Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny

By Anthony Kenny

Sir Anthony Kenny right here tells the interesting tale of the delivery of philosophy and its notable flourishing within the old Mediterranean global. this is often the preliminary quantity of a four-book set within which Kenny will spread a magisterial new historical past of Western philosophy, the 1st significant single-author historical past of philosophy to seem in many years. Ancient Philosophy spans over 1000 years and brings to lifestyles the nice minds of the prior, from Thales, Pythagoras, and Parmenides, to Socrates, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Augustine. The book's nice advantage is that it really is written by means of one of many world's best experts at the topic. rather than an uncritical, ordinary recitation of identified facts--Plato and his cave of shadows, Aristotle's ethics, Augustine's urban of God--we see the main philosophers throughout the eyes of a guy who has spent a life-time considering their paintings. hence we don't easily get an summary of Aristotle, for instance, yet a penetrating and insightful critique of his suggestion. Kenny deals an illuminating account of some of the colleges of idea, from the Pre-Socratics to the Epicureans. He examines the advance of good judgment and cause, historical principles approximately physics ("how issues happen"), metaphysics and ethics, and the earliest pondering the soul and god. Vividly written, yet critical and deep adequate to provide a real knowing of the good philosophers, Kenny's lucid and stimulating heritage becomes the definitive paintings for someone drawn to the folk and concepts that formed the process Western suggestion.

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Sample text

He was contrasted with the laughing philosopher, the atomist Democritus. A more appropriate contrast would be with Parmenides, the head of the Italian school of philosophy in the early Wfth century. For classical Athens, Heraclitus was the proponent of the theory that everything was in motion, and Parmenides the proponent of the theory that nothing was in motion. Plato and Aristotle struggled, in diVerent ways, to defend the audacious thesis that some things were in motion and some things were at rest.

Sometimes these identiWcations of opposites are straightforward statements of the relativity of certain predicates. The most famous, ‘The way up and the way down are one and the same’, sounds very deep. However, it need mean no more than that when, skipping down a mountain, I meet you toiling upward, we are both on the same path. DiVerent things are attractive at diVerent times: food when you are hungry, bed when you are sleepy (KRS 201). DiVerent things attract diVerent species: sea-water is wholesome for Wsh, but poisonous for humans; donkeys prefer rubbish to gold (KRS 199).

This Wery world is the only world there is, not made by gods or men, but governed throughout by Logos. It would be absurd, he argued, to think that this glorious cosmos is just a piled-up heap of rubbish (DK 22 B124). ‘Logos’ is the everyday Greek term for a written or spoken word, but from Heraclitus onwards almost every Greek philosopher gave it one or more of several grander meanings. It is often rendered by translators as ‘Reason’—whether to refer to the reasoning powers of human individuals, or to some more exalted cosmic principle of order and beauty.

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