The Beginnings of Philosophy in Greece

The Beginnings of Philosophy in Greece

Maria Michela Sassi

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780691180502

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

How can we talk about the beginnings of philosophy today? How can we avoid the conventional opposition of mythology and the dawn of reason and instead explore the multiple styles of thought that emerged between them? This book, available in English for the first time, reconstructs the intellectual world of the early Greek “Presocratics” to provide a richer understanding of the roots of what used to be called “the Greek miracle.” The beginnings of the long process leading to philosophy were characterized by intellectual diversity and geographic polycentrism. In the sixth and fifth centuries BC, between the Asian shores of Ionia and the Greek city-states of southern Italy, thinkers started to reflect on the cosmic order, elaborate doctrines on the soul, write in solemn Homeric meter, or, later, abandon poetry for an assertive prose. And yet the Presocratics, whether the Milesian natural thinkers, the rhapsode Xenophanes, the mathematician and “shaman” Pythagoras, the naturalist and seer Empedocles, the oracular Heraclitus, or the inspired Parmenides, all shared an approach to critical thinking that, by questioning traditional viewpoints, revolutionized knowledge. The book explores the full range of early Greek thinkers in the context of their worlds, and it also features a new introduction to the English edition in which the author discusses the latest scholarship on the subject.