The concept of nature between Heraclitus and Prigogine


  • Mariano Bizzarri Department of Experimental Medicine, Systems Biology Group Lab, University Sapienza, Rome, Italy – Via Scarpa 16, 00160, Rome, Italy



In the Greek tradition, “physis” denotes both the “nature” (the “essence”) of an entity and its accomplishment, that is to say, its “development”. For example, the embryo is the “essence” of the unfolding organism and, at the same time, the process leading to it. The egg is a symbol of wholeness, but this totality cannot be perceived out of its self-organizing process. In this way, according to Heraclitus, the living being “hides.” Essentially, the Self can only be recognized as an outcome rather than a starting point. This stance, endorsed by Heraclitus and Aristotle, has been left aside by modern scientific research since Bacon’s time when the less noble Stoic inheritance was tacitly assumed. In Stoics’ belief, physis means power (God or otherwise), i.e. the causal principle (causa prima), which is involved in generating any natural process. Having emphasized the “cause”—even in absence of a clear definition of such a concept—the “real process” lost its relevance and its intelligibility was impaired. The description of the process began to be confused with the description of the “entity” (the thing-in-itself), and this representation eventually ended up identifying the “essence” with its (presumed) “primary” causes. This way, natural things and/or processes were re-absorbed into their presumptive causes, missing the true complexity of the natural system.



2021-08-10 — Updated on 2021-08-10


How to Cite

Bizzarri, M. (2021). The concept of nature between Heraclitus and Prigogine. Organisms. Journal of Biological Sciences, 5(1), 67–71.




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