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“The real nature of things is accustomed to hide itself.” Heraclitus

Heraclitus seems to imply that reality strives to veil itself. Is there a latent cruelty in reality—that it recedes from our comprehension?

Maybe we should make a distinction: there is a difference between something hiding itself, and something being visible only to those who grow capable of seeing. In Plato’s story of the cave, the higher realities are not hiding themselves; it just takes much discipline, and help, in order to discover them. And indeed, many are not willing to make the effort to do so. In that case it is more we who are the cause of the disconnect between ourselves and reality. Not reality itself.

Perhaps the effort required to come to see things as they are, is itself revelatory of the way things are. Maybe the hiddenness of the nature of things—could it be called a modest reserve?—is a kind of prod, even an invitation, to look deeper.

Aristotle seems to suggest an answer to this Heraclitan riddle. He says that to the upright character, things appear as they really are. Perhaps the real nature of things often eludes my grasp, because I have not disposed myself well, that I might see.

Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor, predated Socrates by almost a century (flourished circa 500 B.C.). His works survive only in fragments.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Does Aristotle make that argument about the vision of upright characters in a particular work you can recommend? I noticed C.S. Lewis explores that idea in every one of the Chronicles of Narnia — good primers for perennial philosophy, I suppose!

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