Heraclitus says “you can’t step in the same river twice” — My Interpretation

Ricky S
2 min readSep 25, 2021
Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe, and for establishing the term Logos (λόγος) in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the Cosmos

In Plato’s Cratylus, the character Socrates says the following about Heraclitus: “Heraclitus is supposed to say that all things are in motion and nothing at rest; he compares them to thestream of a river, and says that you cannot go into the same river twice” (402a). Ever since Plato, the view that we can’t step twice into the same river has been attributed to Heraclitus.

This sentence is a metaphor for his idea that everything is in flux. This concept can be applied to life in general, as the water and life within a river are constantly changing, even if the river appears to be the same. People, like society, never stay the same, changing in some manner as a result of our daily experiences.

It is impossible to step in the “same river” twice, according to Heraclitus, who reasoned that everything is always changing and that this fact is vital to the operation of the universe.

Although this river appears to be the same as it did the last time we stepped in it, it is in reality different. Leaving aside any potential movement of the riverbed, rocks, branches, fish, and other elements, the water itself will always be different from one moment to the next. It may come from the same source, have the same taste, appearance, and temperature, but it is not the same water as the last time we touched it. The river is never the same because the water is continuously moving, even if we perceive it to be.

Individuals, communities, countries, planets, and universes can all be described in the same way. Even though change is slow — so slow that we can’t see it with our naked eyes — it is always present.