17th July 2014: Things you didn’t know about Heraclitus

I was re-reading Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies before falling asleep, and indeed, as you will see, after falling asleep. I think I may have mentioned that I read until I am asleep, and then after I am asleep I close the book and remove my glasses and turn off the light.

So I was reading about Heraclitus, and I came to the sentence “He got this idea from the oriental…” and I thought “Oh what an unfortunate word, maybe it was OK in 1943 when he wrote it but how could I not have noticed it on previous reading, oh dear!” and continued reading “…the oriental Cao Li, the woman whose trip from China through India and Persia to Greece and back may have been the original inspiration for Journey to the West“.

The book then went on to discuss: the influence of Buddhism on her and her on Buddhism, and her version of Buddhism on Heraclitus; whether Plato’s ideas on agape and female philosophers were influenced by Heraclitus’s writings about Cao Li (he couldn’t have been influenced by her directly because none of her writing was in Greek); how Zola wrote a novel about her relationship with Heraclitus; how Western philosophers had traditionally tried to diminish her original thought; how recent work showed her thought was truly original and not just Chinese commonplaces; how difficult it is to discuss historicism and cultural change with respect to China; how significant her work was to Chinese philosophy; how much more important her work was to Heraclitus (who admitted it) and indirectly through him via Plato to Western philosophy; and whether or not she and Heraclitus had a romantic as well as an intellectual relationship.

When I woke up I was deeply disappointed to discover that, in the text as printed, the word “oriental” was actually followed by “despotisms”.

Posted in Thessaly, Whimsy