The Humanizing of Knowledge in Presocratic Thought

J. H. Lesher

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 The Humanizing of Knowledge in Presocratic Thought

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This article explores Presocratic epistemology, arguing that divine revelation is replaced as a warrant for knowledge with naturalistic accounts of how and what we humans can know; thus replacing earlier Greek pessimism about knowledge with a more optimistic outlook that allows for human discovery of the truth. A review of the relevant fragments and testimonia shows that Xenophanes, Alcmaeon, Heraclitus, and Parmenides—even Pythagoras and Empedocles—all moved some distance away from the older “god-oriented” view of knowledge toward a more secular and optimistic outlook. But to get some sense of the dynamics at work in this transition this article begins, as virtually every account of early Greek thought must begin, with Homer and Hesiod.

Keywords: Presocratic epistemology; Greek pessimism; Xenophanes; Alcmaeon; Heraclitus

Article.  13392 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Epistemology

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