Friday, May 30, 2008

A World of Our Own

ὁ Ἡράκλειτός φησι τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι

"The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own."

-Heraclitus (fr. 89)

A fascinating insight, but in the end, not quite right. The dualistic relationship between the "inner " and the "outer" worlds (which develops around the time of the Pre-Socratics, culminates in Descartes and his followers and enemies in the following centuries and structures much of our own thought and metaphors to this day) is a creation of a metaphor-generating consciousness that has located itself in a mirror. In truth, even giving
credence to the split between the "inner-world" and the "outer-world," the outer-world still works its cumulative magic on us even when we sleep. The dreamworld can be shaped by outside stimuli. I remember one dream I had years ago that was strangely (even for the dream) interrupted by the Backstreet Boys steeping unto the stage of the my personal Cartesian theater. They sang one of their hits, popular at the time, and before I had a chance to ask for bad-boy A.J. McLean's autograph, I awoke to find the alarm-clock radio blasting, you guessed it, the Backstreet Boys.

Heraclitus' dreams might have been guided and shaped by the night-time murmuring of River Cayster, flowing outside his bedroom window in Ephesus. Mine are effected by this douchebag:

Wake up, honey. I made you breakfast.

(P.S. Kevin Richardson, the Backstreet Boy shown here, seems to prefer a style of facial hair popular in Spain, France and Italy during the 17th century. Perhaps he is trying to resemble French pirate François l'Olonnais?)


Blogger Corey said...

I think the facial hair was just an attempt to reinforce his position in the group as "the Old One". The rest of the group consisted of "the Gay One", "the White One", "the Ethnic One", and, my favorite, "the Eurotrashy one".

3:21 PM  
Blogger Derk said...

Heraclitus is definitely not a precursor of the substance dualism of Descartes. While he does believe that binaries such as inner/outer, night/say, bow/archer, up/down ..., are fundamental, he does not drive them apart, but recognizes how they go together in harmony. Neither one of the binaries can at all exist one another because they are mutually defined in each others opposition. Not only that, but we cannot experience one without the other. Take day and night. They are in constant flux, which means they are also in constant strife with each other. Whenever we encounter one of the two, the other is present. Even at the highest point of day, i.e. noon, night is already waxing and will overtake it soon. If he were alive today, Heraclitus would love the alarmclock radio. He probably wouldn't be able to get enough of it.

Here are some of the fragments I've been thinking about.

(57) The teacher of most is Hesiod. It is him they know as knowing most, he who did not understand day and night: for they are one.

(106) [Hesiod took some days as good and some as bad, for he failed to grasp that the nature of every day is one.]

(50) Once you have heard not me but the logos, it is wise to agree that all things are one.

(51) They do not comprehend how that which differs with itself agrees1 with itself. There is a back-turning harmony, like that of the bow and the lyre.

(60) The way up and down is one and same.

(62) Immortals are mortal, mortals immortal, living the death of the others and dead in the others' life.

8:57 AM  

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