Heraclitus, Fragment 71 (D 9)


“Asses prefer garbage to gold.” (K 71, Cp. S, R, DK 9, W 102).

Man is not the measure of all things. The fragment underlines the rightful differences in valuation of different types of beings. Not only do donkeys prefer garbage to gold, but they rightly do so. What is of value to and what is valued by one type of being differs from that of another type of being.

Generally, Heraclitus is attempting to spur us to a more objective perspective, to a god’s eye view. From that view neither the value of garbage nor gold is ultimate. Neither the value of humans nor of donkeys is fundamental. Each valuation is for particular purposes, suited to particular needs. The holistic view toward which Heraclitus is nudging us does not universalize our own human valuation but to also see human values within the context of a broader reality. Truth comes from the perspective that encompasses the whole of reality. This is the view Heraclitus identifies with the divine.


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