Curd (2016)

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Curd, Patricia. (2016) PreSocratic Philosophy. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from

Title PreSocratic Philosophy
Resource Type collection article
Author(s) Patricia Curd
Year 2016
Collection Zalta (Ed.) (2016)


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 (and related topics) in the SEP (listed below). The standard collection of texts for the Presocratics is that by H. Diels revised by W. Kranz (abbreviated as DK). In it, each thinker is assigned an identifying chapter number (e.g., Heraclitus is 22, Anaxagoras 59); then the reports from ancient authors about that thinker's life and thought are collected in a section of “testimonies” (A) and numbered in order, while the passages the editors take to be direct quotations are collected and numbered in a section of “fragments” (B). Alleged imitations in later authors are sometimes added in a section labeled C. Thus, each piece of text can be uniquely identified: DK 59B12.3 identifies line 3 of Anaxagoras fragment 12; DK 22A1 identifies testimonium 1 on Heraclitus.