Presocratic Philosophy

Burnet: Early Greek Philosophy

Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise by Fyodor BronnikovEarly Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, first published in 1892, is a survey of Presocratic Greek thinkers. Individuals and schools covered include Thales and the Milesians, Heraclitus, Parmenides and the Eleatics, the Pythagoreans, Anaxagoras, Empedocles and Leucippus.

Burnet was a distinguished scholar of Plato, and many of his editions remain authoritative today. He saw Socratic philosophy as a development from the problems of the earlier cosmologists, despite the protestations of disinterest in natural philosophy recorded in Plato's Apology, believing that Socrates had been a disciple of Archelaus in his youth.

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Free online texts

Evansville.edu: John Burnet's Early Greek Philosophy. HTML format.

Hathi Trust: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet. PDF format. 

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1892 edition). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1908 edition). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy,by John Burnet (1920 edition). Multiple formats.

Peithô's Web: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1920 edition). HTML format.

Plato.spbu.ru: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1920 edition). PDF format.

Other Resources

Wikipedia: John Burnet (classicist).

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G.S.Kirk & J.E. Raven: The Presocratic Philosophers

The Presocratic Philosophers by G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven is a valuable history of early Greek thought, incorporating substantial quotations from the surviving fragments, in both Greek and English. Philosophers covered include:

The Ionian Thinkers, Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes; Xenophanes and Heraclitus.

The Italian Schools: Pythagoras, Alcmaeon of Croton, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Melissus, Philolaus and Eurytus of Croton.

The Post-Parmenidean Systems: Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, Leucippus, Democritus and Diogenes of Apollonia.

As will be seen in the other resources section below, the more recent 1983 edition features still features in contemporary academic bibliographies. For the general reader, the 1957 edition, available free from the Internet Archive, is a very valuable resource.

Free online and downloadable texts

Internet Archive: The Presocratic Philosophers, A Critical History with a Selection of texts, by G.S Kirk and J.G. Raven, (Cambridge, 1957).

Other Resources

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Presocratic Philosophy, by Patricia Curd. Features the 1983 edition of Kirk & Raven in its bibliography.

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps: The Presocratics, 12 podcasts by Peter Adamson. Features the 1983 edition of Kirk & Raven in its further reading list.


Plato: Parmenides

Parmenides  - Detail from Raphael's School of Athens. Wikipedia.The Parmenides is among the most enigmatic of Plato's dialogues, bringing Socrates into a profound metaphysical debate with two of the most influential Presocratic philosophers, Parmenides himself, and Zeno of Elea. The work fascinated ancient neoplatonist commentators, whose own interpretation of Plato emphasised his affinities with the Eleatic school.

Free Online and Downloadable Texts

Gutenberg: Parmenides by Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett, multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: Parmenides, translated by Benjamin Jowett. Online text.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Second Thoughts: Plato's Parmenides and the Forms - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Librivox: Parmenides - audiobook.

Ontology.co: Plato's Parmenides and the Dilemma of Participation.

PhilPapers: Plato - Parmenides - bibliography with open source option.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Plato's Parmenides.

Wikipedia: Parmenides.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: Plato's Dialogues are listed.