Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away.

If 'constantly' means 'no stop in every little seconds' then this is of course wrong, for example, our name may change but not change in every seconds.

If it means 'may stop in some times, but in a long-term view, never stop', then it's acceptable.

I ask what exactly CONSTANTLY means in English. IF it means like a river flows and not stop in every seconds or it means like heartbeat, you heart beat in a lifelong time, but surely it stop beat in a little time and beat again in another seconds. there are one state in river and two states in heartbeat

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    You name may constantly change too. Mine does, depending on who is using it. Over time the name I have has changed constantly from the time it was first used - so your second suggestion is more likely – mplungjan Mar 15 '11 at 18:14
  • @mplungjan I can call you everything, a,b,c,d etc. and change it in every seconds. But this is just I call you. We all know it's wrong. Your name is mplungjan. I cannot change this true. – user3780 Mar 15 '11 at 18:44

One idea that can make the sentence more acceptable is in the understanding of "everything". If you consider the statement to be "no matter what object you pick, you will find that it has changed since the last time you looked at it", then yes, you may be able to say "Robusto's name has not changed since the last time" or "this piece of paper has all the same properties as before".

However, if you interpret "everything is always changing" in the sense of "you will always be able to find at least one thing that has changed since last time", then it is much more readily apparent that this is the case. Robusto might not have changed his name, but he got a haircut, or he has different shoes on. The paper is exactly the same, but there's a pen next to it that wasn't there before.

So, it's not that every item is always different, but that some item is always different, and thus the set that contains all items is different.

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What Heraclitus meant is that everything is changing always. You may not notice the change between one second and the next, but changes do happen whether you notice them or not. As a passage in this Wikipedia article says:

"The philosophy of Heraclitus may be summed up in this cryptic utterance."

ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ.

Potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin, hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei

"Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers ."

That's usually rendered as "You can't step into the same river twice."

The modern-day quantum theory and the study of "virtual particles" seems to bear this out on a sub-atomic level as well.

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  • In physic world, In some sense, maybe this is true. But the subject isn't only about physic world, the author says EVERYTHING. – user3780 Mar 15 '11 at 18:38
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    Well, everything is changing. The rate of change is the only thing that differs. – Robusto Mar 15 '11 at 18:42
  • Well, your name is Robusto today. maybe your a Chinese descendant. And even the universe ended, you cannot change this FACT. – user3780 Mar 15 '11 at 18:53
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    @user3780: The sentence "your dog is yellow" means just that, "your dog is yellow". Even if your dog is in fact lilac; even if it's actually my dog; even if none of us owns any animals to begin with — that doesn't change the meaning of the sentence. At all. Likewise, "everything is constantly changing" means "everything is constantly changing". Whether or not you agree with that statement is out of scope of this site. But you can always commit to the Philosophy proposal. – RegDwigнt Mar 15 '11 at 19:38
  • @RegDwight I ask what exactly CONSTANTLY means in English. IF it means like a river flows and not stop in every seconds or it means like heartbeat, you heart beat in a lifelong time, but surely it stop beat in a little time and beat again in another seconds. there are one state in river and two states in heart beat. – user3780 Mar 16 '11 at 5:22

Without getting into a philosophical debate: In this context, continually probably would have been a more precise word.

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The commonly accepted meaning of "constantly" in English is "without variations". So that "constantly changing" is a little bit of an oxymoron if you take it literally.

Keep in mind however that Ancient Greeks positively loved paradoxes as mind teasers and therefore sources of endless discussions (and Heraclitus is known for having added it's fair share to the corpus of Greek paradoxes).

Personally I would actually (paradoxically ;-) classify it as a tautology.

That's because the definition of "change" implies a measure of time, but at the same time, time is measured by change. So that stating that things change all the time is tantamount to stating that times passes by. Which it does, of course, "constantly" (as in "all the time", so to speak - if it stops now, you will never read this ;-).

However, Heraclitus quote must actually be replaced in its context. Living at the beginning of the Greek Golden Age, Heraclitus was supposedly reacting to mainstream descriptions of the universe he deemed too static.

To answer the second part of your question regarding the granularity of time: heartbeat-style or continuum like, this is still under discussion today and I don't believe anybody's got a definitive answer yet.
If we are to believe scientists, time can be modelled as a continuum (albeit distorted by gravity) in Relativist Physics but not in Quantum Mechanics. Conversely the "heartbeat" kind of time seems to be more appropriate for Quantum Mechanics. My personal understanding is that this is due to the fact that Relativist Physics model certainties whereas Quantum Physics deal with probabilities. But this is second-hand knowledge: as soon as lay people like me try to get a better understanding of these topics they hit the "equation wall". If someone can shed some light on this...
However, in the context of everyday life in English I guess you can take the continuous model for granted (... with a high probability ;-).

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Another thing is that FACTS are constant, and they never change, unless we find flaws in the theories that lead to those facts.

By everything, here he means, life (in all forms), all the emotions, nature, space and more importantly TIME. Time flows like the river. It stops for no one.

Point he might want to make is, you have to get over your past and move on. You can't crib about the past or spend your present lamenting/brooding over the past. Life moves on and so should you.

I hope you agree with this little philosophy.

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