Classical Representations and Uses of the Presocratics

John Palmer

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892112 | DOI:


Classical Representations and Uses of the Presocratics

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Anyone interested in the influence of Presocratic thought may be tempted to begin with Plato and Aristotle. There is, however, sufficient evidence of Presocratic influence among the sophists to make it clear that this temptation should be resisted. Some traces of this earlier influence may be found in Plato and Aristotle themselves, and this fact should serve as a reminder that their own involvement with Presocratic philosophy did not take place in a vacuum but will have been conditioned or mediated by previous developments. This article deals with classical thinkers (including Plato and Aristotle) who interpreted, wrote about, and preserved the Presocratics, pointing out that just as one must read the Presocratics through the filters of Plato and Aristotle and their successors and commentators, Plato and Aristotle were influenced by the already burgeoning tradition of historiography that developed in the late fifth and fourth centuries.

Keywords: Presocratic thought; Plato; Aristotle; Presocratic influence; sophists

Article.  13193 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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