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The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  197 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Aristotle said that philosophy begins with wonder, and the first Western philosophers developed theories of the world which express simultaneously their sense of wonder and their intuition that the world should be comprehensible. But their enterprise was by no means limited to this proto-scientific task. Through, for instance, Heraclitus' enigmatic sayings, the poetry of P ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 30th 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 7th 2000)
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Aug 17, 2015 Laertes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty damn good. Protagoras, Anaxagoras, Thrasymachus, Empedocles, amongst others, were my favourites. Took a while to read due to work, but in hindsight it allowed me to focus on a 'philosopher-a-day(-ish)' which is far more effective than trying to cram in many contrasting views at once. Next up I'll be reading some essays on the big Playdo before I tackle him; Starting with the Greeks is some crazy stuff.
Mark Rossiter
Sep 19, 2013 Mark Rossiter rated it really liked it
This anthology, edited by the Greek scholar Robin Waterfield, consists of a series of extracts, with commentary, from the work of a number of Greek thinkers who lived in the couple of centuries before the first megastar of western philosophy, Socrates – hence the name by which they are known to us: Presocratics. Well, “a series of extracts” is pushing it, since not many of them wrote anything down, so the way we know what they thought is largely through secondhand (and no doubt distorted) accoun ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Ted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grown-up-books
This is the second time I've read most of these philosophers. The first was back in college, when I first started reading philosophy. So reading this was very much like returning to an old friend. And as anyone will tell you, reconnecting with an old friend after years of being apart, I learned new things and understood old ideas in a completely new way.

There is something strangely pure about the curious and conjecturing mind before Aristotle's advent of the scientific method. Cl
Sep 27, 2012 Jesse rated it it was amazing
The Pre-Socratics, while they may be ultimately vain to study due to the indeterminate nature of the extant texts, are at least no less interesting than the mass of indeterminate philosophers who have arisen in the past two centuries (i.e. those who make indeterminacy their goal!); in fact, they have the advantage on these latter, insofar as many were at least attempting to provide a conceptual, or non-contradictory, philosophical account of things. All of them to a greater or lesser extent grou ...more
Tom O'Shaughnessy
Jan 12, 2016 Tom O'Shaughnessy rated it it was amazing
As an amateur of philosophy, this seems like a good introduction. If you can look past their cosmology, it will challenge you to correct their errors. Zeno's paradox is explained and corrected by Aristotle, if you are interested in math. Putting yourself in the place of the interlocutors of the sophist dialogues will strengthen your ability to argue. Your opinions regarding metaphysics will begin to be developed. Most importantly, this text gives you a foundation for philosophy.
Dec 05, 2014 Murph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was helpful in getting a general idea of who the presocratic and sophist philosophers were. The are a lot of source texts available so most of the book is Waterfield summarizing the views of the main people that we have some fragments and testimonials of. At this point philosophy wasn't really a systematic field of study, so most of what you learn from this is historical views on the different philosophers, you don't really learn much about their specific positions, if they even had de ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Danny rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful and authoritative collection of pre-Socratic philosophical thought. Only a few fragments and testimonia survive, so that even an extremely well-organized and clearly introduced edition like this is still very difficult to make sense of. Many of the accounts are vague and conflicting; fragments are often obscure and tricky to decipher. Despite all the textual difficulties, this is required reading for all students of philosophy and the history of science.
Joshua Mark
Dec 05, 2012 Joshua Mark rated it it was amazing
Robin Waterfield is one of the best history writers I've read. His prose is very engaging and he presents history as a story with very clear narrative form. This book presents the Pre-Socratic philosophers, their lives and ideas, very comprehensively but seemingly effortlessly. The Sophists, such as Protagoras and Gorgias, are also included. Although I know all about these guys and they've been friends of mine for over 25 years now, Waterfield brings new life and new insights to all of them. Hig ...more
Jun 09, 2013 Rosie rated it liked it
This book is a good place to start for anyone who wants to read classic age Greek philosophy (though why you'd want to - indeed, why I want to - is beyond me!). It's not a massively riveting subject but as a bedtime read this book serves a purpose as I could only manage a few pages at a time before falling asleep. Having said that, I did find parts of it interesting to see how close some of these ancient thinkers got to what is largely accepted scientific theory today.
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  • Lettera sulla felicità
  • The Basic Works of Aristotle
  • Outlines of Scepticism
  • Early Greek Philosophy
  • Early Socratic Dialogues
  • Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous
  • Theophrastus: Characters
  • The Greeks and the Irrational
  • Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs
  • The Encyclopaedia Logic: The Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences 1 with the Zusatze
  • Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction
  • Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Vol 1, Books 1-5
  • Idylls
  • Pensées and Other Writings
  • 7 Greeks
  • Preface to Plato
  • Guide to Greece: Central Greece (Guide to Greece, #1)
  • Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)
Robin Anthony Herschel Waterfield was born in 1952 and studied Classics at the University of Manchester, specialising in ancient Greek Philosophy. He lectured at Newcastle University and St Andrews before joining Penguin books as an editor. Currently he is a self-employed author whose output includes books on the ancient world as well as Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks.
More about Robin A.H. Waterfield...

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