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On-line version ISSN 2413-3086
Print version ISSN 1561-4018


MASON, Andrew J.. Heraclitus' usage of όστις in fragments DK B 5 and B 27. Phronimon [online]. 2014, vol.15, n.2, pp.55-68. ISSN 2413-3086.

In their basic senses the difference between όστις and ός is straightforward, corresponding to that between whichsoever/whosoever and which/who. But in usage it is often much subtler and at times negligible, both because όστις can like ός be used for a definite referent and because in certain constructions ός can like όστις denote an indefinite one. There are five certain uses of όστις in Heraclitus' surviving fragments, and it is notable that in each case translators do not render the term in its basic, indefinite sense but in a sense akin to ός. While in most cases this is clearly right, I question it with regard to B 5 and B 27, and explore what these fragments may have to say to us beyond prevailing interpretations if όστις is read as a true indefinite pronoun. In the case of B 27 this may, I argue, force us to revise our understanding quite radically. The paper also examines Heraclitus' use of other terms with a similarly indefinite reference (ός with άν, όκόσος, όκοΐος, όσος), for the purpose of establishing whether he would have used one of these in B 5 and B 27 instead of όστις if he intended indefinite objects there. I argue against this, since the connotations of these terms would be inapposite in these fragments in comparison with the root sense of όστις.

Keywords : Heraclitus; hostis; hos; unity of opposites; expectation.

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