The stimulus of the enigmatic

“Anodos kathodos.” (Heraclitus)

Or in English “The way up is the way down.”  The two Greek words are sufficient to capture the essence of Heraclitean thought: The world is in constant transition but there is an order to things, a unity and complementarity of opposites.  The sentence captures a comprehensive picture of the cosmos but one can read it also as a commentary on human life.

“Everything is what it is, and not another thing.” (Bishop Butler)

At first reading the sentence may sound trivial but when you read it again you may suddenly realize its profundity. The same holds for many other philosophical aphorisms.  When we read Butler’s statement attentively, we understand that it admonishes us not to confuse things with each other, to accept them for what they are in themselves, to see their differences, not to be lured into oversimplification.

“Profound aversion to reposing once and for all in any one total view of the world. Fascination of the opposing point of view: refusal to be deprived of the stimulus of the enigmatic.”  (Nietzsche)

The aphorism from one of Nietzsche’s notebooks is reproduced in The Will to Power.  For me, it is the key to Nietzsche’s entire thought. It explains why he writes in aphorisms and warns us not to look for “Nietzsche’s  system of philosophy.” It rejects, in fact, the assumption that such a system is possible and it breaks in this fashion with a two thousand year old tradition in Western thought.

“The world is everything that is the case.” (Wittgenstein)

A concise characterization of the nature and logical structure of the world in the very first sentence of the Tractatus.  Everything else follows from it. But also an icy characterization of the world. No wonder that Wittgenstein will write later on in the Tractatus that the meaning of life must lie outside the world.

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