heraclitusHaving read several of Eva Brann’s books, I can say without exaggeration that she is among the most impressive contemporary scholarly readings. Among the qualities that make her so astute is that she is extraordinary at two things: she is a practiced close reader, and she has a range of knowledge that is generally limited to the polymath.

The consensus of Classical scholars is that Heraclitus looked within and it was there that he found the logos that was at the center of his meditations. It is this logos that is the ordering reality of the cosmos and all that is within the cosmos. The very term logos can be translated Logos, as word, reason, argument, and ratio. While the fragments of Heraclitus are a treat in their own right, Brann’s analysis and conclusions are extremely helpful in connecting what is difficult to connect. The collected work of Heraclitus consists of 131 passages (fragments) that range in content and length.

A view of the table of contents below gives a real sense that Brann knows what she is doing in the way that she organizes her thoughts.

I. The Figure of Heraclitus
II. The Word logos
III. The Logos of Heraclitus

A. Logos and logos
B. The wise thing
C. The common
D. The discovery of Pythagoras
E. logoi and analogia
F. The New logos
G. The Ratio–Relation
H. The Heraclitean Application
I. The Milesian Predecessors
J. Heraclitus the First Physicist
K. Contentious Harmony
L. Elemental Transformations
M. Solvent Fire
N. The Multiform Logos
O. The Qualitative Metaphor
P. Oppositional Pairs
Q. Cosmic Antagonisms
R. Sensible Paradoxes
S. Father War
T. That Flux
U. The Being of Parmenides

IV The Afterlife of the Logos
V The Soul of Heraclitus

While certain Classists contend that the fragments of Heraclitus are not likely to yield any insight when read as a whole, Brann proves otherwise. Her careful close reading of the Greek results in numerous glimpses into the philosophy of Heraclitus. For those within the Christian faith, the logos (John 1:1-14) is extreme important, and Brann’s book does indeed enrich a Christian understanding of the profound historical, linguistic, and cultural background of this all important term.

This essay was originally published on Musings of a Christian Humanist and appears here with Dr. Woods’ gracious permission.

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The featured image is “Heraclitus” (c. 1601-1602) by Abraham Janssens I (1575–1632) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. It has been brightened for clarity.

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