Pre-Socratic philosophers are often very hard to pin down, and it is sometimes very difficult to determine the actual line of argument they used in supporting their particular views. While most of these thinkers produced significant texts, we have no complete versions of any of those texts. All we have are quotations by later philosophers, historians, and the occasional textual fragment.
The pre-Socratic philosophers rejected traditional mythological explanations for the phenomena they saw around them in favor of more rational explanations. They asked:
Where does everything come from?
What is it really made out of?
How do we explain the plurality of things found in nature?
Why are we able to describe them with a singular mathematics?
Nearly all of the various cosmologies proposed by the early Greek philosophers are demonstrably false. Later philosophers rejected the answers they provided, but continued to place importance on their questions.
List of Philosophers
This article is a part of the History of Philosophy series.
Presocraticphilosophy is, for Laks, a dialectic -- a dialectic, moreover, which continues with Socrates, the Sophists, Plato and even Aristotle.
However, in general there simply is not sufficient reliable evidence for us to determine who constituted the Presocratics' adversaries and audience -- the author struggles at times with the three that she has selected, and the problem would be worse with many of the other Presocratics.
Patricia Curd ("The Presocratics as Philosophers") seeks to defend some of the earliest philosophers from some recent attacks which have suggested that they should not be considered philosophers.
A dialogic mode of philosophizing is inherently more complex than one proceeding systematically to develop a theory or argue a case, for to enter into dialogue with a given philosopher's thinking is always to enter into a whole network of dialogic relationships.
The Presocraticphilosopher who seems to have grasped this insight most clearly is Heraclitus, whose "ethical pronouncements intertwine with his account of the natural world" (I, 39).
One of Rhees' chief concerns as he moves from the Presocratics to Plato is how to achieve this understanding so that the transformational patterns constituting our own lives can be viewed generatively rather than degeneratively.
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