Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Private Understanding

Heraclitus' most fundamental departure from previous philosophy lies in his emphasis on human affairs. While he continues many of the physical and cosmological theories of his predecessors, he shifts his focus from the cosmic to the human realm. We might well think of him as the first humanist, were it not for the fact that he does not seem to like humanity very well. From the outset he makes it clear that most people are too stupid to understand his theory. He may be most concerned with the human relevance of philosophic theories, but he is an elitist like Plato, who thinks that only select readers are capable of benefitting from his teachings. And perhaps for this reason he, like Plato, does not teach his philosophical principles directly, but couches them in a literary form that distances the author from the reader. In any case he seems to regard himself not as the author of a philosophy so much as the spokesman for an independent truth:
Having harkened not to me but to the Word (Logos) it is wise to agree that all things are one. (B50)
Heraclitus stresses that the message is not his own invention, but a timeless truth available to any who attend to the way the world itself is. “Although this Word is common,” he warns, “the many live as if they had a private understanding” (B2). The Word (account, message) exists apart from Heraclitus' teaching, but he tries to convey that message to his audience.
from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Heraclitus"
Heraclitus says that:
“the waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own” (Heraclitus, DK B89)6
In fragment B89 we can see that Heraclitus thinks that those who do not comprehend the universal withdraw into their own private worlds and interpret events within the framework of their subjective judgments and interpretations. However, to him, what really matters is to comprehend or to understand logos, i.e. the universal. As can be seen in his fragments, Heraclitus clearly made a distinction between the universal and the subjective. Nature represents the universal, and those who do not comprehend this universality represent the subjective. The subjective realm is where we function through our senses and everything is in a state of flux.

When we discuss Heraclitus’ universal–subjective distinction within the scope of the physis–nomos concept relation, it would be possible to say that the universal, the essence or physis, is logos, and everything that is in a state of flux we will call subjective in time and thusly nomos. Although people live in accordance with certain rules (nomoi) they agree on before they comprehend the logos, they will realize that there is the single universal when they comprehend logos, and then they will live in compliance with the order valid for all times. Accordingly, physis will give us such a universal law.
Nihal Petek Boyaci Gulenc, "An Enquiry on Physis-Nomos Debate: Sophists"

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