The Greek Philosophers from Thales to Aristotle

The Greek Philosophers from Thales to Aristotle

W. K. C. Guthrie

Language: English

Pages: 156

ISBN: 0415522285

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

With an new foreword by James Warren

Long renowned as one of the clearest and best introductions to ancient Greek philosophy for non-specialists, W.K.C Guthrie’s The Greek Philosophers offers us a brilliant insight into the hidden foundations of Greek philosophy – foundations that underpin Western thought today.

Guthrie explores the great age of Greek Philosophy – from Thales to Aristotle – whilst combining comprehensiveness with brevity. He unpacks the ideas and arguments of Plato and Aristotle in the light of their predecessors rather than their successors and describes the characteristic features of the Greek way of thinking, emphasising what he calls the ‘cultural soil’ of their ideas. He also highlights the achievements of thinkers such as Pythagoras, who in contemporary accounts of Greek philosophy are frequently overlooked.

Combining philosophical insight and historical sensitivity, The Greek Philosophers offers newcomers a brilliant introduction to the greatest thinkers in ancient Greek philosophy and the very origins of Western thought.


















obviously difficult to find out just what were Pythagoras’s own beliefs or those of the school in its early days. On its religious side, the core of Pythagoreanism was a belief in the immortality of the human soul, and its progress through a series of incarnations not only as man but also in the bodies of other creatures. With this is connected the most important of Pythagorean taboos, their abstention from animal flesh. For the beast or bird which you eat may haply be inhabited by the soul of

through all things’. A later commentator says that according to Heraclitus ‘we draw in the divine logos by breathing’, i.e. the divine mind that steers the universe is (a) identical with the mind in us, as with the Pythagoreans, (b) still something material. It is in fact the same as the cosmic fire, for according to another ancient expositor of Heraclitus, ‘He says that this fire is intelligent, and is the cause of the arrangement of the whole.’ The notion of rational fire shows how hard it is

provided he proceeded cautiously so that the pleasures of to-day did not interfere with the pleasures of to-morrow. Again it might be maintained that power over one’s fellows was the end. The attainment of this might indeed entail curtailment of ordinary pleasures, a life of asceticism such as Hitler is said to have lived. However differently Socrates might think, on the basis of the hedonic calculus there could be no logical answer to this. Socrates himself might reply, as he does in the myths

Epicurus, 56f., 149 Erastus, 114 Ergon, 9, 102, 139, 146, 148 Eros, 111 Ethics, 16, 21; Aristotelian, 139ff.; Socratic, 66ff; Sophistic, 63f., 65 Euthyphro, 71 Evolutionary theories: in Anaximander, 27; in Empedocles, 50f.; modern, 121; none in Aristotle, 130, 134 Experimental methods, 53 Fifth element, 127 Fire, 42f. Foreignness of the Greeks, 3 Form, contrasted with matter, 19, 24; in Aristotle, 117ff.; in Plato, see Ideas; in Pythagoreanism, 34, 37 Freewill in Epicurus, 56

nuances and connotations of the terms and concepts under scrutiny. Indeed, he is insistent throughout on differences between his world and that of the Greek philosophers and on the importance of understanding what he calls the ‘cultural soil’ of their ideas. His Greek philosophers, particularly the early Greek philosophers, are a peculiar and unusual bunch. He sees them as great pioneers in questions of science and philosophy but pioneers whose faltering steps should be understood in their proper

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