Heraclitus, Fragment 81A (D A22), 81B (M 28c)


[[Homer was wrong when he said ‘Would that Conflict might vanish from among gods and men!’ (Iliad XVIII.107). For there would be no attunement without high and low notes nor any animals without male and female, both of which are opposites.]] from Aristotle

Scholia A to Illiad XVIII.107: [Heraclitus, who believes that the nature of things was constructed according to conflict (eris), finds fault with Homer <for this verse> on the grounds that he is praying for the destruction of the cosmos.]

Kahn highlights how Heraclitus’ position is developed in contrast to that of both Homer and Hesiod, who he both views as unable to understand hidden attunement. The harmony without tension or conflict for which Homer longs is one that, in Heraclitus’ view, would destroy the world — for tension and conflict are necessary even for the most fundamental processes in the cosmos. Not only must male and female unite to reproduce, so must fire transform into the other elements in the ever-changing processes of the physical world. Heraclitus sees all things as unified but as unified in processes in which difference is retained. The continued existence of a unified cosmos requires the continuation of conflict and tension.

This fragment isn’t included in the Diels/Kanz version followed by Robinson, Sweet, and numerous other translators.



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