- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; 2nd ed. edition (November 26, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140448152
- ISBN-13: 978-0140448153
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Early Greek Philosophy (Penguin Classics) 2nd ed. Edition
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About the Author
Jonathan Barnes is Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Geneva. He has held visiting posts at the University of Chicago, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and at the University of Texas. He was also a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. His publications include The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle and The PreSocreatic Philosophers.
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Top customer reviews
"First and most simply, the Presocratics invented the very idea of science and philosophy. They hit upon that special way of looking at the world which is the scientific and rational way. They saw the world as something ordered and intelligible, its history following an explicable course and its different parts arranged in a comprehensible system. The world was not a random collection of bits, its history was not an arbitrary jumble of events." ---------- This is central to their spirit of inquiry, an approach compatible with a modern physicist or chemist.
"Nor was the world a series of events determined by the will or the caprice of the gods. The Presocratics were not atheists: they allowed the god into their brave new world, and some of them attempted to produce an improved and rationalized theology in place of the anthropomorphic divinities of the Olympian pantheon. But their theology had little to do with religion, and they removed most of the traditional functions of the gods. Their thunder was no longer the growling of a minatory Zeus." ----------- Again, the Presocratics have kindred spirits in the science departments at modern universities.
Jonathan Barnes goes on to write how the Presocratics explained the world in ways that were systematic and economical, that is, these early philosophers wanted to "explain as much as possible in terms of as little as possible." Some of their key concepts were order (kosmos), nature (phusis), origins (arche) , and reason (logos). --------- These Greek words are supercharged with meaning. I used one English word for simplicity sake. How supercharged? The author does a fine job elaborating.
The words of the Presocratics have come down to us as fragments. Here are several of my favorites:
"But if cows and horses or lions had hands and drew with their hands or made the things men make, then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, cows like cows, and each would make their bodies similar in shape to their own."
"The uncomprehending, when they hear, are like the deaf. To them applies the saying: though present they are absent."
"To a wise man the whole earth is accessible; for the country of a great soul is the whole world."
"The desire for more destroys what is present - like Aesop's dog."
"One should tell the truth, not speak at length."
That said, this work, the exoteric counterpart, serves is primary purpose: appealing to the general pulic. It features an excellent collection of quotations from a variety of sources. Barnes is cautious about the validity of this sources, and admits their dubious character where necessary. His introduction gives an adequate overview of contemporary scholarship on and interpretations of presocratic thought, and its place in the history of philosophy.
The work lacks two things. First, because it is exoteric in its design, it lacks a vigorous interpretation of the texts given, beyond the short introduction. Second, its organization is often inadequate; arranged by subject in some places, and sources in other places. The reader is left to organize and interpret the information much by their own discretion. Whether this is ultimately an advantage or disadvantage, I will not here decide.