Top positive review
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Valiant attempt to present difficult materials
on 16 December 2010
Here is the situation - there were a whole lot of pre-socratic philosophers and we only have fragments of their writings. In some cases, we don't have any of the originals, only people commenting on the originals or even people commmenting on others' comments on the originals - and many of those commentaries are a couple of thousand years old. The texts were in ancient greek, and using a style and references that will be difficult to understand even with the best translator. The result is subject matter that is open to huge variations in interpretation and is never going to provide an easy read. This is not a book for the feint hearted, but given the contents I don't see how it can ever be a straightforward read without simplyfying the material to the point at which it ceases to reflect the orginal thinkers' intentions. There are some gems here, but there is also a lot which is simply impenetrable.
Barnes makes a very valiant attempt to present the material. There are other books if you want interpretations and commentary (including one by Barnes) - this book never sets out to provide that. It is primarily a reference source and as such, it is actually pretty good. What difficulties there are, are largely a result of the original materials.