Is there any book focusing on presocratic cosmological ideas?

Such as Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments, but covering all of the presocratics.

My main motivation is that I would like to give a lecture of sixty minutes about presocratic cosmology to my philosophy undergraduate students.

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    @Keelan I would like to give a lecture of 60 minutes about presocratic cosmology to my philosophy undergraduate students. I'm sorry, but I don't know how to be more specific.
    – user42912
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 23:36
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    Hi @user42912, May I suggest that you add the "history of philosophy" tag to your question too? As for your actual query, am I correct in thinking that it's supposed to be a sort of "brief history of X" lecture? Here are some more general ideas: Start with outlining Cosmology and its historical relationship to Philosophy, maybe you could mention some of issues within the Philosophy/History of science. such as why Cosmology was once considered to be a non-Science.
    – Five σ
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 23:57
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    How broad can this be in larger scheme of Western Philosophy? Russell covers it in a few brief pages in his History. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 11:12
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    @Einer The Penguin Classic edition by N. K. Sandars has a chapter in the introduction entitled 'The Principal Gods of the Epic' which goes into the cosmology and gods of Mesopotamia. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 4:57
  • See The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts Schofield, M., Raven, J. E., Kirk, G. S., ISBN 10: 0521274559 / ISBN 13: 9780521274555, for the surviving fragments (which are all that's left of their writings). This includes texts and commentary. See also for exposition: Barnes, Jonathan, The Presocratic Philosophers, ISBN 10: 0415050790 / ISBN 13: 9780415050791 and The Pre-Socratics: A Collection of Critical Essays. Mourelatos, Alexander P D (ed), ISBN 10: 0691020884ISBN 13: 9780691020884.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 12:48

4 Answers 4


If I was teaching this I'd give a brief description of the major pre-Socratic cosmologists: essentially the Milisian Monists - Thales and the world as water, Anaximander and the world as indeterminate (apeiron); and Parmenides as the World as One.

And then follow through with some extracts on Lucretious On the nature of things to link up with the early-modern conception of the atom including the Clinamen; and point out that each individual atom is a Parmenidian One.

Also, focus on Empedocles theory of forces with Kants critique of Newtonian Force.

It might be useful to look at the very early part of Hegels History of Philosophy where he covers this - but the language is difficult; and also the first section of Russell's History of Western Philosophy.

This way I'd be connecting contemporary philosophy to its beginning - which I think would be useful; (well, it would have been for me).

The SEP entry is very good; as is the one by the IEP


For a very easily understandable discussion of the Pre-Socratics, I would check out the first dozen-or-so episodes of the History of Philosophy podcast, or refer your students to them. Each episode has a list of further readings that would also be useful in putting together a lecture.


There's a good entry on SEP about Pre-Socratic Philosophy,where Cosmology is also mentioned. you might want to take a look over there.


Presocratic Philosophy

The Presocratics were 6th and 5th century BCE Greek thinkers who introduced a new way of inquiring into the world and the place of human beings in it. They were recognized in antiquity as the first philosophers and scientists of the Western tradition. This article is a general introduction to the most important Presocratic philosophers and the main themes of Presocratic thought. More detailed discussions can be found by consulting the articles on these philosophers...


Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" has some info on early cosmology. Though brief, it might be a good starting point and you can use the references to further elaborate.

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