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Book chapter

The Metaphor of liber naturae and the Alphabet Analogy in Heraclitusʼ logos-Fragments (with some remarks on Plato’s “dream theory” and the origin of the concept of elements)

P. 231-268.
Lebedev A.

Both the traditional metaphysical/theological and the ‘verbal’ or trivial interpretation of Heraclitus’ logos as his “discourse” (Burnet/West) involve unsurmountable difficulties. These difficulties can only be resolved by assuming that in fr. 2 Leb./DK 22 B 1 and 1 Leb./DK 22 B 50 the phrase λόγος ὅδε is a metaphor which on the iconic (metaphorical) level retains the original meaning of “word”, speech or text, but on the referential level denotes the Universe. “this very” means “the one in front of our eyes”, i. e. the visible cosmos, cf. the similar use of deictic ὅδε in fr. 37 Leb./DK 22 Β 30 (κόσμον τόνδε) and 40 Leb./DK 22 Β 64 (τάδε πάντα). The syntactical ambiguity of γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε allows a different reading: taking πάντων as a genitive not from neuter πάντα, but from masculine πάντες, scil. ἄνθρωποι. In this case γίνεσθαι κατά does not mean “to happen in accordance with this logos”, but “to come across, to encounter, to meet face to face with”, i. e. is synonymous with the epistemological term ἐγκυρεῖν in fr. 5 Leb./DK 22 B 17, i. e. “for although all humans encounter (in their experience) this very logos (i. e. the book of nature), they look like those who have no knowledge of it […]”. This interpretation was known to Marcus Aurelius who in his paraphrase of 2 Leb./DK 22 B 1 in fr. 3 Leb./DK 22 B 72 renders γινομένων κατὰ τὸν λόγον as ὁμιλοῦσι λόγωι. λόγος ὅδε is not an isolated metaphor, but a part of an elaborated analogy (or explanatory model) between grammatical τέχνη and understanding the cosmos. Since early Ionian prose had no special word for ‘reading’, and “hearing a logos” could as well mean “to read a book” (as in fr. 139 Leb./DK 22 B 108), Heraclitus’ metaphor can also be interpreted as Liber Naturae or “The book οf nature”. If “this very logos” denotes the Universe, then the separate letters and syllables should somehow refer to the separate pheno­mena. According to the most plausible reconstruction, the separate opposites correspond to letters (στοιχεῖα), their conjunctions (pairs of opposites) to syllables (cf. συλλάψιες in fr. 106 Leb./DK 22 B 10), and all syllables should be integrated into the single ξυνὸς λόγος “common logos”, i. e. the Universe. This diairesis is κατὰ φύσιν, i. e. corresponds to the objective reality (cf. κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων in fr. 2 Leb./DK  22 B  1). This interpretation was well known to the ancients. Plato refers to it twice: in Cratylus 408c (ὁ λόγος τὸ πᾶν σημαίνει) and Theaet. 201d (the “dream” is a reminiscence of the “dreamers” in fr. 2 Leb./DK 22 B 1), both Hippolytus (τὸ πᾶν διαιρετόν κτλ.) and Sextus (δεικνὺς τὸ περιέχον) citing fr. 2 Leb./DK 22 B 1 know it, it is also alluded in Ps.-Heraclit. Epist. IV.2.18–20 (the false division in reading the inscription ΗΡΑΚΛΕΙΤΩΙΕΦΕΣΙΩΙ). Unlike the traditional and the verbal interpretations, the liber naturae analogy can explain the intrinsic connection between the semantics of the word logos and Heraclitus’ main metaphysical thesis πάντα = ἕν.

In book

The Metaphor of liber naturae and the Alphabet Analogy in Heraclitusʼ logos-Fragments (with some remarks on Plato’s “dream theory” and the origin of the concept of elements)
Edited by: E. Fantino, U. Muss, C. Schubert et al. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017.