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Ancient Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics in two volume set by Daniel W. Graham (Cambridge University Press) [hardcover set] This sourcebook in two parts gives the reader easy access to the language and thought of the Presocratic thinkers, making it possible either to read the texts continuously or to study them one by one along with commentary. It contains the complete fragments and a generous selection of testimonies for twenty major Presocratic thinkers including cosmologists, ontologists, and sophists, setting translations opposite Greek and Latin texts on facing pages to allow easy comparison. The texts are grouped in chapters by author in a mainly chronological order, each preceded by a brief introduction and followed by a brief commentary and an up-to-date bibliography. Significant variant readings are noted. This edition contains new fragments and testimonies not included in the authoritative but now outdated Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. It is the first and only bilingual edition of the works of the Presocratic philosophers for English-speakers: Volume One contains Part I. Cosmologists and ontologists.  The sixth century BE: 1. Thales (Ths) 2. Anaximander (Axr) 3. Anaximenes (Axs) 4. Xenophanes (Xns) 5. Heraclitus (Hct)
B. The fifth century BCE 6. Parmenides ((Prm)  7. Zeno (Zno) 8. Anaxagoras (Axg) 9. Empedocles (Emp) RD. Diogenes of Apollonia (Dgn) 11. Melissus (Mls) 12. Philolaus (Phs) 13. The Atomists: Leucippus and Democritus (Lcp, Dmc) 14. The Atomists, continued: Democritus'{ ethical fragments
Volume 2 contains Part II: Sophists: 15. Protagoras (Prt) 16. Gorgias (Grg) 17. Antiphon (Ant) 18. Prodicus (Prd) 19. Anonymous texts
A. Anonymus Iamblichi (AnI) B. Dissoi Logoi (DsL) Appendix: Pythagoras (Pth)

Everyone who has done serious work in the Presocratics knows that the field has suffered for lack of a decent sourcebook. Well, almost everyone. When I floated the idea for this work some years ago to an editor who thought the project would be met with enthusiasm, he heard back from his referees that scholars in the field did not need such a work because they already had Diels-Kranz. No doubt Hermann Diels' Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, edited in its latest editions by Walther Kranz, is one of the great collections of classical studies. Yet the reply seemed curious to me. In the first place, Diels-Kranz was written in German rather than English. In the second place, its last edition was published more than a half century ago, in 1951-52, and a few things have happened in the scholarly world since then. In the third place Diels and Kranz did not translate testimonies, but only fragments, and not all of them. In the fourth place, they included among their list of ninety Presocratics a large number of figures' who ,are mere names, some who are not generally considered, philosophers, some who are precursors, and some who were writing as late as the late fourth century, whereas Socrates died in the first year of that century; thus the collection seems a bit promiscuous, including both pre-Presocratics and post-Socratics, as well as non-philosophers. Finally, what was wanted was, in any case, not so much an exhaustive collection as a bridge between the introductory textbook and the exhaustive collection, a kind of portable and up-to-date assemblage of the texts everyone should have access to for the figures everyone studies.

Unchastened by the rejection, I continued to work away at this project. In truth, I was driven to work on it by frustration with the lack of a usable alternative. I will readily admit to being merely a philosopher with classical training rather than a card-carrying classicist of the type who should be editing texts and doing variorum editions and translations from exotic sources. Nevertheless, those with better credentials were busy doing other projects which were no doubt more respectable in the world of classical letters. In any case, when the editors of Cambridge University Press came to Brad Inwood in search of someone to do a collection of the Presocratics, he was kind enough to point them in my direction. I have gone through a number of referees and some protracted negotiations about format and content. But I am grateful to Michael Sharp, classics editor, the Syndics of Cambridge University Press, and a set of patient and very helpful readers for guiding me through this project. The final product does not precisely represent the vision of any one of my advisers, but it has benefited from their suggestions at every stage.

This book consists of nineteen chapters dealing with eighteen figures and two anonymous treatises, plus one further figure in an appendix. I have restricted my set of Presocratics to those with a strong tradition of testimonies and (in most cases) an appreciable number of fragments. In each case there is a brief introduction to each figure, a set of texts in Greek and Latin, a translation, a brief commentary and a select bibliography. I added the commentary at the request of the Press, who rightly judged that the texts were not sufficiently self-explanatory to stand on their own. Full citation of the classical source is given with the original text. I have for the most part given modern English names and translated titles for the sources, to make them more accessible to a broader audience, since many of the Latin titles are not well known even to classicists. I have appended a general bibliography to the general introduction, and supplied a concordance for my numbers and the Diels-Kranz references, an index of sources, an index of other passages, and a general index.

The text is supplied with textual notes (rather than a full apparatus), which identify more substantive textual variants. I have used the best critical texts available to me to determine the textual readings, but I have not made any original collations of manuscripts. In most cases there are adequate critical texts (though there is one major deficiency, in Diogenes Laertius; an improved text is in preparation, but not in print). I have been reluctant to make my own interventions in the text, but on a few occasions I have felt compelled to do so by the impossibility or implausibility of the available readings.

The Presocratics introduced a new kind of wisdom to the world. They appeared suddenly in the sixth century BCE as sages who wanted to explain, not just this or that fact or custom or institution, but everything at once. They began as students of nature, who took nature as a independent realm to be understood in terms of its own capacities. In their time of mythical and magical thinking even the very concept of nature was stunningly new and unprecedented. They gave birth to two important disciplines that have characterized Western thought ever since: philosophy and science; the former perhaps more fertile in future developments than we usually imagine today, the latter less imposing than it would become in modern finks, but certainly at the center of their project. They wrote the first learned treatises and pioneered the concepts we take for granted today. In time their works were lost and their ideas obscured by later developments, but from an early time they were recognized as the founders of a new way of thinking about the world and relating to it.

Ancient scholars agree that philosophy began with a movement in Miletus, a cosmopolitan port city on the eastern shore of the Aegean with numerous daughter colonies and trading partners throughout the Mediterranean allowing for contact with the great civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. Thales, then Anaximander, then Anaximenes of Miletus began to think about the world in a new way, to philosophize, as later generations would say. Thales said all was water. Anaximander wrote the first philosophical treatise, showing how the world arose out of some boundless reality, and Anaximenes added to his theory an account of elemental change and an argument for the primacy of air over other substances. All of them explained the world as we know it as a result of natural processes acting on everyday stuffs.

If their theories seem to us simplistic, it is because our knowledge of nature has increased exponentially since their time. But it was their lisping expressions, as Aristotle pointed out, that raised the possibilities of a rigorous knowledge of the world in the first place. Before them, poets explained the events of the world as products of supernatural actions of divine agents. At the beginning of the Iliad, Apollo rains arrows upon the Danaans, and Homer mentions in passing that this is a plague. Elsewhere Zeus throws thunderbolts and Poseidon causes storms. The sun is a god Helios driving a golden chariot across the sky, and the rainbow is the passing of the goddess Iris. Calamities like the plague are caused by angry gods, and they can only be stopped by appropriate acts of propitiation. The great civilizations of Babylonial Egypt, and Persia, more highly organized and technologically advanced than the Greeks, had different pantheons but employed similar kinds of mythological explanation.

What was new, even shocking, about the Presocratic approach was that it gave no direct credence to traditional lore. The philosophers simply ignored the kinds of explanations that were imbedded in myths and advanced their own accounts on the basis, not of tradition, but of reasons. These reasons had nothing to do with the actions and motivations of divine beings with supernatural powers. They presupposed only mundane substances with natural powers. Clouds arose from rising vapors, not from the action of the Cloud-gatherer (Zeus). Thunderbolts resulted from wind bursting out of a cloud, not from Zeus' action. Earthquakes were caused by the motions of a subterranean sea or the drying and cracking of earth, not from the shaking of Poseidon. The world of nature was an autonomous realm with its own elements, powers and behavior, which was governed by universal rules. Indeed the word for nature, phusis, seems to have originally been applied in the sense of the nature peculiar to any kind of body, which gradually led to a conception of Nature as the totality of such natures. What the new approach I brought was a conception of nature as the possible object of knowledge that could arise from observation and inference alone, independent of tradition or revelation. To understand the events around them, the philosophers needed not theology but science.

No doubt every contemporary of the Presocratics knew much the same about everyday events as the philosophers: fire cooks meat and boils water, rain comes from clouds and hail from thunderclouds, the sun heats the earth. What was different about the philosophers' approach was their refusal to allow any supernatural actions to govern natural processes. The rejection of the supernatural, however, did not make the philosophers atheists. Rather, it made them subordinate divine action to natural law, or, in some cases, to combine the divine with the natural — to invest natural principles with divine attributes. Ultimately it led to a penetrating criticism of conventional religion, most prominently by Xenophanes, as all too human, and pointed the way`to a more refined conception of deity. The gods of Homer were, after all, divinities behaving badly, and critical reflection demanded much more from them than did traditional religion.

For the Presocratics, the world was a product of lawlike interactions of natural substances. Many of them provided a cosmogony in which they told how the world we know arose from a primordial state of uniformity. The world arose, not ex nihilo, but from a redistribution of matter, a diakosmesis, in which the familiar features of the world appeared. The world processes of the present world were then described, often including an account of seasons, weather, plants, animals, and human beings. The Presocratics thus explained the origin and present composition of the world, and almost everything in it. They offered a comprehensive account which would explain everything from heavenly bodies to human society.

If the Presocratics rejected traditional explanations, they remained nonetheless indebted`to traditional ways of thinking and acting. There is a fair amount of continuity between the mythical cosmology of Hesiod (evident also in sketchy accounts in Homer) and the speculative cosmologies of the Presocratics. The world envisaged by most Presocratics — a flat disk-shaped earth with a firmament of heaven above and perhaps an underworld beneath — had much in common with Hesiod's traditional conception. Furthermore, the very type of explanation which 'predominated in Presocratic accounts, namely a story of how the world came to be, is anticipated in Hesiod's Theogony. To be sure, Hesiod's tale is about the birth of cosmic gods, while Presocratic accounts are about natural processes.`But the crucial explanation aims to tell where the present world came from and how it got to be as it is. There are also indications that in studying the world, the philosophers used the simple instruments available from neighboring cultures, the gnomon, or vertical rod in the ground, the sundial, the klepsydra or pipette, the column drum. Nevertheless, their ideas were relatively free from traditional constraints, and they put old ideas to new uses and developed novel arguments for and against models they in part borrowed.

The fifth century BC also began with a sustained critique of cosmology itself, and an approach to a more logical and metaphysical way of thinking in place of an almost exclusive concern for naturalistic accounts and physical models. And the century ended with more radical rethinking in the form of relativistic and humanistic approaches to experience. The atomists developed a theory that would continue to inspire research until it displaced all others with the authority of experimental science. All this showed that the new philosophy was not stagnant or complacent, but quite capable or reinventing itself in surprising ways.

Only in the early fourth century, with the rise of the Socratic schools and their personal approach to moral self-knowledge — and their contempt for abstract speculation — did the early style of philosophy fade out. And even then, many of the advances of early philosophy were incorporated into Socratic philosophy.

One thing that is striking about the Presocratics is how unique each of their theories was. The Presocratics do not easily fall into schools as do the Hellenistic philosophers. Indeed, though later generations grouped them into schools, the notion of a school is anachronistic for this early time. In the time of the Presocratics there were no formal institutions of learning, but at best only informal associations between a master and his students, so far as we can discern. Later Greeks had several competing ways of grouping the Presocratics. There were the eastern Iowans vs. the westerners, which in modern times have been roughly mapped to the scientific vs. the mystical thinkers; the natural philosophers vs. the opponents of natural philosophy; the monists vs. the pluralists; and finally the several "schools": the Ionians, the Pythagoreans, the Eleatics, the atomists. All of these groupings have advantages and drawbacks. The advantages are that there is usually some interesting correlation among members of each group. The drawback is that none provides more than a superficial correlation. Some of the leading westerners are immigrants from the east (Pythagoras, Xenophanes), and at least one may have never actually lived in the west (Melissus). At least two alleged opponents of natural philosophy provide extensive theories of natural philosophy themselves (Xenophanes, Parmenides). Of alleged monists, several are highly suspect (Anaximander, sometimes classified as a pluralist even by Aristotle; Xenophanes, variously classified as a monist, a dualist, a pluralist; Heraclitus; even Anaximenes and Parmenides are controversial); of pluralists some are problematic (Empedocles plays with both the one and the many; Anaxagoras has been seen as a metaphysical dualist; the atomists can be seen as monists, dualists or pluralists). Of the schools, only the Pythagoreans offer some sort of society, and with them it is not clear whether religious association entailed intellectual transmission or orthodoxy. Of the Eleatics, only Parmenides and Zeno are likely to have known each other. The Ionians include one group of possible associates, the Milesians, but most of the others probably did not know each other. Some figures seem to fit into no groups (Heraclitus was famously misanthropic) or into too many groups (Empedocles combines Pythagorean, Eleatic, and Ionian tendencies). The sophists for their part include cosmologists (Antiphon) and anti-cosmologists (Gorgias), easterners and westerners, realists and anti-realists.

In view of these problems, it seems risky to provide an a priori classification of the Presocratics (as e.g. KRS does). I have made some minimal concessions to school connections: Zeno after Parmenides, Leucippus and Democritus together (since they are seldom distinguished by sources). And I have grouped the cosmologists and their opponents together, as against the sophists, who can be distinguished by their professional activities, which focus on a practical and anthropocentic curriculum. There is one historical development which has proved fairly robust: Parmenides' criticisms seem to have made a notable difference in the discussion of philosophical problems. What precisely his criticism was, what it was directed against, and what its effect was have become increasingly controversial. But that he made a difference is not in question. Thus Parmenides has emerged as the watershed figure in early Greek philosophy, and historically philosophy can be divided into the pre-Parmenidean and post-Parmenidean —roughly, the sixth century and the fifth century, since Parmenides wrote at the beginning of the fifth century. He influenced the sophists no less than later cosmologists with his discussions of what-is and what-is-not, and cast a shadow over all later philosophy.

In broadest terms we can identify four movements in early Greek philosophy. The earliest was an attempt to explain the cosmos, its origin, nature, and phenomena in a quasi-scientific way. This movement led to a reaction among the so-called Eleatics that produced an anti-cosmological movement that challenged the possibility of explaining changeable phenomena, giving rise to a kind of metaphysical analysis. Subsequent cosmologists took account of Eleatic criticisms, though they may have read Parmenides in particular as a revisionary cosmologist rather than as an anti-cosmologist. Finally the sophistic movement of the middle and later fifth century focussed on human concerns and practical education. Often attacked by Plato and his followers as mercenary teachers of success seminars, the sophists are perhaps more generously understood as the first promoters of higher education. They taught political science and oratory, and in general prepared their students to participate effectively in -the nascent democracies of the time. Many of them also pursued cosmological interests, dealt with Eleatic arguments, and also extended inquiry into new areas of social studies and linguistics. They were the first humanists and social scientists.

It should be noted that there was no standard name for philosophers before the fourth century. Plato, Aristotle, and their rival Isocrates distinguished between "philosophers" (good) and "sophists" (bad) in the fourth century, but their distinction was a novel one, unknown to previous centuries. Aristotle refers to the cosmologists as phusikoi, phusiologoi, and meteorologoi. He speaks of "the first philosophizers," hoi protoi philosophesantes (Metaphysics 983b6) generically in a non-technical way. We see no clear indication that the first philosophers had any particular name for themselves (since neither philosophos nor sophistes had yet acquired a specialized meaning). Yet they clearly took part in an increasingly peculiar debate that was recognized by other groups such as medical writers as a sort of professional discourse. With or without a name, they emerged as a force to be reckoned with. And increasingly philosophers, whatever their affiliations, had more in common with each other than they did with non-philosophers.

If the affiliations of philosophers were not clear, neither was their precise chronological order. But I have in general ordered the philosophers according to our best information as to their activity. I hope that this order will tend to invite rather than to obstruct comparisons among the figures.

The Presocratics were pioneers in writing. Anaximander was one of the first if not the first thinker to write his ideas down in a prose composition, at a time when reading was a relatively new art in Greece and writing materials were dear. In fact his treatise started a whole genre that came to be known by the title Peri phuseos, On Nature. The title itself emerged only in the late fifth century when books began to carry titles. But it indicated the kind of cosmogony/cosmology that early philosophers favored. Early works On Nature were probably short summaries of a life's work of thinking and perhaps teaching, usually in a single book, or papyrus roll. They became scarce and were often hard to find even for ancient Greeks after Aristotle's time. They have disappeared completely, except for reports about them ("testimonies") by ancient sources and quotations ("fragments") imbedded in other works or in a few surviving scraps of manuscript. The task left to a modern reader is to reconstruct from these disiecta membra an understanding of the original thought — no small challenge.

Reconstructions must begin with evidence, which consists of a set of texts passed down from antiquity. Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century AD, all books had to be copied by hand and recopied generation after generation as the writing materials (papyrus or parchment) deteriorated, if they were to survive. Because of the cost of the materials and the man-hours required for copying, books were relatively expensive and scarce. Over, the long term, the survival of books depended on the tastes of readers and the chances of history. From the fourth century BCE on there were public libraries. Eventually the libraries of Alexandria in Egypt and Pergamon in Asia Minor became the largest and best stocked in the world. There were notable libraries in Athens, Rome, and other parts of the Mediterranean world. Eventually the great libraries perished, and smaller public and private libraries had to supply manuscripts.

Because every ancient text is a copy of a copy of a copy, and so on, errors can creep in at every stage. Surviving manuscripts disagree at some points and the original text itself must be reconstructed from the variant readings. Editors of texts bring considerable knowledge and skill to the work of producing a critical edition, but ultimately the texts before us are only approximations of the original. In the texts of this collection will be found the more important variant readings, in footnotes, which can provide clues to other interpretations than the one adopted.

Even with a reliable set of texts in front of us, the work of interpretation is just beginning. The challenge is to understand the thought of a thinker who lived far away and long ago in a foreign culture speaking a foreign language. To the ancient Greeks we would count as barbarians, strangers to their language, customs and culture. We need somehow to understand their world and their concerns. The testimonies of ancient interpreters are a help, since their authors had some knowledge of the Presocratics, and some of them (but not all) enjoyed access to their complete writings. On the other hand, most of them lived at least a century after the thinkers they were writing about, in a different time and under different historical conditions, if still in the same broad cultural community. Furthermore, they were neither so conscious of historical changes of perspective nor so scrupulous about responsible reconstruction as are modern scholars. So they were liable to misunderstand their predecessors.

That is why fragments are important: to allow us to check what ancient interpreters say about the Presocratics against their own sayings. When we do that, we sometimes find reasons to doubt later interpretations. In other words, we can sometimes correct ancient misconceptions on the basis of careful reconstructions of our own. On the other hand, we must be aware that fragments can be misquoted, misattributed, and taken out of context. Nevertheless, the more material we have of the original author, the more confident we can be that we can control the secondary reports and make a plausible reconstruction of our own. There has been some recent controversy about the extent to which the context we find the fragments in can help us understand them. Some scholars have recommended leaving the fragments imbedded in as much context as possible so that we can discern the purposes of the author who quoted them and sometimes glean further information about how the fragments were connected. Certainly this is in principle what`we should always do in studying the fragments. But the reality is that often the contexts are not very helpful for understanding the fragments themselves. The real challenge for the philosopher has always been how to see the forest for the trees. With too much context, the reader tends to get lost in the underbrush without the ability to emerge and see the whole landscape. Consider an analogy with archaeological practice: some gifted archaeologists might prefer to see the potsherds in their original matrix, but most students would find it much more helpful to see them reconstructed into a pot.

On the other hand, without any context, the fragments tend to lose any connection with each other or with any possible interpretation. The traditional way of presenting the fragments (pioneered by Hermann Diels) is to present a set of testimonies (his A-texts: Ai, Az, etc.), followed by a set of fragments (B-texts) extracted from the former. This procedure keeps testimonies and fragments clearly separated, but it tends to leave the fragments unconnected from each other and from unifying accounts. What I have done here is to combine testimonies and fragments into a global order, distinguishing the fragments (or possible fragments in some cases) by putting them in boldface type. I risk misleading the reader into thinking my order is the right one when it may be mistaken. Still, I think one can`do more with a mistaken order than with a random one (such as Diels intentionally used for Heraclitus). So in the collections the testimonies provide some kind of context for the fragments, which in turn provide some kind of evidence for the testimonies. I could have provided more context, but at the risk of focussing attention on the secondary source rather than the primary author. So this collection remains closer to Diels' project than some scholars would like, but I hope it will prove itself in being the more accessible to the lay reader.

The interpretation of philosophical texts is a demanding enterprise under the best of circumstances. In the case of the Presocratics we are dealing with the earliest texts reflecting the earliest consciously philosophical thought. The texts are fragmentary and imbedded in the works of other authors with their own agendas. Some new texts have come to light in recent years which add to our body of works, but what is missing is still far greater than what has been preserved. The language of the texts varies from poetry to prose, from Ionic to Doric to Attic dialect, from simple exposition to oratorical showpieces, from fifth-century BC to twelfth-century (and later) An, from pagan religion to Christian heresiography, from epic diction to comic lampoon, from history to medicine to lexicography. Yet we enjoy excellent dictionaries and grammars and comprehensive databases of Greek literature to help recover the meanings of the texts. The conceptual differences of Presocratic thinkers are daunting, but historical, linguistic and archaeological research makes it possible to reconstruct much of the physical and social world of early antiquity and so to link words with meaningful concepts.

The art of philosophical interpretation has advanced greatly in recent years. In some sense our views of the past are always conditioned by our present interests, and so interpretations are bound to change over time. Furthermore, over time we have the advantage of evaluating a growing body of competing interpretations. Although we can offer increasingly sophisticated interpretations, we are in no position to offer any final readings. In studying the Presocratics we are, for better or worse, part of a continuing process of _evaluation that began in the late fifth century '13c and continues to the present. We cannot tell where it will lead, but we do know that any worthwhile interpretation we can make begins with a set of texts, and justifies itself by its ability to illuminate those texts.

The present work is an attempt to assemble these texts: the complete fragments and most important testimonies of the leading Presocratic thinkers. It is limited by the need to keep the material to a manageable length, providing an enchiridion or handbook. I have passed over some figures I might have included, for lack of adequate fragments, for instance Hippias, Critias, Archelaus. I have passed over others for chronological reasons: Diels' list of Presocratics includes figures who are contemporary with or even later than Aristotle, on the grounds that they were not influenced by Socrates ("pre-" in a dialectical sense). I have kept my population to those active in the sixth and fifth centuries, that is, not later than Socrates' life in their activity. Thus you will not find Archytas or Nausiphanes. The selection and arrangement of material inevitably presuppose some kind of preliminary interpretation on my part. Further, some commentary was deemed necessary to make sense of otherwise incomprehensible material. (The commentary stresses philosophical over philological issues, but deals with both kinds.) By keeping the commentary separate from the texts, I seek at least to make it relatively easy for the reader to approach the texts with a minimum of intervention. By juxtaposing the texts with the translation I seek to allow the reader immediately to evaluate the latter and consider alternative readings as necessary.|/p>

Of course every ordered collection of testimonies and putative fragments constitutes an interpretative hypothesis that is based on a limited amount of scholarly consensus, a fair amount individual evaluation, and a large amount of speculation; it is, accordingly, subject to critical scrutiny. The present work is, as all works of its kind, a tentative reconstruction. It comes at the end of a process of scholarly engagement, research, and evaluation, but can offer only a starting-point for further inquiry and reflection.

This is the first bilingual sourcebook of the Presocratics with English as the target language. If it does not contain everything it might, what it does contain will, I hope, make the figures covered more accessible and ultimately more comprehensible. At best a collection like this can assemble a partial record of a lost conversation about the nature of things, one that began with sudden burst of creative energy and then evolved in response to searching objections and new information. If there are major gaps in the record, there remains enough I information to challenge us to make our best efforts to fill in the gaps, however provisionally, and to trace in it the origins of later ideas. As I have worked through this material, I have been impressed anew by the precocious brilliance of these first philosophers and scientists. I hope that studying this collection will stimulate you, dear reader, to rethink the ideas raised by the foundational documents of Western philosophical thought, and to renew a conversation that began long ago, appropriately enough, where East meets West: on the western shores of Anatolia, Land of the Sunrise.

Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy by Robert Hahn (S U N Y Series in Ancient Greek Philosophy: State University of New York Press) and Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy by Dirk Couprie, Robert Hahn, Gerard Naddaf (State University if New York Press) manages to place the development of Anaximander's thought squarely within social, political, cosmological, astronomical, and technological contexts. It brings to the forefront of modern debates the importance of cultural context, and the indispensability of images to clarify ancient ideologies. Opens a previously unexplored avenue into Presocratic philosophy--the technology of monumental architecture. The evidence, coming directly from sixth century BCE. building sites and bypassing Aristotle, shows how the architects and their projects supplied their Ionian communities with a sprouting vision of natural order governed by structural laws. Their technological innovations and design techniques formed the core of an experimental science and promoted a rational, not mythopoetical, discourse central to our understanding of the context in`which early Greek philosophy emerged. Anaximander's prose book and his rationalizing mentality are illuminated in surprising ways by appeal to the ongoing, extraordinary projects of the archaic architects and their practical techniques.

Beside these pioneering studies Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy by Robert Hahn (State University of New York Press) deals with architectural details and what they suggest in regards the cosmology of Anaximander, augmenting and supplying more detail to the uses of archaeology to enhance our understanding of the early cosmologists.

In May 2000, I had the honor of giving the Theophilos Beikos Lecture at the University of Athens. My presentation was a summary of a central theme of Anaximander and the Architects that was then just about to be published. By chance, one of`the most senior scholars in the field, Alexander Mourelatos, was in the audience and after the lecture he made a remark to me that, unforeseeable at that time, led to this new book. Up until that time, I had been describing my research as trying to show how an appeal to ancient architecture and its technologies could illuminate Anaximander's thought and a fortiori the origins of Greek philosophy. Mourelatos remarked that he had never before heard anyone explain Greek philosophy by appeal to archaeology. I was initially taken by surprise by the way he put it. But I realized straightaway that my research in ancient architecture and its technologies relied on archaeological artifacts and archaeological reports. And so while I was struck by his wording, I also was struck by the very idea that despite the enormous literature on Greek philosophy, scholars have not appealed to archaeology for major insights. My next book project, Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy, continued architectural themes but also included discussions of proportions and numbers in archaic sculpture (and the metrics of poetry), and so my appeal to archaeology was extended further.

An additional review of the secondary literature has confirmed that the approach I have taken is unique, and with that originality comes a host of difficulties. In the absence of scholarship taking this approach, I had no exemplars to follow or critique. At first, I was not sure how to articulate the methodology that I in fact employed in these earlier studies. But after much reflection I came to conclude that the method could be presented in a simple and straightforward way. In this new book, I propose and articulate that method for future research; that method has two distinct parts: a "Method of Discovery" by which, given the doxographical reports that mention technological analogies and metaphors, we must imagine an ancient thinker watching and reflecting on these very technologies, the evidence for which comes from the archaeology and a "Method of Exposition" by which the arguments about archaeology's relevance can be demonstrated. The Method of Exposition is threefold: (A) pi sent the doxographical testimony to which scholars routinely appeal when explicating pre-Socratic thought, (B) assemble the debate among scholars about the textual and interpretative difficulties, and (C) appeal to archaeological techniques, reports, and artifacts to show how the older and convention approaches to the text and its interpretation can be clarified and illuminated

The success of this volume, then, rests on whether we can answer affirmatively two questions: (a) Do the appeals to archaeology illuminate the technical analogies and metaphors mentioned in the doxographical report and, in so doing, illuminate the culture in which these early philosopher lived and thought and consequently the historical context in which their ideas achieve a new range of meanings? And (b) Do we have more philosophical insight into the texts and interpretative difficulties by the appeal to archaeological artifacts and reports?

The main body of pre-Socratic studies reads something like a debate over conversations that emanate from "brains-in-jars." By this I mean that the scholarly debates proceed as if the pre-Socratic thinkers did not have lives, that their thoughts were not fashioned in a complex process of integrating experiences in their youth, the goings-on and contingencies in their communities as their lives flourished, along with intellectual discussions that were generated and anchored in a comparable manner. This is, of course, a consequence of the fact that the evidence about them is exiguous, and the surviving biographical summaries are very distant from the time of their flourishing, often fantastic and hard to rely upon. But, of course, they did have lives, and one small window I hope to open by this book is the one that looks on hands-on activities displayed in front of their very eyes, in their historical and cultural contexts, alluded to by their technical analogies and metaphors. The archaeologists offer to supply some of these details through this opened window. I do not mean to suggest that the generations of scholarly debates have a diminished value, but rather that appeals to archaeological reports and artifacts offer another resource for insight, contribute to these familiar approaches, and have been routinely and systematically overlooked. The objective of Part II of this book is to explore just why it is that scholars have not pursued archaeology as a resource for ancient philosophy. The simple answer, as the reader will discover, is that the conventional approach to ancient Greek philosophy has proceeded by way of a myopic view of what counts as "philosophically appropriate." Scholars have missed this resource because they have entered into the field with conceptual "blinders," obfuscating the importance and relevance of historical and cultural factors. Let us take off these blinders and allow new rays of light to shine in.

I wrote Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy in light of my earlier books but with the intention of not requiring my readers to have familiarity with them. My ambition here is to explain the methodologies I have employed in two earlier works, Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy and (coauthored) Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy, with the express purpose of offering as a paradigm a new model for future research in ancient philosophy. Part I of this book presents case studies drawn from, but also significantly extending, my earlier work. Part II of this book engages in an articulation of and reflection about the methodologies used in these case studies and the paradigm they offer to add to the study of ancient philosophy. I continue to embrace the thesis that Anaximander was present at the temple building sites and witnessed the technologies there that he applied imaginatively to his cosmic speculations. And thus to the readers already familiar with my earlier work who might start with Part I and think "Haven't I already read something like this?" I recommend that they read Part II first and only then turn to examine the details of the case studies presented in Part I. The general thesis about Anaximander and architectural technologies is again central to this study, but the case studies are new and attempt to provide exemplars organized in accordance with these new methodologies.

Let me also make clear that it is not my intention to diminish the long successful approaches in ancient philosophy but rather to offer alongside the familiar styles of scholarship this new research model. The extensive reflections on the metaphysical foundations of these historically and culturally embedded case studies (in Part II) seemed appropriate only in the light of these case studies (in Part I) showing that archaeological resources really are capable of illuminating the abstract and speculative thought that is central to the scholarship on ancient philosophy.

Chapter one has three parts. The first part is an historical narrative that exhibits the results of what I am calling the new "Method of Discovery"; the narrative does not pretend to describe all of Anaximander's life, or cover all of his thoughts. The narrative is a glimmer, a slice of his life in eastern Greece that unearths some of his thoughts and the processes by which they burgeoned in his mind. It places Anaximander at the temple building sites, and situates those projects in the historical and cultural context of the sixth century BCE. The second part of chapter one contains five illustrations, each of which introduces the highlight of each of the following five chapters. The "picture" is the basis of the argument; each presents an archaeological resource as a clarifying answer to a traditional problem in Anaximander scholarship. The third part of chapter one invites the reader to take an imaginative journey to an ancient temple building site and, thanks to the fabulous illustrations made by Manolis Korres, who has graciously given me permission to reproduce some of them, our philosophers will be positively amazed by evidence that they have routinely overlooked. The ancient building sites and their related technologies provided the Greeks of the archaic and classical periods with a veritable experimental laboratory where principles of nature were displayed, explored, and tested, and where abstract, symbolic, and imaginative thought were realized in concrete forms.

Chapter two explores the size and shape of Anaximander's earth. In Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy, the investigation focused on column-drum preparation in the techniques of anathyrosis and empolion. In Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy , the investigation concentrated on technical issues of where to measure "(lower) column diameter," that is, the architect's building module. In this new chapter, the art historical record of vase painting is explored (something I had never done before) to show the evidence that the column and column drum already had symbolic meaning in the archaic period. Then, the debate is extended, in light of the archaeological evidence, to determine where on the column was the 3 x 1 drum that Anaximander imagined analogous with the shape and size of the earth. The module is usually identified with "lower column diameter," but there is no "metrological rule" for determining drum proportions. This means that drums could be of any proportions 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1) so long as, when stacked together, they finally reached the same height for the installation of the capital. However, the archaeological evidence also shows that there were, in fact, column bases in the Ionic temples that were metrologically determined (i.e., they were all exactly the same proportions), and we have evidence for 3 x 1 exemplars. Did Anaximander imagine the column-drum earth as a column base? After reviewing the fascinating archaeological evidence, I argue that it makes more sense to suppose that he did not, but that was because he imagined the earth aloft, held up by nothing. The column base purposefully obfuscates this crucial point since it rested on the earth-foundation.

Chapter three explores two other features of Anaximander's cosmic picture: the earth in equilibrium and the cosmic numbers. In Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy, the issue of the earth's equilibrium was clarified by appeal to the architect's techniques of plan and elevation views; in Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy , the cosmic distances to the stars, moon, and sun were clarified as increments of the archaic formula of 9 and 9 + 1 embraced by Homer, Hesiod, and others. In this new chapter, the distinctions between plan and elevation views are again emphasized, but this time the distinction between interaxial versus intercolumnar measurements plays the pivotal role. And the defense of the poetic formulas of 9 and 9 + 1 is now reinforced by a long discussion of how the archaeologist understands "Technological Style" and "Technological Choice," which are examples of historical and cultural context as important factors in the work of archaeologists.

Chapter four examines another aspect of Anaximander's cosmic picture and shows that presteros aulos, the nozzle of the bellows, is the correct reading of how the fire radiates from the cosmic wheels, because, in this hylozoistic universe, the cosmos is alive by breathing. Neither Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy nor Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy  has any detailed discussion of this complex issue. In this new work, however, there is a long exploration of the archaeological evidence for the bellows. The central theme of the new illustrations includes Hephaistos carrying around his bellows, which is an animal skin—sometimes a double animal skin that suggests a pair of lungs—to be inflated and deflated like a breathing animal. The result of this study is to make the case that the bellows displayed a breathing mechanism; Anaximander projected imaginatively on to the living cosmos an instrument of breathing from the metal workshops at the building site. It turns out that the cosmos is alive as an everlasting fire-breather, a doctrine that is usually attributed to Heraclitus.

Chapter five investigates another aspect of Anaximander's cosmic picture, how the stars, moon, and sun are really heavenly wheels of fire encased in mist. Had Anaximander seen any vehicles of transport with hollow-rimmed wheels? In Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy , there is no discussion about wheels, neither cosmic nor land vehicles. In Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy, there is passing reference to the architect Metagenes' wheeled vehicle for transporting monolithic architraves from quarry to building site. What the new chapter argues at length (and not in passing) is the most likely candidate for Anaximander's cosmic imagination. In this new work, Metagenes' invention is reached finally at the end of a long discussion of the evidence for ancient wheeled vehicles. These techniques of making wheeled vehicles, curiously enough, have implications for both Anaximander's sundial and his map of the earth. And when this discussion of Anaximander's wheels is placed in the wheelwright's workshop, the wheel-and-axle construction suggests unmistakably a cosmic axle, an axis mundi. To unfold this imagery, the discussion of Anaximander's cosmic wheels is placed in the context of Pherecydes' account of the cosmos as a great tree.

Chapter six attempts to reconstruct Anaximander's seasonal sundial. The sundial is not considered at all in Studies of Anaximander in Context: New Studies on the Origins of Greek Philosophy , and in Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy, while a reconstruction is proposed, the model is expressly rejected at the opening of this chapter. The new, proposed reconstruction of the sundial is shown to mediate between the cosmic picture (or cosmic map) and the map of the earth. The earliest surviving sundials in Greece date to Hellenistic times when conical and hemispherical sundials make sense, reflecting spherical conceptions of the earth's shape. But what did Anaximander's sundial look like, given his conception of a column-drum—shaped earth? In the new reconstruction, a column drum is proposed as the dial face with a gnomon placed vertically, and implications`for his map are also considered in terms of the shadows cast. After the details have been considered, important objections are raised and answered. Contrary to the pronouncement of Cornford and others, there are good reasons to suppose that "observations" played a significant role in some (but not all) of Anaximander's cosmological speculations.

Chapter seven sets out the problem and initially responds to the question: Why have studies of ancient Greek philosophy and its origins routinely neglected archaeological resources? The argument revolves around Jonathan Barnes, who despite all the marvelous studies he has produced, presents a myopic vision of what is philosophically appropriate. Barnes' two-volume work on the pre-Socratics is arguably the most influential work in the field for the last fifty years. By his vision of what counts as philosophy, it is no wonder why appeals to archaeological evidence are routinely neglected. In his first edition, Barnes insisted that "philosophy lives a supracelestial life beyond the confines of space and time," and when he was criticized for his historical insensitivities, he reinforced his earlier view, in his second edition, to rule out of court studies that urged consideration of historical and cultural context. Barnes' work has been so influential; his view is only the most extreme among so many studies that share his inclinations about what counts as "philosophical." But this point of view undermines the very appropriateness of research that appeals to archaeology, research that must take seriously historical and cultural contexts. As such, if the case studies I have presented here proved to be philosophically illuminating, it is fair to conclude that Barnes' approach is too extreme, and this means (what seems so obvious to me) that historical and culture context are also significant to research in our field.

Chapter eight traces out the development of archaeological approaches over the course of the last century. The underlying foci are to explore the theoretical frames in terms of which the archaeologists offer their narratives, and to try to understand how archaeologists have attempted to infer abstract thoughts from artifacts—how historical and cultural context assumes a place in understanding mentalities. In a curious way, as I see it, both Anaximander and I are standing in front of the same "architectural" evidence and reflecting upon matters that have now become the business of the archaeologist. So, what can we learn from the archaeologist? How does the archaeologist infer abstract ideas from the material culture? Accordingly, the survey of old archaeology, new archaeology, processual, postprocessual, and cognitive archaeology is designed to show to what extent abstract and speculative thoughts are implied by material artifacts, and how postprocessual archaeologists who champion "interpretative archaeology" undermine the meaningful distinction between "evidence" and "interpretation."

Chapter nine explores the "imaginative meaning of an artifact," and traces out the ideas of hermeneutic play and interpretation as applied to archaeology. I have been arguing that Anaximander came to imagine the cos mos by means of architectural techniques; what are the imaginative dimensions of determining the meaning of artifacts, indeed, objects in general? This discussion begins with Gadamer's work, and then turns to pragmatic interpretations of Dewey, James, and Peirce to explore a philosophical defense of how we infer from material context to abstract, imagined thought. All these positions, taken separately and together, stand in marked contrast to Barnes' positivism; they all insist that artifacts are never just artifacts, that the objects of the world cannot be understood by way of a single objective meaning but only through a process of imaginative interpretation. This theme is then connected to Quine, whose work on the indeterminacy of translation shares this commitment, and then to Davidson's radical interpretation that offers too extreme a position that can be countenanced no more than Barnes' positivism. Next, Putnam's internal or historical realism is considered because his position also offers a way to make sense of claims being true, and some opinions being "better" than others, without succumbing to either positivism on the one hand or contextual relativism on the other. Putnam's arguments offer a way to show how we can place constraints on a narrative without embracing the correspondence theory of truth; Putnam places truth claims within an historical context, but not a "trans-temporal context" as Barnes suggests. And finally, those positions are contrasted with Searle's arguments for the existence of brute facts, as opposed to institutional facts, as he argues for a version of metaphysical realism that he calls external realism. I argue against Searle and metaphysical realism in general.

Chapter ten begins by setting out an archaeological approach to ancient thought, discusses James and Dewey on the context of consciousness to set the platform for the natural and material basis of mental life, and then turns to a presentation of metaphor and bodily experience following the work of Mark Johnson and George Lakoff. To place Anaximander at the building site as a careful observer of temple architecture, who imaginatively projects the techniques he witnesses onto the cosmos because he envisions cosmic architecture, is to place bodily experience at the center of abstract and speculative knowledge. And to place bodily experience at the center is to argue for the importance of historical and cultural context for our understanding of (some aspects of) ancient philosophy and against Barnes' extreme view, the supracelestial vision of philosophy.

Chapter eleven explicitly sets out the new methods I have employed. My research has two parts: what I am calling a "Method of Discovery" by which we recreate in a meaningful way the historically and culturally embedded experience of Anaximander, or some other ancient thinker, and a "Method of Exposition" by which we promulgate the arguments that make our case.

The key to the Method of Discovery is to isolate in the doxographical reports the references to ancient technologies and techniques, then to appeal to archaeological reports and artifacts to recreate the ancient processes and products delineated by archaeologists, and finally to connect the doxographies to these archaeological reports to illuminate a range of experience that Anaximander and other ancient thinkers would have plausibly experienced. What this method amounts to, in my estimation, is that (in Anaximander's case) when we recreate the archaeological reports on temple building, we are standing next to both the archaeologist and Anaximander (i.e., the Anaximander whose belief system we know through the doxographical reports) in the presence of the surviving archaic artifacts. It is only by recreating the activities going on at the building site that we can come to grasp the illuminating historical and cultural context of the doxographical reports. This approach is what I learned from Collingwood in his The Idea of History.

The key to the Method of Exposition is nothing other than clarity of presentation. This method has three parts. In the first part (A), I set out the relevant doxographical reports, the locus of the evidence, and then (B), I present the scholarly debate about this evidence. Finally, (C), I appeal to archaeological resources to clarify or resolve the old debates.

I believe these methods can be employed to facilitate new research in the field. I hope to follow this method in future studies on the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle. Consider the possibilities that every reference to an ancient technology or technique—throughout our ancient philosophical literature—might find a report showing evidence of the ancient artifacts with detailed explanation about the processes by which the artifacts were produced. We will find, I believe, that, in many cases, the appeals to this kind of historical and cultural context would be useful and revealing.

Chapter twelve weaves together archaeological developments and philosophical approaches. In summary form, I make clear that I am championing a realism that dismisses the distinction between "evidence" and "interpretation." A fact is a posit from which certain things follow or to which they are connected; they are not chiseled in stone, nor can they claim meaningfully to be "true" in a transhistorical or supracelestial sense. We must understand that an historical narrative requires the selection of a starting point and an ending point, and proposes a causal account that offers to connect the "facts." By the purposes and values that direct specific inquiries, our narratives are produced. Consequently, they are not copies or pictures of some antecedent reality. In just this sense, the age-old problems set by the program in metaphysical realism are rejected as hopeless and wrongheaded; an appeal is made to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as an historical transition point in rejecting that program and the correspondence theory of truth that is its cornerstone. Finally, I offer a brief reflection on the reality of the past, contrasting it with Barnes' supracelestial thesis; the past has a meaning in the creative present. The project of reifying the past, and trying to make our narratives map onto that antecedent reality—the correspondence theory of truth—is, consequently, seen to be metaphysically mistaken.

Thus, Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy proposes a new additional methodology for research in ancient philosophy; as a volume intended to "stand alone" (and not presupposing familiarity with my earlier publications), Part II, the philosophical argument for the relevance of archaeology and the importance of historical and cultural context, needs Part I, the series of case studies in the newly articulated methodology. If the readers can see that we really do learn new things, and rich details, from archaeological resources that shed new light on Anaximander's abstract and speculative thoughts and his thought processes (and, in future projects, other pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle), that is, Part I, then it is serious and worthwhile to explore how and why this is so, and why it should have been missed.

I had been trying for a long time to figure out why my interpretation had been so new, and why not just this theme but the whole approach of ancient philosophy routinely and systematically ruled out appeals to archaeology. In a curious way, I was lucky that so prominent and distinguished a scholar as Jonathan Barnes could help me get clear about what has gone wrong. My approach to Anaximander has been to place him in his cultural context; the kind of approach championed by Barnes and those who share his "trans-temporal" view undermines the appropriateness of this kind of study. If we can see, after reading this book, that we do gain insights into Anaximander's abstract and speculative thought, and, furthermore, that these insights are philosophically relevant, we should realize that traditional, and perhaps unspoken, guidelines limiting the scope of philosophical research need to be revised. 

THE WAY OF OBLIVION: Heraclitus and Kafka by David Schur ($15.00, paperback, 286 pages, Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature, 44; Harvard University Press; ISBN: 0674948033)

Heraclitus is one of our most ancient an enigmatic writers whose influence  was formative in Ancient Classical philosophy to recent cosmology, Kafka seems especially modern in his sense of uncertainty and ambiguous dread.  According to Shur these two writers share in discourse a struggle between disclosure and obscurity that is perhaps as old as writing itself. In this lucid and engaging volume, Schur takes us from philosophy to literature and back in a sustained examination of a fundamental philosophical metaphor: the way or path of method. Through close readings of texts by Heraclitus, Plato, Heidegger, Blanchot, and Kafka, Schur follows the development of a rhetorical commonplace into a distinctly Heractitean paradox of method, concluding that Kafka's account of the way beyond mortal existence renews Heractitus's emphasis on oblivion in the search for truth. Paradoxes of self and substance are subthemes drawn to these arguments.One could easily extrapolate that the way Shur uncovers is the Western tradition of proto-Buddhist thinking. Recommended.

DAVID SCHUR is Lecturer on Literature at Harvard University.