An Introduction to Pre-Socratic Ethics: Heraclitus and Democritus on Human Nature and Conduct (Part I: On Motion and Change)

Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 17 (1):212-242 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Both Heraclitus and Democritus, as the philosophers of historia peri phuseôs, consider nature and human character, habit, law and soul as interrelated emphasizing the links between phusis, kinesis, ethos, logos, kresis, nomos and daimon. On the one hand, Heraclitus’s principle of change (panta rhei) and his emphasis on the element of fire and cosmic motion ultimately dominate his ethics reinforcing his ideas of change, moderation, balance and justice, on the other, Democritus’s atomist description of phusis and motion underlies his principle of moderation and his ideas of health and measured life. In this series, particularly referring to the main principles of motion, moderation and justice, I attempt to describe a coherent pre-Socratic ethical perspective based on the Heraclitean and Democritean fragments. I explore the connections between their physics and ethics also borrowing from Nietzsche’s lectures and writings on the Pre-Socratics. I redefine such Heraclitean and Democritean concepts as harmony, order, perfection, health, self-control, contentment, cheerfulness, concord, sound judgment, wisdom, measure and balance and discuss them under the principles of motion (phusis), moderation (sophrosyne) and justice. In doing so, I also expose the relevance of the Heraclitean notion of logos (interpreting it as the underlying categorical principle of transition between phusis and ethos) in bringing together these ideas and principles. Finally, based on this pre-Socratic Weltanschauung, I assess the possibility of a coherent picture of humanity, its nature and conduct as extending from or fitting into or extending-from-when-fitting-into the cosmos of moving forces and atoms.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Everliving Fire: The Synaptic Motion of Life in Heraclitus.Jessica Elbert Decker - 2015 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (2):173-180.
Nomos and phusis in democritus and Plato.C. C. W. Taylor - 2007 - Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):1-20.
Phusis, Opposites and Ontological Dependence in Heraclitus.Richard Neels - 2018 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 35 (3):199-217.
Archeo-Logos: Hegel and Heidegger on Finding the Principle in Heraclitus’ Saying.Antoine Cantin-Brault - 2019 - In Danilo Manca, Elisa Magrì, Dermot Moran & Alfredo Ferrarin (eds.), Hegel and Phenomenology. Springer Verlag. pp. 77-91.
Margaret Cavendish on Motion and Mereology.Alison Peterman - 2019 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 57 (3):471-499.
On the Concept of the Human Body in Heraclitus.Shawn Loht - forthcoming - Proceedings of the Southeast Philosophy Congress.
On the Ethical Dimension of Heraclitus' Thought.Mark Johnstone - 2020 - In David Wolfsdorf (ed.), Early Greek Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 37-53.
Time for a change : a polemic against the presentism/eternalism debate.Lawrence B. Lombard - 2006 - In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O’Rourke & Harry S. Silverstein (eds.), Time and Identity. MIT Press.


Added to PP

216 (#60,989)

6 months
62 (#25,389)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Erman Kaplama
Yasar University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Heraclitus.Daniel W. Graham - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Heraclitus.Daniel W. Graham - 2002 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Add more references