Read “Presocratic Philosophy” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and use it to answer the questions below

· Read “Presocratic Philosophy” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

· And use it to answer the questions below


1. Who Were the Presocratic Philosophers?

1. How many of complete books written by a Presocratic exists today?

2. So what evidence do scholars use to figure out what the Presocratic philosophers thought?

3. Why is it a bit misleading to call the presocratics “philosophers”?

4. What was the fundamental characteristic of Presocratic thought?

5. What is Hesiod’s poem Theogonyabout? Is Hesiod a Presocratic philosopher? Why or why not?


2. The Milesians

6. Which great ancient philosopher gives Thales credit for being the first philosopher (“inquirer into nature”)?

7. What was Thales’ explanation for why things are the way they are?

8. How does Anaximander explain the origin of the world?

9. According to Anaximenes, how does air turn into fire, water, or earth?


3. Xenophanes of Colophon and Heraclitus of Ephesus

10. In what ways does the thought of Xenophanes and Heraclitus go beyond the thoughts of the Milesians?

11. How is Xenophanes’ conception of god different from traditional Greek religion?

12. Instead of believing in Zeus, how does Heraclitus understand and explain the universe? How is Heraclitus’ universe different from the universe directed by Zeus?

13. How is the accumulation of information different from wisdom, according to Heraclitus?

4. Parmenides of Elea

14. According to Parmenides, what is the fundamental sign of knowledge?

15. In Parmenides’ poem, what does the goddess give the young man, and what does she not give the young man (kuros)?

16. What is the mark of truth, according to the goddess; and what misleads us (seductions)?

5. The Pythagorean Tradition

17. Describe a few of Pythagoras’ beliefs and the Pythagorean way of life.

6. Other Eleatics: Zeno and Melissus

18. What is Zeno of Elea most known for?

19. According to the runner paradox, (as briefly as possible) why is it impossible for someone to run from point A to point B?


7. The Pluralists: Anaxagoras of Clazomenae and Empedocles of Acragas

20. What caused the original mixture to rotate and form the universe, according to Anaxagoras?

21. What are the four roots, according to Empedocles? What causes these “roots” to combine and separate?

22. What two aspects of Empedocles’ thought cannot be separated?

8. Presocratic Atomism

23. Who were the two main presocratic atomists?

24. What were that basic characteristics of atoms?

25. What makes food taste sweet according to Democritus?


9. Diogenes of Apollonia and the Sophists

26. What reason did Diogenes give for believing that there is only one basic substance?

27. In what way was Diogenes’ conception of air different from the usual conception of air in the 21stcentury?

28. What did Aristotle call the physical philosophers?

29. Name two sophists. How were the sophists different from other Presocratics?

10. The Presocratic Legacy

30. What were some of the fields of study that interested the Presocratics?


31. In one or two paragraphs, describe in your own words what you think is most important to understand and remember about the Presocratic philososphers.

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