Heraclitus, Fragment 93 (D 88)


“There is the same within, what is living and what is dead, what is awake and what is sleeping, and what is young and what is old; for these, changing, are those, and those, changing in turn, are these.” (L&M D68; Cp. K 93, R 88, S 88).

Laks and Most indicate that the last phrase is probably from Plutarch, not Heraclitus. In any case, it does express a view that seems quite befitting of Heraclitus. There is a further issue with the text: Part of it is corrupted. As rendered by Sweet, the fragment begins, “The same is present…living and dead.” Robinson, by contrast, begins “And, (?) as (one and) the same thing, there is present (in us). Compare this finally with the first clause of Kahn: “The same: … living and dead, and the waking and the sleeping and the young and the old…”

Kahn sees Heraclitus as blurring the distinctions between various kind of “survival” or continuity. “(1) some preservation of psychic or bodily individuality, (2) the maintenance or recurrence of the same generic form, and (3) regularity in the sequence of changes, with some continuity between stages but no preservation of individual or even generic identity.”

There are, to be sure, differences between continuity in the cases mentioned in the fragment. The living may continue after death (for example, as the body breaks down and the elements form new material of the earth). But this continuity is hardly of the same sort of that between the individual awake and the individual asleep, or the individual young or old. In the latter cases, we have a strong sense of individual identity that preserves through sleep from one day to the next or throughout life from youth to old age. It’s not clear that Heraclitus believes in a similar continuity preserving after death.

The general transmutation that we can clearly identify in Heraclitus concerns that of elements undergoing change. As expressed in F 41, “The death of fire is birth for air, the death of air is birth for water.” At the elemental, all things are in a continual state of flux. The world as a whole might be seen as a substance undergoing this change. The summarizing statement of Fragment 93 is getting at a transmutation of this sort: what now is will become something else; and was becomes something else.

Kahn argues that Heraclitus does not reduce all continuity to the third type above. Rather, he views it as the second. The transmutation that occurs does so law like, as fundamental forms are assumed again and again, in a metaphorical act of eternal recurrence — yet a recurrence merely of the same structure.

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