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Beginnings of Philosophy in Greece

by Maria Michela Sassi Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 232 pages
AU$57.99 NZ$59.13
Product Status: In Stock Now
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A celebrated study of the origins of ancient Greek philosophy, now in English for the first time


How can we talk about the beginnings of philosophy today? How can we avoid the conventional opposition of mythology and the dawn of reason and instead explore the multiple styles of thought that emerged between them? In this acclaimed book, available in English for the first time, Maria Michela Sassi reconstructs the intellectual world of the early Greek "Presocratics" to provide a richer understanding of the roots of what used to be called "the Greek miracle."


The beginnings of the long process leading to philosophy were characterized by intellectual diversity and geographic polycentrism. In the sixth and fifth centuries, between the Asian shores of Ionia and the Greek city-states of southern Italy, thinkers started to reflect on the cosmic order, elaborate doctrines on the soul, write in solemn Homeric meter, or, later, abandon poetry for an assertive prose. And yet the Presocraticswhether the Milesian natural thinkers, the rhapsode Xenophanes, the mathematician and "shaman" Pythagoras, the naturalist and seer Empedocles, the oracular Heraclitus, or the inspired Parmenidesall shared an approach to critical thinking that, by questioning traditional viewpoints, revolutionized knowledge.


A unique study that explores the full range of early Greek thinkers in the context of their worlds, the book also features a new preface to the English edition in which the author discusses the latest scholarship on the subject.




"This impressively learned book contributes to longstanding debates about the beginnings of Greek philosophy, its connections to earlier Greek writings that address similar topics, the way Aristotle shapes our access to Presocratic philosophy, and more."Katja Maria Vogt, Columbia University

"Avoiding the main pitfalls that beset her subject, Sassi looks afresh at the evidence for important early Greek thinkers, asks what can be attributed to them, and admirably allows for a great variety of responses to that question."Geoffrey Lloyd, Needham Research Institute

"This book is among the most illuminating contributions to the much-debated topic of how, why, and in what form the Greeks of the sixth and fifth centuries BC created philosophy. Its constructive blend of cultural history, anthropology, and philosophical analysis makes it particularly good to think with, and it is now finally available to a broader audience of Anglophone readers."David Sedley, University of Cambridge
Maria Michela Sassi teaches the history of ancient philosophy at the University of Pisa. Her books include The Science of Man in Ancient Greece.