Heraclitus, Fragment 72 (D 37)


“Pigs enjoy filth more than pure water.” (R 13, Cp. S 13, L&M D80, W 103)

Kahn, like Wheeler, include segments from Clement and Columella in their rendition of the fragment. “Swine delight in mire rather than clean water; chickens bathe in dust” (K 71)

This fragment tends to be read together with fragments 70 and 71. All express the differences in what is good for and what is valued by different animals. All relativize the human perspective.

The quotes do not, for that, relativize what is in fact good for humans or for pigs. A pig that enjoyed pure water more than filth would not be an exemplary pig. Nor would a human who enjoyed filth more than pure water be an exemplary human. What is good for and correctly valued for these different kinds of beings differs.

With a view to Fragments 70 to 72, it is important to see that we are not wrong to prefer health to illness, satiety to hunger, clean water to dirty. Yet in each case where Heraclitus emphasizes the limitedness of the human view, he underlines the importance, from some deeper perspective, of what humans view negatively. This, as Kahn emphasizes, is an impulse in his thought that has continued to attract Hegelians to him. From the Hegelian perspective, the negative term in each judgment is itself shown to have a positive value.



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