Pre-Socratic philosophy

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The Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers were active before Socrates. The popular usage of the term come from Hermann Diels' work Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (The Fragments of the Pre-Socratics, 1903).[1]

Most of what we know about the pre-Socractic philosophers come from quotations by later philosophers and historians. While most of them produced significant texts, none of the texts have survived in complete form.

The standard reference works in English are:

  • Gompertz, Theodor 1901. The Greek thinkers: a history of ancient philosophy. Volume 1: the beginnings. London: Murray.
  • Guthrie W.K. 1962. A history of Greek philosophy. Volume 1: The earlier presocratics and the Pythagoreans. Cambridge University Press.

The fundamental idea which motivated most of the presocratics (as they are called) is naturalism. This is the idea that questions about life and the world can be answered without using myths, and that "the natural world is the whole of reality".[2]

With the Greeks we see rational thought and scientific reasoning emerge from the mists and myths of a pre-scientific age, not suddenly, but slowly and gradually.[3]

List of philosophers and schools[change | edit source]

Thales (624–546 BC)
Anaximander (610–546 BC)
Anaximenes of Miletus (585–525 BC)
Pythagoras (582–496 BC)
Philolaus (470–380 BC)
Alcmaeon of Croton
Archytas (428–347 BC)
Xenophanes (570–470 BC)
Parmenides (510–440 BC)
Zeno of Elea (490–430 BC)
Melissus of Samos (C.470 BC–unknown)
Empedocles (490–430 BC)
Anaxagoras (500–428 BC)
Leucippus (5th century BC, dates unknown)
Democritus (460–370 BC)
Protagoras (481–420 BC)
Gorgias (483–375 BC)
Thrasymachus
Callicles
Critias
Prodicus (465–390 BC)
Hippias (485–415 BC)
Antiphon (person) (480–411 BC)
Lycophron
Anonymous Iamblichi

Other groupings[change | edit source]

Solon (c. 594 BC)
Chilon of Sparta (c. 560 BC)
Thales (c. 585 BC)
Bias of Priene (c. 570 BC)
Cleobulus of Rhodes (c. 600 BC)
Pittacus of Mitylene (c. 600 BC)
Periander (625–585 BC)

References[change | edit source]

  1. The term "Pre-Sokratic", however, had been in use as early as George Grote's Plato and the other companions of Sokrates (1865).
  2. Jenkins I. 1942, in Runes D.D. The dictionary of philosophy. New York:Philosophical Library, p205.
  3. Guthrie W.K. 1962. A history of Greek philosophy. Volume 1: The earlier presocratics and the Pythagoreans. Cambridge University Press, p1.