Why this book?
The Kirk and Raven translation of the Presocratic Philosophers was one of the first anthologies in English to cover the beginnings of speculation and philosophical discourse in early Greek culture. It essentially made the thought of the Presocratics available to me and, on a broader scale, to an English-speaking audience (drawing upon the German text of Hermann Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker and later editions edited by Walther Kranz (known to scholars as `Diels-Kranz’). While Kirk & Raven has been revised and edited by others it remains for me the first `path’ into ancient Greek thought (and thereby, to ways of thinking about the beginnings of theorizing and philosophy).
In terms of substance the work explores the transition from mythic traditions (Hesiod, Pherecydes, etc.) and Homeric poetry to the Ionian thinkers (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Heraclitus), the radical monistic ontology of the Italian Schools (Pythagoras, Alcmaeon, Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus, and so on), to the Post-Parmenidean systems of Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, the Atomists, and Diogenes of Apollonia. This enabled readers to recover something of the vibrant culture and intellectual transformations of the sixth and fifth centuries in Greece and prepare for the great `revolution’ in reflection and self-reflection inaugurated by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
Beginning with a long and extensively rewritten introduction surveying the predecessors of the Presocratics, this book traces the intellectual revolution initiated by Thales in the sixth century BC to its culmination in the metaphysics of Parmenides and the complex physical theories of Anaxagoras and the Atomists in the fifth century it is based on a selection of some six hundred texts, in Greek and a close English translation which in this edition is given more prominence. These provide the basis for a detailed critical study of the principal individual thinkers of the time. Besides serving as an essential text for…