PANTA RHEI AND THE PERSISTENCE OF OLD PREMISES: A METALOGUE BETWEEN HERACLITUS AND MARCUS AURELIUS[1]

A ‘metalogue,’ a literary exercise first used by Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, is an imagined dialogue on “some problematic subject.”[2] This metalogue is a fictional conversation between Greek philosopher Heraclitus and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. This exercise understands Aurelius’ Meditations as proposing a theory of universal flux (contradictorily) through an Aristotelian epistemology of the mind/body split. The problem in question is that Aurelius has made claim to eternal knowledge or supernatural proximity with God at the price of severing the body from the mind. Because of this split built into his whole philosophy of life, the cryptic flow of Heraclitus’ reasoning is unacceptably incomplete and hazy to him. Heraclitus confronts Aurelius to make apparent the irony of applying words of epistemological and ontological fluidity to, ultimately, produce a body of imperial strategy. This metalogue attempts to implicate both Aurelius and Heraclitus in the process of learning about the nature of the world of which their own assumptions are a part, as they orient themselves through the oddities of this context.

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