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Intellect

Presocratic philosophers topic of BYU professor's research grant

Daniel W. Graham, the A. O. Smoot Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, has received a contract from Cambridge University Press to produce a bilingual text of the Presocratic philosophers.

The works of these earliest Western philosophers, who were active in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., have been lost. But scholars have collected ancient quotations—called fragments—from lost works and reports of ancient authorities—known as testimonies—from which their thought can be reconstructed.

Until now, the standard work has been "Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker" by Hermann Diels, later edited by Walther Kranz. This work has the Greek—or sometimes Latin—text of the fragments and testimonies, with the fragments translated into German. The first edition of this work appeared 100 years ago and the last appeared more than 50 years ago.

"The Diels-Kranz work is still the best source we have but it is now obsolete, since it fails to incorporate the scholarly advances of the last half-century, including the discovery of new fragments and testimonies," said Graham, who will now produce an updated text of the Greek and Latin sources, including all the fragments and the more important testimonies, with an English translation and brief introductions and commentary.

His work, titled "The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy," will supersede Diels-Kranz as the standard sourcebook of early Greek philosophy. There has never been a book combining all Presocratic fragments with an English translation, Graham said.

Cambridge University Press contacted Graham when it heard that he was working on the project. After lengthy negotiations about the content and format of the book based on consultations with leading experts, Graham and the press came to an agreement on a bilingual edition in which the original texts and the English translation will appear on facing pages, with a brief commentary following the texts.

"In this edition fragments and testimonies will be mingled together to give a more coherent picture of a thinker’s philosophy than is possible when these two types of source are separated," said Graham.

He has published two books on Aristotle, has edited three other volumes of work on ancient philosophy and has completed a book manuscript on the Presocratic philosophers, "Explaining the Cosmos: The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy," which is under review by a major press. He is also co-editing "The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy" with Patricia Curd of Purdue University for Oxford University Press.

He has published many articles on the Presocratic philosophers as well as on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

For more information, contact Graham at (801) 422-2223.

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