Heraclitus argued there was a single divine law of the universe, which rules and guides the cosmos. This is the Logos. He said that the logos both underlies and governs change. Heraclitus compares the logos to fire an element that is always changing yet always the same. For example he said, “The sun is new each day.”(Curd Pg. 38 88) His view was that “all things are derived from a single arche or starting point and that as now constituted all things are organized within a single world structure or Kosmos”. (5.17 Robinson) In other words all things are one. In Heraclitean cosmology the components turn into one another according to certain rules. The struggle between the opposites will always be evenly balanced, gains in one region by one force being always simultaneously offset by equal gains elsewhere by the opposed force. Some examples would be “Fire lives the death of earth and air lives the death of fire, water lives the death of air, earth that of water.” (Maximus of Tyre 41.4)Another example would be “the changes of fire: first sea, and of sea half is earth, half fiery thunderbolt . . . . earth is dispersed as sea, and is measured out in the same proportion as before it became earth.”(5.16 Robinson)
Heraclitus also has the idea of alternates, the thought that if there is a road going down there must be one going up. With this the idea of opposing forces comes into play. When one force gains the other has to loose the same amount because the change has to be equal. In the case of fire it is kindled in measures as it is being extinguished in measures.
Water is another element that is always changing. His reasoning for this is that you can not step into the same river twice. The water is always moving, swirling and flowing. The area of the river may be the same but it is always changing. If it did not flow it would cease to be a river. Both fire and water are in perpetual motion. Heraclitus said, “even the posset separates if it is not stirred.” Things are always in motion though they may stay the same.
Parmenides view on change is just the opposite of Heraclitus in that nothing changes and everything is at rest. Everything is and there is not nothing. If a person can think something then it is something. A person can’t think of nothing. “For you could not know what is not – that is impossible – nor could you express it.” (6.5 Robinson) But to think about something and it really existing are two different things. Parmenides sums that thought up by saying, ” that which is there to be spoken and thought of must be. For it is possible for it to be, but not possible for nothing to be.” (Simplicus 86.27-28)
Change is impossible because for change to happen it has to stop being what it is and become something else. That goes against his whole theory. First for something to stop being would mean it would become nothing and that is impossible and second to become something else would mean something would have to come from nothing. An example of this would be the different colors of the leaves on a tree in the fall. The leaf would have to stop being green and become the other color.
Parmenides thinks souls are eternal. As far as he is concerned we don’t just come into existence or pass away. That would mean that we come from nothing.
Parmenides said “But since there is a furthest limit, it is complete, on all sides like the bulk of a well-rounded ball, evenly balanced in way from the middle; for it must be not all greater or smaller here than there.”(Curd pg.48 42) Every thing is contained within the limit. Nothing can move or change because it is contained within the boundary.
Of the two arguments I agree more with Heraclitus than Parmenides. I think that everything is always changing. If nothing changed this world would stay the same. To say that fire and water are always in motion and changing are the best arguments I see in his idea. I could not get into Parmenides argument at all it was too much. To say that nothing changes is totally absurd.
1. An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy Author: Robinson, John Mansley
Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 1968
2. A Presocratics Reader Author Curd, Patricia
Hackett Publishing Co., Inc. Indianapolis 1995