Hilda af Klint, The Swan, No. 9, Group IX/SUW

Everything Flows: an Introduction to Heraclitus (In-Person)

Instructor: Robbie Howton
Valerie Goodman Gallery
315 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

Surviving in fragments, and shrouded in mystery, Heraclitus is regarded as the theorist of radical flux: “Everything flows; and nothing abides.” Yet, his philosophical output, just because it’s so enigmatic and “incomplete,” has vexed interpreters and made him a touchstone for a dramatic variety of philosophical thought. To Aristotle, he was simply a peddler of superficial riddles. But to Plato, Heraclitus pointed the way to metaphysics—to the need to ground ever-changing sensible reality in a transcendent source of being. His modern admirers include Hegel (“there is no proposition of Heraclitus that I have not adopted in my logic”), Nietzsche, and Alfred North Whitehead, whose “Process Philosophy” proceeds from a Heraclitian view of endless dynamism. But what kind of thinker was Heraclitus—and why does he inspire such a wide variety of interpretations? What, if anything, can we say about the thought of Heraclitus himself, in contrast to theories attributed to him by his later readers? And just how much of Heraclitus’s thought remains a living insight for philosophy today? What does it mean, for nature, being, and knowledge, if “the only thing that is constant is change?”

In this course, we will start at the beginning—in some ways the very beginning of Western philosophical speculation—with the frustratingly opaque and untrustworthy sources on Heraclitus’ life and thought that have survived from antiquity. We will turn to the reception of these sources in the thought of Plato, Aristotle, and the early Stoics. From there we will move to modern receptions, examining in particular the unity of opposites in Hegel’s conception of dialectic, the Heracliteanism of Nietzsche’s thought, and the place of the concept of flux in process philosophy. Finally, we will consider more speculatively points of contact between Heraclitus and literary explorations of flux, most notably in Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva.

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 10 — July 31, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Open

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