The early Greek philosophers, thinkers like Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, Leucippus, are foundational for the Western intellectual tradition. The Presocratics were not atheists: they allowed the god into their brave new world, and some of them attempted to produce an improved and rationalized theology in place of the anthropomorphic divinities of the Olympian pantheon. ----------- Again, the Presocratics have kindred spirits in the science departments at modern universities. Jonathan Barnes goes on to write how the Presocratics explained the world in ways that were systematic and economical, that is, these early philosophers wanted to explain as much as possible in terms of as little as possible. --------- These Greek words are supercharged with meaning.
Quite a great introduction to the earliest strains of Greek philosophy. Often one writer positing the primacy of one of these elements over the others. Of course, the preeminence of mind (nous/logos) is often posited and discussed as well.
4. For better or worse "ousia/physis/essence" usually connoted materiality. They weren't simply sinful heretics by refusing to say that the Son was the same ousia of the Father. They understand ousia to be material, which the Father was not. Maybe there is a difference between Hebrew and Greek thought.
The only thing you can really comment on then, is translation, selection of texts, and explanatory notes, none of which I know enough about to really criticize, so I am going to assume that Jonathan Barnes did an excellent job with all of it.
For all the general goal of the early philosophers was, to tell the truth about nature: to describe, to organize, and to explain the universe and its contents with reason, logic, and observation approach which disregard their contemporary superstition of the Mythology. It is fascinating and intriguing just by reading the ancient texts of early thinkers. Nonetheless, we can assume that the early thinkers attempt to look at nature with logic and a systematic approach to form a unified theory to explain the world the desire to explain as much as possible in terms of as little as possible. Rather, we should read the text of the ancient wisdom with intriguing delights, find pleasure in contemplating their efforts to explain the nature with emphasis on rationality.
The timeline of the book starts at 585 BC when the first Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, predicted an eclipse of the sun, and ends around 400 BC when the period of Plato and Aristotle and the famous Greek philosophical schools began. In 300 pages, Barnes presents ideas of famous pre-Socratic philosophers like Thales, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Leucippus, and Democritus. The book contains English translations of all the surviving philosophical fragments of the Presocratic thinkers. The remaining pages devote one chapter for each of the 20 philosophers of the book. To me the main motivation to read the book was to become more familiar with the thinking of Leucippus and Democritus. These two philosophers, the Atomists, presented the theory of atoms which still, after 2500 years, is surprisingly valid in the science of our days. Luckily we have quotations from their writings saved by later scholars, e.g. the following famous maxims: - By convention hot, by convention cold: in reality atoms and void. - The world is change: life is opinion. Thank you for writing this excellent book, Jonathan Barnes!
The result is subject matter that is open to huge variations in interpretation and is never going to provide an easy read. There are other books if you want interpretations and commentary (including one by Barnes) - this book never sets out to provide that.
This book is an excellent reference for philosophy students and maybe classics scholars, but not so much for the general public. Decent book for introductory course on philosophy, probably very good for graduate students, bad starter for the general public.
in college I had to read guthrie's origins of greek philosophy for one of my classes.