Presocratic Philosophy: A Collection of Online Resources and Key Quotes

Lennox Johnson Resources

This page aims to make learning about Presocratic philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best articles, podcasts, and videos from across the internet onto one page. To get started, simply choose one of the resources listed below, or browse a selection of key quotes by the Presocratics at the bottom of the page.

Encyclopedia Articles

This section features articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The SEP is probably the most comprehensive online philosophy resource. It features in-depth articles on a huge number of philosophical topics, however, it is aimed at an academic audience and may be too detailed and technical for beginners. The IEP is generally more beginner-friendly but is also considered to be less reliable. Wikipedia is also an option, but it is much less reliable than either of these.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Articles

This section features short articles written by professional philosophers and aimed at a general audience. These articles are ideal for anyone looking for a shorter or more beginner-friendly introduction to the Presocratics than the encyclopedia articles listed above.

Aeon

Philosophy Now

Podcasts

This section features podcast episodes from leading philosophy podcasts. These are also aimed at a general audience and are a good option for beginners who prefer audio content.

The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps

Philosophy Bites

In Our Time

The Partially Examined Life

Short Videos (<30 mins)

This section features short videos aimed at beginners.

Academy of Ideas

Misc

Lectures/Longer Videos (>30 mins)

This section features longer videos and lectures.

Course Syllabi

This section features a selection of university course syllabi. Browsing course syllabi can be a useful way to find reading recommendations.

Book Recommendations

This section features requests for book recommendations on philosophy forums. These can also be useful to browse when trying to find reading recommendations.

Book List

There is only so much that you can learn using free online resources. This section features books that may be useful if you’re looking to learn more about the Presocratics. This list was created using the books featured in the course syllabi and forum recommendations above.

Quotes

This section features a selection of key quotes by the Presocratics.

Thales:

All things are from water and all things are resolved into water.

– as quoted by Aetius in H. Diels, Doxographi Graeci


Xenophanes:

No man knows, or ever will know, the truth about the gods and about everything I speak of: for even if one chanced to say the complete truth, nevertheless one would not know it.

– as quoted in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers

But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.

– as quoted in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers


Heraclitus:

The world order did none of gods or men make, but it always was and is and shall be: an everlasting fire, kindling in measures and going out in measures.

– as quoted in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers

The way up and the way down are one and the same.

– as quoted in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Everything flows and nothing stays.

– as quoted in Plato, Cratylus, 402A


Anaxagoras:

The Greeks are wrong to recognize coming into being and perishing; for nothing comes into being nor perishes, but is rather compounded or dissolved from things that are. So they would be right to call coming into being composition and perishing dissolution.

– as quoted in Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics


Protagoras:

Man is the measure of all things.

– as quoted in Plato, Theaetetus, 152A


Democritus:

The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space. Everything else is merely thought to exist. The worlds are unlimited. They come into being and perish. Nothing can come into being from that which is not nor pass away into that which is not. Further, the atoms are unlimited in size and number, and they are borne along in the whole universe in a vortex, and thereby generate all composite things— fire, water, air, earth. For even these are conglomerations of given atoms. And it is because of their solidarity that these atoms are impassive and unalterable. The sun and the moon have been composed of such smooth and spherical masses [i.e. atoms], and so also the soul, which is identical with reason.

– as quoted in Diogenes Laertius, Democritus, IX, 44


By convention are sweet and bitter, hot and cold, by convention is colour; in truth are atoms and the void.

– as quoted in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers


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