Presocratics: Natural Philosophers before Socrates (Ancient Philosophies)

Presocratics: Natural Philosophers before Socrates (Ancient Philosophies)

Language: English

Pages: 235

ISBN: 0520253698

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The earliest phase of philosophy in Europe saw the beginnings of cosmology and rational theology, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethical and political theory. It also saw the development of a wide range of radical and challenging ideas, from Thales' claim that magnets have souls and Parmenides' account of one unchanging existence to the development of an atomist theory of the physical world. This general account of the Presocratics introduces the major Greek philosophical thinkers from the sixth to the middle of the fifth century B.C. It explores how we might reconstruct their views and understand the motivation and context for their work, and it highlights the ongoing philosophical interest of their often surprising claims. Separate chapters are devoted to each of the major Presocratic thinkers, including Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Leucippus, and Democritus. With a chronology and guide to further reading, this book is an ideal introduction for the student and general reader.

Copub: Acumen Publishing Limited

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something else, happen. Whatever happens, there must be some reason for it to happen and we can then begin to enquire into those reasons, confident that there is some explanation to be had. Looking beyond the wild speculations, the combined picture from the various pieces of surviving evidence is that Anaximander gave one of the earliest clear examples of an attempt to describe the variety and presence of animal life as part of a more general process by which the cosmos as a whole came to be,

as Anaxagoras and Empedocles, outlined a detailed cosmology that is clearly indebted to earlier Pythagorean interests in number and harmony (see pp. 175ff.). There also is some evidence of a schism in Pythagoreanism during the fifth century between one group, the "akusmatici" who emphasized the ritual and religious aspects of the movement and the "mathematici" - the side to which Philolaus clearly belongs - who also pursued technical and mathematical interests. Yet even in its very earliest phase

particularly their depictions of the gods (Plato Rep. 379a-85c). Some support for this addition is offered by our previous discussion. Xenophanes appears to be concerned to discover the true nature of the gods. He has already registered some views about the gods' appearance and now turns to consider the gods' behaviour. He notes that it would be odd to suppose that the gods act just as they are said to do by Homer and Hesiod since, in that case, they would either be generally less ethically

separation of the roots. (If the gods and daimones are the same then this would be a return to his peers.)19 It is, in any case, evident that Empedocles is implicitly committed to a curious account of the daimōn's identity over time.20 He identifies himself as a daimōn rather than a particular human individual, "Empedocles", and so is able to say that he has himself also been a bush, a fish and so on. The possibility of such transformations has plausibly been offered as the rationale for the

another need to be brought together by harmony if they are to be held fast in a cosmos. (DK 44 B6) It is worth dwelling on this argument, since it shows that in his cosmology Philolaus is dealing with a general metaphysical problem. He wants to account both for the variety and variability and also for the unity and order of the cosmos and feels it necessary to start with an ontology that includes more that one kind of basic existent. But having posited that basic distinction he needs also to

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