Why should they renounce the expedient vehicle of dialectic, when such oppositional sayings almost leap in front of their eyes from out of the words of thinkers such as Heraclitus? We are all still, without even knowing it, exposed to the danger of an inappropriate application of dialectic. Therefore, a warning is necessary.

When we attempt to enter into the thinking of Heraclitus, we in truth set out on dangerous ground. By means of a certain and entirely incorrect image—but one which, precisely owing to its incorrectness, appeals to the modern imagination— [35] we could say that the region of the words of this thinker is like a minefield where the slightest misstep annihilates everything into dust and smoke. We should be careful not to turn essential obscurity into mere murkiness. We consider the fact that, although Heraclitus’s thinking was under the protection of the goddess Artemis, we ourselves (still) must go on the path of this thinking without the aid of such gods. For this reason, care is required at every step, and it is necessary to have a view of what is and is not possible. Therefore, with this merely preparatory consideration, we must now ponder the form in which the word of Heraclitus’s approaches us.

c) The form in which the word of Heraclitus’s is passed down, and the elucidation of the fragments in terms of the experience of the to-be-thought

The more inceptual the thinking, the more what it thinks is intimately one with the word. The more unblemished the originary thought remains secured in the word, all the more carefully must we safeguard the intact word and consider its appearance. In order to do this, it is necessary that we know even more precisely the form in which the word of Heraclitus’s is passed down. If there is no chance or accident within the region of the essential history wherein the history of thinking belongs, then there must be a specific reason for the way in which the inceptual word of Heraclitus’s still speaks to us.

Tradition is familiar with so-called Ἡρακλείτου σύγγραμμα, the ‘writings’ or, as one also says, the ‘work’ of Heraclitus’s. Of this work we have only ‘remains’; we must make do with ‘fragments’ of the writings. The later thinkers Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus—and still later scholars of philosophy such as Sextus Empiricus and Diogenes Laertius, the author Plutarch, but also Christian church fathers Hippolytus, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria—all quote in their writings ‘passages’ [36] from the writings of Heraclitus. These quoted statements comprise the fragments we possess. These fragments sometimes consist of multiple phrases, sometimes only one single phrase, and occasionally only sentence fragments and

28    The Inception of Occidental Thinking