Logos


One of the oddest translations, and one that has become “standard” in any translation from ancient Greek to English, from Heraclitus to Aristototle to the New Testament, is the word translated as “Word” (almost always capitalized). The Greek word that is translated as “Word” is Logos, yet Logos does not mean word, though it can refer to speech, it does so only by analogy; nor does it resemble the modern term “logic”, which however derives from it for very specific reasons.

Logos, in its origin, meant “gathering”. Not in the sense of the sum of what is gathered, or in the sense of the things thus gathered, but in the sense of the “between” that allows relations to obtain and thus allows things to be gathered in various ways. Prior to its analogical use (often as part of a larger word) for a huge variety of things in Greek, the “gathering” was a specific type of gathering, described as a “laying out of what has been gathered” and with the specific implication that the gatherers are also layed out with what is gathered, and thus the “between” is also the back and forthness that allows those involved to belong to the gathering, or vice versa.

In an agrarian, somewhat urban society, trading society such as that of ancient Greece, nobody lays out in the farmers field to perform such a gathering, nor is it something one does in the privacy of one’s dwelling, but something one does specifically in the marketplace. This “gathering” allows what has been chosen to be gathered, priced, and once the price is paid to belong to the person shopping at the market. The feminine form of Logos retained this basic pragmatic meaning in a more direct sense, as it was used only to refer to a gathering of currency, the currency with which the gathering of things would be paid.

Analogically, then, Logos referred to speech as the “gathering” together of ideas in their back and forth relatedness. Thus its use as a suffix (-ology) indicated not simply a random set of knowledge, but a systemic subject matter. Heraclitus used Logos in a much larger sense, as the understanding of the relatedness of everything to everything, and thus its belonging together. Thus he can say that despite his learnng, Pythagoras was an idiot since he had no understanding of this relatedness. Fragments such as the following make virtually no sense without an understanding of Logos in Heraclitus’ sense, something not even hinted at by the standard translations:

Although the Word has always existed, people are ignorant of it, before and after they hear it. Although the Word shows how everything comes into being, people misunderstand and fail to follow the teaching, the categorization of each thing by its essence. Many do not know what they aer doing when awake, just as they forget what they are doing while asleep.”

Fragment II, Heraclitus.

This “between” and the back and forthness it grants, which we call “relation” without understanding in what a relation consists., is in itself mysterious. No materialism, physicalism, or idealism has produced an adequate conception of what a relation is, though all of them are reliant on it. Even in the most up to date quantum physics, where matter itself only comes into being when more primordial (un)particles form specific relations, the question of what a relation consists in is not raised.

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