19 February 2007

A Changing Bronze Cauldron

After he discusses flux, Graham considers the 'unity of opposites' in Heraclitus. In the next few posts my plan is to discuss the relationship between those doctrines. For Heraclitus, does flux imply the unity of opposites? Does the unity of opposites imply flux? Or does each imply the other?

What Graham says on this key question, to me, is difficult to interpret:

Heraclitus' flux doctrine is a special case of the unity of opposites, pointing to ways things are both the same and not the same over time. He depicts two key opposites that are interconnected, but not identical.
I cannot figure this out, first, because 'pointing' has an unclear antecedent. (Is it the 'flux doctrine' or 'the unity of opposites' which does the pointing? If the former, then how can something 'pointing' also be a 'special case'? A special case is something seen to fall under a previously grasped rule.). Also, what are the 'two key opposites'? I believe that Graham means to refer to the river image, but then are the relevant opposites 'same river' vs. 'different waters', or 'at rest' vs. 'in motion'?

I'll consider these things more fully later.

But before going on I wanted to look at an objection raised by KRS (not mentioned in Graham's article). Let's take the doctrine of flux, for the moment, to be as Aristotle described it:
... all things are in motion all the time, but this escapes our perception (Phys. 253b9)
kai/ fasi/ tinej kinei=sqai tw~n o1ntwn ou) ta_ me\n ta_ d' ou1, a)lla_ pa&nta kai\ a)ei/, a)lla_ lanqa&nein tou~to th_n h(mete/ran ai1sqhsin.
KRS regard it as unlikely that Heraclitus believed any such thing. They give three arguments, which I number for clarity's sake:
  1. "Can Heraclitus really have thought that a rock or a bronze cauldron, for example, was invariably undergoing invisible changes of material? Perhaps so; but nothing in the extant fragments suggested that he did, and
  2. "his clearly-expressed reliance on the senses, provided they be interpreted intelligently, may suggest that he did not.
  3. "Before Parmenides and his apparent proof that the senses were completely fallacious--a proof that was clearly a shock to his contemporaries--gross departures from common sense should, we believe, only be accepted when the evidence for them is quite strong."
It's a question about the scope of application of the river image. Is everything like the river, or only some things? (Graham denied that the image applied to everything, but he also seemed to fudge the point with his phrase, "In general, at least in some exemplary cases,...".)

I think all three KRS arguments are weak. But what's your thought? Feel free to add comments before I give my view--tomorrow.