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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherCambridge University Press
File size3.5 Mb
Release date 02.02.1979
Pages count556
Book rating4.23 (48 votes)
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W. K. C. Guthrie’s incredible series “A History of Greek Philosophy” begins here with Volume I: “The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans”.Originally published in 1962, this volume, and the series continues to be reprinted today, and for good reason.Professor Guthrie manages to make the entire subject very readable and very informative.He provides tremendous notes as well as insights into his reasoning as to why he considers the information he provides to be correct.This is very important to the subject overall, but especially when covering the early philosophers, most of whom are only known through the words of others.

At first glance this book appears to be a very weighty 500 pages, but once one starts reading it they realize that Professor Guthrie is able to discuss the subject matter in a fairly easy to understand way.That is not to say that there aren’t areas which are more difficult to follow due to the contrary information which different sources provide, but Professor Guthrie manages to navigate these areas with skill and without leaving the reader behind.

The volume opens with a couple of introductory chapters and then proceeds to take on the earliest philosophers, The Milesians.This chapter looks at Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes and though the information is scant, Guthrie collects the small fragments from many sources to put together a picture of these three very early philosophers.

It is the following chapter (“Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans”) which is the real meat of this volume.At 200 pages it is a very detailed look at what is known, and not known about the philosophy/religion, its founder, and those who came a bit later.The chapter on The Milesians is easy to follow, partly because so little is known that there aren’t contradicting sources for the most part, but with the Pythagoreans Guthrie has to fight against the biases of the sources in order to reach his conclusions, and he supports those conclusions very well.

After the Pythagoreans, the chapters on Alcmaeon (whom Guthrie separates from the Pythagoreans for good reason) and Xenophane, the poet/philosopher are fairly easy going, quite informative, and even entertaining to a certain degree.The volume then closes with a chapter on Heraclitus, which offers a very strong discussion on the differences of opinion on that philosopher, similar, though certainly not as complex as the chapter on the Pythagoreans.

This is a six volume series, which unfortunately ended with the passing of Professor Guthrie in 1981 and so it ends a bit prematurely but that doesn’t change the value of the volumes which were published.Volume II picks up where this volume leaves off and finishes Guthrie’s discussion of the Presocratics, but this volume can also stand on its own as a tremendous achievement.

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