The Greek Concept of Nature

By Gerard Naddaf

Subjects: Myth, History Of Science, Classics, Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791463741, 265 pages, January 2006
Hardcover : 9780791463734, 265 pages, April 2005

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Table of contents

1 The Meaning of Peri Phuseos
2 Cosmogonic Myth as an Antecedent to Peri Phuseos Writings
3 Anaximander’s Historia Peri Phuseos
4 The Historia Peri Phuseos from Xenophanes to the Atomists
Index of Concepts and Proper Names
Index of Classical Passages Cited

Explores the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of nature up until the time of Plato.


In The Greek Concept of Nature, Gerard Naddaf utilizes historical, mythological, and linguistic perspectives to reconstruct the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of phusis. Usually translated as nature, phusis has been decisive both for the early history of philosophy and for its subsequent development. However, there is a considerable amount of controversy on what the earliest philosophers—Anaximander, Xenophanes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus—actually had in mind when they spoke of phusis or nature. Naddaf demonstrates that the fundamental and etymological meaning of the word refers to the whole process of birth to maturity. He argues that the use of phusis in the famous expression Peri phuseos or historia peri phuseos refers to the origin and the growth of the universe from beginning to end. Naddaf's bold and original theory for the genesis of Greek philosophy demonstrates that archaic and mythological schemes were at the origin of the philosophical representations, but also that cosmogony, anthropogony, and politogony were never totally separated in early Greek philosophy.

Gerard Naddaf is Professor of Philosophy at York University in Toronto. He is the coauthor (with Dirk L. Couprie and Robert Hahn) of Anaximander in Context: New Studies in the Origins of Greek Philosophy, also published by SUNY Press, and the translator and editor of Plato the Myth Maker by Luc Brisson.