This page features a collection of the best resources on Presocratic philosophy. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on the Presocratics. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about them.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want an academic overview of the Presocratics:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Presocratic Philosophy. However, you should keep in mind that the SEP is often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 12,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the Presocratics:
“Calling this group “Presocratic philosophers” raises certain difficulties. The term, coined in the eighteenth century, was made current by Hermann Diels in the nineteenth, and was meant to mark a contrast between Socrates who was interested in moral problems, and his predecessors, who were supposed to be primarily concerned with cosmological and physical speculation. “Presocratic,” if taken strictly as a chronological term, is not accurate, for the last of them were contemporaneous with Socrates and even Plato. Moreover, several of the early Greek thinkers explored questions about ethics and the best way to live a human life. The term may also suggest that these thinkers are somehow inferior to Socrates and Plato, of interest only as their predecessors, and its suggestion of archaism may imply that philosophy only becomes interesting when we arrive at the classical period of Plato and Aristotle. Some scholars now deliberately avoid the term, but if we take it to refer to the early Greek thinkers who were not influenced by the views of Socrates, whether his predecessors or contemporaries, there is probably no harm in using it. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
- Listen to Malcolm Schofield discuss the Presocratics on the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps podcast [23 mins]
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the best books on Presocratic Philosophy.
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.