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Heraclitus, Fragment 108 (D 77)


“It is delight or death for souls to become moist” (S 77)

Sweet’s translation matches the first part of Robinson’s, and differs from Kahn’s:

“Hence Heraclitus said it was a delight, not death, for souls to become moist” (K 108)

Robinson’s translation offers a further statement, not found in Sweet’s or Kahn’s, which he notes references Fragment 92 (D62):

“[Which is why Heraclitus said that] for souls it is joy or death to become wet. [Elsewhere he says that] we live their death and they live our death.”

Sweet explains his decision, following Diels and Marcovich, and not Kahn, to read the sentence as a disjunctive, since this lends itself to two ways that Heraclitus speaks of a moist soul: a) as found in one who is confused or unawares (F 106) and b) as dying to unite with the elements.

This fragments used to flesh this out are Fragment 106 (D 117) and Fragment 102 (D 36).

“When a man is drunk, he is led by a beardless boy, staggering, unaware of where he walks, having a moist soul” (S 117; cp. K 106).

A delight is had by the drunk. Yet it comes at a price of a confused consciousness and a loss of self-control–whereby one perhaps becomes akin to the living dead, since “for souls it is death to become water…” (S 36; cp. K 102).

Various commentators have questioned whether this statement, which is a paraphrase from Porphyry, and related to us from the neo-Pythagorean philosopher, Numenius, in the second century of the Common Era,  should be included as a separate fragment of Heraclitus, or whether it is merely referencing the other fragments noted. But it is included in Diels. Kahn retains it because some of the language clearly echoes Heraclitus, complementing Fragment 117 (D 106), even if adding nothing substantial to it (see Kahn pp. 244ff.).

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