Philosophers and Poets

B38 | B39 | B40 | B42 | B56 | B57 | B81 | B104 | B105 | B106 | B108 | B121 | B129
Homer: B42 | B56 | B105.Hesiod: B40 | B57 | B106.Pythagoras: B40 | B81 | B129


Bust of Homer
  • What did Heraclitus say about earlier philosophers?
  • Can mythology tell us the truth about the world?
  • What counts as knowledge?
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    Heraclitus spoke very negatively about his predecessors.  His major criticism is that his predecessors were not able to recognize the underlying structure of the universe (see cognition).  Many of them had learned quite a lot of facts, but were not able to really see what Heraclitus himself saw.  He criticized Homer for not being able to answer a riddle that some boys asked him.  Hesiod was attacked for not recognizing that Day and Night are one: Hesiod thought that one begot the other.  Archilochus receives a harsh criticism, but with no reason given.  Xenophanes and Hecataeus are criticized for learning many things without recognizing the underlying structure.  Pythagoras receives perhaps the harshest criticism.  Heraclitus contrasts true knowledge with the 'wisdom all his own' that Pythagoras made up (cf. B2), calling it κακοτεχνίην, 'bad craft' (B129).

    Only two people receive any praise: Priene of Bias and Hermodorus.  (Diogenes Laertius tells us that Heraclitus said something about Thales, but it is unclear whether positive or negative.)