Does anyone know of an affordable edition of the Presocratics with the Greek text? Or a readily accessible online resource? We’re reading them in the Natural Science 1 course I’m taking this semester at Shimer, and I’d like to take a closer look (and perhaps ultimately dig into Heidegger’s work on them — is it worth working through his courses?).

12 thoughts on “Presocratics

  1. As far as I know, Kirk, Raven & Schofield’s The Presocratic Philosophers is still the standard student’s edition. As for Heidegger, you’ll probably want more focused readings on the particular Presocratics he deals with, in order to have some resistance toward the gravitational pull, so to speak, of his strong readings.

  2. Great, I’ll take a look. A “student’s edition” is just about my speed — something at the scholarly level of your standard Greek New Testament or a Loeb edition.

  3. Heidegger’s essays in Early Greek Thinking should not be slept on. His Anaxamander Fragment essay also needs to be read. Most of the full-length lecture courses stray a bit from the pre-socratics they’re named after, but are very worthwhile on their own terms.

  4. The essay on the Anaximander fragment is, I think, particularly good, and I’m not especially taken with Heidegger’s work on the Presocratics.

  5. It seems like it would be literally impossible to do a whole course that was tightly focused on even the fuller ones, like Heraclitus and Parmenides. What do you mean by “should not be slept on”?

  6. There was a class on Heraclitus when I was at UChicago. Sadly, a schedule conflict prevented me from seeing how they made that a quarter long. I remember seeing a syllabus at one point, and it really was just Heraclitus and secondary works on him (from ancients scholars/philologists — so not other ancients or Heidegger or anyone like that).

    I think “Parmenides and his critics” could easily be a class. Plato and Aristotle’s treatments of that stuff is not exactly brief, and it really is digging into it rigorously. (A friend of mine has argued that Aristotle’s “Physics” was held by its author to largely be a response to Eleatic monism in *the only possible way* to adequately respond to it.)

    On the original question: I’d be surprised if Kirk, Raven, & Schofeld wasn’t exactly what you wanted.

  7. “What do you mean by “should not be slept on”?”

    Just a figure of speech, I mean “one ought to read them,” although the original formulation wasn’t so rude or demanding.

  8. There are a couple of classical works in the field of pre-Socratic studies that you might find worth perusing, given your love of getting back to the sources. One is Harold Cherniss’s 1935 Aristotle’s Criticism of Presocratic Philosophy, and the other is 197? David Furley and Reginald Allen, Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, an edited collection of what at that time were considered the basic essays in the field.

    On a completely different note, I followed a link in Stone to Meillassoux’s lecture about Mallarme (I think Anthony went to it). I had read your review of his book about Mallarme, and was curious. I was blown away with his exegetic tour-de-force. You were right to compare it to the best of Derrida (Plato’s Pharmacy). Is it crazy? I wouldn’t say so, or maybe it’s a sort of craziness that has a long lineage. Your review reminded me of Dostoyevski’s character in The Demons, Kirillov, who thought he would bring about the next big change in humanity — the overcoming of death — if he could commit suicide for the sake of pure non-meaning, purposelessness. (I have just learned from Wikipedia that Camus devoted some of The Myth of Sisyphus to him.) I was also reminded of one of the most enigmatic figures of the Weimar period, a Jewish philosopher names Oskar Goldberg, whose first book was a numerological study of the first five books of the bible, a very interesting and not entirely crazy work. The search for “the unique number” goes far back, and seven is of course the one most chosen (Aristobolous, Greek Jewish philosopher, take this line.) The idea of sacrificing oneself for it, as Mallarme seems to have done, is really new, but perhaps a natural move for someone who wants to overcome Christianity. (Goldberg also thought we were on the verge of a biological transformation.) Anyway, I am impressed with Meillassoux, and even more impressed with Mallarme. Un Coup de des is one amazing poem, and Meillassoux should be congratulated for doing a really great job of showing the stakes of Mallarme’s wager.

  9. Bruce, That’s interesting that you found Meillassoux’s reading so convincing. I certainly didn’t think that its “craziness” implied it was incorrect — when I was done reading the book, I felt like he had probably found the truest possible interpretation of Mallarme’s intention, etc. — but it is perhaps a “craziness” in interpretation that corresponds to its object.

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