Ancient Western Philosophy: The Hellenic Emergence by George F. McLean

By George F. McLean

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The invariance of [fire's] measure is what accounts for the observance of the metron in all things, and fire is therefore that which 'governs' or 'steers' all things (G. Vlastos, 'On Heraclitus', American Journal of Philology 76 (1955), 360-1). But the very mention of energy in the modern sense will prompt others to remind me that it took European science two hundred years from the death of Galileo and at least one long and vexatious metaphysico-scientific controversy concerning vis viva to assemble the ideas of work and of potential energy (as distinct from kinetic energy), to gather the other fruits of the conceptual labours of Leibniz, Bernouilli, Helmholtz and others, formulate the principle of the conservation of energy, and then at last see the principle of the conservation of the sum of kinetic and potential energy tested by the efforts of Joule.

See pp. 435-448) There is always a perfect equivalence between the full cause and the whole effect (Leibniz, Reply to Abbe Catelan in Nouvelles de la Republique de Lettres, Feb. 1687, quoted in Hide Ishiguro, 'Pre-established Harmony versus Constant Conjunction', Proc. Brit. Acad. 63 (1979), 241). No working cause can be destroyed totally or in part without producing an action equal to a decrease in the cause (Johannes Bernouilli, Opera Omnia Vol. 3, p. 56, Essay no. 135, ch. 10, §1). The author [Clarke] objects that two soft or non-elastic Bodies meeting together lose some of their Force.

Others, again, with Empedocles and Heraclitus believe that there is alternation in the destructive process, which takes now this direction now that and continues without end. There is other evidence of a complementary kind that is hard to dismiss. Simplicius says (de Caelo 94, 4): And Heraclitus says that at one time the kosmos is burned out and at another it rises again from fire according to certain definite cycles of time in which he says it is kindling in measures and going out in measures.

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