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Early Greek Philosophy

Joe McCoy

Publication Year: 2012

The philosophy of the Presocratics still governs scholarly discussion today. This important volume grapples with a host of philosophical issues and philological and historical problems inherent in interpreting Presocratic philosophers.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Series: Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, In Memoriam

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xxxv

This volume arose from a lecture series, “Early Greek Philosophy: Reason at the Beginning of Philosophy,” hosted at the Catholic University of America during the fall of 2007, and it represents a series of reflections on the “Presocratics,” a group of thinkers who were a primary occasion for the emergence of what is often referred to as the “Greek miracle.” We can date this naissance of culture and multifaceted flowering of the arts ...

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1. The Achievement of Early Greek Philosophy: A Drama in Five Acts: From Thales to the Timaeus

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pp. 1-17

I want to survey with you the achievement of early Greek philosophy in the period from Thales to the Timaeus. I am old fashioned enough to believe that this was a unique and momentous event, the like of which has never happened elsewhere, before or since. The event in question is nothing less than the creation of Western science and philosophy as we know them. The closest parallel, perhaps, is the creation of modern science ...

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2. Anaximander’s apeiron and the Arrangement of Time

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pp. 18-35

For Anaximander, the first philosopher of the West, there is extant only one passage in his own words.1 It is a precious legacy, the oldest piece of Greek prose.2 We turn to it immediately to set up the problem that preoccupies this essay. ...

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3. The Problem of Evil in Heraclitus

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pp. 36-54

The frequent quotation of Heraclitus by later philosophers resulted in an unusually large number of surviving fragments, but the fragments are brief—even the longest is only three sentences, while in some cases the later writers quoted only a single word. According to the Diels-Kranz edition about 120 fragments survive, but they add up to only about 1,000 words. ...

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4. Reason and Myth in Early Pythagorean Cosmology

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pp. 55-76

Scholarship on the emergence of rationality in early Greek thought has focused on two main topics. First, there is the movement from the explanation of the natural world in terms of persons, i.e., gods, to explanation in terms of impersonal natural materials, i.e., elements such as water and air. ...

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5. A Systematic Xenophanes?

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pp. 77-90

To what degree was Xenophanes of Colophon a systematic thinker? That is, to what degree were the different aspects of his philosophy interconnected? In what follows I argue that Xenophanes achieved a unified understanding on three broad fronts—on the physical makeup of the cosmos, the nature of the divine, and the prospects for human knowledge—and that, in at least some respects, his findings in one area linked up with ...

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6. Parmenides, Early Greek Astronomy, and Modern Scientific Realism

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pp. 91-112

“Doxa,” the second part of Parmenides’s metaphysical and cosmological poem, is expressly disparaged by Parmenides himself as “off-track,” “deceptive,” and “lacking genuine credence.” Nonetheless, there is good evidence that “Doxa” included some astronomical breakthroughs. The study presented here dwells on fragments B10, B14, and B15 from the ...

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7. Where Are Love and Strife? Incorporeality in Empedocles

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pp. 113-138

Empedocles insists that the forces of Love and Strife are necessary for the mixtures and separations that produce the visible cosmos (B17; esp. lines 19–20); he also seems to give them distinct and different spatial locations in the different stages of the cycles between their triumphs (B35, B36). If we analyze the local mixtures that constitute sensible things, we will find various ratios of earth, water, air, and fire (B73, B98), but Love (and, apparently ...

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8. Anaxagoras: Science and Speculation in the Golden Age

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pp. 139-156

On February 17, 478 B.C., shortly before noon, the sky in Athens began to grow dark. The winter sun became dim and its bright disk narrowed to a crescent. Suddenly it went completely dark, except for a narrow ring of fire at the circumference. ...

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9. Bacon’s Third Sailing: The “Presocratic” Origins of Modern Philosophy

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pp. 157-188

Notwithstanding his legendary interpretations of Aristotle and his protracted engagement with Plato, Heidegger was not in any obvious sense of the word a dialectical thinker. His philosophizing does not typically proceed, zigzag fashion, in an ascent from and descent back to that which Socrates and his successors regarded as first for us, philosophers ...

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10. Primal Truth, Errant Tradition, and Crisis: The Presocratics in Late Modernity

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pp. 189-208

The thought on the Greeks in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger has been the inspiration for much original and penetrating philosophic scholarship in the twentieth century. Assuming that Heidegger is the foremost re-thinker of Nietzsche’s legacy (an assumption that needs to be tested), Nietzsche’s writing and Heidegger’s teaching and writing began a movement that now includes numbers too great to ...


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pp. 209-219


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pp. 221-223

Index of Sources

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pp. 225-228

Index of Names

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pp. 229-232

Index of Subjects

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pp. 233-237

Production Notes

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p. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780813221229
E-ISBN-10: 0813221226
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813221212
Print-ISBN-10: 0813221218

Page Count: 277
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy