Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Conspectus of Lassalle’s Book
The Philospohy of Heraclitus the Obscure
of Ephesus

Reading Hall of the Bern Library. Lenin worked here in 1914-16. (p.339)

Written: 1915
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1976, Volume 38, pp. 337-353
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XII Published according to the manuscript
Translated: Clemence Dutt
Edited: Stewart Smith
Original Transcription & Markup: K. Goins (2008)
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Conspectus of Lassalle’s book “Die Philosophie Herakleitos des Dunklen von Ephesos.” Berlin, 1858 (The Philosophy of Heraclitus the Obscure of Ephesus, Berlin, 1858) is contained in a notebook following the note on Lipps’ book Natural Science and World Outlook. Following the conspectus of Lassalle’s book, there is a fragment in the note book entitled “On the Question of Dialectics.”
Note that this document has undergone special formating to ensure that Lenin’s sidenotes fit on the page, marking as best as possible where they were located in the original manuscript.


BERLIN, 1858 (pp. 379 + 479)

(Bern: Log. 119. 1)

In the epigraph, inter alia,
from Hegel—from his History
of Philosophy
—that there is not
a single proposition of Heraclitus
that he would not have adopted
in his Logic.

Hegel. Collected Works, Vol.
XIII, p. 328.[1]
My quotation from Vorlesun-
gen über die Geschichte
der Philosophie

One can understand why Marx called
this work of Lassalle’s “schoolboyish” (see
the letter to Engels of...[3]): Lassalle simply
repeats Hegel, copies from him, re-echo-
him a million times with regard to
isolated passages from Heraclitus, furnish-
ing his opus with an incredible heap of
learned ultra-pedantic ballast.

The difference with respect to Marx:
In Marx there is a mass of new material,
and what interests him is only the move-
ment forward from Hegel and Feuer-
bach further, from idealistic to mate-
rialistic dialectics. In Lassalle there is
a rehash of Hegel on the particular theme
selected: essentially transcribing from He-
gel with respect to quotations from Hera-
clitus and about Heraclitus.

Lassafle divided his work into two parts:
“General Part. Introduction” (Vol. I,
pp. 1-68), and “Historical Part. Fragments
and Evidence” (the remainder). Chapter III
in the general part: “Short Logical
Development of the System of Heraclitus”
(pp. 45-68)—gives the quintessence of
the method, of Lassalle’s conclusions. This
chapter is sheer plagiarism, slavish repe-
tition of Hegel concerning Heraclitus! Here
too (and still more in the historical part)
there is a mass of erudition, but it is eru-
dition of the lowest kind: the exercise set
was to seek out the Hegelian element in
Heraclitus. The Strebsamer[4] pupil per-
forms it “brilliantly,” reading through
everything about Heraclitus in all the
ancient (and modern) authors, and putting
a Hegelian construction on everything.

Marx in 1844-47 went from Hegel to
Feuerbach, and further beyond Feuer-
bach to historical (and dialectical) mate-
rialism. Lassalle in 1846 began (Preface,
p. III), in 1855 resumed, and in August
1857 (Preface, p. XV) finished a work of
sheer, empty, useless, “learned” rehash-
of Hegelianism!!

Some chapters of the second part are
interesting and not without use solely for
the translations of fragments from Her-
aclitus and for the popularisation of He-
gel, but that does not do away with all
the above-mentioned defects.

The philosophy of the ancients and of
Heraclitus is often quite delightful in its
childish naïveté, e.g., p. 162—“how is it
to be explained that the urine of persons
who have eaten garlic[5] smells of garlic?”

and the answer:
     “is it not that, as some of the fol-
lowers of Heraclitus say, one and the
same fiery process of transformation
takes place both in the universe and
in (organic) bodies, and then after
cooling appears there (in the universe)
as moisture, and here takes the form
of urine, but the transformation
(άνδανμίδσις[6]) from the food causes
the smell of that from which it has
arisen by mixing with it?...” (162-163)

On p. 221 ff.[7] Lassalle quotes Plu-
tarch, who says with regard to Heraclitus:

“in the same way as everything is created
by transformation out of fire, so also fire
out of everything, just as we obtain things

Heraclitus on
gold and

for gold and gold for things....”

In this connection, Lassalle writes about
value (Wert) (p. 223 N B) |and about
Function des Geldes|[8], expounding it
in the Hegelian manner (as “separated

abstract unity”) and adding: ...“that this
unity, money, is not something actual, but
something merely ideal (Lassalle’s italics)
is evident from the fact,” etc.


(But all the same NB that this was
written in a book that appeared in 1858,
the preface being dated August 1857.)

In note 3 on p. 224 (pp. 224-225) Las-
salle speaks in still greater detail about
money, saying that Heraclitus was no “po-
litical economist,” that money is ((only(??)))
a Wertzeichen,[9] etc., etc. (“all money is
merely the ideal unity or expression of
value of all real products in circulation”)
(224), etc.

Since Lassalle here speaks vaguely
of moderne Entdeckungen auf diesem
Gebiet[10]—the theory of value and
money, it can be assumed that he has
precisely in mind conversations with
Marx and letters from him.

On pp. 225-228. Lassalle reproduces
a long passage from Plutarch, proving
further (convincingly) that it is indeed
Heraclitus who is referred to, and that Plu-
tarch here expounds “the basic features
of the speculative theology of Heraclitus”
(p. 228).

The passage is a good one: it conveys
the spirit of Greek philosophy, the na-
ïveté, profundity, the flowing transitions.

Lassalle reads into Heraclitus even
a whole system of theology and “objec-   
tive logic” (sic!!), etc.—in short, Hegel
“apropos of” Heraclitus!!


An infinite number of times (truly
wearisomely) Lassalle emphasises and
rehashes the idea that Heraclitus not only
recognises motion in everything, that his
principle is motion or becoming (Wer-
den), but that the whole point lies in
understanding “the processing identity of
absolute (schlechthin) opposites” (p. 289
and many others); Lassalle, so to speak,
hammers into the reader’s head
the Hegelian thought that in abstract con-
cepts (and in the system of them) the
principle of motion cannot be expressed
otherwise than as the principle of the
identity of opposites. Motion and
Werden, generally speaking, can be with-
out repetition, without return to the
point of departure, and then such
motion would not be an “identity of
opposites.” But astronomical and me-
chanical (terrestrial) motion, and the
life of plants, animals and man—all this
has hammered into the heads of man-
kind not merely the idea of motion,
but motion precisely with a return to
the point of departure, i.e., dialectical

This is naïvely and delightfully expressed
in the famous formula (or aphorism)
of Heraclitus: “it is impossible to bathe
twice in the same river”—actually, how-
ever (as had already been said by Cratylus,
a disciple of Heraclitus), it cannot be done
even once (for before the whole body has
entered the water, the latter is already
not the same as before).

(NB:) This Cratylus reduced Heraclitus’
dialectics to sophistry, pp. 294-295 and
many others, by saying: nothing is true,
nothing can be said about anything. A neg-
ative (and merely negative) conclusion
from dialectics. Heraclitus, on the other
hand, had the principle: “everything is true,”
there is (a part of) truth in everything. Cra-
tylus merely “wagged his finger” in answer to
everything, thereby showing that everything
moves, that nothing can be said of anything.

Lassalle in this work has no
sense of moderation, absolutely
drowning Heraclitus in He-
It is a pity. Heraclitus in
, as one of the
founders of dialectics, would be
extremely useful: the 850 pages
of Lassalle should be compressed
into 85 pages of quintessence and
translated into Russian: “Hera-
clitus as one of the founders of dia-
lectics (according to Lassalle).”
Something useful could result!

The basic law of the world, according
to Heraclitus (λόγος,[11] sometimes είμαρ-
μένη[12]), is “the law of transformation into
the opposite” (p. 327) (= ένγντιοτροπή,

Lassalle expounded the meaning of
είμαρμένη as the “law of development”
(p. 333), quoting, inter alia,
   the words of Nemesius: “Democritus, Her-
aclitus and Epicurus assume that neither
for the universal nor for the particular
does foresight exist” (ibidem).


And the words of Heraclitus: “The world
was created by none of the Gods or men,
but is eternally living fire and will al-
ways be so” (ibidem).


It is strange that, in rehashing the
religious philosophy of Heraclitus, Las-
salle does not once quote or mention
Feuerbach! What was Lassalle’s atti-
tude in general to Feuerbach? That
of an idealist Hegelian?

Hence Philo said of Heraclitus’ doctrine,

...“that it” (die Lehre[13]), “like that
of the Stoics, derives everything from
the world, and brings it into the
world, but does not believe that any-
thing came from God.” (334) An exam-


ple of “touching up” as Hegelian:

Lassalle translates the famous passage
of Heraclitus (according to Stobaeus) on
“Das Eine Weise”[14] (έν σοφόν) as follows:

“However many discourses I have
heard, no one has succeeded in recog-
nising that the wise is that which
is separated from all (i.e., from all
that exists)” (344)
—considering that the words “beast
or god” are an insertion, and rejecting
the translations of Ritter (“wisdom
is remote from all”) (344) and Schleier-
macher “the wise is separated from
all,” in the sense of “cognition” dis-
tinct from the knowledge of partic-

According to Lassalle the meaning
of this passage is as follows:
that “the absolute (the wise) is alien
to all sensuous determinate being, that
it is the negative” (349)—i.e., Nega-
tive = the principle of negation, the
principle of motion. A clear misrep-
resentation as Hegelian! Reading He-
gel into Heraclitus.

A mass of details on the (exter-
nal) connection between Heracli-
tus and Persian theology, Ormazd-
Ahriman,[15] and the theory of mag-
ic, etc., etc., etc.

Heraclitus said: “time is a body” (p.
358)... this, Lassalle says, is in the sense
of the unity of being and nothing. Time
is the pure unity of Being and not-Be-
ing, etc.!

Fire for Heraclitus, it is said = the
principle of motion |and not simply fire|,
something similar is fire in the teaching
of Persian philosophy (and religion)! (362)

If Heraclitus was the first to use the
term λόγος (“word”) in the objective sense
(law), this, too, is said to be taken from
the Persian religion.... (364)

— A quotation from the Zend-Avesta.[16]

In § 17 on the relation between Δίχη[17]
and είμαρμένη, Lassalle interprets these
ideas of Heraclitus in the sense of “ne-
,” “connection.” (376)

NB: “the bond of all things” (δεσός
άπάντων) (p. 379)

Plato (in the Theaetetus) is al-
leged to express the Heraclitean philosophy
when he says:

“Necessity binds together the essential-
ity of Being....”

“Heraclitus is ... the source of the con-
ception, common among the Stoics, that
είμαρμένη rerum omnium necessitas,[18] ex-
presses bond and ligation, illigatio....” (376)

     “I, however, call fate what the Greeks
call είμαρμένη, i.e., the order and sequence
of causes, when one cause linked with
another produces the phenomenon out of
itself” (p. 377).

Thousands of years have passed
since the time when the idea was
born of “the connection of all
things,” “the chain of causes.” A
comparison of how these causes
have been understood in the his-
tory of human thought would give
an indisputably conclusive theory
of knowledge.

Volume II.

Speaking of “fire,” Lassalle proves,
by repeating himself a thousand times over,
that this is a “principle” for Heraclitus.
He insists especially on the idealism of
Heraclitus (p. 2 5—that the principle of
development, des Werdens,[19] in Heracli-
tus is logisch-präexistent,[20] that his phi-
losophy = Idealphilosophie.[21] Sic!!)
(p. 25).

((Squeezing into Hegelian!))

Heraclitus accepted “pure and absolute-
ly immaterial fire” (p. 28 Timaeus, on

On p. 56 (Vol. II) Lassalle introduces

a quotation |from Clemens Al.,[22] Stro-
mata V; Chapter 14| about Heraclitus,
which, translated literally, reads:

“The world, an entity out of everything,
was created by none of the gods or men,
but was, is and will be eternally living
fire, regularly becoming ignited and reg-
ularly becoming extinguished....”


A very good exposition of the principles
of dialectical materialism. But on p. 58
Lassalle provides the following “freie Über-
setzung”[23] of this passage:

“The world — — was, is and will be con-
tinuous becoming, being constantly, but in
varying measure, transformed from Being
into (proceeding) not-Being, and from the
latter into (proceeding) Being.”

An excellent example how Lassalle
verballhornt[24] Heraclitus, representing
him as Hegelian, spoiling the liveliness,
freshness, naïveté and historical integ-
rity of Heraclitus by misrepresenting
him as Hegelian (and in order to achieve
this misrepresentation Lassalle presents
a rehash of Hegel for dozens of pages).

The second section of the second part
(“Physics,” pp. 1 - 262!!!, Vol. II) is ab-
solutely intolerable. A farthingsworth of
Heraclitus, and a shillingsworth of
rehash of Hegel and of misrepresentation.
One can only leaf through the pages—in
order to say that it should not be read!

From Section III (“The Doctrine of Cog-
nition”) a quotation from Philo:

“For the One is that which consists of
two opposites, so that when cut into two


the opposites are revealed. Is not this the
proposition which the Greeks say their
great and famous Heraclitus placed at the
head of his philosophy and gloried in as
a new discovery....” ((265))


And the following quotation also from

...“In the same way, too, the parts of
the world are divided into two and mutual-
ly counterposed: the earth—into moun-

tains and plains, water—into fresh and
salt.... In the same way, too, the atmos-
phere into winter and summer, and like-

wise spring and autumn. And this served
Heraclitus as the material for his books
on nature: borrowing from our theologian


the aphorism about opposites, he added

to it innumerable and laboriously worked-
out examples (Belege)” (p. 267).

According to Heraclitus the criterion
of truth is not the consensus omnium, not
the agreement of all (p. 285)—in that case
he would be a subjectiver Empiriker[25]
(p. 284). No, he is an objectiver Idealist[26]
(285). For him, the criterion of truth,
independent of the subjective opinion of
all men, is agreement with the ideal law
of the identity of Being and not-Being

  Cf. Marx 1845
in his theses on
Lassalle is here
    Here it is clear-
ly seen that Lassal-
le is a Hegelian of
the old type, an

On p. 337, quoting, inter alia, Büch-
ner (note 1), Lassalle says that Her-
aclitus expressed a priori “the very
same thought” as “modern physiology”
(“thought is a movement of matter”).

An obvious exaggeration. In the
quotations about Heraclitus it is
merely said that the soul is also
a process of transformation—that
which moves is known by that which

A quotation from Chalcidius (in Ti-
     ...“Heraclitus, however, links our rea-
son with the divine reason that guides
and rules the world, and says that, on
account of inseparable accompaniment, it,
too, possesses knowledge of the governing
decree of reason and, when the mind rests
from the activity of the senses, it predicts
the future” (p. 342).

From Clemens (Stromata V.):
     ...“owing to its incredibility it—namely,
the truth—escapes from becoming cog-
nised....” (347)

Heraclitus, Lassalle says, is “the father
of objective logic” (p. 351), for in him
“natural philosophy” umschlägt[28] into the
philosophy of thought, “thought is recognised
as the principle of existence” (350), etc., etc.
à la Hegel.... The moment of subjectivity
is said to be lacking in Heraclitus....

§ 36. “Plato’s Cratylus”,[29]
pp. 373-396

In the § on “Cratylus,” Lassalle proves
that in this dialogue of Plato’s Cratylus
is represented (not yet as a sophist and
subjectivist as he subsequently became,
but) as a true disciple of Heraclitus, who
really expounded his, Heraclitus’, theory
of the essence and origin of words and
language as an imitation of nature
(“imitation of the essence of things,” p. 388),
the essence of things, “the imitation and
copy of God,” “imitation of God and the
universe” (ibidem).


T h e   h i s t o r y  o f   p h i l o s o p h y            

”      ”   the separate sciences
”      ”   the mental development
            of the child
”      ”   the mental development
            of animals
”      ”   l a n g u a g e  NB:
+ psychology  
+ physiology   
of the sense    
o r g a n s       
these are
the fields of
from which
the theory
of knowl-
edge and
should be
kurz,[30] the
history of
in general
the whole
field of

...“We have shown—says Lassalle—that
the” (above-mentioned) “conceptual iden-
tity (precisely identity, and not merely
analogy) between word, name and law is
in every respect a principled view of the
Heraclitean philosophy and of fundamental
importance and significance in it....” (393)


...“Names are for him” (Heraclitus) “laws
of being, they are for him the common
element of things, just as for him laws
are the ‘common element of all’”.... (394)


And it is precisely Heraclilean ideas
that Hippocrates expresses when he
     “Names are the laws of nature.”


“For both laws and names are for the
Ephesian ... equally merely products and
realisations of the universal, both are for
him the achieved, purely universal, ideal
being, freed from the stain of sensuous
reality....” (394)

Plato analyses and refutes the philos-
ophy of Heraclitus in his “Cratylus
and “Theaetetus,” and in so doing
(especially in the latter) he confuses Heracli-
tus (the objective idealist and dialectician)
with the subjective idealist and sophist
Protagoras (man is the measure of all
things). And Lassalle proves that in the
development of ideas there has actually
stemmed from Heraclitus 1) sophistry (Pro-
tagoras) and 2) Platonism, the “ideas”
(objective idealism).

One gets the impression that Las-
salle, the idealist, left in the shade
the materialism or materialistic
tendencies of Heraclitus, misrepre-
senting him as Hegelian.

(IV. Ethik, pp. 427-462.)
In the section on ethics—nil.

On pp. 458-459 Lassalle writes that Ne-
said that Heraclitus and Demo-
critus denied prevision (προνοίαν), whereas
Cicero (De Fato) said that Heraclitus, as
also Democritus and others (including Aris-
totle), recognised fatum—necessity.


...“This fatum is intended to signify only
the immanent natural necessity belonging
to the object, its natural law....” (459)

in Lassalle

(The Stoics, according to Lassalle, took
everything from Heraclitus, making
him banal and one-sided, p. 461.)

The index to Lassalle’s book is
compiled in a learned, pedantic
manner, but senselessly; a heap of
names of the ancients, etc., etc.

In general, ΣΣ,[32] Marx’s judgment is
correct, Lassalle’s book is not worth read-



[1] Hegel, Werke, Bd. XIII, Berlin, 1833.—Ed.

[2] Reference is being made to the conspectus of Hegel’s work Lectures on the History Of Philosophy, in which Lenin makes this quotation. (See p. 259 of this volume.)—Ed.

[3] Lenin is referring to a letter from Marx to Engels dated February 1, 1858 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 121-123).

[4] industrious—Ed.

[5] V. I. Lenin wrote the word “garlic” above the word “Knoblauch.”—Ed.

[6] evaporation—Ed.

[7] et. seq.—Ed.

[8] function of money—Ed.

[9] token of value—Ed.

[10] modern discoveries in this field—Ed.

[11] logos—Ed.

[12] necessity—Ed.

[13] the doctrine—Ed.

[14] “the One Wise”—Ed.

[15] Ahriman—the Greek name for the ancient Persian God personifying the source of evil, an eternal and irreconcilable enemy of his brother Ormazd, the Good Spirit.

[16] Zend-Avesta—the designation for the ancient Persian religious books expounding the Zoroastrian religion founded, according to legend, by the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster).

[17] justice—Ed.

[18] necessity of all things—Ed.

[19] of becoming—Ed.

[20] logically pre-existent—Ed.

[21] idealistic philosophyEd.

[22] Clement of Alexandria—Ed.

[23] free translation—Ed.

[24] corrects (ironic)—Ed.

[25] subjective empiricist—Ed.

[26] objective idealistEd.

[27] Lenin is referring to Theses on Feuerbach by Marx written in 1845 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, pp. 403-405).

[28] is transformed—Ed.

[29] Cratylus—Plato’s dialogue, directed against the Sophists.

[30] briefly—Ed.

[31] natural necessity—Ed.

[32] summa summarum—Ed.


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