Presocratic Themes

Being, not-being and mind

Authored by: David Sedley

The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics

Print publication date:  April  2009
Online publication date:  April  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415396318
eBook ISBN: 9780203879306
Adobe ISBN: 9781134155866


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European philosophy started life as speculative science. The remarkable pantheon of Greek thinkers classed as “Presocratic” on the ground that they are philosophically antecedent to Socrates (bc 469–399) treated the world itself as their primary explanandum. But deep questions concerning the world’s physical structure turned out to be inseparable from still deeper ones about what it is to be a discrete thing, what being entails, and whether there is any parallel role for its negative counterpart, not-being. In what follows, it should be borne in mind that, although all the thinkers we will be considering wrote one or more books, none of those books survives intact. Their thought must be reconstructed from fragments (purportedly verbatim quotations) and other testimonies. This makes an already risky historical exercise even more hazardous. But the ultimate sources of our own thinking are a topic we cannot lightly set aside.

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