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Ancilla to Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker Paperback – September 14, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0674035010 ISBN-10: 0674035011 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews

Review

As a knowledge of [these texts] is necessary for any proper appreciation of the mature development of Greek philosophy, this book supplies a conspicuous need. (Times Literary Supplement)

Freeman's translation…measures up to the requirements of accuracy of detail and sensitiveness of interpretation set by contemporary scholarship. , (Journal of Philosophy)

Freeman's work is excellent…The book will, of course, be valuable for all students of Greek philosophy., (Ethics)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (September 14, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035010
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on August 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Back in 1948, Kathleen Freeman's "Ancilla to Pre-Socratic Philosophers" was a genuine gift to English-speakers interested in the early Greek thinkers, but not at home in Greek, Latin, and German. In this "handmaiden" she translated the "fragments" -- actually quotations in texts by other, later, writers, although a few physical fragments have turned up on papyri -- as they were presented in the then most-recent edition of a classic of scholarship, the fifth edition of H. Diels' "Fragmente der Vorsokratiker." (Which, for those who haven't guessed, was one of the monuments of late-nineteenth-century German classical studies.)

The translation was severely plain, and seems to have pretty much avoided any but the most basic interpretation -- that of vocabulary and grammar (which can get pretty controversial for this material!). She was not the first to translate most of these passages in one place (Burnet's 1892 "Early Greek Philosophy," and its revisions, included a great many), but her work was both exceptionally comprehensive, and when published, up-to-date; the title of "Ancilla" indicated, to those familiar with the word, that it was intended to assist.

The book was originally published as part of a set, along with "The Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Companion to Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker," which is now out of print. It was obviously intended as a supplemental reader, to be used with one of the many books on the history of Greek philosophy (not necessarily Freeman's "Companion.") There is not even a clear statement of the rationale for segregating this extremely diverse group as all characterized by being predecessors to Socrates. (Although, in fact, some seem to have been his younger contemporaries....
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By cbiddle@richmond.infi.net on October 31, 1997
Format: Paperback
Am I the only one who has ever had the following experience? You keep reading summaries of the pre-Socratics, and every once in a while they'll toss you an actual fragment. But when you ask them, "Hey, where did you happen to get these lovely pre-Socratic fragments?," they tell you its all contained in a single volume by a guy named Diels. Oh, but there is one small catch. His book is called "Fragmente der Vorsokratteker," or something, and so you have to learn how to speak German. If this problem has been keeping you awake at night because you only read English, then worry no longer! Kathleen Freeman's "Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers" is a complete translation of the Diels text, excluding only a couple orations by Gorgias. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only translation avaliable. For anyone with an interest in philosophy, this book is an invaluable reference that you will turn to time and again. All the fragments of Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and Parmenides are contained in this one little softcover volume for only a few dollars. Get this book now, because who knows how long it will be in print. If you wait too long, you may have to learn how to read German.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Simon Albright on November 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
I think it's important for everyone to realize that when you purchase this book, you are getting less than you may imagine.

The back of the book (which is viewable through the "Look Inside!" feature) states:
"This book is a complete translation of the fragments of the pre-Socratic philosophers given in the fifth edition of Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker."

Sounds good, huh?

Well, I think right about here is where it would have been extraordinarily appropriate and relevant to mention the fact that this book is not an autonomous work, and is instead merely supplemental to another of Freeman's books, 'Companion to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers'.

Don't you agree?

But no, I had to buy this work, wait for it to arrive, and then find this sentence in the extremely short foreword (N.B: the "Look Inside!" feature conveniently skips right over the foreword):

"Comments on readings and interpretation have been confined to footnotes, and are restricted to the minimum; for further discussion, the reader is referred to my Companion to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, to which this book is ancillary."

For ancillary, read "subordinate."

I do not care what led to the decision to omit this seemingly vital (yet, apparently superfluous) piece of information, but, to my mind, this situation needs to be remedied and I accordingly wrote this review...

In any case, I managed to track down a copy of Freeman's 'Companion to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers'. [Note: It's that Freeman's Companion is a companion to the three volume work of Diels, and this gives rise to its name].
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jordan Bell on January 25, 2015
Format: Paperback
This is a translation of the quotations from Presocratic philosophers assembled in Diels and Kranz, "Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker". Some of the quotations are single words, some are sentences, and some are paragraphs or even strings of paragraphs that constitute an argument. Of the long arguments, my favorite is Gorgias's argument (i) that nothing exists, (ii) that if anything exists it is incomprehensible, and (iii) that if anything exists and is comprehensible it is incommunicable.

This book would be a good gift to anyone with any serious attachment to philosophy. Because many of the fragments are single sentences, it is easy to dip into this book. However, this book is inadequate for scholarship because it does not give the Greek fragments contained in Diels and Kranz, and does not state the sources from which the quotations are taken.

Some of the assertions are like the morals of Aesop's fables, such as Anaxarchus of Abdera, "It is hard to collect money, but harder still to keep it safely." Some are instead big ideas, like Xenophanes' assertion that no one will ever know about the gods, for even if what they said is completely true, they would not be aware that it was completely true.
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