I want to make a lecture of 60 minutes to my students about presocratic cosmology and I would like some advices and book suggestions.


  • I'm sorry, but this kind of question is way too broad for our format. We're looking for questions that can easily be answered in some paragraphs. Please see this, this and this, and then edit your question accordingly. Thanks! – user2953 Apr 5 '15 at 21:48
  • @Keelan asking for a book suggestion? I don't think this is so hard to answer. – user42912 Apr 5 '15 at 21:51
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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 Apr 5 '15 at 23:36
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    3 suggestions, 1) The Epic of Gilgamesh 2) The Rig Veda (available online) 3) Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology – Swami Vishwananda Apr 6 '15 at 7:03
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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. – Swami Vishwananda Apr 8 '15 at 4:57

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

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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.

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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...

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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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