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Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (Oxford Scholarly Classics) 1st Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198142898
ISBN-10: 0198142897
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

M.L. West is Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198142897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198142898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,337,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Nicolas E. Leon Ruiz on July 4, 2008
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A brilliant and lucidly argued case for the influence of Asian thought and religion on Greek philosophy. Written in 1971, this book prepared the ground for subsequent studies of the relationships between ancient Greece and her neighbors.

West's skill and sensitivity as a translator and interpreter is impressive, his command of such a variety of ancient languages and texts just plain intimidating. But he writes clearly and makes his points in a way accessible to students and non-specialists (though there is a fair amount of untranslated Greek, as was the custom a few decades ago).

Anyone interested in Presocratic philosophy needs to read this book--and not just for West's arguments for eastern influence, but also for his valuable and intelligent commentary on the texts themselves. West's study will also be of great interest to students of ancient cultural exchange and the history of ideas and religion.

It seems odd to me that some find fault with this book for the spirit and execution of its daring and groundbreaking explorations. West is anything but pedantic and anything but careless. Indeed, he is a fine example of that rarest of birds: the masterful scholar who is also a creative thinker.

His book was written at a time when many in academe still held to a fiction of ancient Greece as a self-created world sealed off from "foreign" influences. Perhaps a final relic of the colonial mentality, who knows, but something that had to be demolished. West's book was badly needed--a breath of fresh air and a foundation for much important work in the years to come. Its staying power is testament to the quality of his work. The fact that it's still an exciting and powerful read is testament to his genius. To paraphrase Heraclitus: One scholar is worth ten thousand to me, if he's the best.
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The book is put together most wonderfully using ample references to original text. The idea is not a new one. Greek philosphy derived many if not most of its early ideas from what are today loosely grouped together as Zoroastrian philosophies. Anyone familiar with both systems of philosophy would appreciate the depth of insight and the thoroughness of it references (mostly in Greek). I recomend this to all serious history and philosophy buffs.
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Anyone reading Hesiod and encountering Typhon should automatically recognise who, or rather what, Typhon is: the volcano at Thera which erupted in the 17th century BC. M. L. West fails to understand the history behind the tale. He has no understanding that the Hurrian tales which tell the same story, but with differing interpretations of the phenomena, were not the source of Greek myths, but independent observations of the same phenomena which both Greeks and Hurrians made, and what was assumed by both to be divine forces battling over the control of the underworld and the heavens. Additionally, the Hittites had their own take on this event, which was accompanied with a series of "missing god" myths intended on insuring the fertility of their crops which had failed as a consequence of the post-eruption volcanic winter. That these tales travelled, via the Mittani to India, & Typhon came to be Vritra should be what West should have pursued. Ideas travelled from the Aegean to India, and not, as West claims, from east to west.

(The best exposition on the interpretation of mythological tales can be found in de Santillana's and von Dechend's Hamlet's Mill Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth; along with William Sullivan's The Secret of the Incas The Secret of the Incas: Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time in which Sullivan applies von Dechend's and de Sanitllana's approach to mythologies with stunning results.
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