Precursors 2. Thales 3. Anaximander 4. Anaximenes 5. Pythagoras 6. Alcmaeon 7. Xenophanes 8. Heraclitus Part II 9. Parmenides Melissus Zeno Part III Empedocles Fifth-century Pythagoreanism Hippasus Philolaus Ion of Chios Hippo Anaxagoras Archelaus Leucippus Democritus Join Reader Rewards and earn your way to a free book! The texts were in ancient Greek, and using a style and references that will be difficult to understand even with the best translator. The result is subject Here is the situation - there were a whole lot of pre-socratic philosophers and we only have fragments of their writings.
The result is subject matter that is open to huge variations in interpretation and is never going to provide an easy read. This is not a book for the feint hearted, but given the contents I don't see how it can ever be a straightforward read without simplifying the material to the point at which it ceases to reflect the original thinkers' intentions.
There are some gems here, but there is also a lot which is simply impenetrable. Barnes makes a very valiant attempt to present the material. There are other books if you want interpretations and commentary including one by Barnes - this book never sets out to provide that. It is primarily a reference source and as such, it is actually pretty good. What difficulties there are, are largely a result of the original materials. I read this book in a class on Early Greek Philosophy, and this book was hard to digest at the time. This book is an excellent reference for philosophy students and maybe classics scholars, but not so much for the general public.
This book is focused on the Pre-Socratics philosophers before Socrates and therefore does not contain anything by Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. However, I think they added in some Greek philosophers that came after Socrates but were outside his teaching and influence. Barnes has done his work compiling and editing and translating?
He takes care to show his work, noting every questionable, contested, missing, or reconstructed piece of the text. Commendable for scholarly work; tedious for the general public. There's always a trade off in deciding what to preserve and what to gloss over, and Barnes takes preservation to the extreme. Decent book for introductory course on philosophy, probably very good for graduate students, bad starter for the general public.
For an introduction to Western Philosophy, try Sophie's World. Jun 20, David Sarkies rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy. If you want something that explains their philosophies in simple English, the best book that I have read is The Dream of Reason. I should also point out that the philosophers that we are dealing with are known as the Pre-Socratics, namely because they were the ones who originally developed Greek philosophy even though some of them were contemporaries of Socrates.
These were the people whom Socrates was familiar with and would have used to develop the philosophies through whom Plato has since made him famous. There is one huge problem though — none of them are extant. Basically we do not have a single book written by any of them — not one. No, when we talk about fragments, we are basically talking about quotes that later philosophers have used, and that we have managed to glean these from other works.
Hell, that is even if they tell us who actually said it, if the writer of Hebrews is anything to go by: someone, somewhere said … So, what this book happens to be is a collection of supposed sayings recorded by latter writers about the philosophies of the early Greeks. Their writings though can be divided into two areas — natural philosophy and moral philosophy.
These days philosophy is sort of moral philosophy, but not quite because we also question the nature of existence and all that. In a way it does make me wonder how the church could have distinguished these philosophers, though of course we have Hippolytus who wrote a book called The Refutation of All Heresies in which he basically seeks to destroy every single one of the pagan philosophers, despite the fact that many of them had rejected the idea that thunderstorms come about because Zeus is angry, or that Poseidon stirs up the seas because the sailors forgot to offer him sacrifices before the voyage.
The idea is that if you wish to move to a point in space, to get there you need to move half that distance, and half that distance again, and again, and mathematically speaking, because you are forever reducing your distance by half, then you will never get there. The other interesting ideas that seem to have come down is the concept that matter is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes form — this is something that we were taught in high school physics, and was something that has been explored by the Greeks way back then.
Yeah, this is not a simply book to read, simply because it is basically a collection of fragments as they appear in the works of other authors, through which we attempt to glean what these philosophers were exploring, and the ideas that they had come out with that in many cases have shaped the modern world, with Parmenides, Democritus, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras being the most important. Oct 07, lavinia added it Shelves: philosophy.
Jun 10, David Withun rated it really liked it Shelves: philosophy. Barnes, the editor and translator, offers an insightful and engaging introduction as well as commentary though, I should note, this is limited enough not to be distracting throughout the book. It is what it promised to be: an assemblage of the surviving fragments from the writings of the Presocratic Greek philosophers, filled with wit, wisdom, and more than a little quackery.
Jun 13, Theresa Leone Davidson rated it really liked it. Barnes, a British professor of ancient philosophy, writes about the pre-Socratics, men like Democritus, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, and Parmenides, who led the way to ideas of philosophy espoused by more famous names, like Socrates. Reading this in a class, with a professor like Barnes, or a professor of ancient Greece, would have been helpful, as I was left with many unanswered questions.
Nevertheless, for anyone interested in philosophy, I would recommend. Sep 21, Leslie Williamson rated it really liked it Shelves: philosophy. I believe book was my introduction to early Greek Philosophy - the first text book I read in my first year Philosophy. Before the Storm This little book is a gem for anyone looking to see what took place before the storm of what is now known as philosophy. The book features the Presocratics, namely philosophers who did philosophy prior to Socrates actually, some did philosophy at the same time, but why spoil such a nice title?
A total of 21 philosophers are mentioned in this book, as well as a chapter on 5th century Pythagoreanism. As the majority of them left no writings behind, or the writings that they left Before the Storm This little book is a gem for anyone looking to see what took place before the storm of what is now known as philosophy. As the majority of them left no writings behind, or the writings that they left got lost in the sands of time, modern scholarship rests upon a plethora of different sources that talk about said philosophers.
The works collected in this volume form the true foundation of Western philosophy—the base upon which Plato and Aristotle and their successors would . Early Greek Philosophy book. Read 46 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. This anthology presents the early sages of Western philosoph.
The presocratics where not good philosophers. However, they where the first to employ reason for their arguments. In other words, they gave reasons for why they believed x, y or z, and did not simply assert it dogmatically.
This is their greatest contribution, namely the transition from dogmatism into rational thought. My favourite presocratics have to be Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus with his notion that everything is in flux, and Parmenides who delved into the notion of concepts and what can be made sense of in his famous poem. A necessary, and also quick read, for anyone interested in the prequel to what is know philosophy.
Really great read and introduction to the Pre-Socratic philosophers. I wouldn't describe this book as a pleasure read. It takes some work to get through as it's laying the foundation for Western philosophy. I supplemented my readings of various chapters on the key philosophers with online lectures and podcasts. That enabled me to have a rough idea of what was to come in the book, and made it interesting when the author's translation of a particular phrase differed from the podcast. The key here Really great read and introduction to the Pre-Socratic philosophers.
The key here to this book is Barnes' thorough explanation of how we know what we know of each of these philosophers. None of their actual texts survive, and we only know of their writings from snippets from other ancient philosophers who had access to their original texts. I found all that side info to almost be as fascinating as the actual philosophical fragments. Jan 18, John rated it liked it Shelves: the-philosophies. Empedocles' theory of four basic "stuffs" being effected by Love and Strife was interesting and the most enjoyable to read for me.
Diogenes' moral maxims were also interesting and occasionally funny, especially his comments on why not to have children, one of which is "if you produce a child yourself there are many dangers - for you must make do with the one you get. I do wish there was more commentary on the philosophers' writing fragments. And honestly the introduction was quite interesting, especially when Barnes explains the difficulties in translating and trying to determine a philosopher's intent from a ten word fragment writing thousands of years ago.
Jul 24, orvi das rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy. One hell of book to learn about how early thinkers like Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, Leu introduce logical thinking in our system. There's no original writing about them. The only source we find about how geek philosophers approach their idea and their name in the book. If you are interest about early philosophy it will definitely help you growth. Aug 10, River Lewis rated it really liked it.
But in fact the latter is not a genuine possibility— for you cannot think of, and hence cannot inquire into, the non-existent. So every subject of inquiry must exist. Jul 23, Benjamin Carsley rated it liked it. Parmenides had less of his actual work than I would have liked, and almost nothing from the Platonic dialogue itself. Oct 22, Lily rated it really liked it Shelves: school. Read this for my ancient phil class and it did not disappoint. The pre-socratics were icons.
May 16, Joel Everett rated it it was amazing. Excellent anthology of translated fragments, passages, and references to the Pre-Socratic philosophers. May 20, Alireza Behzadnia rated it really liked it. This is perhaps the most remarkable and annoying aspect of this book: the cover is the sculpture of Zeno of Citium, yet the only Zeno discussed is the Zeno of Elea! They covered a vast number of subjects under the term philosophy, gave birth to formal e This is perhaps the most remarkable and annoying aspect of this book: the cover is the sculpture of Zeno of Citium, yet the only Zeno discussed is the Zeno of Elea!
They covered a vast number of subjects under the term philosophy, gave birth to formal education and politics and often times they were prosecuted to death because the public deemed them impious. Sadly, that aspect of their lives too remains true today. This is a great collection of primary experts found in books by other philosophers as majority of their works are destroyed. Fortunately or unfortunately, thats about it. Barnes doesn't provide much context to the excerpts but the huge collection of every major school of thought Milesian, Eleatic, Atomists etc makes it worth reading.
Barnes has another book titled "pre-socratic philosophers" that focuses on the philosophy particularly, instead of the philosopher as it is in this book. The chapters on the atomists and milesians were by far my favourites. I was disappointed to see many names left out, especially the sophists.
That said, you can't depend on this book alone and you would need to compliment it with some other text to give you a better picture of the early days of philosophy in greeks. Apr 23, Rajas Pargaonkar rated it it was amazing. Simply indispensable. In this book, lay all the extant fragments of the Pre-Socratics not literally every copy since there were sometimes multiple manuscripts with roughly the same quotes.
Jonathan Barnes' commentary at the beginning of this book is absolutely incredible. He takes us through the history of the Pre-Socratics, their historical milieu, issues in textual criticism, and then guides us intermittently throughout the rest of the book. The content itself runs the gamut from thoughtful, Simply indispensable. The content itself runs the gamut from thoughtful, to nonsensical Zeno's proof of the impossibility of motion , the fascinating, the beautiful, and the downright incomprehensible.
It's a shame we don't have more of these works, but given the revolution to come in Plato and Aristotle, we should be more grateful we didn't lose the works of those two irreplaceable thinkers. A mandatory reference as well as a peek into an era where science and philosophy were still straining to express themselves. The wise men of their time knew they didn't know, but they didn't quite have a way of expressing their questions of answers with nearly the sophistication of their later Greek comrades.
Still, if you are interested in the history of the development of rational thought, this volume is mandatory. Aug 17, Frank rated it it was ok Shelves: philosophy , classic , non-fiction. This book records nothing less than the first known attempts at a naturalistic accounts of the universe. In some of the later philosophers reviewed here, especially Democritus, we also encounter a broadening of interests along the lines associated with Aristotle.
Two impressions from J Barnes book: 1 Very little original material is available. Mostly we are dealing with commentary and summaries written years later. There is plenty of reason to suspect the representativity and accuracy o This book records nothing less than the first known attempts at a naturalistic accounts of the universe. There is plenty of reason to suspect the representativity and accuracy of many commentaries.
Where original texts do exist, they are fragmentary, possibly corrupted and out of keeping with modern standards for lucid description. The worst case is Empedocles.
Parmenides was a pivotal figure in Presocratic thought, and one of the most influential of the Presocratics in determining the course of Western philosophy. Platonic thought was the dominant philosophical force in the time period following Hellenistic thought proper. Alleged Oriental origin of philosophy. Matter is the potential to take shape through form. The argument runs roughly as follows. This trio consists of what used to be called 'Orphic' eschatology. This argument rests upon a theory of the relationship of opposites.
For all his wisdom, he was a conceited windbag and confused the issues by writing in verse. So when he refers to the anthropomorphised forces of nature, we can't know to what extent he was using metaphor. Often, seemingly familiar concepts turn out to be false friends, and care is needed to have a chance at grasping their sense. Against this background, much is cryptic, but, also, occasionally exhilarating.
We are witnessing the birth of the western mind. Aug 10, Willa rated it it was amazing. This is, amazingly, a page turner. Barnes manages to give access to the awakening of the Western intellect 2.
It is easy to read the book from cover to cover, and it is equally easy to skip the parts that don't attract you as much - without losing the plot. Most of all, Barnes conveys his own passion for how the Western mind awakened from its slumber, and how all these great philosophers were woefully primitive in one way, and amazingly sophisticated in another way - they actually This is, amazingly, a page turner. Most of all, Barnes conveys his own passion for how the Western mind awakened from its slumber, and how all these great philosophers were woefully primitive in one way, and amazingly sophisticated in another way - they actually were the first ones to start to wonder, ponder and claim bright ideas, opening the gates to what we now take for granted.
This book fills you with awe at how far we've come in the mean time - and also the amazing fact that for whatever reason, human beings had a collective, irresistible intellectual awakening around 2. Not giving this book a rating, because by what standards could I rate such a thing? The pre-Socratic worldview is just so out there, weirder than any religion, weirder than Scientology. When I say that, I am marveling, not dismissing. To wit, Democritus: "Flavours are sharp if their shapes [i.
For because of their asperity they quickly pass through everywhere, and being rough and angular they gather and hold things together. T Not giving this book a rating, because by what standards could I rate such a thing? That is why they heat the body, by making emptinesses in it--for what is most empty is most easily heated. This book is full of this sort of thing. I read this volume loooong ago, when I was a Philosophy undergrad.
I don't think I fully appreciated the strangeness then. Can't speak much to the ideas presented here; much of them seemed very mystical, nonsensical, or made egregious assumptions and went from there. But then again, these guys were working with very, very little although probably not nothing , and it's nonetheless interesting to see some of these guys explore territory that will come up later, sometimes much later, in more systematic thinkers' works. The presentation I can speak to: it is first and foremost minimal and nonintrusive.
Aside from a bri Can't speak much to the ideas presented here; much of them seemed very mystical, nonsensical, or made egregious assumptions and went from there. Aside from a brief intro and synopsis, Barnes largely lets the philosophers speak for themselves, as best they can. This is both good and bad. There is a very transparent editorial hand here, assigning order to fragments but giving little specific background, which yields a somewhat tedious experience for a very lay layman like myself. Jul 21, Bob Nichols rated it liked it. Western philosophy often appears to be dominated by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Preceding these thinkers are the "Presocratics" whose writings come to us more or less in fragments that preview the primary themes that Plato and Aristotle later systematized in their philosophy: change-stasis, oneness-many, form-matter, mind-passions, appearance-reality. Giants as they were, perhaps Socrates, Plato and Aristotle themselves stood on the shoulders of giants.
This book provides a good overview of e Western philosophy often appears to be dominated by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. This book provides a good overview of earliest Greek philosophy that dug into the ultimate questions about the nature of reality. Given the similarities of the key themes, it is interesting to speculate how much of the early Greek thought was influenced by - or influenced - Indian thought as expressed in the Upanishads BCE.
Sep 15, Satoru Inoue rated it liked it. Best part was the intro, where the major themes in early Greek philosophy like kosmos, phusis are explained. The main part of the book mostly consists of surviving excerpts from Greek philosophers before Socrates. It's very disjointed, but you probably can't do much better because of how little we have remaining of what these people actually wrote. So it might be a good reference there's probably better , and the intro is worth reading.
What I got from the rest of the book was mostly some rand Best part was the intro, where the major themes in early Greek philosophy like kosmos, phusis are explained. What I got from the rest of the book was mostly some random quotes, which isn't nothing. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Readers also enjoyed. About Jonathan Barnes. Jonathan Barnes. Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See also Jonathan Barnes or Jonathan Barnes.
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