Heraclitus(redirected from Herakleitos)
Also found in: Dictionary.
Heraclitus(hĕrəklī`təs), c.535–c.475 B.C., Greek philosopher of Ephesus, of noble birth. According to Heraclitus, there was no permanent reality except the reality of change; permanence was an illusion of the senses. He taught that all things carried with them their opposites, that death was potential in life, that being and not-being were part of every whole—therefore, the only possible real state was the transitional one of becoming. He believed fire to be the underlying substance of the universe and all other elements transformations of it. He identified life and reason with fire and believed that no man had a soul of his own, that each shared in a universal soul-fire.
See his Cosmic Fragments, ed. by G. S. Kirk (1954, repr. 1962); study by G. O. Griffith (1977).
Heraclitus (c. 540–c. 480 B.C.E.) was one of the earliest Western philosophers, best known for his assertion that the world is in constant change. Historians often refer to all Greek philosophers who lived prior Socrates as the pre-Socratics, and Heraclitus is included in this group. The pre-Socratics, who as a group were active from approximately 600 to 400 B.C.E., attempted to find universal principles to explain the whole of nature.
According to their philosophy, the apparent chaos of the world conceals a permanent and intelligible order, which can be accounted for by universal causes operating within nature itself and discoverable through human reason. They openly disagreed with the content and the method of mythology, maintaining that natural processes were no longer to be at the mercy of gods with human passions and unpredictable intentions. The pre-Socratics were skeptical about dreams, and they usually took a more speculative view of them.
Heraclitus, for instance, detached the phenomenon of dreaming from the supernatural, declaring it to be a universal human trait and maintaining that each individual retreats into a world of his own during sleep. According to Heraclitus, dreams have no special meaning and can be regarded as the carryover into sleep of the cares and intentions of waking life.
Heraclitus maintained that knowledge achieved during sleep is inferior to waking knowledge, since the world that the dreamer sees is distinguished by an incommunicable privacy and by a surrealistic character. The dreamer is cut off from communication via the senses with the outside world and does not have the power to perceive things in a coherent manner. Thus, the dream world is very different from the waking world, although they resemble each other.