For Nietzsche the Age of Greek Tragedy was indeed a tragic age. He saw in it the rise and climax of values so dear to him that their subsequent drop into catastrophe (in the person of Socrates – Plato) was clearly foreshadowed as though these were events taking place in the theater. And so in this work, unpublished in his own day but written at the same time that his The Birth of Tragedy had so outraged the German professorate as to imperil his own academic career, his most deeply felt task was one of education. He wanted to present the culture of the Greeks as a paradigm to his young German contemporaries who might thus be persuaded to work toward a state of culture of their own; a state where Nietzsche found sorely missing.
Stumbling across a second-hand book in pristine condition is always pleasing but it’s an added bonus when said book is a work I had not previous come heard of. It seems that philosophy books are generally kept in decent nick compared to other genres which I find interesting, I wonder if there is a book on the subject…
This unfinished work, written in the 1870’s which Nietzsche planned to complete but moved onto other projects, wasn’t published in his lifetime but was and is intended to show the early Greek philosophers and the culture they helped create as a paradigm. The metaphysical ideas and their belief in empiricism was key to the great leaps these thinkers made and the influence they had on later theorists.
The pre-Platonic philosophers began to diverge from the belief in myths of the Gods and look at the world in a logical manner based on experience and analytical thinking which was the beginning of Western philosophy. The five philosophers explored here are Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Anaxagoras and each has a few of their key concepts and analysis of existence discussed. The hunting for rational explanations with which to better understand and quantify the order of nature and its patterns are the essential postulations with which later thinkers would build the ideas that have fashioned the basis of which much of modern thought.
The Greeks learnt from those around them and became accomplished in thought and mastering technology, it was that learning which eventually lead – in Nietzsche’s eyes – to the tragedy of the Greek state which would begin its decline with Plato. Although the book doesn’t bring in Socrates N. saw the shift starting with Plato as these earlier schools of thought were contemporary with Socrates, Empedocles sadly wasn’t added into this work but would have been had the work come to completion.
The book ends abruptly, there is no conclusion which is a shame but it still is an interesting and easy read to the beginnings of philosophy and is a good primer to the basics of certain early Hellenistic schools of thought. I found the introduction to be quite interesting however for those who like to read an introduction before the actual text, it would have benefited from a deeper delve into the text, however it isn’t a major blow and this short book is a quick read which offers a wealth of interesting insights into a key change in the way we view our world.