This demand was probably never met even for Heraclitus' contemporaries.

In the meantime, we would correspond sooner to his thinking if we conceded that several riddles remain, neither for the first time with us, nor only for the ancients, but rather in the very matter thought. We will get closer to these riddles if we step back before them. That done, it becomes clear that in order to observe the riddle as a riddle we must clarify before all else what λόγος and λέγειν mean.

Since antiquity the Λόγος of Heraclitus has been interpreted in various ways: as Ratio, as Verbum, as cosmic law, as the logical, as necessity in thought, as meaning and as reason. Again and again a call rings out for reason to be the standard for deeds and omissions. Yet what can reason do when, along with the irrational and the antirational all on the same level, it perseveres in the same neglect, forgetting to meditate on the essential origin of reason and to let itself into its advent? What can logic, λογική (ἐπιστήμη) of any sort, do if we never begin to pay heed to the Λόγος and follow its initial unfolding?

What λόγος is we gather from λέγειν. What does λέγειν mean? Everyone familiar with the language knows that λέγειν means talking and saying; λόγος means λέγειν as a saying aloud, and λεγόμενον as that which is said.

Who would want to deny that in the language of the Greeks from early on λέγειν means to talk, say, or tell? However, just as early and even more originally—and therefore already in the previously cited meaning—it means what our similarly sounding legen means: to lay down and lay before. In legen a "bringing together" prevails, the Latin legere understood as lesen, in the sense of collecting and bringing together. Λέγειν properly means the laying-down and laying-before which gathers itself and others. The middle voice, λέγεσθαι, means to lay oneself down in the gathering of rest; λέχος is the resting place; λόχος is a place of ambush [or a place for lying in wait] where something is laid away and deposited. (The old word ἀλέγω) (ἀ copulativum), archaic after Aeschylus and Pindar, should be recalled here: something "lies upon me," it oppresses and troubles me.)

All the same it remains incontestable that λέγειν means, predominately if not exclusively, saying and talking.


Martin Heidegger (GA 7) Logos (Heraclitus, Fragment B 50)