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Sprechen und Verstehen bei Heraklit und Parmenides

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image of Mnemosyne

Abstract Many scholars explain the epistemological value of Heraclitus’ λόγος by interpreting it as a rational or mathematical pattern, whose translations refer to the related semantic fields: e.g. ‘law of thinking’, ‘proportion’, ‘formula of things’. Such meanings are not safely documented earlier than the philosophical language of the fourth century BC. From Homer until the end of the sixth century BC, λέγειν means basically ‘to collect’ and ‘to tell’, λόγος means ‘collection’ and much more often ‘speech’, whereas ‘speech’ itself represents a ‘collection of utterances (ἔπεα, µῦθοι)’. Maybe our common sense suggests that no speaking activity can affect the human understanding as Heraclitus’ λόγος does. However, another archaic thinker, Parmenides, argues that ‘names’ and ‘naming’ mislead the opinions of human beings concerning natural phenomena. Furthermore, Heraclitus’ epistemology conforms to the Grundbedeutung of λόγος as ‘collection of utterances’ and consists in ‘listening’ (ἀκούειν) and ‘putting together’ (ξυνιέναι), even grasping the secret ‘joint’ (ἁρµονίη) of things. That is why I suggest to interpret λόγος according to the archaic, not philosophical meaning of the word, i.e. as ‘speech’.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Salzburg, Fachbereich Altertumswissenschaften Residenzplatz 1/I 5020 Salzburg, Österreich


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