"PANTA RHEI“ –
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

“Panta Rhei” or “Ta panta rhei kai ouden menei” is a Greek phrase. It translates to “everything flows” or “everything flows, nothing stands still”. The meaning of this phrase is that everything in life is continuously changing and in a constant state of flux.

WHO IS THE CREATOR OF THIS APHORISM?

  • The doctrine of Panta Rhei goes back to pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (~500 BC) a native of the city of Ephesus, then part of the Persian Empire. Heraclitus’ work was only passed down in fragments, including the famous saying:

”In the same river we step and do not step,

we are and we are not.”

  • The idea behind this sentence is that the river as an entity represents our reality which is in a constant state of flux and continuously changing: The water which flows over the one’s feet who steps into a river will never be the same!
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HERACLITUS THOUGHTS WERE ADAPTED BY PHILOSOPHERS THROUGH MILLENNIA

  • In antiquity, Heraclitus’ ideas were hardly tangible: Asked about Heraclitus, famous philosopher Socrates denoted his ideas as excellent. But he allegedly admitted that even he was not able to understand everything.
  • Heraclitus’ most known quote “Panta Rhei” goes back to Plato, who mentions Heraclitus’ thoughts twice in his dialogue of Cratylus:

“…you cannot step twice into the same river…”
and
“…everything flows, nothing remains still…”

  • In the Middle Ages, Heraclitus’ work was largely unknown but experienced a Renaissance during German Idealism.
  • Among others, Goethe, Nietzsche and Hegel referred several times to the river images and Heraclitus in their work. Nietzsche even described Heraclitus’ ideas as the closest to his own ideas, which has so far been thought.

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