Monism, Metaphysics, and Paradox

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date



Palgrave MacMillan

Source Publication

Knowing and Being in Ancient Philosophy

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-98904-0_6


Heraclitus accepts as a principle that any particular insight into things is necessarily partial and perspectival. Edward Halper has discussed how, for this reason, it is in principle impossible for a particular thinker to attain the perspective of the Logos by which the whole can be made intelligible. So, metaphysics itself tells us that metaphysics is impossible. According to Halper, Heraclitus was wrong to take the Logos as applying to itself, as the Logos should properly be understood as applying only to what is not a product of human agency. I argue that Halper’s move cannot serve as a corrective patch to Heraclitus’ metaphysical thought, since it posits a distinction between the human and the rest of reality which Heraclitus could never accept. Although not a radical monist who denies the reality of all multiplicity, a fundamental principle of his thought is that all distinctions and oppositions are grounded in a more fundamental unity. I instead approach the Heraclitean paradox by appealing to the strategy, familiar from a number of ancient Greek philosophers, of making a distinction between different levels of knowledge inherent within the same knower.


"Monism, Metaphysics, and Paradox" in Knowing and Being in Ancient Philosophy. Eds. Daniel Bloom, Laurence Bloom and Miriam Byrd. Cham: Palgrave MacMillan, 2022: 73-95. DOI.