Democritus and Heraclitus – What is the phusis of the universe? How does morality and justice fit in the universe? How do they defend this? By: Joel Alexis McKoy-Marchand Presented to: Gabriel Flacks As society evolved and continues evolving, the human being started to question the mysteries of the universe. Although none of the answers are necessarily correct, models of best fit constantly got updated and replaced which arguably drew mankind’s interest towards puzzling questions such as what the true phusis of the universe is and/or how principles of justice and morality have a certain belonging in the universe.
Democritus and Heraclitus show us a clear example of how two different ideas with regards to these questions clash in the aim of obtaining a more clear understanding of our complex natural world. As far as Democritus’ beliefs go, for the purpose of this essay, the likely response to what the phusis of the universe would be, and how morality/justice fit in our natural universe will be examined from his particular perspective in this paragraph. Being one of the two founders of the atomic theory (fact #1), he would very likely state that the phusis of the universe consists of atoms and void.
Furthermore, he also makes it very clear that nothing else truly exists, and that anything beyond that point is simply an illusion (fact #2). That being said, by sensory observation, we may feel hot and cold for instance, but not in reality. In addition, he believed that these atoms were indivisible and had particular sizes, shapes, weights, and motions (fact #3). He also explains that the movements of these atoms are due to the particular forces that are exerted on them (fact #4).
From his outlook, this theory explains all actions that are caused in the universe. Although stated that atoms have no particular goals or purposes, one may say as an example that the purpose of a hearts’ function is to pump blood; however, Democritus would argue that there is no purpose behind the hearts’ actions because atoms once again, have no direct motives. Taking into consideration that all things are made of atoms and void to Democritus’ eyes, justice and morality are judge as illusions as well and would therefore have no place in the universe.
Whether or not Heraclitus and Democritus agree or disagree, it’s also very possible to estimate what Heraclitus’ idea of the phusis towards the universe may be as well, let alone his past ideas on morality and justice. Considering the fact that he thought the universe was made out of fire, his most probable idea of the universal phusis would most likely be of the same thing; fire (fact #5). He described a perfect, correct, and hidden order in the universe (fact #6).
War, revolutions, and revenge were necessary because they followed his idea on the flux of oppositions – the concept of opposite forces uniting to form a cycle of constant clash (fact #7). For instance, water takes land away, and land keeps trying to grow through the use of water and through Heraclitus’ contemplation, this formed a certain level of balance in the universe. Furthermore, the “logos” is what apparently unified the opposites and that the fire was the “material” responsible for fueling the logos (fact #8). Often he referred to the logos as the mind of “God”.
It was believed that the city laws were perfect because he furthermore had faith in the idea that the city laws followed the exact same universal laws recently mentioned which were yet again “perfect” (fact #9). Therefore justice and morality were perfect universal and civil concepts to Heraclitus because they fell under city laws and the city laws fell under these apparent impeccable universal laws. Heraclitus’ classic representation and Democritus’ challenges to naturalism both share significant similarities despite possible differences. As a means of comparison, the next sentences will pinpoint the agreements between both philosophers.
Throughout the first few paragraphs of this essay, one may have noticed that Heraclitus and Democritus both share the idea that a hidden order exists in the universe and that this order was arguably the divine answer as to how all things in the universe are to be perceived; and more importantly, explained the cause of universal actions which consequently influenced the mind of supporters on both oppositions. Furthermore, they both speculated and followed the notion that brought the concept of all things being one; that all of the things in the universe were linked in some way and that somehow, if everything was to be reduced to its ost simplified state, we would all be looking at the same thing without being able to distinguish any significant properties. This brings us to the conclusion that both Heraclitus and Democritus believed in a specific concealed order in the universe and that all things in that universe were somehow linked in which furthermore brought them the idea that all things are once again one. Despite particular conformities between the two, they have their major differences which obviously make for two different theories to begin with.
Democritus, just like Heraclitus, believed in universal connection between all things in the cosmos. However, Democritus takes the approach that that connection is due to all things being simplified to atoms as opposed to Heraclitus who was guided by the idea of fire being responsible. Two very different ideas of what the phusis may be. Additionally, Democritus takes it a step further and states that nothing else exists which would thus make principles such as justice and morality inexistent and faulty due to the fact that he saw no particular reality within the universe apart from these atoms.
Heraclitus however, believed in the order being perfect and correct. This contradicts with Democritus’ assumptions because he doesn’t believe in perfection and that it’s another illusion which would mean that it doesn’t consist of atoms; hence Democritus’ disbelief. To that end, they both have two different ideas of what the phusis of the universe is and how justice and/or morality fit in that universe.
As much as some would like to stress the suggestion that Democritus and Heraclitus are identical, as we go into further detail, a portion would most likely realize that they aren’t as identical as some may reckon. The truth is, Heraclitus and Democritus are both very heterogeneous in comparison. Democritus has a more of reason-based approach as opposed to Heraclitus who conveys the impression of being more intuitive. The facts speak for themselves, Democritus and Heraclitus both have interpretations of the phusis that are dissimilar and the same goes for their opinions on principle such as justice and morality.