river with pine trees and rocks

One thing that stood out to me while reading The History of Philosophy, by A. C. Grayling, is the modern feel of so much ancient thought.

The metaphor Grayling uses to define the field of philosophy alludes to both ancient thought (Plato’s allegory of the cave) and modern thought (alternate universes). Similarly, other aspects of ancient thought can be readily mapped onto modern thought. Those ancients were truly wise.

Here is an example. Below is a quote from The History of Philosophy that describes what Plato says about the thoughts of another ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who predated him. Characteristically of the classical era, we don’t have the original words of Heraclitus, but only the words of another philosopher describing his words.

Much was not written down in ancient times, but just spoken orally; much was written down, but lost or destroyed in the many intervening centuries between their time and ours. We are lucky to have what we have! And here is a snippet of what we have, according to Grayling:

“Everything is in flux; as Plato puts it in the Cratylus, ‘Heraclitus says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says that you could not step into the same river twice.'”

I adore this so much: “you could not step into the same river twice.” Yes, because time will have passed and the molecules of the river will be different the second time around. You see I am using a concept from modern chemistry (molecules) to explain this ancient idea.

Then I start thinking about Einstein’s theory of the space-time continuum: how everything is connected and distanced by space and time and always in motion. Always in flux. Like a river you can’t step into twice, because it will have changed by the second time.

Have you changed since starting to read this blog article?

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