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σωφρονεῖν [σωφρονέω] in Heraclitus fragment 112 [1] suggests balanced (or thoughtful, measured) reasoning – but not according to some abstract theory, but instead a reasoning, a natural way or manner of reasoning, in natural balance with ourselves, with our nature (our physis) as thinking beings.

Most importantly, perhaps, it is this σωφρονεῖν which can incline us toward not committing ὕβρις (hubris; insolence), which ὕβρις is a going beyond the natural limits, and which thus upsets the natural balance, as, for instance, mentioned by Sophocles:

ὕβρις φυτεύει τύραννον:
ὕβρις, εἰ πολλῶν ὑπερπλησθῇ μάταν,
ἃ μὴ ‘πίκαιρα μηδὲ συμφέροντα,
ἀκρότατον εἰσαναβᾶσ᾽
αἶπος ἀπότομον ὤρουσεν εἰς ἀνάγκαν,
ἔνθ᾽ οὐ ποδὶ χρησίμῳ
χρῆται [2]

The verb σωφρονεῖν – present, infinitive, active, of σωφρονέω – could be assimilated into English as sophronein (in preference to σωφροσύνη as sophrosyne) with the meaning of “balanced – thoughtful – reasoning” suggesting thus the wisdom that is avoidance of hubris; an avoidance whose genesis is in understanding that excess in whatever endeavour or in personal feelings upsets the natural and necessary balance (the harmony) that is δίκη, Fairness, judgement, ancestral custom. As an assimilated term, there is no inflexion.

Sophronein in preference to sophrosyne given that the former is distinctive while the latter is not only awkward but also has acquired an English meaning – “soundness of mind, moderation” – which rather distorts the meaning of the original Greek given the moral and philosophical imputations of the English words ‘soundness’, ‘mind’, and ‘moderation’.

David Myatt
JD 2455621.531
(2011 CE)

[1] σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη, καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας. My translation: “Most excellent is balanced reasoning, for that skill can tell inner character from outer.”

[2] “Insolence plants the tyrant. There is insolence if by a great foolishness there is a useless over-filling which goes beyond the proper limits. It is an ascending to the steepest and utmost heights and then that hurtling toward that Destiny where the useful foot has no use…” Oedipus Tyrannus, vv.872ff

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Source: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/heraclitus-fragment-112-2/


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