Presocratic Philosophy

The first thinkers of antiquity are referred to as the "Pre-Socratics", even though some of these thinkers were in fact contemporaries of Socrates. The first podcasts in the series look at the beginnings of Greek philosophy in the 6th century BC in the city of Miletus, on the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). There, Thales and his successors Anaximander and Anaximines developed theories sometimes referred to as "material monism," deriving the entire visible cosmos from a single stuff or principle (water, the infinite, air). The following episodes look at the critique of Homer and Hesiod at the hands of Xenophanes and the more ambitious philosophical reflections of Heraclitus and Parmenides (though Peter casts some doubt on the simple opposition often drawn between these two). Further installments look at the reactions to Parmenides' monism in the 5th century BC, and cultural developments around the time of Socrates -- Hippocratic medicine and the sophists. Also look out for interview episodes with MM McCabe and Malcolm Schofield.

The book version of these podcasts is available from Oxford University Press.

Further Reading

J. Barnes, The Presocratic Philosophers (1982).

J. Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (London: 1958).

V. Caston and D.W. Graham (eds), Presocratic Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Alexander Mourelatos (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002).

P. Curd and D.W. Graham (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy (Oxford: 2008).

D.J. Furley, Cosmic Problems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

D.J. Furley and R.E. Allen (eds), Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, 2 vols (1970, 1975).

D.W. Graham (ed.), The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, 2 vols (Cambridge: 2010).

G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983).

A. Laks and G. Most, Early Greek Philosophy, 9 vols (Cambridge MA: 2016).

A.A. Long (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy (1999).

R.D. McKirahan, Philosophy Before Socrates (Indianapolis: 2010).

A. Mourelatos, The Pre-Socratics (Garden City: Anchor, 1974).

O. Primavesi and J. Mansfeld,  Die Vorsokratiker: griechisch - deutsch (Stuttgart: 2011).

J. Warren, The Presocratics (Stocksfield: 2007).

Stanford encyclopedia: Presocratics

1 - Everything is Full of Gods: Thales

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In this episode, Peter Adamson of King's College London introduces the podcast as a whole, and the thought of the early Greek philosophers called the Presocratics. He also discusses the first Presocratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus.  

2 - Infinity and Beyond: Anaximander and Anaximenes

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Peter discusses two very early Greek philosophers, both from Miletus: Anaximander and Anaximenes.

3 - Created In Our Image: Xenophanes Against Greek Religion

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

4 - The Man With The Golden Thigh: Pythagoras

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Peter discusses the Pre-Socratic philosopher Pythagoras, as well as Pythagoreanism and the role of mathematics in ancient philosophy.

5 - Old Man River: Heraclitus

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Peter discusses the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, and tries to discover whether it's possible to step into the same river twice.

6 - MM McCabe on Heraclitus

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Peter's colleague Professor MM McCabe joins him in the first interview of the series of podcasts, to talk about Heraclitus.

7 - The Road Less Traveled: Parmenides

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Peter  discusses the "father of metaphysics," Parmenides, and his argument that all being is one.

8 - You Can't Get There From Here: Zeno and Melissus

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The paradoxes of Zeno and the arguments of Melissus develop the ideas of Parmenides and defend his Eleatic monism.

9 - The Final Cut: Democritus and Leucippus

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In this episode Peter discusses the Atomists Democritus and Leucippus, and how they were responding to the ideas of Parmenides and his followers.

10 - Mind Over Mixture: Anaxagoras

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Peter discusses Anaxagoras, focusing on his theory of universal mixture ("everything is in everything") and the role played by mind in Anaxagoras' cosmos.

11 - All You Need is Love, and Five Other Things: Empedocles

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Peter discusses the Presocratic philosopher Empedocles and his principles: Love, Strife, and the four “roots,” or elements.

12 - Malcolm Schofield on the Presocratics

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World-leading expert Malcolm Schofield of Cambridge University speaks to Peter about the development of Presocratic philosophy, from the Milesians to Parmenides and the reactions he provoked.

13 - Good Humor Men: the Hippocratics

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Early Greek medicine up until Hippocrates, and its relation to Pre-Socratic philosophers like Empedocles.

14 - Making the Weaker Argument the Stronger: the Sophists

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In this episode, Peter Adamson discusses the sophists, teachers of rhetoric in ancient Athens, looking especially at the contributions of Protagoras and Gorgias.