Early Greek Philosophy

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EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY

 

EARLY
GREEK PHILOSOPHY

BY
JOHN BURNET
M.A., LL.D., F.B.A.
EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS


Περὶ μὲν τῶν ὄντων τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐσκόπουν, τὰ δ' ὄντα ὑπέλαβον
εἶναι τὰ αἰσθητὰ μόνον.
—ARISTOTLE.


THIRD EDITION



LONDON
ADAM & CHARLES BLACK

CONTENTS


  PAGES
Introduction 1–30
Note on the Sources 31–38
CHAPTER I
The Milesian School 39–79
CHAPTER II
Science and Religion 80–129
CHAPTER III
Herakleitos of Ephesos 130–168
CHAPTER IV
Parmenides of Elea 169–196
CHAPTER V
Empedokles of Akragas 197–250
CHAPTER VI
Anaxagoras of Klazomenai 251–275
CHAPTER VII
The Pythagoreans 276–309
CHAPTER VIII
The Younger Eleatics 310–329
CHAPTER IX
Leukippos of Miletos 330–349
CHAPTER X
Eclecticism and Reaction 350–361
APPENDIX 363–364
INDEX 365–375

ABBREVIATIONS

Arch. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. Berlin, 1888–1920.
Beare. Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition, by John I. Beare. Oxford, 1906.
Diels Dox. Doxographi graeci. Hermannus Diels. Berlin, 1879.
Diels Vors. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, von Hermann Diels, Dritte Auflage. Berlin, 1912.
Gomperz. Greek Thinkers, by Theodor Gomperz, Authorised (English) Edition, vol. i. London, 1901.
Jacoby. Apollodors Chronik, von Felix Jacoby (Philol. Unters. Heft xvi.). Berlin, 1902.
R. P. Historia Philosophiae Graecae, H. Ritter et L. Preller. Editio octava, quam curavit Eduardus Wellmann. Gotha, 1898.
Zeller. Die Philosophie der Griechen, dargestellt von Dr. Eduard Zeller. Erster Theil, Fünfte Auflage. Leipzig, 1892.

PREFACE TO THIRD EDITION

As a third edition of this work has been called for, and as it has been translated into German[1] and into French,[2] it must have served some useful purpose, in spite of its imperfections, of which I am naturally more conscious than any one. The present edition was prepared under the stress of war conditions, which much abridged the leisure of university teachers, and its publication has been delayed longer than I could have wished for the same reason.

My aim has been to show that a new thing came into the world with the early Ionian teachers—the thing we call science—and that they first pointed the way which Europe has followed ever since, so that, as I have said elsewhere, it is an adequate description of science to say that it is "thinking about the world in the Greek way." That is why science has never existed except among peoples who have come under the influence of Greece.

When the first edition of Early Greek Philosophy was published, twenty-eight years ago, the subject was still generally treated in this country from a Hegelian point of view, and many of my conclusions were regarded as paradoxes. Some of these are now accepted by most people, but there are two which still provoke opposition. In the first place, I ventured to call Parmenides "the father of Materialism," and it is still maintained in some quarters that he was an Idealist (a modern term, which is most misleading when applied to Greek philosophy) on the ground that "the very essence of materialism is that this material world, this world of sense, is the real world,"[3] and that Parmenides certainly denied all reality to the world of sense. Undoubtedly he did, and, if I had used the term Materialism in the sense alleged, I should have been talking nonsense. As I understand it, however, the "matter" of the Materialist is not a possible object of sense at all; it is as much, or more, an ens rationis as Spirit, and the "being" of Parmenides is the first clear attempt to apprehend this non-sensuous reality. That is, in fact, the main thesis of my book, and the vital point of the argument is my insistence on the derivation of Atomism (which is admittedly materialistic) from Eleaticism, in accordance with the express statements of Aristotle and Theophrastos (pp. 333 sqq.). If that is wrong, my whole treatment of the subject is wrong.

The other paradox which has still to win acceptance is my contention that the opposite view which finds reality not in matter, but in form, the Platonist view in short, goes back to the Pythagoreans, and was already familiar to Sokrates, though it was not formulated in a perfectly clear way till the days of the Platonic Academy. I am convinced that this can only be made good by a fresh interpretation in detail of the Platonic dialogues, and I am now engaged on that task. It is necessary to make it quite clear that the interpretation current in the nineteenth century was based on certain assumptions, for which no evidence has ever been offered, and which are most improbable in themselves. I cannot discuss this further here, but I hope to have an early opportunity of doing so.

J. B.

St. Andrews, July 1920.

  1. Die Anfänge der griechischen Philosophie, aus dem Englischen übersetzt von Else Schenkl (Berlin, Teubner, 1913).
  2. L'Aurore de la Philosophie grecque, édition française, par Aug. Reymond (Paris, Payot, 1919).
  3. W. T. Stace, A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London, 1920), pp. 46 sqq.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1928, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.