I have to admit to finding the opposition to "Presocratic" as a category rather irritating. In some cases it seems to be based on the simple misconception that "pre" must mean chronologically prior--whereas logical or developmental priority is surely what is intended by this term. (Where one thing is the inspiration or target or provocation for another, the latter is in a sense posterior). And priority in this sense needn't be anything to be ashamed of: on the contrary in all ancient thought priority is preferable and dependence is inferiority. Only if one assumes that all development is progress should one assume that being described "pre" Socrates is an insult. And why on earth should one think that?
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Presocratics: the revenge
Catherine Osborne, the author of a recent Very short introduction to Presocratic philosophy wrote an interesting comment on my last post. I think it is worth quoting it here:
That's a nice twist: why not think of 'Presocratic' as a way of saying that a particular philosopher is a necessary progenitor of Socrates? Some things from Platonic dialogues could certainly be offered as supporting evidence: Socrates' interest in and eventual rejection of Anaxagoras in Phaedo; his interest in Eleaticism as made clear in Republic V, Parmenides, Sophist and so on; and other less explicit strands of influence such as the possible influence of Philolaus, or Diogenes of Apollonia's teleology. The difficulty is, of course, that these are all cases from the Platonic Socrates. So how about reviving the Nietzschean category of 'Pre-platonic' philosophy?