Change is the only Constant!


(quoted in Arius Didymus, )
On those who step in the same river, different and different waters flow . . . 4

(quoted in Origen, Against Celsus )
It is necessary to understand that war is common, strife is customary, and all things happen because of strife and necessity.

Quotes of Heraclitus

4. This is the most famous passage in Heraclitus. This curious riddle implies two things: 1.) that the world is in constant change (different and different waters flow); 2.) the world is one unified whole (the river) which is constant yet contains this perpetual change.

©1996, Richard Hooker

Everything Flows
Heraclitus is probably best known for his view that everything is in a state of flux. The Milesians thought that the basic nature of the world was determined by the ultimate, unchanging, everlasting stuff that it is made of. Heraclitus disagrees: the nature of the world is not determined by some permanent persisting stuff - it is determined by certain characteristic changes and processes that are constantly under way (p.122):

This world, the same for all, neither any god nor any man made; but it was always and is and will be an ever-living fire, being kindled in measures and extinguished in measures. [B 30]
Heraclitus already disagrees with Anaximander because he thinks that the world was never created or destroyed, whereas Anaximander seems to think that there was some time when the whole world was generated out of the Unbounded, and there will be a time when the whole world will be destroyed into the Unbounded.

But there is a more striking contrast with Anaximander. Heraclitus does not say that all things are made of fire: he says that the world is a fire. What is the fundamental nature of a fire - that is, what are the basic properties that a fire must continue to have if it is to stay in existence? (What is it for a fire to remain in existence?) It is certainly not the stuff that it is made of, for that can change. You can keep adding wood or coal to a fire and the fire continues even though the stuff that it is made of is completely different. It is the fact that a certain type of process continues uninterrupted: that is what it is a fire to stay in existence. This seems to be what Heraclitus insists on: what is basic is not some kind of stuff, but some kind of process. The type of process that is the essential nature of the world is a process that is continually running down in some places and starting up in others, but in a regular and intelligible "measured" way: that is why the cosmic bonfire is "being kindled in measures and extinguished in measures".

Plato reports that

Heraclitus said that everything is in a state of change and nothing stays stable, and likening things to the flow of a river he says that you could not step into the same river twice. [Cratylus, 402a]
Heraclitus' remark about the river is quoted in several different forms, and scholars have worried a great deal about exactly which is the original version. I don't think that the question is very important. The other versions of the river-fragment are as follows. "We step and do not step into the same rivers, we are and are not." (p.117, B 49a); and "On those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow...", (p.116, B 12). In a sense the river does not last more than an instant, not even for the shortest space of time, because the stuff that it is made of is always flowing. But in another sense this flowing is exactly what keeps that river in existence. The river would cease to exist if it stopped flowing.

Another example of the same point is on p.117: "as Heraclitus says, the barley- drink separates if it is not moving". (Apparently the barley drink was some kind of drink that you had to keep stirring all the time; otherwise it would stop being that drink and would just revert to the original separate ingredients.)

So change and motion are essential to things, and what explains why the world is the way it is, is not the stuff that it is made of but the types of process that it is undergoing. Things last so long as they remain active and flowing. Once the process starts to run down they stop living and perish.

I have already pointed to all the surviving fragments that are relevant to Heraclitus' theory of flux. Aristotle says at one point "Some assert, not that some things are in motion and others are not, but that everything is always moving, though this escapes our perception." (Physics 253b9) It is generally thought that Aristotle must be referring to Heraclitus. There is a passage where Plato tries to sum up Heraclitus' philosophy, in the following way:

Coming to be... [is] produced by change, while not being and ceasing to be are produced by inactivity. ... States of inactivity make things decay and destroy them whereas states of activity preserve them.... So long as this heavenly cycle and the sun are in motion, everything is and is preserved...; whereas if that motion .... were brought to a standstill, everything would be destroyed... (Theaetetus, 153a-d)

Ralph Wedgwood's Home Page


'Variety is the Spice of life'

Looks like everything changing. Change is inevitable.

Sometimes we can't stop change. eg. catastrophes; crashes, floods etc.

Businesses need to change - otherwise they become extinct like dinosaurs.

Multinationals like Nike and Levis have lost millions in sales revenue and market share. They felt smaller brands were unimportant, and thought why bother changing? They became too complacent.

We need to change as individuals - to become better people

I like variety, it's good to change and have new experiences, but that's me!


Change is superficial - man still genetically the same

Films are often old storylines dressed up in special effects with new actors and new words

'No need to change - I'm perfect!?'

"The only change I like....... is in my pocket!!"

Other Issues

Buddhist Insight - Insight of Impermanence - No-thing has any independent reality -

everything is dependent arising - phenonema are based on causes and conditions ,

Everything soon will pass - thoughts, words, feelings, moods, actions, accomplishments are all impermanent and subject to change.

Everything in existance changes.

Tao Te Ching; Lao Tzu,

I Ching, Chuang Tzu,

Notice in life how things change

Types of Change - Aristotle

Sometimes it seems like from one extreme to another (eg. old Yin transforms to new Yang)

This may shed light on how some children either do / or don't take after certain habits of parents (eg. smoking - some children hate, some start early)

So it depends on knowing where you are first, and where you have been - then one is in an easy position to see clearly the future possible changes.


As Jim Rohn says "if the idea of having to change ourselves
makes us uncomfortable, we can remain as we are. We can choose
rest over labor, entertainment over education, delusion over
truth, and doubt over confidence. The choices are ours to make.
But while we curse the effect, we continue to nourish the

Letting go is not the same as giving up.


Resistance to change - cultural & mental barriers - not easy to change - can take over ten years to change corporate culture in big company's

do you want to change as a person? - for the better?

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