Heraclitus - Philosophy and Change
Greek philosopher from Ephesus
Famous for his views on change and melancholia (later referred to as
the “weeping philosopher”).
(pictured right weeping in Johannes Moreelse's 1630's painting).
What did he say about change?
1. Change is constant
Everything in life changes all the time, so we can never escape change.
“There is nothing permanent except change”, he said.
Even when you repeat something, it is still different, because circumstances change.
“You cannot step twice into the same river”, he said.
Things are not objects, but changing processes, like the flames in a fire.
2. Expect the unexpected
Constant change means that unexpected things happen.
- work out a plan to deal with them.
3. The world is chaotic
The world is so changeable and chaotic that it is impossible to give it any order.
But change can:
“Out of discord comes the fairest harmony”, he said.
4. Things consist of opposites
Opposing ideas are inevitable, but can be reconciled (the “unity of
The path up a mountainside is not the opposite of the path down it but part of the same path,
leading you back to safety.
So success and failure (including disappointment and criticism)
are not opposites but both essential to a happy and successful life.
5. Learn continuously
To learn you must:
- select what is relevant and wise from lots of information.
- enquire into things deeply and understand why they happen
(don’t be deceived by your superficial impressions).
- look for hidden connections and interrelationships between
different issues and subjects (or disciplines).
- do lots of different and interesting things.
- be enthusiastic and curious by achieving the “seriousness of a
child at play”.
6. Think big
The best people give up everything to achieve one objective that improves the
world in some way.
“Big results require big ambitions”, he said.
7. Change needs character
- must work hard to live by their principles.
- need good character (because character determines your future).
“Character is destiny”, he said.
8. Being optimistic
Positively face the problems of change with hope and optimism.
9. Change is progress
If you don’t change, you won’t improve.
“Where there is no strife there is decay”, he said.
Key quotes on
There is nothing permanent except change.
You cannot step twice into the same river.
Where there is no strife there is decay.
Key quote on
Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.
If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it
Key quote on careers and
Big results require big ambitions.
Key quote on ethics and
Character is destiny.
Key quote on knowledge
Abundance of knowledge does not teach men to be wise.
Key quote on learning and
Men who are lovers of wisdom must be enquirers into many things.