7 Contributions of Heraclitus to Philosophy

The Heraclitus contributions To philosophy and science represented a precedent of importance that would give rise to the most important philosophical thought of Ancient Greece: the Socratic.

Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Presocratic philosopher Considered one of the most somber in terms of his thinking and the complexity of his work; And yet of immeasurable importance.

Heraclitus contributions

It is estimated that lived between the years 535 to 475 a.C. He was considered a self-educated man, so he is not told in any school or current of philosophical thought or proto philosophical of the time.

A native of the city of Ephesus, Heraclitus was thought of as one of the pioneers in exploring the human unconscious in relation to nature.

Its main postulates focused on the movement and the constant change of all the elements and phenomena present; As well as in the duality and confrontation of the opposite as part of a universal equilibrium.

Like the Milesia School, whose thought attributed to Such , Anaximander and Anaximenes , Heraclitus also defined a primordial and original element for the material and existing: the fire, considered also part of the human soul.

Most outstanding contributions of Heraclitus

Fire as a primordial element

Just as the philosophers of the School of Milesia developed in their works the existence of a natural element that serves as the essence and origin of all that exists, Heraclitus continued this line of thought and attributed this quality to fire.

Heraclitus addressed the fire as a central element that was never extinguished, whose natural movements allowed a non-static existence, and which was in step with the rest of the natural mobility of the Universe.

Fire would not only be present on earth, but would also be part of the human soul.

The mobility of the existing universe

For Heraclitus, all the phenomena of nature were part of a state of movement and constant change on the part of this.

Nothing is inert, nor does it remain inert or endure forever. It is the movement and the capacity for change that allows the universal balance.

Heraclitus is credited with some famous metaphorical phrases that expose this thought:"No one bathes twice in the same river".

In this way, the philosopher manages to expose the changing character not only of nature, but also of man.

In the same way, Heraclitus once exposed"All flows,"giving the universe a certain arbitrariness as to its actions, but never a static nature.

Duality and Opposition

Heraclitus considered that the changing phenomena of nature and man were the result of contradictions and oppositions in reality.

His thought developed that it was not possible to experience a state if it was not known, or had previously experienced, its counterpart.

Everything is composed of its opposite, and at some point it passes from one to another. To develop this point, Heraclitus metaphor Of a path that goes up and another that goes down, which in the end are only the same path.

Life gives way to death, health to illness; A man can not know what it is to be healthy if he has never been sick.

The principle of causality

During his life, Heraclitus developed in his thought the search for causality; What is the cause of any physical or natural phenomenon or action? The philosopher stated that everything that happens has a cause, and that nothing can be the cause of itself.

If you continue exploring in retrospect, at some point you will come to an initial cause, which Heraclitus named as God.

Under this theological foundation, Heraclitus also justified the natural order of things.


In his work Heraclitus developed his perception on the Logos. The word, the reflection, the reason. These were the attributes that Heraclitus gave to the Logos when he asked not only to hear the word he professed, but the Logos.

He considered that the Logos was present, but it could become incomprehensible to men.

Heraclitus invited reasoning as part of that universal scheme which determined that, although everything flowed, it also followed a certain cosmic order, and the Logos was part of that path to be traveled.

The Logos, then, facilitated the relations between the natural elements, the well-being of the soul, the nature of the divine, etc.

First conceptions of State

In her work, Heraclitus began to outline what would be an ideal or functional state. However, by then, social conditions were still very precarious, hampering the process of classification in a society.

At that time in Greece, the number of people considered to be citizens was minimal, and children, women and slaves were excluded.

It is said that Heraclitus came from an aristocratic environment, which gave him some social bias in the development of these concepts.

However, he did not go much deeper and, instead, exposed particular conceptions in the face of war and the power of one man over another.

Conception on war and self-knowledge

Heraclitus considered, philosophically and politically, war as a necessary phenomenon to give continuity to the natural cosmic order, through which other concepts raised by him, such as duality and opposition, became evident.

The clash of opposing positions, which only make way for a new state or event, also allowed us to determine the position of each man in this new order and, therefore, to shed a new perspective on the power and structure that began Knit below this.

This type of conflict allowed man to know himself and to know if he possessed the attributes of a superior being, or those who would condemn him to baseness (as in the case of slaves).

From this, Heraclitus began to develop the first ethical ideals of man, as necessary behaviors for the continuity of the individual life and in society, that later would be taken and expanded by a great amount of later philosophers, offering to the ethics His own field of study and reflection.


  1. Barnes, J. (1982). The Presocratic Philosophers. New York: Routledge.
  2. Burnet, J. (1920). Early Greek Philosophy. London: A & C Black.
  3. Harris, W. (s.f.). Heraclitus The Complete Fragments. Middlebury College.
  4. Osborne, R., & Edney, R. (2005). Philosophy for beginners. Buenos Aires: I was born.
  5. Taylor, C.C. (1997). From the Beginning to Plato. London: Routledge.

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