Speech and Action in Heraclitus. On the Theoretical Foundations of Moral Action

Michel Fattal

Doesn’t the originality of Heraclitus reside in elaborating, well before Socrates and Plato, a philosophical and theoretical refl ection on the foundations of moral and political action? In what ways does Heraclitus envisage the relations between speech and action? The logos (speech) and epos (word) of the philosopher, which are behind the doctrine of the harmony of opposites, don’t they offer a pathway, a stable criterion and norm for individual and collective action?Our contemporaries of the 21th century, conscious of the “crisis of values” affecting our western societies and concerned about the rational foundations of moral and political action, will be surprised perhaps to catch the stimulating character of the statement made on this subject by a poet-philosopher situated at mid-point between Homeric and Hesiodic poetry on the one hand, and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle on the other. They’ll be surprised to find beside the current ecological concerns, a philosophy situating nature (physis) and the cosmos at the center of its interrogation, and making this nature the ultimate criterion in governing our lives and thoughts.


Keywords: Heraclitus · morality · ancient philosophy · pre-Socratic philosophy · logos

Michel Fattal — Member of the Centre of Research on Ancient Thought at Paris IV-Sorbonne since 1980, Member of the International Plato Society since its foundations in 1989, and Expert in Ancient Philosophy for the French Ministry of Research for the past eight years, is currently Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at the University of Grenoble II (France). He has published fifteen books and over fifty articles on the philosophical theories of Logos in antiquity from the Presocratics to Plato and Aristotle, Plotinus and Saint Augustin as well as the medieval reception of Greek Philosophy.   »  

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