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The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists (Oxford World's Classics)

The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists (Oxford World's Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Robin Waterfield
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

These first philosophers paved the way for the work of Plato and Aristotle - and hence for the whole of Western thought. This is a unique and invaluable collection of the works of the Presocratics and the Sophists. Waterfield brings together the works of these early thinkers with brilliant new translation and exceptional commentary. This is the ideal anthology for the student of this increasingly appreciated field of classical philosophy. - ;The first philosophers paved the way for the work of Plato and Aristotle - and hence for the whole of Western thought.

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 Parmenides and Empedocles, and Zeno's paradoxes, the Western world was introduced to metaphysics, rationalist theology,
ethics, and logic, by thinkers who often seem to be mystics or shamans as much as philosophers or scientists in the modern mould. And out of the Sophists' reflections on human beings and their place in the world arose and interest in language, and in political, moral, and social philosophy.

This volume contains a translation of all the most important fragments of the Presocratics and Sophists, and of the most informative testimonia from ancient sources, supplemented by lucid commentary. -

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2165 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, UK (7 Sep 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0064A4VUA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #110,998 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated Greece 19 July 2010
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Robin Waterfield has a well earned reputation as an authority on ancient Greece and this discussion of the Presocratic philosophers and the Sophists reinforces that view. Primary sources are limited but Waterfield avoided the temptation to rely on secondary commentaries and has translated many of the actual fragmants and ancient testimona in order to allow the philosophers to speak for themselves. In addition, he makes the point that as there is little consensus on what the ancient philosophers meant readers should think for themselves.

The Presocratic philosophers are so called because they lived before Socrates, although the last of them was his contemporary. The initial period of Presocratic philosophy is from 580 - 430 BC. The Presocratics are considered together but do not, as a whole, form a specific school of thought although Parmenides of Elea did have followers. What we know of them is what was recorded by later writers, known as doxographers. We also know that those records reflect the philosophies of the writers themselves. Hence Aristole, using his four causes analysis, suggests Thales believed everything was made out of water, a suggestion from which Waterfield dissents. Similarly Plato in defending Socrates' memory disparages the Sophists. As Plato is the main source of information about the Sophists the need for critical appraisal is imperative.

The Presocratics were not scientists in the modern sense of the word. They did not carry out experiments to prove theories and where observation and theories clashed they tended to prefer theory. The Presocratics retained a strong degree of mystical thought. At the time of Homer the primary attribute of religion was anthropomorphism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible 30 May 2014
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Robin Waterfield whom introduces, narrates and translates the Greek Works has done an amazing job with this book. The Introduction introduces the many perspectives there have been concerning the Presocratics and the Sophists, steering clear of any distinct Dogmatism, he proposes a beautiful relevance of these early Philosophers and how their movement is not so detached in principle from all philosophical or intellectual endeavor.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By sanyata
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read this book all the way through waterfield is very good in his selections and introductions, and open-eneded in his presentation. this book will give you a good overview of the presocratis and sophist, and you can proceed froom there
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. 17 Mar 2013
By Maddy
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This book is a very nice easy lovely read. This book is also very good for those studying at university.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good for the budding scholar or the merely curious alike 18 Nov 2009
By noeton - Published on
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There are few widely-available compendiums to choose from of the Pre-Socratics that include the Sophists, who are crucial for understanding Plato. Penguin has another that's not bad. This one is slightly better and more complete, hence if you want one and only one this is the way to go. Together they are complementary but in many ways redundant unless you want to compare translations.

This book provides a plethora of the available fragments from all the important figures of the age, though it is not entirely exhaustive. Together with fine standard view introductions which ably assist the reader in navigating these complex and diverse materials, one effectively cannot go wrong in purchasing this useful, tidy, and cheap but sturdy little book (in this way its a good example of the Oxford World Classics series, and again, on this front they have the edge on Penguin, who seems to prefer to save a buck in printing costs).

To get more of this material one must to go to the expensive dual-language Loeb series' and/or an Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, as well as many other secondaries. For a single, solid starting place, W.K.C. Guthrie's large, pricey, multi-volume history of Ancient Greek Philosophy is quite good and certainly the standard in handy reference works concerning this period - especially volumes I-III (III is mostly available now in the form of two books, simply called "Socrates" and "The Sophists".) His Plato books are fairly good, but mostly as starting points and reference guides to the dialogues, and the Aristotle volume is honestly not worth the money unless you can don't mind springing for a decent general, though not strictly light, intro or are consummately scouring secondary source material).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General Overview of Presocratics and Sophists 29 April 2014
By Brian Murphy - Published on
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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 definite ones. In fact, Waterfield mentions that scholars don't often agree on what a given philosopher's view was. That being said I think this book is useful to read to get an idea of the history of philosophy and the general environment that existed at the time and give rise to people like Plato and Aristotle.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite introductory collection on the "presocratics" 8 Jan 2014
By Michael Pakaluk - Published on
I like this book very much and assign it in my introductory classes on ancient philosophy. Waterfield translations are very congenial, and accurate. His commentary is sensible, with just the right amount of detail for an introduction. The focus is on the fragments and reports of what those early philosophers said, rather than the commentary.

I regard this volume as similar in spirit and approach to Barnes' wonderful little book, but better because it has less of a "view" to put forward. Barnes is a very strong intellect, of course, and he cannot but take strong positions. Some people like that, of course: I'd rather take the strong positions myself, in lectures. ;-)

I find McKirahan's translations and commentary both a bit clumsy, in the Hackett alternative. His commentary is too intrusive, too: the "presocratics" have not enough chance to speak for themselves.

Yes, of course, everyone should be directed to Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, but their minimalism and "postivism", separating sharply sparse evidence from theory, will hardly attract anyone to the "presocratics." If that is your only book, you can hardly see why those early philosophers are so important. I studied only Kirk and Raven at first, and it wasn't until many years later, when I read Popper on the "presocratics," that I understood -- "ah, now I see!"
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good review of the Presocratics 23 Jan 2013
By Steven R Rider - Published on
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This work is very comprehensive but as with many works on this era, it is difficult to really know what the Presocratics thought because so much of their philosophy is reported by subsequent authors. This is particularly problematic for me because the reports by Plato on the Sophists is tainted by his disdain of this group. This leaves one with a bit of a distorted view of them. The author has done a good job of summarizing the thinking of each philosopher though, and I would recommend the book for those interested in the Presocratics.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HARD TO READ BUT WORTH THE EFFORT 27 Nov 2013
By Alffie - Published on
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Hard to read because of small print. Format is confusing at first because of much bibliography, references, foot notes, codes, explanations, etc. But once you get accustomed to the "clutter" the book will give you excellent insight into the thinking process of these pioneers of philosophy and how they influenced subsequent generations of thinkers. This is a good book for those who have basic knowledge of the first philosophers and want to penetrate deeper layers of understanding of their thoughts.
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