Pre-Socratic philosophy

A number of early Greek philosophers active before and during the time of Socrates are collectively known as the pre-Socratics. Their inquiries spanned the workings of the natural world as well as human society, ethics, and religion, seeking explanations based on natural principles rather than the actions of supernatural gods. They introduced to the West the notion of the world as a kosmos, an ordered arrangement that could be understood via rational inquiry.[1]

In Classical antiquity, the pre-Socratic philosophers were called physiologoi (Greek: φυσιολόγοι; in English, physical or natural philosophers).[2] Aristotle was the first to make a clear distinction between these physiologoi or physikoi ("physicists", after physis, "nature") who sought natural explanations for phenomena, and the earlier theologoi (theologians), or mythologoi (story tellers and bards) who attributed these phenomena to various gods.[3][4] Diogenes Laërtius divides the physiologoi into two groups: Ionian, led by Anaximander, and the Italiote, led by Pythagoras.[5]


Hermann Diels popularized the term "pre-Socratic" in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (The Fragments of the Pre-Socratics) in 1903. However, the term "pre-Sokratic" [sic] was in use as early as George Grote's Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates in 1865. Edouard Zeller was also important in dividing thought before and after Socrates.[6] Major analyses of pre-Socratic thought have been made by Gregory Vlastos, Jonathan Barnes, and Friedrich Nietzsche in his Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks.

It may sometimes be difficult to determine the actual line of argument some pre-Socratics used in supporting their particular views. While most of them produced significant texts, none of the texts have survived in complete form. All that is available are quotations by later philosophers (often biased) and historians, and the occasional textual fragment.

The pre-Socratic philosophers rejected traditional mythological explanations of the phenomena they saw around them in favor of more rational explanations. These philosophers asked questions about "the essence of things":[7]

  • From where does everything come?
  • From what is everything created?
  • How do we explain the plurality of things found in nature?
  • How might we describe nature mathematically?

Others concentrated on defining problems and paradoxes that became the basis for later mathematical, scientific and philosophic study.

Later philosophers rejected many of the answers the early Greek philosophers provided, but continued to place importance on their questions. Furthermore, the cosmologies proposed by them have been updated by later developments in science.


Presocratic graph
Graphical relationship among the various pre-socratic philosophers and thinkers; red arrows indicate a relationship of opposition.

Coming from the eastern or western fringes of the Greek world, the pre-Socratics were the forerunners of what became Western philosophy as well as natural philosophy, which later developed into the natural sciences (such as physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy).[1] Their efforts were directed to the investigation of the ultimate basis and essential nature of the external world.[8] They sought the material principle (archê) of things, and the method of their origin and disappearance.[8] As the first philosophers, they emphasized the rational unity of things and rejected supernatural explanations, instead seeking natural principles at work in the world and human society. The pre-Socratics saw the world as a kosmos, an ordered arrangement that could be understood via rational inquiry.[1] Pre-Socratic thinkers present a discourse concerned with key areas of philosophical inquiry such as being, the primary stuff of the universe, the structure and function of the human soul, and the underlying principles governing perceptible phenomena, human knowledge and morality.


Only fragments of the original writings of the pre-Socratics survive (many entitled Peri Physeos, or On Nature, a title probably attributed later by other authors).[9] The knowledge we have of them derives from accounts - known as doxography - of later philosophical writers (especially Aristotle, Plutarch, Diogenes Laërtius, Stobaeus and Simplicius), and some early theologians (especially Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome).

However, the translation of Peri Physeos as On Nature may be misleading: the "on" normally gives the idea of an "erudite dissertation", while "peri" may refer in fact to a "circular approach"; and the traditional meanings of "nature" for us (as opposition to culture, to supernatural, or as essence, substance, opposed to accident, etc.) may be in contrast with the meaning of "physeos" or "physis" for the Greeks (referring to an "originary source", or "process of emergence and development").[10]

Milesian school

The first pre-Socratic philosophers were from Miletus on the western coast of Anatolia. Thales (624-546 BC) is reputedly the father of Greek philosophy; he declared water to be the basis of all things.[8] Next came Anaximander (610-546 BC), the first writer on philosophy. He assumed as the first principle an undefined, unlimited substance without qualities (apeiron), out of which the primary opposites, hot and cold, moist and dry, became differentiated.[8] His younger contemporary, Anaximenes (585-525 BC), took for his principle air, conceiving it as modified, by thickening and thinning, into fire, wind, clouds, water, and earth.[8]


The practical side of philosophy was introduced by Pythagoras of Samos (582-496 BC). Regarding the world as perfect harmony, dependent on number, he aimed at inducing humankind likewise to lead a harmonious life. His doctrine was adopted and extended by a large following of Pythagoreans who gathered at his school in south Italy in the town of Croton.[8] His followers included Philolaus (470-380 BC), Alcmaeon of Croton, and Archytas (428-347 BC).

Ephesian school

The Ephesian philosophers were interested in the natural world and the properties by which it is ordered. Xenophanes and Heraclitus were able to push philosophical inquiry further than the Milesian school by examining the nature of philosophical inquiry itself. In addition, they were also invested in furthering observations and explanations regarding natural and physical process and also the functions and processes of the human subjective experience.[11]

Hereclitus and Xenophenes both shared interests in analyzing philosophical inquiry as they contemplated morality and religious belief. This was because they wanted to figure out the proper methods of understanding human knowledge and the ways humans fit into the world. This was much different than natural philosophy that was being done by other philosophers as it questioned how the operations of the universe as well as the human positions within the universe.[12]

Heraclitus of Ephesus on the western coast of Anatolia in modern Turkey (535-475 BC) posited that all things in nature are in a state of perpetual flux, connected by logical structure or pattern, which he termed Logos. To Heraclitus, fire, one of the four classical elements, motivates and substantiates this eternal pattern. From fire all things originate, and return to it again in a process of eternal cycles.

Eleatic school

The Eleatic School, called after the town of Elea (modern name Velia in southern Italy), emphasized the doctrine of the One. Xenophanes of Colophon (570-470 BC) declared God to be the eternal unity, permeating the universe, and governing it by his thought.[8] Parmenides of Elea (510-440 BC) affirmed the one unchanging existence to be alone true and capable of being conceived, and multitude and change to be an appearance without reality.[8] This doctrine was defended by his younger countryman Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC) in a polemic against the common opinion which sees in things multitude, becoming, and change. Zeno propounded a number of celebrated paradoxes, much debated by later philosophers, which try to show that supposing that there is any change or multiplicity leads to contradictions.[8] Melissus of Samos (born c. 470 BC) was another eminent member of this school.

Pluralist school

Empedocles of Agrigentum (490-430 BC) was from the ancient Greek city of Akragas (Ἀκράγας), Agrigentum in Latin, modern Agrigento, in Sicily. He appears to have been partly in agreement with the Eleatic School, partly in opposition to it. On the one hand, he maintained the unchangeable nature of substance; on the other, he supposes a plurality of such substances - i.e. four classical elements, earth, water, air, and fire. Of these the world is built up, by the agency of two ideal motive forces - love as the cause of union, strife as the cause of separation.[8] Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-428 BC) in Asia Minor also maintained the existence of an ordering principle as well as a material substance, and while regarding the latter as an infinite multitude of imperishable primary elements, he conceived divine reason or Mind (nous) as ordering them. He referred all generation and disappearance to mixture and resolution respectively. To him belongs the credit of first establishing philosophy at Athens.[8]

Atomist school

The first explicitly materialistic system was formed by Leucippus (5th century BC) and his pupil Democritus of Abdera (460-370 BC) from Thrace. This was the doctrine of atoms - small primary bodies infinite in number, indivisible and imperishable, qualitatively similar, but distinguished by their shapes. Moving eternally through the infinite void, they collide and unite, thus generating objects which differ in accordance with the varieties, in number, size, shape, and arrangement, of the atoms which compose them.[8]


Diogenes of Apollonia from Thrace (born c. 460 BC) was an eclectic philosopher who adopted many principles of the Milesian school, especially the single material principle, which he identified as air. He explained natural processes in reference to the rarefactions and condensations of this primary substance. He also adopted Anaxagoras' cosmic thought.


The sophists held that all thought rests solely on the apprehensions of the senses and on subjective impression, and that therefore we have no other standards of action than convention for the individual.[8] Specializing in rhetoric, the sophists were typically seen more as professional educators than philosophers. The sophists traveled extensively educating people throughout Greece. Unlike philosophical schools, the sophists had no common set of philosophical doctrines that connected them to each other. They did, however, focus on teaching techniques of debate and persuasion which centered around the study of language, semantics, and grammar for use in convincing people of certain viewpoints. They also taught students their own interpretations of the social sciences, mathematics, history, among others.[13] They flourished as a result of a special need at that time for Greek education. Prominent sophists include Protagoras (490-420 BC) from Abdera in Thrace, Gorgias (487-376 BC) from Leontini in Sicily, Hippias (485-415 BC) from Elis in the Peloponnesos, Prodicus (465-390 BC) from the island of Ceos, and Thrasymachus (459-400 BC) from Chalcedon on the Bosphorus.

Other early Greek philosophers

This list includes several men, particularly the Seven Sages, who appear to have been practical politicians and sources of epigrammatic wisdom, rather than speculative thinkers or philosophers in the modern sense.

Solon (c. 594 BC)
Chilon of Sparta (c. 560 BC)
Thales (c. 585 BC)
Bias of Priene (c. 570 BC)
Cleobulus of Rhodes (c. 600 BC)
Pittacus of Mitylene (c. 600 BC)
Periander (625–585 BC)


  • The Pre-Socratic method of critical reasoning deployed in the examination of the natural world was applied by Socrates to an examination of the human individual and his social institutions.
  • Hegel deeply studied the Pre-Socratics, crediting the philosopher Parmenides with introducing the concepts of Being and Non-Being (or Nothing).[14]
  • Karl Marx's doctoral thesis "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature" evaluates the thought of the Pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, one of the founders of Atomic theory.
  • Within the Marxist philosophical tradition the Pre-Socratics are recognized as the first Materialists.
  • Nietzsche described the Pre-Socratics as "the tyrants of the spirit",[15] and says of Socrates that "the hitherto so wonderfully regular, although certainly too rapid, development of the philosophical science was destroyed in one night".
  • Oswald Spengler's doctoral thesis "The metaphysical idea of Heraclitus' philosophy" evaluates the thought of the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, dubbed "the obscure".
  • Karl Popper, one of the 20th century's most influential philosophers of science, placed great importance on the critical tradition embodied in the development of Pre-Socratic thought, the analysis of which contributed to his own epistemological theories. His well-known essay on the subject, "Back to the Pre-Socratics", can be found in the anthology of his essays Conjectures and Refutations - The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 2nd Edition. Routledge Publishing. 2002.


  1. ^ a b c "Presocratic Philosophy", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 4 April 2016.
  2. ^ William Keith Chambers Guthrie, The Presocratic Tradition from Parmenides to Democritus, p. 13, ISBN 0-317-66577-4.
  3. ^ John Freely, Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
  4. ^ Most, G. W. (1999). The poetics of early Greek philosophy. In A. A. Long (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy (pp. 332–362). chapter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Franco Orsucci, Changing Mind: Transitions in Natural and Artificial Environments, p. 14, ISBN 981-238-027-2.
  6. ^ Simon Goldhill. Rethinking Revolutions Through Ancient Greece. p. 221.
  7. ^ Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy (1955). p. 323.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Oskar Seyffert, (1894), Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, page 480
  9. ^ Irwin, T. (1999). Classical Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 6, Google Books.
  10. ^ Souza, J. C. (1985). Pré-socráticos. Coleção Os Pensadores. 6ª ed. São Paulo: Nova Cultural, pp. 19, 45, PDF Archived 2016-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Curd, Patricia (April 4, 2016). "Presocratic Philosophy". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  12. ^ Warren, James. The Oracles of Heraclitus. Skocksfield.
  13. ^ Hornblower, Simon. Sophists. The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Oxford University Press.
  14. ^ Picturing Hegel: An Illustrated Guide to Hegel's Encyclopaedia of Logic. p. 46.
  15. ^ Fredrich Nietzsche, Dawn, Aphorism 547


Further reading

  • Adrados, Francisco R. 1994. "Human Vocabulary and Naturalist Vocabulary in the Presocratics." Glotta 72.1-4: 182-195.
  • Cornford, F. M. 1991. From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Graham, D. W. 2010. The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Franek, Juraj. 2013. "Presocratic Philosophy and the Origins of Religion." Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 18.1: 57-74.
  • Furley, D. J., and R. E. Allen, eds. 1970. Studies in Presocratic Philosophy. Vol. 1, The Beginnings of Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Jaeger, W. 1947. The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Luchte, James. 2011. Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn. New York: Continuum
  • Mansfeld, J., and D. T. Runia. 2010. Aëtiana: The Method and Intellectual Context of a Doxographer. Vol. 3, Studies in the Doxographical Traditions of Ancient Philosophy. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill.
  • Mansfeld, J. and O. Primavesi. 2011. Die Vorsokratiker: Griechisch/Deutsch. Stuttgart: Reclam.
  • McKirahan, R. D. 2011. Philosophy Before Socrates. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.
  • Robb, K., ed. 1983. Language and Thought in Early Greek Philosophy. La Salle, IL: Hegeler Institute.
  • Stokes, M. 1971. One and Many in Presocratic Philosophy. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.
  • Vlastos, G. 1995. Studies in Greek Philosophy. Vol. 1, The Presocratics. Edited by D. W. Graham. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

External links

Ancient Greek philosophy

Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Greece and most Greek-inhabited lands were part of the Roman Empire. Philosophy was used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics.Greek philosophy has influenced much of Western culture since its inception. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". Clear, unbroken lines of influence lead from ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers to Early Islamic philosophy, Medieval Scholasticism, the European Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.Some claim that Greek philosophy was in turn influenced by the older wisdom literature and mythological cosmogonies of the ancient Near East, though this is debated. Martin Litchfield West gives qualified assent to this view by stating that "contact with oriental cosmology and theology helped to liberate the early Greek philosophers' imagination; it certainly gave them many suggestive ideas. But they taught themselves to reason. Philosophy as we understand it is a Greek creation".Subsequent philosophic tradition was so influenced by Socrates as presented by Plato that it is conventional to refer to philosophy developed prior to Socrates as pre-Socratic philosophy. The periods following this, up to and after the wars of Alexander the Great, are those of "classical Greek" and "Hellenistic" philosophy.

Bekker numbering

Bekker numbering or Bekker pagination is the standard form of citation to the works of Aristotle. It is based on the page numbers used in the Prussian Academy of Sciences edition of the complete works of Aristotle and takes its name from the editor of that edition, the classical philologist August Immanuel Bekker (1785-1871); because the Academy was located in Berlin, the system is occasionally referred to by the alternative name Berlin numbering or Berlin pagination.Bekker numbers consist of up to three ordered coordinates, or pieces of information: a number, the letter a or b, and another number, which refer respectively to the page number of Bekker's edition of the Greek text of Aristotle's works, the page column (a standard page of Bekker's edition has exactly two columns), and the line number (total lines typically ranging from 20-40 on a given column or page in Bekker's edition). For example, the Bekker number denoting the beginning of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is 1094a1, which corresponds to page 1094 of Bekker's edition, first column (column a), line 1.

All modern editions or translations of Aristotle intended for scholarly readers use Bekker numbers, in addition to or instead of page numbers. Contemporary scholars writing on Aristotle use the Bekker number so that the author's citations can be checked by readers without having to use the same edition or translation that the author used.

While Bekker numbers are the dominant method used to refer to the works of Aristotle, Catholic or Thomist scholars often use the medieval method of reference by book, chapter, and sentence, albeit generally in addition to Bekker numbers.

Stephanus pagination is the comparable system for referring to the works of Plato, and Diels-Kranz numbering is the comparable system for Pre-Socratic philosophy. Unlike Stephanus pagination, which is based upon a three-volume translation of Plato's works and which recycles low page numbers across the three volumes, introducing the possibility for ambiguity if the Platonic work or volume is not specified, Bekker page numbers cycle from 1 through the end of the Corpus Aristotelicum regardless of volume, without starting over for some other given volume. Bekker numbering therefore has the advantage that its notation is unambiguous as compact numerical information, although it relies upon the ordering of Aristotle's works as presented in Bekker's edition.

Christopher Camuto

Christopher Camuto is an American nature writer, scholar and poet. He is the author of three books focused on the southern Appalachians--A Fly Fisherman's Blue Ridge (Henry Holt, 1990), Another Country: Journeying Toward the Cherokee Mountains (Henry Holt, 1997), Hunting from Home: A Year Afield in the Blue Ridge (W. W. Norton, 2003) and of Time and Tide in Acadia: Seasons on Mount Desert Island (W. W. Norton, 2009). He worked under the editorship of William Strachan at Henry Holt and of Amy Cherry at Norton.

His second book, Another Country, is perhaps his most complex, interweaving historical accounts of the southern Appalachians, reflections on the Cherokee language and its relationship to the landscape, and an account of efforts to reintroduce the endangered red wolf into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since 1995 Camuto has been the book review columnist for Gray's Sporting Journal, where he comments six times a year on sporting literature and art. Since 1998 he had written the quarterly "Watersheds" column, which he created, for Trout Unlimited's Trout. He was the book review columnist for Audubon from 1999-2002 and has written for a wide range of periodicals devoted to nature and the environment, including American Rivers, Audubon, The Boston Globe, Chesapeake Bay Journal, Field & Stream, Flyfishing, Fly Fisherman, Gray's Sporting Journal, Sewanee Review, Sierra, Sports Afield, Trout, Weber Studies in the Environment, and Wilderness.

Camuto's work has been anthologized in a number of books devoted to distinguished nature writing, including The Gift of Trout (Lyons and Burford, 1996), The Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), In Praise of Wild Trout (The Lyons Press, 1998), The Woods Stretched for Miles: Contemporary Southern Nature Writing (The University of Georgia Press, 1999), Uncommon Wealth: Essays on Virginia's Wild Places (Falcon Press, 1999), The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told (The Lyons Press, 2000), Into the Backing (The Lyons Press, 2001), Elemental South: Earth, Air, Fire and Water (The University of Georgia Press, 2004), Bartram's Living Legacy (Mercer University Press, 2010), and Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs (Skyhorse Press, 2010). He wrote the introduction for the West Virginia University Press reprint, published in 2011, of Julia Davis' 1945 The Shenandoah, one of the titles in the celebrated Rivers of America series (1937-1974).

In the 1990s, Camuto was instrumental in publicizing the acidification of southern Appalachian headwater streams, most notably in an extended feature in the Winter 1991 Trout: "Dropping Acid in the Southern Appalachians: A Wild Trout Resource at Considerable Risk." During the 1980s and 1990s, he worked, as a writer and activist, on the controversies surrounding management of public forest lands in the southeast, especially the protection, preservation and restoration of coldwater streams and the preservation of roadless areas on national forest land. He is associated with the Southern Nature Project (, has done work on behalf of American Rivers, the Izaak Walton League, The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, Trout Unlimited, The Wilderness Society, and other environmental organizations. In the 1970s, he worked on behalf of migrant and seasonal farmworkers on the eastern shore of Virginia.

A native New Yorker and a long-time resident of Virginia (the Eastern Shore, Albemarle and Rockbridge counties), Camuto currently lives at Wolftree Farm in Union County, Pennsylvania, a hard-used but biologically diverse 78-acre woodland he acquired in 2005 and which has become an eco-restoration project in progress. Located near the foot of Buffalo Mountain, between state-owned forest land and private farmland, the property is an instructive example of the condition of private woodlands in central Pennsylvania. Despite its name, Wolftree Farm is for the most part re-grown woodland rather than tillable land, its succession toward mature woods having been defeated repeatedly by select (high-grade) logging in past decades. Working on his own, Camuto is striving to mitigate the effects of this logging, inroads of invasive species, and ill-conceived white and red pine plantings from the 1960s. He is trying to encourage a naturally diverse mix of native hardwoods—walnut, oak, hickory, black cherry—along with a healthy understory of native shrubs. Despite its problems, the property is diverse in birdlife (over a hundred species) and wildlife (including black bear, wild turkey, ruffed grouse). Camuto hopes to establish the property as a nature preserve. He has established a modest homestead on land he cleared, including a cedar log house he partly built himself near the abandoned home site of one James Glover (1824-1898), grandson of John Glover, Sr., an eighteenth-century Irish immigrant to America and an early (1772) white settler in what became Hartley Township, Pennsylvania. This homestead and woodland are now the center of Camuto's new work in nonfiction, fiction and poetry, including Works and Days: Notes on a Woodland Farm (nonfiction), A Hunter's Book of Hours (poetry), Sympathy for the Settler (poetry), Amygdala: Stories (fiction) and A Dream of Darwin (prose/poetry).

In recent years, Camuto has also been exploring his ancestral roots in Italy and the Mediterranean world. He is at work on a book of essays about his grandparents' connections to the Italian landscape—in Sicily (Bronte), in Basilicata (Melfi, Potenza, San Costantino Albanese) and Como—and a volume of poetry, Learning to Travel, about travel related to Magna Graecia, pre-Socratic philosophy, and classical Western literature, all of which are strong influences on his life, writing and teaching. He maintains close ties to the relations of his paternal grandmother, Delores Scutari, who live in Potenza, Senise and San Costantino Albanese, one of Basilicata's Arberesche mountain villages. Through his maternal grandmother, Mary Bocchetta Zanini, he is related to Vittore Bocchetta—Italian sculptor, painter, scholar and anti-Fascist resistance fighter in World War II.


Chronos (; Greek: Χρόνος, "time", pronounced [kʰrónos], also transliterated as Khronos or Latinised as Chronus) is the personification of time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature.Chronos already was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, the Titan Cronus in antiquity due to the similarity in names. The identification became more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe.

He was depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning the Zodiac Wheel. Chronos might also be contrasted with the deity Aion as cyclical Time (see aeon). Chronos is usually portrayed as an old, wise man with a long, grey beard, similar to Father Time. In some Greek sources, Kairos is mentioned as a brother of Chronos. However, other sources point out that it is his son.


Democritus (; Greek: Δημόκριτος, Dēmókritos, meaning "chosen of the people"; c. 460 – c. 370 BC) was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe.Democritus was born in Abdera, Thrace, around 460 BC, although there are disagreements about the exact year. His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor Leucippus, as they are often mentioned together in texts. Their speculation on atoms, taken from Leucippus, bears a passing and partial resemblance to the 19th-century understanding of atomic structure that has led some to regard Democritus as more of a scientist than other Greek philosophers; however, their ideas rested on very different bases.

Largely ignored in ancient Athens, Democritus is said to have been disliked so much by Plato that the latter wished all of his books burned. He was nevertheless well known to his fellow northern-born philosopher Aristotle.

Many consider Democritus to be the "father of modern science". None of his writings have survived; only fragments are known from his vast body of work.

Eduard Zeller

Eduard Gottlob Zeller (German: [ˈtsɛlɐ]; 22 January 1814, Kleinbottwar – 19 March 1908, Stuttgart), was a German philosopher and Protestant theologian of the Tübingen School of theology. He was well known for his writings on Ancient Greek philosophy, especially Pre-Socratic Philosophy, and most of all for his celebrated, multi-volume historical treatise The Philosophy of Greeks in their Historical Development (1844–52). Zeller was also a central figure in the revival of neo-Kantianism.


The Eleatics were a pre-Socratic school of philosophy founded by Parmenides in the early fifth century BC in the ancient town of Elea. Other members of the school included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. Xenophanes is sometimes included in the list, though there is some dispute over this. Elea, whose modern-day appellation is Velia, was a Greek colony located in present-day Campania in southern Italy.


In American politics, a front-runner or frontrunner is a leader in an electoral race. While the front-runner in athletic events (the namesake of the political concept) is generally clear, a political front-runner, particularly in the U.S. presidential primary process, is less so; a potential nominee may lead in the polls, have the most name recognition, the most funds raised, or a combination of these. The front-runner is most often declared by the media who are following the race, and is written about in a different style than his or her challengers. Indeed, in Golf, a fan of the Phil Mickelson is typically a front-runner Gill, N.S. "Atomism - Pre-Socratic Philosophy of Atomism". About Education. Retrieved 2014-04-01.


In most contexts, the concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred when posed with a choice between possible actions. Good is generally considered to be the opposite of evil, and is of interest in the study of morality, ethics, religion and philosophy. The specific meaning and etymology of the term and its associated translations among ancient and contemporary languages show substantial variation in its inflection and meaning depending on circumstances of place, history, religious, or philosophical context.


In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Idealism theories are mainly divided into two groups. Subjective idealism takes as its starting point the given fact of human consciousness seeing the existing world as a combination of sensation. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective consciousness which exists before and, in some sense, independently of human ones. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects those physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind.

The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek neoplatonists gave panentheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its "mind-only" idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism. Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or "ideal" character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism.

Idealism as a philosophy came under heavy attack in the West at the turn of the 20th century. The most influential critics of both epistemological and ontological idealism were G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, but its critics also included the new realists. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the attacks by Moore and Russell were so influential that even more than 100 years later "any acknowledgment of idealistic tendencies is viewed in the English-speaking world with reservation". However, many aspects and paradigms of idealism did still have a large influence on subsequent philosophy.

Ionian School (philosophy)

The Ionian school of Pre-Socratic philosophy was centred in Miletus, Ionia in the 6th century BC. Miletus and its environs was a thriving mercantile melting pot of current ideas of the time. The Ionian School included such thinkers as Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus. The collective affinity of this group was first acknowledged by Aristotle who called them physiologoi (φυσιολόγοι), meaning 'those who discoursed on nature'. The classification can be traced to the second-century historian of philosophy Sotion. They are sometimes referred to as cosmologists, since they were largely physicalists who tried to explain the nature of matter.

While some of these scholars are included in the Milesian school of philosophy, others are more difficult to categorize.

Most cosmologists thought that, although matter could change from one form to another, all matter had something in common which did not change. They did not agree on what all things had in common, and did not experiment to find out, but used abstract reasoning rather than religion or mythology to explain themselves, thus becoming the first philosophers in the Western tradition.

Later philosophers widened their studies to include other areas of thought. The Eleatic school, for example, also studied epistemology, or how people come to know what exists. But the Ionians were the first group of philosophers that we know of, and so remain historically important.

John Anderson Palmer

John Anderson Palmer is an American philosopher and professor of philosophy at the University of Florida.

He is known for his expertise on ancient Greek philosophy. In 2014, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Leonard Borgzinner

Geir Arne Olsen (1957 - 1990), better known under his pen-name Leonard Borgzinner, was a Norwegian essayist, self-taught political philosopher, science fiction author, illustrator and fanzine editor. Borgzinner is most noted for his many contributions to the alternative culture magazine Gateavisa and for his two books, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories, Universets varmedød og andre selvmord (1981; "The Heat-Death of the Universe and other Suicides") and a collection of essays in political philosophy, Anarki og adel: elementer til en kulturrevolusjon (1998; "Anarchy and Nobility: Elements towards a Cultural Revolution"). As an illustrator he was known for his often satirical drawings for fanzines and underground publications, including some comic strips. His fanzine production in the late 1970s, still partly under the name of Geir Arne Olsen, spanned both science fiction fandom and the punk music world, the former in the fanzines TRALFA and The Borgzinner Medicine Show, and the latter most notably in the two published issues of 666, published in opposition to the Norwegian punk establishment. Influences on his work included Pre-Socratic philosophy, Marquis de Sade, anarchism, Friedrich Nietzsche, William S. Burroughs, new wave science fiction, Samuel R. Delany, Yukio Mishima and Michel Foucault.

He has been translated into French. His alternative, punk era pen-name Leon Latex was used as the name of a character in a television series for children made by the leftist Norwegian theatre group Tramteatret in the early 1980s.

Leonard Borgzinner, 1957-1990: A short tribute in Norwegian by social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen.


Leucippus (; Greek: Λεύκιππος, Leúkippos; fl. 5th cent. BCE) is reported in some ancient sources to have been a philosopher who was the earliest Greek to develop the theory of atomism—the idea that everything is composed entirely of various imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms. Leucippus often appears as the master to his pupil Democritus, a philosopher also touted as the originator of the atomic theory.

"Aristotle and Theophrastos certainly made him [Leucippus] the originator of the atomic theory, and they can hardly have been mistaken on such a point." An authoritative quote by Burnet in the fourth edition of Early Greek Philosophy (1930), Chapter IX 'Leuikippos of Miletos', pg. 330.

However, a brief notice in Diogenes Laërtius’s life of Epicurus says that on the testimony of Epicurus, Leucippus never existed. As the philosophical heir of Democritus, Epicurus's word has some weight, and indeed a controversy over this matter raged in German scholarship for many years at the close of the 19th century. Furthermore, in his Corpus Democriteum, Thrasyllus of Alexandria, an astrologer and writer living under the emperor Tiberius (14–37 CE), compiled a list of writings on atomism that he attributed to Democritus to the exclusion of Leucippus. The present consensus among the world's historians of philosophy is that this Leucippus is historical. The matter must remain moot unless more information is forthcoming from the record.

Leucippus was most likely born in Miletus, although Abdera and Elea are also mentioned as possible birthplaces.

Milesian school

The Milesian school () was a school of thought founded in the 6th century BC. The ideas associated with it are exemplified by three philosophers from the Ionian town of Miletus, on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. They introduced new opinions contrary to the prevailing belief of how the world was organized, in which natural phenomena were explained solely by the will of anthropomorphized gods. The Milesians conceived of nature in terms of methodologically observable entities, and as such was one of the first truly scientific philosophies.

The Milesian school is not synonymous with the Ionian, which includes the philosophies of the Milesians plus distinctly different Ionian thinkers such as Heraclitus. The Ionian School contains the three philosophers that form the Milesian School as well as a few more who were added on during the 5th Century, but the Ionian School looked more into the thought behind everything while the Milesian School was more focused on nature.

Pherecydes of Syros

Pherecydes of Syros (; Greek: Φερεκύδης ὁ Σύριος; fl. 6th century BC) was a Greek thinker from the island of Syros. Pherecydes authored a cosmogony, derived from three divine principles, Zas (Zeus), Cthonie (Earth) and Chronos (Time), known as the "Pentemychos" (Πεντέμυχος, "of the five recesses"; sometimes the alternative title "Heptamychos", "seven recesses" is given). It formed a bridge between the mythological thought of Hesiod and pre-Socratic philosophy. His work is lost, but it survived into the Hellenistic period and we are informed on part of its content indirectly. Pherecydes was said to have been the first writer to communicate philosophical musings in prose. According to William (ca. 1896), Aristotle regarded him partly a mythological writer and Plutarch, as well as many other writers gave him the title of Theologus.


Pseudo-Plutarch is the conventional name given to the actual, but unknown, authors of a number of pseudepigrapha (falsely attributed works) attributed to Plutarch but now known to have not been written by him.

Some of these works were included in some editions of Plutarch's Moralia. Among these are:

the Lives of the Ten Orators (Latin: Vitae Decem Oratorum, biographies of the Ten Orators of ancient Athens, based on Caecilius of Calacte), possibly deriving from a common source with the Lives of Photius

The Doctrines of the Philosophers (Greek: Περὶ τῶν ἀρεσκόντων φιλοσόφοις φυσικῶν δογμάτων; Latin: Placita Philosophorum)

De Musica (On Music)

Parallela Minora (Minor Parallels)

Pro Nobilitate (Noble Lineage)

De Fluviorum et Montium Nominibus (About the Names of Rivers and Mountains/On Rivers; Greek: Περὶ ποταμῶν καὶ ὄρων ἐπωνυμίας)

De Homero (On Homer)

De Unius in Re Publica Dominatione (On the Rule of One in the Republic)

Consolatio ad Apollonium (Consolation to Apollonius)These works date to slightly later than Plutarch, but almost all of them date to Late Antiquity (3rd to 4th century AD). D. Blank has recently shown that Pro Nobilitate was written by Arnoul Le Ferron (Arnoldus Ferronus) and first published in 1556.One pseudepigraphal philosophical work, De Fato (On Fate; included in editions of Plutarch's Moralia), is thought to be a 2nd-century Middle Platonic work.

Stromateis (Στρωματεῖς, "Patchwork"), an important source for Pre-Socratic Philosophy, is also falsely ascribed to Plutarch.Some works ascribed to Plutarch are likely of medieval origin, such as the "Letter to Trajan."

Stephanus pagination

Stephanus pagination is a system of reference and organization used in modern editions and translations of Plato (and less famously, Plutarch) based on the three volume 1578 edition of Plato's complete works translated by Joannes Serranus (Jean de Serres) and published by Henricus Stephanus (Henri Estienne) in Geneva.

Pre-Socratic philosophers by school

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