Before and After Socrates

ISBN: 0521091136
ISBN 13: 9780521091138
By: Francis MacDonald Cornford

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About this book

In this book, F.M. Cornford explains why the life and work of Socrates stand out as marking a turning-point in the history of thought. He shows how Socrates revolutionized the concept of philosophy, converting it from the study of Nature to the study of the human soul, the meaning of right and wrong, and the ends for which we ought to live. This is, in fact, the story of the whole creative period of Greek philosophy--the Ionian nature of science before Socrates, Socrates himself, and his chief followers, Plato and his pupil Aristotle. It tells of the different contributions each made, and shows how within three centuries the Greek tradition grew to maturity and the fullness of intellectual power."...a brilliant commentary on the Greek mind and its attitude to life."--Times Literary Supplement

Reader's Thoughts

Erik Graff

I read this book towards the end of Peter Maxwell's Loyola University Chicago course on ancient philosophy, a class cross-listed between his department, philosophy, and that of classical studies. It was a fair introduction to the topic, but nowhere as satisfactory as Gomperz' Greek Thinkers. The text, easily accessible and indexed, is based on four lectures delivered at Cambridge University during August of 1932.


A decent read into the history of ancient Philosophy. Nothing here that cannot be taken from others though.

Dave/Maggie Bean

A lucid, eminently readable series of lectures on the Grand Old Man of Western philosophy. A friend and I were chatting about Socrates at the bar a few nights ago, and we agreed that he was the greatest philosopher the West ever produced. (It was the only thing upon which we agreed all evening, incidentally. Put two Micks together in the same room, and you'll have three different opinions.) That's quite an admission, coming as it does from two recovering Randroids. I don't suppose it's overly surprising, though: if two souls as different as Xenophon and Plato could agree so closely on the content of his teachings (although Plato -- perhaps inadvertently -- cast him as a snide, bullying, a**hole in Protagoras) two yeggs like us can certainly agree on the importance of his legacy.


A superb little history of philosophy through Aristotle; both succinct and profound. It is, of course, not comprehensive, but focuses on the development of the religious sensibility oriented around our inner nature in the face of the common-sensical mechanistic view of the universe of pre-Socratic thinkers. This is very relevant to the perennial tension between religion and science. Consider Cornford's comment on the mechanistic view of consciousness:" . . . if i turn from the mechanical cause [of sensation] to the sensation itself, and then to the soul which has the sensation, and also has feelings, thoughts, and desires, I am not so easily convinced that the soul itself consists of round atoms, and that nothing really happens except collisions." (from chapter one, p. 26 of the Cambridge University Press paperback edition).Isn't the inner experience he describes the only real proof of the spiritual aspect of our lives, and, ultimately, God's existence?


One of the few times I like to read to further myself in culture and such I picked this book up. It s an ok read. Nothing great, not bad by anymeans though.

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