The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Hardcover – May 23 1980
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book, a collection of lectures given a narrative form by the author, is just about the best study on the subject history has yet to offer. It makes a good companion to his seminal three volume series on Greek paideia as well as to his later work, "Early Christianity and Greek Paideia," which was also derived from his Gifford Lectures.
A quick note to casual students, however: the book was written in the 1940's, when classical scholars presupposed a knowledge of Greek amongst their readers. As a result, the work is peppered with ancient Greek. If you're not familiar with the Greek alphabet, you may want to have a Greek-English dictionary handy. Those with even a casual knowledge of Greek phonetics should do just fine.
It is a commonplace that Thales asserts that everything is made of water, or that the "physis" or everything is water. Jaeger explains that physis denotes the "process of growth and emergence", and "it also includes their source of origin - that from which they have grown, and from which their growth is constantly renewed - in other words, the reality underlying the things of our experience." Writing about Thales' statement that "everything is full of gods", Jaeger suggests the following interpretation: "everything is full of mysterious living forces; the distinction between animate and inanimate nature has no foundation in fact; everything has a soul."
We find statements discussed in this book by lesser known writers and by writers not famous as philosophers. For example, a fragment of the comedian Epicharmus asks how it can be that (according to Hesiod) Chaos was the ultimate beginning and yet itself came into being. Jaeger says, "Clearly the playwright had had some acquaintance with the natural philosophers' conception of a first principle which itself has had no beginning."
Jaeger tells us that Parmenides' thought was not only logical. He says about Parmenides that "His mysterious vision in the realm of light is a genuine religious experience: when the weak human eye turns towards the hidden truth, life itself becomes transfigured."
Jaeger states that the first time the idea of "law" (nomos) appears in philosophical writings is in a fragment of Heraclitus, which talks about "divine law". Jaeger glosses, "the term is not used in the simple political sense but has been extended to cover the very nature of reality itself", and a page later writes, "A 'law of nature' is merely a general descriptive formula for referring to some specific complex of observed facts, while Heraclitus' divine law is something genuinely normative. It is the highest norm of the cosmic process, and the thing which gives that process its significance and worth."