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Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

Catherine Osborne

Publication Date - September 2004

ISBN: 9780192840943

168 pages

In Stock


Generations of philosophers, both ancient and modern, have traced their inspiration back to the Presocratics. Part of the fascination stems from the fact that little of what they wrote survives. Here Osborne invites her readers to dip their toes into the fragmentary remains of thinkers from Thales to Pythagoras, Heraclitus to Protagoras, and to try to reconstruct the moves that they were making, to support stories that Western philosophers and historians of philosophy like to tell about their past.

This book covers the invention of western philosophy: introducing to us the first thinkers to explore ideas about the nature of reality, time, and the origin of the universe.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.


  • Features the history of thinkers from Thales to Pythagoras and Heraclitus to Protagoras
  • A thematic rather than chronological treatment of early Greek philosophy
  • Begins with the finding of the new papyrus of a fragment of Empedocles' poem
  • Leads the reader to a responsible handling of sample source material
  • Focuses on questions rather than survey
  • Reinterprets aspects of the usual account such as the role of the Sophists, and later interpretations of thinkers such as Heraclitus
  • Engages with the new papyrus of Empedocles

About the Author(s)

Catherine Osborne has been a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, Norwich (since 2003), Reader in the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies at the University of Liverpool from 2000 to 2003, and before that Reader in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wales, Swansea. Her publications include Rethinking Early Greek Philosophy (1987) and Eros Unveiled: Plato and the God of Love (1994), as well as the chapter on Heraclitus in the Routledge History of Philosophy, Volume 1 and many articles on a wide range of issues in Ancient Philosophy from the Presocratics to the Early Christian period.