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The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Hardcover – May 23 1980

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Hardcover, May 23 1980
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger; New edition edition (May 23 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313212627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313212628
  • Shipping Weight: 726 g
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa6ec9b64) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6e849d8) out of 5 stars A Fantastic History of Greek Thought Feb. 7 2007
By Unmoved Mover - Published on
Format: Paperback
While modern authors tend to focus on the Orphic cults of the Greeks in order to explain their attachment to theology, Jaeger (nearly 50 years dead) does an excellent job of tracing the lineage of Greek theology, the "approach of God through Logos," as the father of their later philosophical systems. He examines this early period of speculative philosophy and reductive reasoning with absolute ease, illuminating complex (and often historiographical) arguments with plain and concise language.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa71e1588) out of 5 stars Good survey both for Greek religious ideas and for Greek philosophy Jan. 14 2015
By Jordan Bell - Published on
Format: Paperback
One way two areas of thought can meet is by asking the same question. A question that is asked both by Greek religious writers like Hesiod and by Greek philosophical writers like Anaximander is "Where do things come from?". To describe how things work is the pursuit of natural philosophy, and this topic is sometimes also visited by religious writers when they speak about the behavior of personifications of processes of the world, like the Moirai. Jaeger writes about theogonies (where the gods came from), "Even in its oldest Hesiodic form, theogony is a typical transition-product, not unconnected with the new philosophical spirit, an offshoot of a religious attitude which has already become more thoughtful".

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."
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa807a648) out of 5 stars EUREKA!! El Supremo!! Dec 30 2004
By Alberich - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is the hardest book i've ever tackled and the finest introduction to Early Greek thought that i have ever seen! The Late Werner Jaeger also produced a great gift to students of the Ancients with his superb 3 volumes entitled Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture [Paideia is Greek for Culture, Education, Civilization] but this seemingly small volume even surpasses his Magnum Opus in brilliance!...
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7280cfc) out of 5 stars Five Stars June 3 2015
By John Lodin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase