Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Karl Popper on Heraclitus


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Heraclit’s most frequently quoted saying is “ You can’t step into the same river twice”.
It means that both life and matter are part of a single immense process.

In the West this view has again become topical in physics, and it has thereby accidentally been turned into metaphysical belief.

In that role it has to be rejected as an intellectual short circuit, because the facts of physics cannot be used in support of a metaphysical notion.

The laws that rule matter are not meant to explain everyday life, nor our super-complicated civilization, nor any of its history: --

Example

Let's say everything is a manifestation of Force Q, and you are an expert on the latest findings about it. Well ?

With all that knowledge you cannot decide who you should vote for, what studies to recommend to your children, where to park your car now or how to tell a real  Matisse from a false one.



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Popper's introductory text on Heraclitus

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Prior to Heraclitus, the Greek philosophers had viewed the world as a huge edifice of which the material things were the building material.

The questions which the philosophers asked themselves were, ‘What stuff is the world made of?’ or ‘How is it constructed, what is its true ground-plan?’.

They considered philosophy or physics as the investigation of  the original material out of which this edifice, the world, had been built as a fundamentally static structure.

This very natural approach, natural even to many of us to-day, was superseded by the genius of Heraclitus.

He said:
There is no such edifice, no stable structure, no cosmos, but instead just one colossal process: ‘Everything is in flux and nothing is at rest’, is the motto of his philosophy.

And (I don't know how) he seems to have concluded that

 "In  God's view, all things are fair [noble] and good and just, but men have made the supposition that some things are just and others are unjust."

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Popper's introductory text on Heraclitus

 -- Complete





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Copied
from Popper's controversial "The Open Society and its Enemies".


In that book he is easy to read but diffuse on too many subjects and rambling.
Popper 's fame is based on  his philosophy of science, and that could be a different story.


See http://archive.org/details/opensocietyandit033120mbp
and http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/WS06/pmo/eng/Popper-OpenSociety.pdf


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As far as I know, there are only fragments of writings by Heraclitus, tiny fragments, each with many possible meanings, but easy to remember and evocative, as for instance the first one listed below:

The sun is the width of a human foot.

If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are flowing in on you.



http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Fragments_of_Heraclitus



Panta rhei, "everything flows"

Πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) "everything flows" either was not spoken by Heraclitus or did not survive as a quotation of his. It summarizes Heraclitus' thought, but comes from elsewhere.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus#Panta_rhei.2C_.22everything_flows.22
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