All things flow

Review on Sophie’s World: Pre-Socratic era

Among the pre-Socratic philosophers, I could only recall Heraclitus’s famous quote “We cannot step twice into the same river”. To his understanding, Heraclitus is certain that things are in a constant flux and therefore, we will never be experiencing the same moment twice. Then there is also someone known as Empedocles who proclaimed that nature consist of four basic elements or “roots” as he termed them. These four elements are fire, air, water and earth. (Reminded of the Sci-fi movie “The Fifth Element”?) These pre-Socratic philosophers though relatively unknown to most of us, had contributed greatly to the birth of great thoughts. Indeed, it is their revolutionary thoughts that elevated the natural philosophers’ quest to explain nature and all its processes to a more rational level. I confess to know not more than Heraclitus’ quote but am very much interested in how Empedocles would derive his “roots”. In fact, it’s amazing how these roots should coincide with the Chinese beliefs of the five elements, namely, gold, wood, water, fire and earth. One glance at the list and we see the last three totally in sync with the Greek thoughts. In addition, it is also emphasized in the correlation between these elements, how they would absorb, destroy and strengthen each other to maintain a balance in the existence of our world, which in turn has created everything from nothing, a discourse that is aligned with the Western thinking. A pity I don’t know much about the origins of these 2 schools of thoughts to make any comparative studies, but it is in itself a thought-provoking discovery. Such similarities had resurfaced in around 400thBC, when the 2 icons of Eastern and the Western Philosophy/Culture, Confucius and Socrates made their presence felt.

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