3 - Created In Our Image: Xenophanes Against Greek Religion

In this episode, Peter talks about the Greek gods in Homer and Hesiod, and the criticism of the poets by the Presocratic philosopher Xenophanes.

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Further Reading: 

J.H. Lesher, Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments: A Text and Translation with Commentary (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992).

E. Mogyoródi, “Xenophanes as Philosopher: Theology and Theodicy,” in A. Laks and C. Louguet (eds), Que-est-ce que la philosophie Présocratique? (Lille: Sepentrion, 2002), 253-86.

M. Schofield,  “The Ionians” in C.C.W. Taylor, Routledge History of Philosophy vol.1 (London: Routledge, 1997), 47–87.

Stanford Encyclopedia: Xenophanes

Malcolm's picture

Was Xenophanes the first monotheist in Greece?

Did he draw any inspiration from other monotheists, like "the J writer" in Israel, or Akhenaten in Egypt?

TD's picture

Where to find all the Presocratic fragments?

Can anyone direct me to a book or web site containing a comprehensive coverage of all the Presocratic fragments without author commentary and interpretation. I bought a Barnes text but was disappointed in the constant digressions and interpretations, many of which are hard to rationally reconcile.

Any direction on this is very appreciated.

Peter Adamson's picture


What you want is the collection by Kirk Raven and Schofield, it is on the reading list on the Presocratics page here on the website.

TD's picture

Thanks I'll see if UofT

Thanks I'll see if UofT bookstore has it.

Incidentally, your project here is excellent, very thankful for it's creation, I'll reference it in the face book pages devoted to some of my favourite philosophers.

TD's picture

Was Descarte reading Xenophanes Fragments?

When Descartes says in his "Principles of Philosophy" (section XIX) "It is of the nature of the infinite not to be comprehended by what is finite" it sounds suspiciously like it came from a Xenophanian Fragment.

Peter Adamson's picture


I don't know what if anything Descartes knew about the Presocratics but he wouldn't have needed Xenophanes fo the idea you mention here; that is a very standard claim in medieval scholastic philosophy, which Descartes certainly knew (and which he repeats more than he admits!).

TD's picture

Unconscious plagiarism?

Don't get me wrong I love RD but I've noticed even in the first few pages of Meditations a mirror image of Platos Theatetus and its key points. Do you know if this dialogue was available in RD's day? If so was there a standard for citation back then like we have now?

Peter Adamson's picture

Descartes and Plato

I don't know if Descartes is likely to have read the Theaetetus, maybe someone else can enlighten us there. But I am more confident on the citation issue: no, generally speaking in philosophy before pretty recently I don't think there was necessarily any expectation that you would, as it were, footnote all your sources. Having said that Descartes was pulled up for having taken his ideas from earlier thinkers, for instance the cogito from Augustine (I mention this in the City of God episode). In his case he of course made a big deal about how original he was being, so perhaps he invited this accusation more than other authors would have at the time.

longtime listener, first-time caller's picture

small correction

Great podcast -- especially wonderful to hear about Xenophanes! A couple of quick corrections:

Hesiod was from Boeotia, which is pronounced "bee-OW-shuh" or "bee-OW-shee-uh," and it's inland, not an island.

Peter Adamson's picture


Yes, thanks - I actually caught that mistake a while back, it has been fixed for the book version!

longtime listener, first-time caller's picture

Ascra ahoy

Great! Hesiod is a land-lubber after all..."If ever you turn your misguided heart to trading and with to escape from debt and joyless hunger, I will show you the measures of the loud-roaring sea, though I have no skill in sea-faring nor in ships; for never yet have I sailed by ship over the wide sea, but only to Euboea from Aulis where the Achaeans once stayed through much storm when they had gathered a great host from divine Hellas for Troy, the land of fair women. Then I crossed over to Chalcis, to the games of wise Amphidamas where the sons of the great-hearted hero proclaimed and appointed prizes. And there I boast that I gained the victory with a song and carried off an handled tripod which I dedicated to the Muses of Helicon, in the place where they first set me in the way of clear song. Such is all my experience of many-pegged ships."