothing changes. There is nothing which was, which already is. Listen not to me but the logos. What is right, and what is wrong. The logos is telling you the truth but you won’t hear it unless you are part of the stable change.

Malcolm's picture

Does modern physics agree with Heraclitus?

Is everything fire? Is everything unchanging *and* in continuous flux?

Fire is energetic matter. Matter is energy, and energy is matter, so everything is one (matter or energy or both).

Everything is changing. Matter-energy is in continuous flux. But nothing, fundamentally, is changing; it's still the same, unchanging, conserved matter-energy.

Aaron Hald's picture

know yourself first, if you would know the universe

"You talk about redefining my identity. I want a guarantee that I can still be myself."

"There isn't one. Why would you wish to? All things change in a dynamic environment. Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you."

Somebody's picture

Unless that quote was

Unless that quote was referred to in the episode (did not yet check, just arrived here), it would not have hurt to mention its source (Ghost in the Shell) while at it.

Aaron Hald's picture

You're right: a little

You're right: a little citation is rarely a bad thing (blame my oversight on that trippel ale I was enjoying a little too much. ;) )

To be honest, that movie was what introduced me to the fascinating philosophical subject of change, and I thought it proper homage to quote it here.

As for the late response, there's a Shinto poem I tried so desperately to cite, for your sake I searched--I really did, (from memory, forgive me if incorrect.): 'The petal that is on the ground is the petal that is on the blossom.'

Peter Adamson's picture


Good aphorisms, folks! I have seen "Ghost in the Shell" once upon a time, I think, but it was a long time ago so if I ever cite it in the podcast it will be by mistake. (Actually I often worry I will mistakenly use someone else's wording without realizing it, especially writing at the speed I need to for this series... so if anyone ever notices that please let me know.)

JKE's picture

Matter and energy

Actually, matter≠energy. The upshot of general relativity is that *mass* and energy are equivalent (which isn′t even to say that they′re identical). It′s amazing how often people make this mistake!

TD's picture


Doesn't this mean everything is energy and its finite?

TD's picture


Malcolm, when you said "But nothing, fundamentally, is changing; it's still the same, unchanging, conserved matter-energy" it sounds like Parmenides.