The Presocratic Philosophers.

By Jonathan Barnes

Printed: 1993

Publisher: Routledge. London

Edition: Reprint

Dimensions 16 × 24 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 16 x 24 x 4

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Softback. Title and old paper scrap on the cover.

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A very good clean copy

Presocratic philosophers are the Western thinkers preceding Socrates (c. 469-c. 399 B.C.E.) but including some thinkers who were roughly contemporary with Socrates, such as Protagoras (c. 490-c. 420 B.C.E.). The application of the term “philosophy” to the Presocratics is somewhat anachronistic, but is certainly different from how many people currently think of philosophy. The Presocratics were interested in a wide variety of topics, especially in what we now think of as natural science rather than philosophy. These early thinkers often sought naturalistic explanations and causes for physical phenomena. For example, the earliest group of Presocratics, the Milesians, each proposed some material element ¾ water, air, the “boundless,” as the basic stuff either forming the foundation of, or constituting, everything in the cosmos.

Such an emphasis on physical explanations marked a break with more traditional ways of thinking that indicated the gods as primary causes. The Presocratics, in most cases, did not entirely abandon theistic or religious notions, but they characteristically posed challenges to traditional ways of thinking. Xenophanes of Colophon, for example, thought that most concepts of the gods were superficial, since they often amount to mere anthropomorphizing. Heraclitus understood sets of contraries, such as day-night, winter-summer, and war-peace to be gods (or God), while Protagoras claimed not to be able to know whether or not the gods exist. The foundation of Presocratic thought is the preference and esteem given to rational thought and argumentation over mythologizing. This movement towards rationality and argumentation would pave the way for the course Western thought.

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