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Greek Concept of Nature, The

Gerard Naddaf

Publication Year: 2005

In The Greek Concept of Nature, Gerard Naddaf utilizes historical, mythological, and linguistic perspectives to reconstruct the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of phusis. Usually translated as nature, phusis has been decisive both for the early history of philosophy and for its subsequent development. However, there is a considerable amount of controversy on what the earliest philosophers—Anaximander, Xenophanes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus—actually had in mind when they spoke of phusis or nature. Naddaf demonstrates that the fundamental and etymological meaning of the word refers to the whole process of birth to maturity. He argues that the use of phusis in the famous expression Peri phuseos or historia peri phuseos refers to the origin and the growth of the universe from beginning to end. Naddaf’s bold and original theory for the genesis of Greek philosophy demonstrates that archaic and mythological schemes were at the origin of the philosophical representations, but also that cosmogony, anthropogony, and politogony were never totally separated in early Greek philosophy.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

While the present volume, The Greek Concept of Nature, retains the germ that initiated the 1992 work, it is not a simple translation of the earlier volume. There has been a considerable development. This is due primarily to further reflection on the subject—albeit also with the engagement with new scholarship. This development with new ideas will be even more evident in...

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pp. 1-9

The Greek notion of phusis, usually translated as nature (from the Latin natura), has been decisive both for the early history of philosophy and for its subsequent development. In fact, it is often said that the Greeks discovered “nature.” But what did the earliest philosophers actually have in mind when they spoke of phusis? There is a formidable amount of controversy on the...

1 The Meaning of Peri Phuseos

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pp. 11-35

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2 Cosmogonic Myth as an Antecedent to Peri Phuseos Writings

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pp. 37-62

What is a “myth”? The word myth is notoriously difficult to define, and no one definition has been universally accepted.1 According to some ethnologists, a myth is a message a social group considers to have received from its ancestors and transmits orally from generation to generation (Calame-Griaule 1970, 23). But a myth is not simply a message in the form of an orally transmitted...

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3 Anaximander’s Historia Peri Phuseos

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pp. 63-112

While some scholars (e.g., McKirahan, Lloyd, Mansfeld) identify the defining characteristics of philosophy with rigorous proof and questions about the nature of inquiry itself,1 and others with the rejection of mythopoesis and the adoption of rational explanations,2 there is consensus that Western philosophy (and science) began in the Ionian city of Miletus in the sixth century...

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4 The Historia Peri Phuseos from Xenophanes to the Atomists

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pp. 113-161

In this chapter, I will attempt to show that most of the pre-Socratics not only wrote works of the Peri phuseos type, but that their respective works followed a scheme somewhat similar to Anaximander’s. This does not mean that every pre-Socratic was preoccupied with exactly the same content. For example, heroic genealogies are found in some pre-Socratics but not in others. I will...

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pp. 163-165

As I note in the introduction, the impetus behind this investigation was a detailed analysis of Book 10 of Plato’s Laws. While I believe this volume can stand on its own, it must be supplemented with a second volume to complete this investigation. The natural theology and the society premised on it that Plato presents in Laws, is a reaction to those who wrote works of the peri phuseos...


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pp. 167-219


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pp. 221-235

Index of Concepts and Proper Names

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pp. 237-250

Index of Classical Passages Cited

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pp. 251-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483671
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791463734
Print-ISBN-10: 0791463737

Page Count: 265
Illustrations: 1 table, 4 figures
Publication Year: 2005