Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Unity of Opposites

Heraclitus of Ephesus Painted by Johannes Moreelse

Heraclitus; Painted by Johannes Moreelse

In my previous blog post, I discussed the concept of how all existences (except God) are interconnected and cannot exist independently of each other. This concept is known as the unity of opposites. One of the first philosophers to suggest this concept was Heraclitus of Ephesus, a philosopher who lived before Socrates. He believed that existences are characterized by their opposing properties, as well as their opposing relations to other existences. For more background information on Heraclitus’ upbringing and views, Clayton’s post about him provides a good starting point.

Sea is the purest and most polluted water: for fish drinkable and healthy, for men undrinkable and harmful. -Heraclitus of Ephesus

This quote from Heraclitus beautifully captures the essence of the unity of opposites; whereby something (the sea) can be essential to one organism (the fish), and simultaneously harmful to another organism (the men).

The quote also illustrates how existences are interconnected to each other, through the clever use of the sea, men and organisms (fish) in the same setting. If we refer back to our Cake Stand concept of relationship between existences in my previous post, we can see how the sea, men and organisms mentioned here are interconnected.

Earth exists in the fourth tier with all planetary and celestial bodies, whilst the sea and land exist on Planet Earth, this being the fifth tier. Organisms that exist on Earth are placed in the sixth tier. The Cake Stand concept demonstrates that without the sea and the land, organisms would not be able to exist, and that without the Earth, the land, sea, and organisms would not exist without it.

I will be able to recognize that I have reached a greater understanding of my topic if I can identify the relationship between similar and opposite existences. By being able to do so, I will be able to refine and revolutionize my viewpoint and perspective, and become the enlightened individual who is a role model to other unenlightened beings. To put my learning into practice, I plan to create a visual representation of what I have learned. This depiction will hopefully convey to others the gist of what I have explored and discovered.


2 Responses to Unity of Opposites

  1. bryanjack says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    Your post reminded me of one of our Metaphysics introductions from a few years ago, and the ideas of Gilles Deleuze. It is very dense stuff, to be sure, but presents the nature of opposites (or at least differences) as essential to understanding objects in/and reality. Here is Leanne’s post from 2012 (http://philosophy.talons43.ca/2012/10/25/gilles-deleuze-and-his-view-of-reality-leanne/):

    “Deleuze claimed that identities are effects of difference, and that identities are neither logically nor metaphysically prior to difference, “Given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus.” Essentially, no two things are ever the same and the categories with which we identify them derive from differences. His argument stated that apparent identities such as “x” are made up of infinite differences, where “x” = the difference between “y” and “z”, and “y” = the difference between “a” and “b” and so on. Deleuze claimed that to honestly confront the concept of reality, we must grasp beings precisely how they are, and the concepts of identity (categories, resemblances, forms, etc) fail to attain what he has entitled “difference in itself.” He once said that “If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference.”

    I’m not sure if this gets you closer to an understanding of opposites, but may present you with new puzzles ; )


    Mr. J

    • ktay says:

      Hi Mr. J,

      Thanks for the link to Gilles Deleuze. My understanding about the Unity of Opposites seems to be regressing as I ponder over his ideas.


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