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Speaking and Acting the Truth: The Ethics of Heraclitus

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This article provides a defence of B112, arguing that, far from being a weak paraphrase, the fragment is a genuine piece of Heraclitean art packing into a few, carefully organized words Heraclitus’ original view on human life and ethos, deeply integrated with the whole of his thought. In so doing, it counters the ‘deflationary reading’ of Heraclitus’ moral philosophy and, connecting B112 to other fragments, attributes him a robust and original ethical framework, pivoting on the idea that grasping the harmony of opposites as the all-pervasive, world-sustaining pattern unavoidably and instantly transforms the way one lives, causing ‘to act and speak the truth’. It offers an interpretation of this puzzling phrase, suggesting that, as the world-unifying pattern of opposites applies also to the objects of human pursuits and avoidances, this is the ἀληθέα Heraclitus’ wise man signifies in words and actions; it concludes providing examples.

Affiliations: 1: University of Florence-Pisa,


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