Logos (Heraclitus, Fragment B 50)

The text which is now current runs: ἓν πάντα εἶναι.* The εἶναι is an alteration of the sole traditional reading: ἓν πάντα εἰδέναι, understood to mean, "It is wise to know that everything is one." The conjectural εἶναι is more appropriate. Still, we set aside the verb. By what right? Because the Ἓν Πάντα suffices. But it not only suffices: it remains far more proper for the matter thought here, and likewise for the style of Heraclitean speech. Ἓν Πάντα, One: All, All: One.

How easily one speaks these words. How readily they transform themselves into a stolid maxim. A swarming multiplicity of meanings nestles in both these dangerously harmless words, ἓν and πάντα. Their indeterminate juxtaposition permits various assertions. In the words Ἓν πάντα the hasty superficiality of usual representations collides with the hesitant caution of the thinking that questions. The statement "One is all" can lend itself to an overhasty account of the world which hopes to buttress itself with a formula that is in some way correct everywhere, for all times. But the Ἓν Πάντα can also conceal a thinker's first steps which initiate all the following steps in the fateful course of thinking. The second case applies with Heraclitus' words. We do not know their content, in the sense of being able to revive Heraclitus' own way of representing things. We are also far removed from a thoughtful comprehension of these words. But from this "far remove" we may still succeed in delineating more meaningfully a few characteristics of the scope of the words ἓν and πάντα, and of the phrase Ἓν πάντα. This delineation should remain a free-flowing preliminary sketch rather than a more self-assured portrayal. Of course, we should attempt such a sketch only in reflecting upon what Heraclitus said from within the unity of his saying. As it tells us what and how the fateful is, the saying names the Λόγος. The saying closes with Ἓν Πάντα Is this conclusion only a termination, or does it first unlock what is to be said, by way of response?

The usual interpretation understands Heraclitus' fragment thus: it is wise to listen to the pronouncement of the Λόγος and to heed the meaning of what is pronounced, while repeating what one has heard in the statement: One is All.

*See Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 6th ed. (Berlin: Weidmannsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1851), I, 161, line 17. Kranz rejects the Miller-Comperz paraphrase εἰδέναι and prints εἶναι. Heidegger's citation of B 50 capitalizes Ἓν Πάντα and drops εἶναι.—TR.


Martin Heidegger (GA 7) Early Greek Thinking