Heraclitus was one of the greatest philosophers among Greek philosophers. He grew up in the Greek city of Ephesus, which is found around the western coast of today’s Turkey. Heraclitus was from a noble background, a privilege that bestows a unique hereditary role on him of being a political and religious leader in Ephesus. He, however, relinquished his rights and privilege to his younger brother to pursue his beliefs. It was believed his birth took place around 540 BC. Throughout his lifetime he was reputed to be a doubtful thinker. This was mainly due to the way he viewed other philosophers of his time and those before his day. He saw them as being ignorant and even used unfriendly words on them
We will be sharing with you some of the remarkable beliefs this great thinker held and his teachings about his beliefs in this article. It is our desire that you will gain some insight into the ideas of this great philosopher after reading this article.
- His beliefs about God and religion: Heraclitus was somehow a believer in God and religion. He held the belief that God was beautiful and that God’s wisdom was surpassed that of man. Heraclitus believed that God sees things as they are unlike man that may likely be confused with the way things are and classify them wrongly. He compares God to fire and sees him as a set of opposites. God and fire according to him are known as “want and Surfeit”. According to him, the universe was not created by God because it has always been in place and will always remain, but God controls everything.
There are instances where Heraclitus referred to gods in the plural forms, implying there was more than one. He talked about the gods of the Olympic and insinuated that some things were made gods by war and some men. Here philosophy seems to give the idea of a supreme God and some other gods that were lesser than the divine.
Heraclitus was a staunch critic of traditional religion. The religions he did not understand were classified as unholy by him. The religious worship of Dionysus was described as shameful by Heraclitus if they are not offered to the god. Dionysus was represented as the god of life and Hades the god of death.
- His beliefs about knowledge: Heraclitus viewed the generality of humans has lacking in knowledge. He described most individuals has just passing through life without having an idea of what it is all about. But Heraclitus believed that those that are open to learning and experience would become knowledgeable of happenings around them. To him, the world has lessons to be learned from it by those that have an understanding mind to understanding the lesson the world teaches us.
- His beliefs about nature and politics: Debates exists about whether Heraclitus philosophy is about the condition of humans or that of nature. But from his philosophy, one can discern that he viewed the status of people and the assumption of nature as being connected intimately. He showed interest in astronomy and the technical questions that have to do with it. Heraclitus also showed concerns about the morals of the society and how philosophy has implications on the morals. His views about the laws of the state were that they are paramount in ensuring order. He advocated for the people to fight to preserve their laws like they will fight to protect their city wall. Heraclitus believed that all humans are kept by divine law. The rules in his words “provide a defense for the city and its way of life.”
- His beliefs about Ionian philosophy: He held some views that were the same with that of the Ionian philosophers who existed before him. The Ionians were from the city of Miletus which was close to Ephesus, and they held the notion that there were original materials that transformed into other things. The held the view that the world has known it is the articulation of several things that came from the original material like. To the Milesians, giving an explanation of how the world came into existence was just to explain how things originated from the original like Thales, water and Anaximenes air. Heraclitus seems to be in agreement with their philosophy when he gave an explanation of the world as being an ever-living fire. He made statements like “Thunderbolt steers all things,” attributing it to the power of fire. However, he sees fire as bizarre to be the source of all things because it changes and is inconsistent.
Fire, in his argument, can be a measuring standard for other things. Just like all thins have an equivalent in gold, however, not everything is like gold. Heraclitus further argued that fire gives a standard of worth to other things; however, it is not like them. In essence, Heraclitus agreed with the Milesians about things changing from one source to another but disagreed with them slightly that all things originate from a single source. Because he holds the believe that all things were subject to changes, he then feels the Milesians were wrong to have concluded that everything we see has just one source from which they all came from. Rather in his opinion, different things came from several sources through a continuous cycle of change which he holds is constant.
Just like other ancient philosophers, Heraclitus had beliefs about life and nature. He rejected the position his privilege birth bestowed on him to his younger brother to enable him to pursue the ideas he believed in. He viewed other philosophers that were before him as somehow ignorant. It his opinion also that only those that can speak and understand the Greek language alone were knowledgeable. He believed in the existence of a divine God and other gods like the Olympic god alongside the supreme God. Heraclitus was a staunch critic of religion and considers any mysterious religion as unholy. He believed that laws are the building blocks that holds and protect a society and it people.
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