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What Heraclitus Said About The Inability To Step Into The Same River Twice

A famous  quotation from Ancient Greek philosophy, which I want to be clear I’m not an expert on, is from Heraclitus about the  impossibility of stepping into the same river twice.

This is that passage as reported by the ancient biographer Plutarch

“For it is not possible to step twice in to the same river, according to Heraclitus, nor to touch mortal substance twice in any condition: by the swiftness and speed of it’s change, it scatters and collects itself again—or rather, it is not again and later but simultaneously that comes together and departs, approaches and retires.”

I can’t find the quote in the two volumes, but in Jean Lacouture’s first rate biography of Charles De Gaulle, Lacouture writes that De Gaulle found Heraclitus’ idea of use in his practice of politics.

I find it useful as well. Things change and are the same. Things can be relative and exist within fixed boundaries at the same time.

The picture above is of the Hooghly River in India.

Below is a picture of a wadi in the Negev desert area of Israel. A wadi is a riverbed that only flows after a heavy rain. So sometimes you can step into a river that is no longer a river—Though it might become a river again.

December 16, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Politics | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] that there are also lots and lots of breasts. (Well, there’s precisely two of them, but in Heraclitian terms it works out to WAY more.) I’d like to be able to say that the nudity is gratuitous, […]

    Pingback by “Was it sexual?” “Yes. Overwhelmingly so. And Horrible.” | Overthinking It | June 24, 2008


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