Ancient History & Civilisation

The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists

The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists

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.







Chapter 1. The Milesians: Thales of Miletus, Anaximander of Miletus, Anaximenes of Miletus

Chapter 2. Xenophanes of Colophon

Chapter 3. Heraclitus of Ephesus

Chapter 4. Parmenides of Elea

Chapter 5. Zeno of Elea

Chapter 6. Melissus of Samos

Chapter 7. Pythagoras of Croton and Fifth-century Pythagoreanism

Chapter 8. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae

Chapter 9. Empedocles of Acragas

Chapter 10. The Atomists: Leucippus of Abdera, Democritus of Abdera

Chapter 11. Diogenes of Apollonia


Chapter 12. Protagoras of Abdera

Chapter 13. Gorgias of Leontini

Chapter 14. Prodicus of Ceos

Chapter 15. Hippias of Elis

Chapter 16. Antiphon the Sophist

Chapter 17. Thrasymachus of Chalcedon

Chapter 18. Euthydemus and Dionysodorus of Chios

Chapter 19. Double Arguments

Chapter 20. Anonymous and Miscellaneous Texts

Explanatory Notes

Textual Notes

Concordance with Diels/Kranz

Index of Translated Passages