This anthology looks at the early sages of Western philosophy and science who paved the way for Plato and Aristotle and their successors. Democritus's atomic theory of matter, Zeno's dazzling "proofs" that motion is impossible, Pythagorean insights into mathematics, Heraclitus's haunting and enigmatic epigrams--all form part of a revolution in human thought that relied on reasoning, forged the first scientific vocabulary, and laid the foundations of Western philosophy. Jonathan Barnes has painstakingly brought together the surviving Presocratic fragments in their original contexts, utilizing the latest research and a major new papyrus of Empedocles.
The works collected in this volume form the true foundation of Western philosophy - the base upon which Plato and Aristotle and their successors would eventually build. Yet the importance of the Pre-Socratics thinkers lies less in their influence - great though that was - than in their astonishing intellectual ambition and imaginative reach. Zeno's dizzying 'proofs' that motion is impossible; the extraordinary atomic theories of Democritus; the haunting and enigmatic epigrams of Heraclitus; and the maxims of Alcmaeon: fragmentary as they often are, the thoughts of these philosophers seem strikingly modern in their concern to forge a truly scientific vocabulary and way of reasoning.
Jonathan Barnes is Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Geneva. He has held visiting posts at the University of Chicago, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and at the University of Texas. He was also a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. His publications include The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (1995), and The PreSocreatic Philosophers (1979).
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