Author Topic: Heraclitus, father of Hormetism?  (Read 2509 times)

Offline Alcibiades

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Heraclitus, father of Hormetism?
« on: October 13, 2010, 12:59:26 AM »
By way of a general hello I have a rambling but maybe interesting musing on what can be perhaps be regarded as the originator of the theory of strength through resistance:

Ever since I was accidentally exposed to Heraclitus in an ancient philosophy course (which I was doing as a result of interest in Stoicism) the enigmatic, misanthropic and generally fascinating remnants of this presocratic have lodged in my mind and worried at me. With something like the certainty I had that, with Stoicism, “Here is a useful truth” but far more intensely, I have always been convinced that his philosophical fragments have some profound wisdom that could somehow be applied.

Oddly, when I stumbled across Hormetism, in my stubborn conviction that the traditional model of myopia was wrong, my first thought was that this system was a practical implementation of his philosophy, marked predominantly by a notion of constant flux as the mode by which the universe operates: within opposition, he claimed, lies the means by which adaptation occurs. All things come about, and fade away, through opposition and strife.

There isn’t really much point to this, I suppose, but it was on my mind and I thought it may be of interest. I’d always known about the basic idea of weightlifting but to take the abstract concept of focused resistance to achieve an opposite end in other activities and pursuits was a masterstroke, something that I’d always noticed but never been able to articulate. Surely everyone’s noticed how much better they argue or how much stronger they feel when they’re in a debate or argument with something they feel to be totally wrong or contrary? So, yeah, applying Hormetism for the eyes (have dropped from -3.75 to ~ -2.2 in my good eye so far, even with lazy application of my plus lens) and I’m planning on musing about social and personal behaviour and how it can be manipulated.

So hello all!
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 09:16:30 AM by Todd Becker »

Offline Danielle

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Re: Heraclitus, father of Hormetism?
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2010, 08:29:20 PM »
That's interesting, Alcibiades.  I've thought of myself as a Stoic, and I did not realize that Heraclitus was a Stoic, because I thought that Stoicism came after Socrates. I just knew his quote that "we never step into the same river twice", meaning everything is constantly changing. But I looked him up, and you are right that many of the Stoics looked back to him as their inspiration.

I do think that Hormetism is interesting because it is more than just Stoic philosophy, it deals with practical issues like improving eyesight or muscular strength.  I'd be interested to know whether Heraclitus or other early Greeks applied their philosophy of change to improving our bodies.

Danielle

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Heraclitus, father of Hormetism?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2010, 12:11:39 PM »
Ever since I was accidentally exposed to Heraclitus in an ancient philosophy course... I have always been convinced that his philosophical fragments have some profound wisdom that could somehow be applied.

Oddly, when I stumbled across Hormetism, in my stubborn conviction that the traditional model of myopia was wrong, my first thought was that this system was a practical implementation of his philosophy, marked predominantly by a notion of constant flux as the mode by which the universe operates: within opposition, he claimed, lies the means by which adaptation occurs. All things come about, and fade away, through opposition and strife...So, yeah, applying Hormetism for the eyes (have dropped from -3.75 to ~ -2.2 in my good eye so far, even with lazy application of my plus lens) and I’m planning on musing about social and personal behaviour and how it can be manipulated.

Alcibiades, I'm glad to hear you saw the connection between Stoicism and Hormetism...and the practical application to overcoming myopia, which you've already experienced. Like Danielle, I was unaware of the influence of a pre-Socratic like Heraclitus on the post-Socratic Stoics.  So that's a very interesting connection, particularly the observation about "opposition".  Sometimes this idea of opposition comes up in philosophy -- for example in the "dialectic" of Hegel, which was later adopted by Marx as a theory of history.  But I've never found this vague notion of "opposition" very useful because it is presented as an almost mystical, unscientific concept -- force that we are asked to accept without evidence or clear way to empirically identify it.  It is pre-scientific because it does not give rise to testable hypotheses.

That was until I came across Solomon and Corbit's opponent-process theory, which is the first tangible theory of "opposition" that I've seen applied to real psychological and biological phenonmena.  I notice that in Solomon's paper he quotes Plato as as inspiration for this theory, so clearly the ancient Greeks were thinking about this, but in the quote by Plato I saw only a description of how pleasure and pain are tied together, with no further theorizing.

I'd be interested to know if you can find in Heraclitus any insights that we can apply usefully.  That would be really cool to be able to trace the roots of Hormetism back that far!

Todd  
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 12:15:34 PM by Todd Becker »