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Price: $98.95

Format:
Paperback 432 pp.
2 maps, 138 mm x 216 mm

ISBN-10:
0198150814

ISBN-13:
9780198150817

Publication date:
December 1996

Imprint: OUP UK

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Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic

Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition

Peter Kingsley

Empedocles played a crucial role in the development of western culture; yet little is known or understood about this man, who lived in Sicily in the fifth-century BC. This is mainly becuase his teaching has been reconstructed by modern shcolars first and formost on the basis of Aristotle's hostile reports - producing a picture which is disconnected and lacking in depth. Using material never exploited before, Peter Kingsley presents the first full-scale study of Empedocles to situate his fragmentary writings in their original context of philosophy as a way of life, mystery religion and magic, and of the struggle to realize one's own divinity. This study also explores fresh evidence which proves Empedocles was not an isolated figure and reveals new links between his work and ancient Pythagoreanism. The process of establishing these links now makes it possible to demonstrate, in detail, the Pythagorean origin of Plato's myths. Kingsley re-examines problems regarding the connections between ancient magic, science, and religion. More specifically, he traces for the first time a line of transmission from Empedocles and the early Pythagoreans down to southern Egypt, and from there into the world of Islam.
`highly polemical new book... The thesis is argued with immense learning.' Times Higher Education Supplement

Readership : Scholars and students of ancient philosophy and culture of the ancient world (Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Orient); those interested in the early history of science, medicine, and alchemy.

Reviews

  • `Highly polemical new book ... The thesis is argued with immense learning.'
    Times Higher Education Supplement
  • `An original, lucid and intriguing narrative on Empedocles.'
    Phronesis
  • `a remarkable, indeed pioneering, book which will compel scholars not only to re-examine the paradigms and traditional sources of evidence upon which they have hitherto relied, but also perhaps to question the category of philosophy itself as a viable notion outside the orbit of mystery, magic and myth ... Kingley's Ancient Philosophy is a brilliant, provocative, occasionally quirky, but gripping, urgent and important story which is bound to delight some and offend others. On these terms, it is a unique pioneering work which has all the ingredients to fall under Meyerhold's definition of a masterpiece.'
    Kevin Corrigan, University of Saskatchewan, European Review of History
  • `a remarkable achievement: challenging, learned, and at the same time enthralling to read ... A consequence of K.'s approach, and one of the impressive things about his book, is that it is not just a book for the specialist in ancient philosophy. K.'s work will also be important for students of ancient religion and magic and for anyone interested in what made Sicilian and Western Greek culture distinctive in the fifth century. K. writes with elegance and vigour ... anyone with a serious interest in early Greek philosophy should read this book.'
    Anne Sheppard, Royal Holloway, University of London, The Classical Review, Vol. XLVI, No. 2, '96
  • `an original, lucid and intriguing narrative on Empedocles ... he has put forward a powerful, wide-ranging and coherent case that deserves a hearing, and at the least, a reassessment of the role of the western Presocratics in the history of philosophy.'
    Phonesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy, Vol. XLI, No. 1 1996
  • `Reading Kingsley's Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic is like walking into the middle of a rarefied discussion that has been going on for thousands of years.'
    Bruce Nelson, Parabola
  • `a remarkable achievement: challenging, learned, and at the same time enthralling to read. ... A consequence of K.'s approach, and one of the impressive things about his book, is that it is not just a book for the specialist in ancient philosophy. K.'s work will also be important for students of ancient religion and magic and for anyone interested in what made Sicilian and Western Greek culture distinctive in the fifth century. ... Despite its learning, the book is one of the most readable academic works I have encountered. K. writes with elegance and vigour. ... anyone with a serious interest in early Greek philosophy should read this book.'
    The Classical Review
  • `a remarkable, indeed pioneering, book which will compel scholars not only to re-examine the paradigms and traditional sources of evidence upon which they have hitherto relied, but also perhaps to question the category of philosophy itself as a viable notion outside the orbit of mystery, magic and myth. The work amasses, for the first time in this form, a truly impressive array of textual, archaeological, and papyrological evidence. ... Kingsley contrives to do this in such an interesting way that the reader is drawn artfully into the process of detection itself as into the unravelling of an urgent mystery. ... it is a unique pioneering work which has all the ingredients to fall under Meyerhold's definition of a masterpiece.'
    European Review of History, vol.3, no.2
  • `In this work Kingsley has brought a vast amount of scholarship to bear on the subject. ... Kingsley's work, while firmly rooted in the academic tradition, is unique in teasing out new insights from texts that have been studied but misunderstood for decades. Kingsley's scholarship is wide-ranging and impeccable ... provides a storehouse of new insights and expands our understanding of the complex background of Greek philosophical thought. Without doubt, its central arguments are compelling and backed up with an intimidatingly vast scholarly apparatus. ... this is without question an important volume that will stimulate discussion for many years to come.'
    Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1997
  • `This work is without doubt the most important book on Empedocles in recent years and one of the most significant in early Greek thought since the writings of F. Cornford saw the light of day. This book is of great significance for the study of early Greek thought and presents a major transformation of view as far as Empedocles and Pythagoras as well as the relation of Pythagoreanism to Plato are concerned ... the book of Kingsley is of singular importance in the study of the Islamic intellectual tradition, while being of an even greater singificance for the field of Greek and Western philosophy, since it challenges the commonly held view of the whole foundation of Western philosophical thought.'
    Seyyed Hossein Masr, George Washington University, The Journal of Islamic Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2 '97
  • `Dramatic and provocative. He presents a stimulating, learned, and wide-ranging interpretation of Empedocles and Pythagoreanism ... this book provides a great deal of information in a thoroughly original package.'
    Religious Studies Review
  • `The author has successfully accumulated fairly extensive material and convincing arguements to make his point!'
    The Journal of Indo-European Studies
  • `Remarkable book...it is good to have his researches gathered in one volume...there can be no doubt that Kingsley's book, precisely in cutting across the narrow boundries of classical studies and departing from the well-worn avenues by which we approach the history of ancient philosophy, poses a serious challenge for most future work in the field...Kingsley's book will be a hard act to follow...I cannot think of many scholars in ancient philosophy who could afford to ignore this book without peril; it is not recommended but required reading!'
    Ancient Philosophy
  • `In this work Kingsley has brought a vast amount of scholarship to bear on the subject...Kingsley's work...is unique in teasing out new insights from texts that have been studied but misunderstood for decades. Kingsley's scholarship is wide-ranging and impeccable...provides a storehouse of new insights and expands our understanding of the complex background of Greek philosopical thought. Without doubt, its central arguements are compelling, and backed up with an intimidatingly vast scholarly apparatus...this is without question an important volume that will stimulate discussion for many years to come.'
    Gnosis Magazine
  • `This is a most remarkable book, learned, discursive, but yet sharply focussed, on a subject which might seem to lend itself readily to various sorts of intemperate speculation ... this is splendid book, and one that should generate much discussion.'
    John Dillon, Trinity College, Dublin, Hermathena, no 164, summer 98

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Peter Kingsley formerly Fellow of the Warburg Institute, London, and Harold Hyam Wingate Scholar.

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