It s format, with frequent cross references, can get tiresome especially when read on a digital platform , but for its length it could not provide a better base for future study. This anthology, edited by the Greek scholar Robin Waterfield, consists of a series of extracts, with commentary, from the work of a number of Greek thinkers who lived in the couple of centuries before the first megastar of western philosophy, Socrates hence the name by which they are known to us Presocratics Well, a series of extracts is pushing it, since not many of them wrote anything down, so the way we know what they thought is largely through secondhand and no doubt distorted accounts, whether by disciples, critics including Plato, Socrates chief scribe and the second megastar of western philosophy, who pitted some of them in dialogue against his hero , or historians writing many centuries later What survives is a series of fragments, like the cracked mosaics of some ancient palace floor.That s enough, though, to throw light on their strange and distant world And yet in some ways not so distant for these men all men were the first to think like we do Anyone who has read their precursors, the great Greek epic poets Homer and Hesiod, knows that the gods pulled all the strings whatever a phenomenon might appear to be, it ultimately had a supernatural cause We don t know what it was that triggered the shift away from mythological thinking to the search for explanations in nature but somehow, with the Presocratics, it happened, and it s been with us ever since.Some of the wackier beliefs of Pythagoras followers sound like those of a new age cult the moon is inhabited, just like our earth, but by creatures and plants which are taller and beautiful for creatures there are fifteen times as strong as those here, and never excrete anything, and their day is fifteen times longer than ours , but they also laid the basis for much of modern mathematics, including mathematical relationships in music And while some Presocratic scientific speculations sound quaintly cute to modern ears the sun is larger than the Peloponnese , exclaims Anaxagoras , others were spot on the moon does not have its own light, but gains it from the sun Anaxagoras again , while still others are almost eerie in their prescience Anaxagoras hypothesized a big bang origin for the universe though set in motion by Mind while Democritus posited atoms in motion and the combination of elements, and even asserted that the Gods like us were the products of atomic combination There s a mystical streak too most of these thinkers believed that everything is one, and that nothing can come into being from non being but without that precluding a fair dose of common sense Heraclitus held that what awaits men after death cannot be anticipated or imagined.The Sophists, by contrast or at least their flashier representatives come across as superficial, boorish trivializers, interested only in egotistical point scoring and well deserving of the opprobrium in which history has held them though again, since we lack original sources, it s hard to know how much of this impression is based on malevolent caricature.For the most part, though, these distant philosophers seem just like us, fumbling with all their native curiosity and ingenuity towards the most coherent explanations of the universe they can find but they were there first, and we owe them. Aristotle Said That Philosophy Begins With Wonder, And The First Western Philosophers Developed Theories Of The World Which Express Simultaneously Their Sense Of Wonder And Their Intuition That The World Should Be Comprehensible But Their Enterprise Was By No Means Limited To This Proto Scientific Task Through, For Instance, Heraclitus Enigmatic Sayings, The Poetry Of Parmenides And Empedocles, And Zeno S Paradoxes, The Western World Was Introduced To Metaphysics, Rationalist Theology, Ethics, And Logic, By Thinkers Who Often Seem To Be Mystics Or Shamans As Much As Philosophers Or Scientists In The Modern Mould And Out Of The Sophists Reflections On Human Beings And Their Place In The World Arose And Interest In Language, And In Political, Moral, And Social PhilosophyThis Volume Contains A Translation Of All The Most Important Fragments Of The Presocratics And Sophists, And Of The Most Informative Testimonia From Ancient Sources, Supplemented By Lucid Commentary Quite satisfied with this book Not too long, not too short, and there s a good balance of fragments, testimonia and commentary The Presocratic and Sophist philosophy itself is interesting enough, and I know I ll be referring back to parts of it when I get to Plato and Aristotle It just gets annoying to read some of the incorrect physics and bad argumentation at times, but I suppose it s necessary to include in an overview of these thinkers and the questions they asked and gave answers for. Great collection with glosses of their general beliefs supplemented by selected testimonies and fragments in their own words Informative of the philosophical tradition Plato and Aristotle engage with and how they interpret them. The presentation of the philosophy was succinct, perhaps overly so, but overall the book is a good survey of the Presocratics and Sophists As for the philosophy itself, some of it is painfully outdated and sometimes a bit frustrating to read well, it is 2500 years old , whilst some of it left me astounded as to how relevant the queries and conclusions still are today Overall a fascinating read. An excellent and intriguing account of the early development of western thought There is a good balance between original writings, secondary sources and commentary by the translator While I understand why they were included the numerous recounts of ancients trying to figure the universe out slightly varied versions of layer upon layer of fire, water, etc with the earth in the center, with one guy casually suggesting multiverses got tedious quite fast.My boy Antiphon knows what s up. The single greatest starting point for anyone interested in philosophy and ancient Greek thought The introductory essays that accompany the fragments and testimonies make this a very intelligible read. This is the second time I ve read most of these philosophers The first was back in college, when I first started reading philosophy So reading this was very much like returning to an old friend And as anyone will tell you, reconnecting with an old friend after years of being apart, I learned new things and understood old ideas in a completely new way.THE PRESOCRATICSThere is something strangely pure about the curious and conjecturing mind before Aristotle s advent of the scientific method Claims about the origin of the world and mankind are made without any solid evidence The origin of the cosmos was a hot topic of the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, and some methods to solving this were deciding which single element was the root of all things arche , or to attempt to eliminate what was simply impossible, in order to arrive at the truth The debates are rather fascinating, and it s amazing what ideas were actually not far off astronomy and mathematics find great roots in this era, and the Leucipus and Democritus theory of atoms is profoundly valid.I ve always been a fan of Heraclitus and his change is constant mentality It is impossible to step twice into the same riverit scatters and regathers, comes together and dissolves, approaches and departs But the real winning quotes for me in this read though in the same vein were Listen now to a further point no mortal thingHas a beginning, nor does it end in death and obliteration There is only a mixing and then a separating of what was mixed,But by mortal men these practices are named beginnings Empedocles of Acragas In reality we know nothing, for the truth is hidden in the abyss DemocritusTHE SOPHISTSMy previous experience with the Sophists was much limited, and with a negative connotation I was taught that they were only concerned with charging outrageous amounts for lessons, and thrived on confusing their debate opponents rather than actually making sound logic and good arguments While this was true for some, there are some pearls of wisdom, and some of the early Sophists like Protagoras and Gorgias seem to me to genuinely want to progress the art of debate and lecturing One of the main subjects covered by the Sophists was the conflict between nomos and physis convention and nature is humanity s welfare better or worse by our social norms and laws convention , or is our natural state better The debate raises interesting points on both sides, of course I think Gorgias was my favorite of the bunch he really invested in the art of winning his audiences with beautiful language and emotional pull, which is vastly important And Prodicus of Ceos told a story of Heracles and his choice between Vice and Virtue which was very compelling.Obviously, this type of reading is for a niche market, and very heavy on the academic side But it was always enjoyable for me to read, and I am once again reminded of how I was born in the wrong century. A compilation of fragments by the authors very little original material remains The collection is especially good for the Sophists and the introductory commentary is excellent.