The first stirrings of philosophical inquiry happened during the 6th century BC in ancient Greece. Of course, there was earlier "wisdom literature," especially in Mesopotamia. But most scholars agree that a new kind of thinking emerged in Greece characterized by rational, secular, and often mathematical reasoning and the relentless scrutiny of our most basic human assumptions.

Why philosophy first emerged then and there is a debated and interesting question. Answering it is complicated by the fact that we don't have much of the writings from that time period. The earliest complete philosophical texts we have are from the 4th century BC (those of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle). For the first 200 years of Greek rationalism, our evidence is fragmentary.

In this episode we try to shed light on these early pioneers of philosophy. Our guest is André Laks, professor of ancient philosophy at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. Laks is the co-editor of the recent 9-volume Harvard Loeb edition of the early Greek philosophical fragments – the first comprehensive edition to be attempted in over a hundred years.

Stay tuned at the end of the episode for a chance to win an autographed, hard-cover edition of Laks' book The Concept of Presocratic Philosophy.

The intro to this episode was provided by Drew Vahrencamp of Wonders of the World, a podcast that explores the most amazing historical sites around the world and the stories behind them (plus travel & food tips for visiting them). Check it out on your favorite app or at:

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