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The Great Conversation: Volume I

Pre-Socratics through Descartes

Seventh Edition

Norman Melchert

Publication Date - January 2014

ISBN: 9780199999675

416 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $72.95

This historically organized introduction treats philosophy as a dramatic and continuous story--a great conversation


Ideal for courses in ancient philosophy or ancient and medieval philosophy, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, Volume I: Pre-Socratics through Descartes, Seventh Edition, covers the same material as the first half (chapters 1-13) of author Norman Melchert's longer volume, The Great Conversation. Tracing the exchange of ideas between history's key philosophers, it demonstrates that while constructing an argument or making a claim, one philosopher almost always has others in mind. It addresses the fundamental questions of human life: Who are we? What can we know? How should we live? and What sort of reality do we inhabit?

Author Norman Melchert provides a generous selection of excerpts from major philosophical works and makes them more easily understandable to students with his lucid and engaging explanations. Extensive cross-referencing shows students how philosophers respond appreciatively or critically to the thoughts of other philosophers. The text is enhanced by two types of exercises--"Basic Questions" and "For Further Thought"--and numerous illustrations.

Also available to suit your course needs: The seventh editions of The Great Conversation: Volume II: Descartes through Derrida and Quine and the entire book, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, which begins with the Pre-Socratics and ends with David Chalmers

New to this Edition

  • A profile of Marcus Aurelius
  • A revised Instructor's Manual and Test Bank on CD is available to adopters
  • An updated Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/melchert provides student resources

About the Author(s)

Norman Melchert is Selfridge Professor of Philosophy Emeritus and a former Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh University.

Previous Publication Date(s)

September 2010
September 2006
July 2001


"This is certainly one of the best introductory texts on the market, possibly the best. For students who will take only one course in philosophy, this is the book that I would recommend; it will give them an excellent overview of more than two thousand years of philosophical debate."--Michael Henry, St. John's University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    A Word to Instructors
    A Word to Students
    1. Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer
    Hesiod: War among the Gods
    Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence
    2. Philosophy before Socrates
    Thales: The One as Water
    Anaximander: The One as the Boundless
    Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions
    Sketch: Pythagoras
    Heraclitus: Oneness in the Logos
    Profile: The Tao
    Parmenides: Only the One
    Zeno: The Paradoxes of Common Sense
    Atomism: The One and the Many Reconciled
    The Key: An Ambiguity
    The World
    The Soul
    How to Live
    3. The Sophists: Rhetoric and Relativism in Athens
    The Persian Wars
    The Sophists
    Physis and Nomos
    Athens and Sparta at War
    Aristophanes and Reaction
    4. Socrates: To Know Oneself
    Is Socrates a Sophist?
    What Socrates "Knows"
    We Ought to Search for Truth
    Human Excellence Is Knowledge
    All Wrongdoing Is Due to Ignorance
    The Most Important Thing of All is to Care for Your Soul
    5. The Trial and Death of Socrates
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Phaedo (Death Scene)
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    6. Plato: Knowing the Real and the Good
    Knowledge and Opinion
    Making the Distinction
    We Do Know Certain Truths
    The Objects of Knowledge
    The Reality of the Forms
    The World and the Forms
    How Forms Are Related to the World
    Lower and Higher Forms
    The Form of the Good
    The Love of Wisdom
    What Wisdom Is
    Love and Wisdom
    The Soul
    The Immortality of the Soul
    The Structure of the Soul
    The State
    Problems with the Forms
    7. Aristotle: The Reality of the World
    Aristotle and Plato
    The Objects of Knowledge
    Human Nature
    Relativism and Skepticism
    Logic and Knowledge
    Terms and Statements
    Reasons Why: The Syllogism
    Knowing First Principles
    The World
    The Four "Becauses"
    Is There Purpose in Nature?
    First Philosophy
    Not Plato's Forms
    What of Mathematics?
    Substance and Form
    Pure Actualities
    The Soul
    Levels of Soul
    Soul and Body
    The Good Life
    Virtue or Excellence (Areté)
    The Role of Reason
    The Highest Good
    8. Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics: Happiness for the Many
    The Epicureans
    The Stoics
    *Profile: Marcus Aurelius
    The Skeptics
    9. Jews and Christians: Sin, Salvation, and Love
    The Meaning of Jesus
    10. Augustine: God and the Soul
    Wisdom, Happiness, and God
    God and the World
    The Great Chain of Being
    Human Nature and Its Corruption
    Human Nature and Its Restoration
    Augustine on Relativism
    The Two Cities
    Augustine and the Philosophers
    Reason and Authority
    Intellect and Will
    Epicureans and Stoices
    11. Anselm and Aquinas: Existence and Essence in God and the World
    Anselm: On That, Than Which No Greater Can Be Conceived
    Thomas Aquinas: Rethinking Aristotle
    Sketch: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
    Philosophy and Theology
    Existence and Essence
    Sketch: Averro:es (Ibn Rushd)
    From Creation to God
    The Nature of God
    Sketch: Maimonides (Moses Ben Maimon)
    Humans: Their Souls
    Humans; Their Knowledge
    Humans: Their Good
    Ockham and Skeptical Doubts--Again
    12. Moving from Medieval to Modern
    The World God Made for Us
    The Humanists
    Reforming the Church
    Skeptical Thoughts Revived
    Copernicus to Kepler to Galileo: The Great Triple Play
    13. René Descartes: Doubting Our Way to Certainty
    The Method
    Meditations on First Philosophy
    Meditation I
    Meditation II
    Meditation III
    Meditation IV
    Meditation V
    Meditation VI
    What Has Descartes Done?
    A New Ideal for Knowledge
    A New Vision of Reality
    The Preeminence of Epistemology
    Appendix: Writing a Philosophy Paper