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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 55$
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Victor Caston

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198836339

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198836339.001.0001

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How Preplatonic Worlds Became Ensouled

How Preplatonic Worlds Became Ensouled

(p.1) How Preplatonic Worlds Became Ensouled
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 55

André Laks

Oxford University Press

This article shows how two basic meanings of psuchē—namely, ‘breath’ and ‘life’—may have helped Platonizing, or for that matter Stoicizing, doxographers in endowing various Preplatonic philosophers with the view that the world is ‘ensouled'. Although I do not attempt a systematic reconstruction of how these cosmo-philosophers conceived the relationship between the world and what was to become ‘the soul’, I suggest that framing the problem in terms of ‘breath’ and ‘life’ helps us to arrive at a more adequate understanding both of the authentic evidence and of the history of its reception. Indeed, to the extent that it is possible I try to reconstruct the interpretative steps that led, with various degrees of legitimacy, from the original wording to its Platonizing or Stoicizing deformations, which remain all too often the framework of analysis in modern interpretations. Five case studies are considered: Thales, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, some Pythagoreans, and Alcmaeon.

Keywords:   breath, doxography, life, soul, Aëtius, Alcmaeon, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Plato, Pythagoreans, Thales

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