Early Greek Philosophy: The Presocratics and the Emergence of Reason (Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy)
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The scholarly tradition of the Presocratics is the beginning of the "Greek Miracle," the remarkable flowering of arts and sciences in ancient Greece from the 600s to 400s BC. Greek thought turned from pagan religion and the mytho-poetic work of Hesiod and Homer, to inquiry into the natures of things, to the world and our place in it. This tradition, starting with Thales (b. 624 BC) and proceeding through Democritus (d. 370 BC), is the unifying theme of this volume. The contributors, renowned experts in their various fields of philosophy, provide introductions to the Presocratic philosophers and discuss how this philosophical school was appropriated and treated by later philosophers.
Joe McCoy opens the volume with a survey of the historical developments within Presocratic philosophy, as well as its subsequent reception. The essays begin with Charles Kahn's account of the role of Presocractic philosophy in classical philosophy. Individual philosophers are then discussed, namely, Anaximander by Kurt Pritzl, Heraclitus by Kenneth Dorter, and Pythagoreans by Carl A. Huffman. Next are chapters on Xenophanes by James Lesher, Parmenides by Alexander P. D. Mourelatos, Empedocles by Patricia Curd, and Anaxagoras by Daniel Graham. The collection concludes with an examination of the reception of the Presocratics in early modern and late modern philosophy by John C. McCarthy and Richard Velkley, respectively.
The philosophy of the Presocratics still governs scholarly discussion today. This important volume grapples with a host of philosophical issues and philological and historical problems inherent in interpreting Presocratic philosophers.
ABOUT THE EDITOR:
Joe McCoy is adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Nevada-Reno.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
"Digs deep into issues that will greatly interest scholars specializing in early Greek thought . . .Recommended." ―Choice
fundamental innovation is the concept of nature itself, the notion of phusis—as presupposed, for example, in the motto of Heraclitus: “nature loves to hide” (phusis kruptesthai phileī).1 Thus the term phusis stands for a conception that is distinctively Greek, and subsequently Western, namely, the conception of a natural order of things, a kosmos “which no man or god has made” (B30), to quote Heraclitus again. Both terms, phusis and kosmos, are conspicuous in his fragments, which are our oldest
spherical limit of the whole. The apeiron is boundless and without limits, since it is ageless and it presents no bounds for a traverse that must begin at one point and end at another. There is no in38. Kahn, Anaximander, 234. 39. The traditional world picture of the universe as a great heaven, the aether, the air, earth and sea, with Tartaros or Hades below, that is symmetrical and bounded, is nicely presented at KRS, 9–10. There at KRS, 10, “a variant conception” which “made the earth stretch
thunderbolt.23 It is thus clear that Pythagoras saw a world charged with moral meaning. Thunder has a moral purpose, as do the planets. If Pythagoras’s followers take seriously the acusmata that they receive from the master, everywhere they look in the world they will see evidence of the crucial importance of living their lives in a way that will insure their arrival at the Islands of the Blessed. The cosmos has an order that is given by a religious purpose having to do with the fate of the soul.
the fate of the soul built into the world around them. Nonetheless, a picture of this sort does not invite challenges from the phenomena. How could a Greek who was told that the sun and the moon are the Isles of the Blessed challenge this assertion in terms of the appearances? Moreover, I doubt that any of Pythagoras’s listeners would have gone on to ask: but how do you explain eclipses or night and day? These are not the sorts of questions the cosmos of the acusma is designed to answer. It is
decidedly mixed: as mortal beings undertake wideranging inquiries they will, in due course, “discover (a) better,” but no one will ever achieve sure knowledge, at least concerning matters that lie beyond our direct experience. In each of three areas—the basic constituents of the physical universe, the nature of the divine, and the sources and limits of human knowledge—the individual elements of Xenophanes’s thought link up with one another in readily identifiable ways. It does not follow,