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Ancient Philosophy: Why does Heraclitus choose to write in paradox form?

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  1. Analyzing the notion of paradox
  2. Had Heraclitus written in the regular Greek prose....
  3. Usefulness of Paradoxes
  4. Conclusion

Analyzing this question first requires that we examine the notion of paradox. It is in fact not easy to define for the word fits what it is supposed to mean. And we cannot merely define it anyway. However we can try to clarify the notion in order to explain what a paradox actually is. The word is a fusion of the preposition para, meaning against or beyond, and the noun stem doxa, meaning belief or opinion. Therefore paradox literally means against an accepted belief. Here there are two things that must not be confused: the paradox form in which he writes and the paradox things he demonstrates and tries to resolve. There is a direct link between the two and it is impossible to deal with each one separately for both are absolutely connected. In more general terms, we are actually dealing with the relationship between form and meaning. If Heraclitus was nicknamed ?The Riddler? or ?The Obscure? that is because of the way he expresses himself but also to refer to his complex philosophical ideas. His writings were necessarily determined by his thoughts. What I am trying to suggest is that we cannot so easily say that Heraclitus chose to write in paradox form. Anyway if he writes in paradox form that is fundamentally because he feels that the things he is dealing with are paradoxical. That is what I am going to look at first. Heraclitus definitely chooses to write in paradox form because it fits the philosophical ideas he wants to present. But doing so does not mean that he is paradoxical. Otherwise Heraclitus would lead us on the wrong way ? far away from truth ? which is quite the reverse from what he wants to do. Even though his fragments are rather obscure at first sight, there is necessarily something sensible behind his words. This will lead us to the next part of this reflection: How does Heraclitus manage to stimulate the reader and to get him involved in the philosophical problems? This is thanks to this paradoxical way of expressing that he manages to orientate the reader towards any particular direction. Finally, if language seems to be a powerful tool from this point of view, I will also be discussing its limits. As regards Heraclitus' philosophy, we can rightfully ask ourselves how he can attach fixed words to things that are in flux. Even though this is apparently what Heraclitus is doing, he definitely wants to expose the limits of language. For this reason and in order to push them back he must have chosen to write in paradox form.

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