6 - MM McCabe on Heraclitus

Peter's colleague Professor MM McCabe joins him in the first interview of the series of podcasts, to talk about Heraclitus.

Press 'play' to hear the podcast: 

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Further Reading: 

MM McCabe (as MM MacKenzie), "The Moving Posset Stands Still: Heraclitus fr. 125," American Journal of Philology 1987, 542-55

emiliano's picture

on Heraclitus fragmenr b. 125

Hi, I really enjoyed the podcast of MM McCabe on Heraclitus. I want to ask you if you could please send me the passage in Greek and the new translation of fragment B.125 or tell me where can I look for the information on it. Thank you and keep on with the good work.

Peter Adamson's picture

The posset

Hi there,

She actually published her discussion of this in the article I cite on this page, in the "further reading." But her reading is as follows:

ο κυκεων ισταται κινουμενος

Thus, "the barley drink, stands, moving" (i.e. so long as it stays in motion you still have a properly mixed drink, but if it isn't moving it separates)

She got to this by emending διισταται ("separates") to ισταται ("stands"), previously it would have said "the barley drink separates when moving" which doesn't make sense, so later editors had instead inserted μη to get "the barley drink separates when not moving." Her much more elegant emendation produces something that makes sense and is quintessentially Heraclitean!


Kenneth Keenan's picture


Hi Peter,

Absolute catcher-upper, thanks so much for this resource. In uni it was all exam- focussed, so I actually retained very little. That said, I studied in Maynooth, in Ireland, so I am NOT looking forward to re-dismissing Aquinas! :-)

Peter Adamson's picture

Catching up

Dear Kenneth,

Thanks, I'm glad you find it helpful. I'll take that as a challenge to make you find Aquinas interesting... in about 3 years when I get to him, that is!


Kenneth Keenan's picture



Charles Herdy's picture

University Education

Kenneth's observation rings true.

One learns more from philosophy when it is the subject of learned discourse, rather than examination. Coursework examinations seem counterproductive to a true education.

Heraclitus might suggest, "Education fails through examination!"

SteveRR's picture

Mary McCabe - Heraclitian use of aphorisms

I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast and indeed the entire series so far.
I am doing a paper on Nietzsche's use of Heraclitus' form of the aphorism in his (Nietzsche) early and later periods.
I was struck by her argument that each aphorism contains an argument and often a resolution - I think N. might have been drawn to this as well.
Has she published anything on this thesis? I was unable to find anything at the university databases?
Thanks for any consideration and thanks so much for this series.
After reading his book so many times it was delight to here 'S' of the famous KRS!

Bob's picture


The series is a good review of philosophy. Thanks for the work to produce it! I felt somewhat dissatisfied after this segment. It seems we know so little about Heraclitus that everything said in the podcast is very speculative. And further the idea seemed to be that if you do not understand one of the aphorisms then rewrite it to state something you can understand.

TD's picture


So I suppose Heraclitus is enslaved and emancipated through clear ambiguities . He really had no choice but to speak in contradictions since otherwise he'd refute himself within the the ever changing unchanged One.

I'm beginning to realize how my favourite, Plato, might have misinformed me about Heraclitus.