Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Immaturity

Immanuel Kant looked forward to a future in which humanity would no longer be burdened with the curse of nonage (Unmündigkeit), which he defined broadly as encompassing the various types of restriction and unfreedom that afflict us, whether maintained by law or custom. Alas, most of us are a long ways from attaining that happy state of independent judgment and action.
One of the defects of libertarianism is that it assumes that such freedom is generally attainable; yet it is not. An appeal to reason, such as it is, will not guarantee responsible behavior.
In the US at least, libertarianism has also failed because getting elected and reelected means impersonating Santa Claus, promising lots of "free stuff."  Alas, it is not free, for the bribes use money taxed from citizens, either in the present or the future.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Changing interests

The contrast of the fox and the hedgehog is a reference to a fragment attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: πόλλ' οἶδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ' ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα ("a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing"). The contrast is the subject of a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin. At any rate in the range of my intellectual interests I am very much a fox.
Once I made a list of almost 100 such interests, though some are dormant now. The living ones range from ancient Egypt to 20th-century abstract painting. Lately I have developed a passion for the older noir films - easily satisfied through the presentations on Turner Classics.
Why do some interests decline and then fade away? I used to follow Pre-Columbian archaeology closely, but now that i no longer make regular visits to see the sites, the books on this subject - I have quite a few - stare back at me in their neglect. For most of my teaching career I taught medieval art, but of late I have become weary of medieval studies, which are now riven with ideological disputes about whether they are racist or not. I would just as soon skip this stuff. And when gay studies got taken over by queer theory I pretty much shipped out.

As a rule I am drawn to subjects because I see - or saw - some positive value in them.  But not entirely.  Once upon a time I followed the Manson case because it seemed to say something about those turbulent times. But as we entered calmer waters my interest faded. Still, I suppose that cults and their gurus are a continuing but sporadic interest, going back to my stepfather's naive involvement in Dianetics, which later morphed into Scientology.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Pound and multiculturalism


POUND AND WORLD CIVILIZATIONS

In recent years some historians have rallied to the cause of Big History.  What in fact is Big History? It is an emerging academic subdiscipline that extends its purview all the way back to the Big Bang. By its very nature, Big History resists specialization, searching instead for universal patterns or trends. It adopts long time-frames using a multidisciplinary approach that combines numerous disciplines from science and the humanities.   

Other scholars are attracted to a broader framework, but keep to the human sphere.  They may be termed multiculturalists in the broad sense.  This essay asks what is the role of Ezra Pound (1885-1972) in this context.

For their part, readers of The Cantos, Pound’s major life work, are inevitably struck by his ambitious range of references to a variety of civilizations, from ancient Greece to modern times, with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance important components. Yet he was not limited to Europe, as through much of his life he turned approvingly to early China and early Japan.  More sporadic were his incursions into Islam, ancient Egypt, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Pound’s early education - which seems not to have included history courses - provided no foundation so that in this realm he was self-taught.  In college he emphasized Romance languages, especially Provençal (Occitane) and Italian.  In those days it was held that the early stages of these languages were crucial - hence the focus on the Middle Ages.  In this way he joined a major current of Victorian literature and art.  Rossetti and Browning were particularly important to him, in part because of the lure of the Italian connection.

Remarkably fertile was his encounter with Mrs. Ernest Fenollosa, who in late 1913 presented him with a collection of manuscripts by her deceased husband, an early Japanologist who was also interested in ancient China.  Hence Pound’s ongoing concern with China, and to some extent, Japan.

In addition to this cultural richness, readers encounter difficulty with the overlay principle, already evident in the first thirty Cantos, and the many quotations in the original languages.  In an age like today with the study of languages in decline, we read works from other traditions in translation.

With a rare display of modesty Pound once characterized his Cantos as “a poem containing history” (ABC of Reading, 1934).  Yet what history? Not the chronicle of any particular nation - though his own United States figures significantly in some sections - but the history of civilizations - at least a number of those that he deems important.

Pound’s approach to the panoply of civilization shows similarities, as well as differences with another approach.  This is the cultural morphology of Danilevsky, Spengler, and Toynbee.  On the one hand, these writers emphasized the distinctiveness of each civilization.  At the same time they showed similar patterns, not unlike that of a single human life: infancy, adolescence, adulthood, and senescence.   Fear of the latter takes concrete form in the example of the decline and fall of Rome.

First we take up the founder of the cultural morphology approach, the Russian Nikolay Danilevsky (1822-1885), who pioneered the use of biological and morphological metaphors in the comparison of cultures. Danilevsky compared cultures and nations to biological species, denied their commonality and argued that each nation or civilization is united by its language and culture, which it cannot pass on to any other nation. He thus characterized Peter the Great's reforms in Russia as doomed to failure, as they had attempted to impose alien values on the Slavic world.

Danilevsky distinguished four categories of historical-cultural activity: religious, political, sociopolitical, and cultural.

Interacting, they generated ten identifiable historical-cultural types:

Chaldean
Hebrew
Arab
Indian
Persian
Greek
Roman or ancient Italian
Germanic
Hamitic or Egyptian
Chinese

Danilevsky applied his teleological theory of evolution by stating that each type went through various predetermined stages of youth, adulthood, and old age, the last being the end of that type. He characterised the Slavic type as being at the youth stage, and he developed a socio-political plan for its development, involving unification of the Slavic world, with its future capital at Constantinople (now Istanbul), ruled by an Orthodox emperor. While other cultures would degenerate in their blind struggle for existence, the Slavic world should be viewed as a Messiah among them. Danilevsky, however, believed that there is no genuine or absolute progress, as history is circular.

Aspects of Danilevsky's book prefigured some of the theories in Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. Arnold J. Toynbee mentions them in A Study of History. The Danilevsky hypothesis became the subject of much controversy and polarized its readers. 

In his Decline of the West (1918-23), apparently conceived without knowledge of Danilevsky’s work, Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) lists eight Hochkulturen or "High Cultures" that have existed:

Babylonian
Egyptiac
Indic
Sinic
Mesoamerican (Mayan/Aztec)
Classical (Greek/Roman)
Magian
Faustian or Western (European)

I retain his original terminology, including such neologism as Indic and Sinic; Magian is his term for Islamic civilization.

The "Decline" is largely concerned with comparisons of the Classical and Western Cultures, but some examples stem from the Islamic, Chinese, and Egyptian Cultures. Each Culture arises within a specific geographical area and is defined by its internal coherence of style in terms of art, religious behavior and psychological perspective. Central to each Culture is its conception of space which is expressed by an “Ursymbol.”  Although not amenable to a strictly logical examination, Spengler's idea of Culture is, he claims, justifiable through the persistence of recurrent patterns of development and decline across the thousand years of each Culture's active lifetime.

Spengler excludes the Southeast Asian and Peruvian (Incan, Tiahuanaco, etc.) cultures from Hochkulturen. He thinks that Russia is, while still in the course of defining itself, may be bringing into being a Hochkultur. The Indus Valley Civilization had not been discovered at the time he was writing, and its relationship with later Indian civilization remained unclear for some time.

A Study of History is a 12-volume universal history by the British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975), published in 1934–61. For a number of years it garnered enormous popular attention, but according to historian Richard J. Evans, "enjoyed only a brief vogue before disappearing into the obscurity in which it has languished.”  Toynbee's goal was to trace the development and decay of 19 world civilizations in the historical record, applying his model to each of these civilizations, detailing the stages through which they all pass: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration.  In this way he recognizes both the autonomy of civilizations, while also seeking to detect morphological similarities in their course of development.

The 19 major civilizations Toynbee posits are: Egyptian, Andean, Sinic, Minoan, Sumerian, Mayan, Indic, Hittite, Hellenic, Western, Orthodox Christian (Russia), Far Eastern, Orthodox Christian (main body), Persian, Arabic, Hindu, Mexican, Yucatec, and Babylonic. In addition there are four "abortive civilizations" (Abortive Far Western Christian, Abortive Far Eastern Christian, Abortive Scandinavian, Abortive Syriac), and five "arrested civilizations" (Polynesian, Eskimo, Nomadic, Ottoman, Spartan), making up a grand total of 28.

Pound had (it seems) no knowledge of these three figures, but he was acquainted with the somewhat similar work of Leo Frobenius, a German culture morphologist who specialized in sub-Saharan Africa.

What then was Pound’s delineation of civilizations? His initial preoccupation was with what may be termed the central Middle Ages in Southern Europe in the period from about 1100 to 1300.  Bypassing the Chanson de Roland, he posits the major accomplishment of the era as the highly intricate poetry of the Provençal troubadours.  He then traced this heritage to the slightly later Italian development of the dolce still nuovo as seen in such figures as Dante and Gudo Cavalcanti,  These concerns were implicit in the way he was taught Romance languages in college, which focused on origins.  Later, after he settled in London he embodied his discoveries in his prose book entitled The Spirit of Romance.

Having grappled with one of the most creative epochs of the Middle Ages, his attention traveled forward, extending itself into the Italian Renaissance, the era of the American Revolution, and the modern times in which he lived. In the other direction Ancient Greece remained a cynosure. 

Thanks to his access to the Fenollosa manuscripts in the period just before World War I, Pound contracted a long-lasting commitment to historic Japan and especially China.  By contrast his concern with Islam was relatively slight, though later in life he became concerned with Africa, based on his knowledge of the work of Frobenius. Since the Africa material is chiefly of tribal origin, his perspectives were not limited to the higher societies, though clearly, because of his reliance on written sources, his emphasis lay there.

There are some salient differences between the approach of Pound and that of the three culture morphologists.  As a rule he does not offer an overall assessment of each civilization, but relies, as stated in an early prose essay, on his method of “luminous detail.”  Occasionally, the historical record, often dreary and problematic, is broken by “magic moments.”  This particularism tended to work against a holistic approach towards any particular civilization, though it could be asserted that such preferences are implicit as in the cases of ancient Greece, the European middle ages, the early days of the American republic, and imperial China.

A partial exception to his usual emphasis on particularism is his denunciation of usury, widespread he believed, and to be shunned as eroding the integrity of a civilization.  This idea shows some affinity with John Ruskin, who felt that good art could only arise in the context of a decent society, while a bad society will produce bad art.

Moreover, in keeping with his generally modernist approach he utilizes a presentation in terms of overlay, splicing together items from different eras.  An example occurs in Canto 4 with the story of Itys.   Itys was the offspring of Procne and Tereus, king of Thrace.  Discovering that Tereus had raped Philomela, Procne cooked their son, feeding him to her husband.  From this gruesome tale Pound segues to the story of the twelfth-century figure Guillem de Cabestan.  According to a legendary account, he was the lover of Margarida or Seremonda, wife of Raimon of Castell Rosselló. On discovering their affair, Raimon fed Cabestan's heart to Seremonda. When he told her what she had eaten, she threw herself from the window to her death.  The alignment of these two similar stories shows the “rhyming” of events over the centuries.  More generally, Pound’s modernist method of splicing together persons and events of different times and cultures serves to inhibit any straightforward narrative of the type usual in megatheories of history, with their template of rise, apogee, and fall.

A major exception to Pound’s non-sequential approach is the Chinese Cantos (52-61).
These are based on the first eleven volumes of the twelve-volume Histoire générale de la Chine by Joseph-Anna-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla, a French Jesuit missionary who had resided in China for many years. Completed in 1730, it was not published until 1777–1783.  Canto 52, out of sequence, presents a rendering of the classic Chinese text known as the Li Chi or Book of Rites, especially those parts that deal with agriculture and natural increase.  The remainder of the sequence (Cantos 52-61) deals with an orderly sequence of imperial China from prehistoric times up to the eighteenth century.  Some confusion has ensued from Pound’s rendering of the Chinese names in the French forms found in Mailla.

Some light is thrown on Pound’s overall procedures by a concept that originated in Russia in his time, with which he was evidently unacquainted.  This is estrangement (ostranenia),  Also known as defamiliarization or disautomatization, estrangement originated as a principle of literary and poetic theory within Russian formalism in 1917, being elaborated largely through the work of Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky. In essence, estrangement is a method of exploring the artfulness, rather than the psychological import or logical message, of imaginative works of prose and poetry.  Focus on these aspects leads, by virtue of its very unfamiliarity, to new perceptions.

When all is said and done, The Cantos remains a poem.  In this light there are other relevant aspects, such as the method of shifting Personae, that is, adopting the mask of a historical figure.  This approach, dominant in his early poetry, was less common in The Cantos, where he is in quest of bigger quarry.

It goes without saying that the approach followed in this essay, emphasizing civilizations, leaves much out.  For example, it neglects the element of poetic metric - and more generally of music.  The Cantos could be translated as The Songs. Pound's ear was tuned to the motz el son - words and sounds -  of troubadour poetry where, as musicologist John Stevens has noted, "melody and poem existed in a state of the closest symbiosis, obeying the same laws and striving in their different media for the same sound-ideal.”   

In his middle years Pound composed two operas, one on François Villon, the other on Cavalcanti.  Reflecting his friendship with the avant-garde composer George Antheil, he also wrote a Treatise on Harmony.

More generally, we sense musicality in many passages of The Cantos. “In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it.” (Canto 11)

Monday, July 29, 2019

John Adams on religion

Here is a useful compilation from FB about Adams’ views on religion.  It is a collection of what Adams had to say about Dupuis, who maintained that Jesus never existed.

It is more worth your while to live to read Dupuis than Grim. Of all the Romances, and true Histories I e
ver read, it is the most entertaining And instructive, though Priestley calls it “dull.”

Conclude not from all this, that I have renounced the Christian Religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his Sentiments. Far from it. I see in every Page, Something to recommend Christianity in its Purity, and Something to discredit its Corruptions.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6652

Dupuis has increased my Attachment to Christianity; but not to Catholic, Lutherian or Calvanistic Christianity.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-3207

I advise you to procure Du Puis; and answer him. I have read him in twelve large Volumes besides a Volume of Platis.

I could answer him in ten Pages, upon my Principles.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6661

For the last Year or two I have devoted myself to this kind of Study: and have read 15 Volumes of Grim, Seven Volumes of Tuckers Neddy Search and 12 Volumes of Dupuis besides a 13th of plates and Traceys Analysis, and 4. Volumes of Jesuitical History! Romances all! I have learned nothing of importance to me, for they have made no Change in my moral or religious Creed, which has for 50 or 60 Years been contained in four Short Words “Be just and good.” In this result they all agree with me.

I must acknowledge however, that I have found in Dupuis more Ideas that were new to me, than in all the others.

My Conclusions from all of them is Universal Tolleration.

Is there any Work extant so well calculated to discredit Corruptions and Impostures in Religion as Dupuis.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6670

Jesus is benevolense personified. An Example for all Men. DuPuis has made no Alteration in my opinions of Christian Religion in its primitive Purity and Simplicity, which I have entertained for more than Sixty Years. It is the Religion of Reason, Equity and Love. It is the Religion of the head and of the heart.

It would be idle for me to write Observations upon Dupuis. I must fill 13 Volumes. If I was 25 Years old and had the necessary Books and Leizure I would write an answer to Dupuis. But when, where or how should I get it printed. Dupuis can be answered to the Honour and Advantage of the Christian Religion, as I understand it. To this End I must Study Astrology as well as Astronomy Hebrew Greek Latin Arabic Persic and Sanscrit.

But to leave Dupuis to be answerd or reviewed in Edinburgh or London, I must enquire into the Attributes given by the Antient Nations to their Divinities, Gods with Stars and New Moons in their forheads or on their Shoulders; Gods with heads of Dogs, Horns of Oxen Bulls Cows Calves, Rams Sheep or Lambs. Gods with the Bodies of Horses; Gods with the Tails of Fishes; Gods with the Tails of Dragons and Serpents; Gods with the Feet of Goats. The Bull of Mithra; The Dog of Anubis; The Serpent of Esculapius!!!

Is Man the most irrational Beast of the Forrest? Never did Bullock or Sheep or Snake imagine himself a God. What then can all this wild Theory mean? Can it be any Thing but Allegory founded in Astrology? Your Manillius would inform you as well as Dupuis.

The Hebrew Unity of Jehovah, the Prohibition of all Similitudes, appear to me the greatest Wonders of Antiquity. How could that Nation preserve it’s Cread among the monstrous Theologies of all the other Nations of the Earth? Revelation, you will Say, and Special Providence and I will not contradict you; for I cannot Say with Dupuis that a Revelation is impossible or improbable.

Christianity, you will say was a fresh Revelation; I will not deny this. As I understand the Christian Religion, it was and is a Revelation. But how has it happened that Millions of Fables, Tales Legends have been blended with both Jewish and Christian Revelations that have made them the most bloody Religions that ever existed? How has it happened that all the fine Arts, Architecture Painting Sculpture Statuary, Musick Poetry and Oratory have been prostituted from the Creation of the World to the Sordid and detestable Purposes of Superstition? and Fraud? The 18th. Century had the honour to discover that Ocellus of Lucania, Timeus of Locris, Aristotle, Tacitus, Quintillion and Pliny were in the right. The Philosophy of Frederick, Catharine, Buffon, De La Lande Diderot, D’Alembert, Condorcet, D’Holbach and Dupuis; appears o me to be no more nor less than the Philosophy of those ancient Men of Science and Letters whose Speculations came principally from India Egypt Chaldea and Phenicia. A consolatory Discovery to be Sure! Let it once be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future State; and my Advice to every Man Woman and Ch[ild] would be, as our Existence would be in our own pi[. . .] to take opium. For I am certain there is nothing in this World worth living for but Hope, and every Hope will fail Us, if the last Hope, that of a future State is extinguished

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6681

I am Still a Spiritualist, in spight of Priestley Grim and Dupuis, and Tracy; and believe a God, a Soul and a future State. I Should with Berkley, call in question the Existence of matter as soon as with Priestly and Dupuis, that of Spirit ... An active cause must exist and have always existed. I See no reason, in all the Subtelties of the Phylosophers to hesitate in believing and Adoring the Being and Providence of the God of Abraham and Sir Isaac Newton. I have read Chateaubriand, as well as Dupuis and Eustace.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-3246

When you have once read Dupuis You will find yourself, irresistably impelled to read Court de Gebeline Primative World; and then Bryants Analysis of ancient Mythology; and then Sir William Jones’s Works, and then Herodotus and all the Greek Historians, and then over again Your Eustace, and Simondi and last not least Hugh Farmers four Volumes containing all his Works, viz, his Temptation &c, his Worship of human Spirits, his Miracles, and his Demons. To these you will wish to add Sir John Malcoms recent History of Persia, and the millions of Authorities quoted by all these Writers.

And when you Shall have done all this You will find yourself, precisely where you are now, an Adorer of the Christian Religion in its Purity; mourning over the Knavery And Folly of your Species; and above all deploring the Corruptions and heathenish Superstitions and Idolatries introduced into the Religion of Jesus by his professed disciples, and “most holy Priests.”

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6770

But there are many bad Books, and I have read many.—Excepting a gratification of curiosity, I know not whether they have even done me good or harm, they have made little alteration in my natural sentiments, opinions or feelings; You would be suprised perhaps at the Catalogue ... The primitive world of Court de Gebellin, Bryants Mythology, and Dupuis Universal religion, and Volneys new researches into the History of Ancient Nations; Have not converted me to their system of Philosophy."

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-4240

Whitehead on Plato

Some reflection is needed to interpret this famous utterance:  The renowned British philosopher A.N Whitehead once commented on Plato’s thought: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them.” 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

US Party systems

A friend sent me this useful compilation.

First:
Federalists and the National Republicans/ Democratic-Republicans/ Jeffersonian Republicans


Second (1828-52): 
Jacksonian era 

Third (1854-1896): 
Civil War & Reconstruction, Gilded Age

Fourth (1896-1932):
Progressive Era

Fifth (1932-1980?): 
Roosevelt and the New Deal

Sixth (1980-present?):
Reagan Revolution

Monday, July 15, 2019

Pre-Socratic themes

             PRESOCRATIC THEMES   by Wayne R. Dynes

I.  The earliest philosophers of ancient Greece were the first thinkers in the Western tradition to pose fundamental questions regarding the nature of the universe, together with the reliability - or not - of our efforts to ascertain this knowledge.  In their work they showed that both empirical observation and reasoning were necessary, though the balance differed from one thinker to another.
Modern studies of ancient Greece’s earliest philosophers focused initially on issues of nomenclature and periodization.  Here the pivotal figure was Socrates.  Did his appearance signal a new departure, relegating his predecessors to a superseded phase of thought?  That idea goes back at least as far as Cicero, who held that Socrates had achieved an epochal advance by bringing philosophy down from the heavens to the world of humanity (Tusculan Disputations, prologue to book 5).  Or was Socrates the last of the early philosophers, leaving Plato to enjoy the honor of initiating the new era?
In 1788 the Berlin Lutheran pastor Johann Augustus Eberhard introduced the expression “die Vorsokratiker” (the Presocratics) in his Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie. In this usage he was followed by his famous pupil Friedrich Schleiermacher, who was inspired to produce a study of  one of the major figures: “ Herakleitos der dunkle von Ephesos: dargestellt aus den Trümmern seines Werkes und den Zeugnissen der Alten”  (1807). 
A different interpretation was advanced by Wilhelm Traugott Krug, who in his 1815 Geschichte der Philosophie alter Zeit presented Socrates as the concluding figure of his first chapter, starting a new chapter with Plato.  The new approach appeared in the title of a Latin series by the Dutch philologist Simon Karsten, Philosophorum Graecorum Veterum praesertim qui ante platonem Floruerunt operum Reliquiae (1830-38).  Finally, in 1872 Friedrich Nietzsche offered a series of lectures on “Pre-Platonic Philosophy.”  Never published in the author’s lifetime, these lectures have been reconstructed in modern editions, based on the philosopher’s notes (see, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, Urbana and Chicago, 2000). 
Nietzsche’s approach has been revived from time to time.  Among its advantages is that it addresses the anomaly of classifying Leucippus and his pupil Democritus as “pre-Socratic,” when they were in fact contemporaries of Socrates.  However, the difficulty does not disappear entirely, in as much as Democritus is supposed to have died ca. 370 BCE.  Plato seems to have begun composing his dialogues shortly after the death of Socrates in 399, so that some overlap persists.
At all events, Nietzsche’s approach did not prevail.  In fact it was already becoming sidelined in his own time as a result of Eduard Zeller’s influential Die Philosophie der Griechen in ihrer geschichtliche Entwicklung (first edition, 1844-52, with several enlargements in subsequent years).  Zeller’s preference was for the Presocratic concept.  His choice was duly ratified by the standard work of Hermann Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, with the first edition appearing in 1903 (again revised and reprinted several times).
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “Pre-Socratic” was introduced into English in 1871 by Alexander Campbell Fraser in his Life and Letters of George Berkeley.
Recently, the distinguished Swiss philologist Walter Burkert has stated his preference for “Preplatonics” (n his contribution to P. Curd and D. W. Graham, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Phllosophy, 2008, p. 55).  He does not seem to have been widely followed.
As we have seen, the arguments for this preference are significant.  Should one adopt it?  Probably not, because the the term Presocratic has become fixed.  After all, we still speak of Gothic architecture, even though we know that it was not created by the Goths; and of the West Indies, even though they are not located in India.

II.   BEFORE THALES

1. Orpheus and Orphism.  
In ancient Greece Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet.  He was noted for his magical ability to enchant all things with his music.  Poets such as Simonides of Ceos claimed that Orpheus's music and singing could charm the birds, fish. and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and even divert the course of rivers.  The most poignant episode of his career was his failed attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice from the underworld.  After this loss he renounced the love of women.  According to Ovid and other sources, his death came at the hands of Thracian women who were angry at his abandonment of heterosexuality and his efforts to seduce their husbands.  Because of this last phase of his career, Orpheus was sometimes regarded in antiquity as the founder of the institution of pederasty.
As an archetype of the inspired singer and poet, Orpheus ranks one of the most significant figures in the spread of classical mythology in Western culture, figuring in countless works of art and popular culture in several media, including poetry, film, opera, and painting.

For the Greeks, Orpheus was a founder and prophet of the “Orphic mysteries.”  He was credited with the composition of the Orphic Hymns. Shrines containing purported relics of Orpheus were venerated as oracles.  Because of the story of Orpheus’s descent into Hades, the Orphic tradition is associated with death, and with Persephone, who annually descended into the Underworld and then returned. Orpheus was sometimes honored as the inventor of the Mysteries of Dionysus.

The earliest literary reference to Orpheus is a two-word fragment of the sixth-century-BCE lyric poet Ibycus: onomaklyton Orphēn ("Orpheus famous-of-name"). Neither Homer nor Hesiod mentions him.  The fifth century BCE offers more abundant evidence of distinctly Orphic beliefs, including graffiti."  Classical sources, such as Plato, refer to "Orpheus-initiators" (Ὀρφεοτελεσταί), and rites associated with them, although how far "Orphic" literature in general related to these rites is not certain.  As in the Eleusinian mysteries, initiation into Orphic rites promised advantages in the afterlife.

Differing from popular ancient Greek religion, Orphism showed the following main features.  This faith (as it probably should be called) regarded human souls as divine and immortal, though destined to live (for a period) in a "grievous circle" of successive bodily lives through metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls. Orphism prescribed an ascetic way of life which, together with secret initiation rites, was supposed to guarantee not only eventual release from the "grievous circle" but also communion with gods. Finally, it possessed sacred texts relating the origin of the gods and human beings.

Distinctively Orphic views and practices are attested as early as the works of Herodotus, Euripides, and Plato. Found in 1962 and recently published, the Derveni papyrus offers evidence of the Orphic theology dating back to the fourth century BCE, and it is probably even before.  Inscriptions found in various parts of the Greek world attest the early existence of a movement with the core beliefs associated with the name of Orphism.

The Orphic theogonies are genealogical works similar to Theogony of the poet Hesiod, but the details are different. They may reflect the influence of Near Eastern models. The main narrative is as follows.  Dionysus (in his incarnation Zagreus) is the son of Zeus and Persephone. Zeus gives his inheritance of the throne to the child.  The Titans are enraged over the proclamation of attendance and under Hera's instigation decide to murder the child, The Titans then beguile Dionysus with a mirror and children's toys; they then murder and devour him. Yet Athena saves the heart and relates the crime to Zeus who in turn hurls a thunderbolt at the Titans. The resulting soot, from which sinful mankind is born, contains the bodies of the Titans and Dionysus. The soul of man (the Dionysus factor) is therefore divine, while the body (then Titan factor) holds the soul in bondage. Thus it was declared that the soul returns to a host ten times, bound to the wheel of rebirth.
There are two Orphic stories of the rebirth of Dionysus.  In one of them the heart of Dionysus is implanted into the thigh of Zeus.  In the other he has impregnated the mortal woman Semele,resulting in Dionysus's literal rebirth. 

We have evidence of several Orphic scriptures.  One is the "Protogonos Theogony," lost, composed ca. 500 BCE; it is known through the commentary in the Derveni papyrus, and references in classical authors (Empedocles and Pindar).The "Eudemian Theogony," is also lost: composed in the fifth century BCE, it stems from a syncretic Bacchic-Koureetic cult. The "Rhapsodic Theogony," also lost, was composed in Hellenistic times, incorporating earlier works. It is known through summaries in later neo-Platonist writers.  Finally, the Orphic Hymns are 87 hexametric  poems of a shorter length composed in the late Hellenistic or early Roman period.
Gold-leaf tablets found in graves at various sites coming from the fourth century BCE and after) give instructions to the dead. Although these thin tablets are often highly fragmentary, collectively they present a consistent account of the passage into the afterlife. When the deceased arrives in the underworld, he is expected to confront obstacles. He must take care not to drink of Lethe ("Forgetfulness"), but to imbibe at the pool of Mnemosyne ("Memory"). The initiate is provided with formulaic expressions with which to present himself to the guardians of the afterlife.

A number of texts from Pindar, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Euripides, and Plato seem to show the influence of Orphic ideas about the nature and fate of soul. There are particular affinities with the salvationary aspects of Pythagoreanism.

Some modern scholars have expressed doubt that there was any single unified Orphic doctrine. Instead, different Orphic texts and practitioners propounded various and often conflicting ideas about the origin, metaphysics, physics, and fate of the soul. In this revisionist view, the ideas expressed in some of these texts seem hard to square with the idea that transmigration and the immortality of the individual soul figures as a permanent and central doctrine of Orphism. It may be that different Orphic texts reflect overlapping but divergent conceptions of salvation, founded on divergent conceptions of the soul.

Orphic concepts and practices show parallels with elements of Pythagoreanism.  As yet, though, there is too little evidence to determine the extent to which one movement may have influenced the other.

Mentioned above, the Derveni papyrus ranks as the most substantial papyrus to have been found on Greek soil. It, and is dated roughly between 340 and 320 B.C. The name derives from the site where it was discovered, some six miles north of the city of Thessaloniki, in whose Archaeological Museum it is now preserved. It was found in a tomb among the remnants of a funeral pyre.  Once the material was recovered, scholars faced the exacting task of unrolling and separating the layers of the charred papyrus roll, and then of joining the numerous fragments together again.  As a result, 26 columns of text were recovered, all with their bottom parts missing, as they had perished on the pyre.
The book, which seems to have been compiled toward the end of the fifth century BCE, purports to contain the eschatological teaching of a mantis or inspired prophet.  The content is divided between religious instructions pertaining to sacrifices to gods and souls, and allegorical commentary on a theogonic  poem ascribed to Orpheus. 
The author’s outlook is philosophical, displaying, in particular, a physical system recalling those of Anaxagoras, the Atomists, and Diogenes of Apollonia. His allegorical method of interpretation is sometimes reminiscent of Socrates’ playful mental and etymological  acrobatics as seen in Plato’s Cratylus. The authorship is a matter of  dispute among scholars; it will probably never be known. 

2. Hesiod.  The poet Hesiod is generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BCE, about the same time as Homer.  His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play  Ancient authors credited him and Homer, perhaps somewhat extravagantly, with establishing Greek religious customs. Modern scholars consult Hesiod as a major source for Greek mythology, legendary history, farming techniques, early economic thought, and ancient time-keeping.
Hesiod’s Theogony addresses the origins of the world (cosmogony) and of the gods (theogony).  Cosmogony is of course an interest he shared with the Presocratic thinkers, though they were generally dismissive of his florid polytheism. 

The creation myth in Hesiod has long been held to show Eastern influences, such as the Hittite Song of Kumarbi and the Babylonian poem known as the Emuma Elish.   In all likelihood, the setting for this cultural crossover was the eighth- and ninth-century Greek trading colonies such as Al Mina in North Syria. 

3.  Connections with the ancient Near East and Egypt.  

Initially the Greeks came into contact with the Western fringes of the ancient civilization of the Middle East in Phoenicia in the Levant and on the Western coast of Anatolia, a region where the Hittite Empire had once flourished.  Gradually, however, they became aware of the centrality of Mesopotamia, the site of one of the oldest civilizations in the world.  Here, in the fourth millennium BCE the Sumerians developed the first city states, using cuneiform writings for record keeping and also to preserve religious and poetic texts.  The Sumerian language has no known relatives.  People in the northern part of Mesopotamia, known as Akkad, spoke a Semitic language related to Canaanite and Hebrew.
Babylonia emerged when Hammurabi (flourished ca. 1728–1686 BCE) created a large realm by unifying the territories of Sumer and Akkad.  Together with the related people, the Assyrians, the Babylonian rulers cultivated scientific observation, especially in the field of astronomy.  Later, the Greeks were to benefit from this accumulation of knowledge.
In due course, the Neo-Babylonian Empire arose, lasting from the revolt of Nabopalassar in 626 in BCE. The empire was conquered by the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE.  Gradually, under the Achaemenid dynasty the Persians extended their power westwards, extending their sway over the Greek cities of Ionia on the western coast of Anatolia.  While the Persians failed to conquer continental Greece, this period saw a great deal of cultural interchange.  At the height of its power, the Achaemenid dynasty encompassed approximately 8.0 million square kilometers, held the greatest percentage of world population to date, and territorially ranked the largest empire of classical antiquity.
The connections linking Greece with pharaonic Egypt were less dramatic.  Still, Greeks traveled there as traders and also in some cases for learning as well.  
A commonplace theme in cultural history is that, with the Presocratic thinkers the Greeks made a crucial transition from mythos to logos.  The first was associated with the venerable realms of the ancient Near East and Egypt, the latter being incarnated in the Greek Enlightenment. The two, it is held are fundamentally different and irreconcilable.
All the same, it is reasonable to ask whether it may not be the two modes are not so different as usually supposed, and that early Greek thought owes a debt to its eastern and southern neighbors.  This research has been spurred by the extensive finds and translation of the cuneiform literature that began in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The older civilizations cherished a genre of wisdom literature, consisting of proverbial sayings and pithy observations, generally pertaining to ethical and other issues of daily life. These texts are found in both the ancient Nr East and Egypt.  They are also represented in some books of the Hebrew Bible, such as Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon.  This tradition surely lies behind the tendency of some Presocratics such as Heraclitus and Empedocles to present key ideas in the form of short, gnomic sayings.

Another area of legacy is represented by the accounts of creation found in the older civilizations.   In Egypt, for example, there is the Memphite theology; in Mesopotamia, the Enuma Elish.

There are also scientific elements, such as the astronomical observations of the Babylonians.  The “Pythagorean theorem” was actually first discovered by the Egyptians.  Significantly, Pythagoras is supposed to have traveled to Egypt.

Finally, one should note the somewhat speculative theory of E. R. Dodds, to the effect that Eurasian shamanism contributed to the mantic or prophetic tradition of ancient Greece.
III.  SOURCES
Unfortunately not one complete work survives from the writings of the Presocratic philosophers. Only fragments of their own utterances. together with reports and testimonies of their theories have come down to us.  
While Plato alludes to Presocratic thinkers, especially Parmenides, he uses them for his own purposes and cannot be relied on as a basic source.  Matters are quite different withs his successor Aristotle, who discusses some of them in detail, though some aspects of the veracity of his account have been questioned by modern scholars.  Still, his interest fostered further observations and quotations from his followers and commentators. There has also been interest on the part of Neoplatonic writers and even among some early Christian authors, such as Clement of Alexandria. 
In some instances, these writers seem to have access to complete treatises by the Neoplatonics - treatises that were subsequently lost.  In other cases they seem to have borrowed from anthologies consisting of techniques deemed by the compiler to have been representative.
Over the course of several generations, modern scholarship has carefully sifted these sources in order to reconstruct Presocratic thought. The following discussion outlines the main sources that have been exploited to mine the Presocratic fragments and testimonies.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) terms them “investigators of nature” (physiologoi), tacitly backing the notion that Socrates had achieved a revolution in thought by bringing philosophy down from the heavens to the human world.  His discussions appear in his Physics and Metaphysics (most notably), as well as in On the Heavens and On the Soul.  In an influential monograph of 1935, Harold Cherniss argued that Aristotle had persistently distorted the views of the Presocratics because he analyzed them for the purposes of his own arguments.  More recently, a balanced approach has emerged in which Aristotle is perceived as presenting a consistently evolutionary theory of thought, whereby the Presocratics take honored places as precursors.
The Opinions of the Physicists by Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus (ca. 371-ca. 287) also contains some useful material. 
The somewhat mysterious Aetius (second or first century BCE) created a book in 130 chapters containing opinions of many thinkers, reduced to a sort of capsule form.  The contents of his work have been partially reconstructed from other sources.
Diogenes Laertius (early to middle third century CE) takes a biographical approach.  His accounts figure significantly in the testimonia section of the sources.
A good deal of information can be gleaned from the prolific work of Plutarch (ca. 50-120 CE).
Some other bits can be found in the early Christian writers Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Eusebius.
Finally, the commentaries of Simplicius (sixth century CE) offer useful material.
All this disparate material must be examined according to the reliability of the quotation or summary, and placed in the context of the authors’ interest and biases.

IV.  THE DRAMATIS PERSONAE

It is generally agreed that Thales of MIletus, who is thought to have lived from ca. 624 to 546 BCE, is the earliest Presocratic thinker. (All dates are approximate, though fairly well established in terms of sequence).  Thales was succeeded by two younger Milesian colleagues, Anaximander (ca. 610-546) and Anaximenes (ca. 585-525).  The Milesian pioneers stressed cosmology, a concern that left a lasting effect.  Some see in this concern the remote origins of modern science.  They also illustrated what has been termed Material Monism.  Thales thought that water was the primal element, while Anaximenes assigned that role to air.
Pythagoras, a somewhat shadowy figure, may be placed at ca. 580-ca. 500.  Pythagoreanism was significant in antiquity and long after, because it blended a mystical element with mathematics.
Xenophanes of Colophon, who lived ca. 570-480, was a kind of pro-hippie poet and philosopher who roamed about the Greek lands.  He is best remembered for his iconoclastic views of the gods.
His surviving writings display a skepticism that became more common during the fourth century.  Xenophanes mocked traditional religious views of his time as human projections.  He directed his critique at the polytheistic religious views of earlier Greek poets and of his own contemporaries 
The bold innovator Heraclitus of Ephesus belonged to a new generation, living from ca. 535 to 475.   His witty, often paradoxical utterances of Heraclitus are both beguiling and frustrating. It is generally believed that Heraclitus wrote a single book which supplied the fragments available to us.  According to Diels-Kranz there are 126 authentic fragments.  In his edition Miroslav Marcovich recognizes 122. .
Throughout the surviving passages Heracliitus shows an unwavering self-confidence, bordering on arrogance and even megalomania.  Although all human beings are immersed in the Process (or Logos), very few have the wit to understand  or even recognize their situation.  Heraclitus shows disdain for such predecessors as Hesiod, Pythagoras, and Xenocrates.  In their ignorance they are scarcely better than the common herd.  There are social consequences as well, as when he recommends that the adults of his naive Ephesus should simply hang themselves, so miserable is the mess they have made of the city’s affairs.
Heraclitus’ utterances about opposites rank among his most seminal and challenging observations  First are contraries that stem from different points of view (perspectivism).  For example, “[t[he sea is the purest and most polluted water; to fishes drinkable and bringing safety; to humans undrinkable and destructive.” (fr. 61)  Or, “[t]he most beautiful of apes is ugly in comparison with the human race.” (fr. 82)
Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515-450) is sometimes regarded as a disciple of Xenophanes, though the connection seems tenuous. Seemingly, Parmenides wrote after Heraclitus, and in conscious opposition to him..According to Plato (in his dialogue “Parmenides”), he visited Athens in his sixty-fifth year,  where he encouraged the youthful Socrates. The truth of this account has been doubted. Yet there can be no doubt that Parmenides influenced Plato’s theory of Forms.
Parmenides is commonly viewed as the thinker who contradicted every aspect of our perception of the world by suggesting that change does not occur. This description is surely an oversimplification, and addressing the complexity of Parmenides is a task that continues to engage some of the best minds working on the Presocratics.  He is justly remembered as the founder of the discipline of metaphysics.
Zeno (ca. 490-ca. 430) was the pupil of Parmenides. Zeno is noted for his paradoxes. Melissus, though born on Samos ca. 500 (death date unknown), ranks as the third Eleatic thinker.
Empedocles came from Akragas (ca. 492-432).  He addressed the Milesian preoccupation with his quaternion of earth, air, fire, and water.  For 2000 years this analysis of the basic elements of the universe was to prevail in Western civilization.
A new new note was introduced by Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (ca. 500 – 428), who ranks as the first to bring philosophy to Athens, where he was closely associated with Pericles  Unlike Socrates who was condemned to death on similar charges, Anaxagoras was permitted to retire into exile in Lampsacus.

Responding to the claims of Parmenides which suggested the ultimate impossibility of change, Anaxagoras described the world as a mixture of primary imperishable ingredients, where material variation was never caused by an absolute presence of a particular ingredient, but rather by its relative preponderance over the other ingredients; in his words, "everything is in everything". He introduced the concept Nous (Mind) as an ordering force, which moved and separated out the original mixture, which had been homogeneous, or nearly so.


Democritus of Abdera is something of an outlier, as he was born as late as 450 BCE and died about 370.  He is primarily remembered today for his formulation of the atomic theory of the universe.

His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor (or associate) Leucippus, as texts often cite them together.. Their speculation on atoms bears more than a passing and partial resemblance to the nineteenth-century understanding of atomic structure.  In consequence many consider Democritus to be the "father of modern science." 

Largely ignored in ancient Athens, Democritus was nevertheless well known to his fellow northern-born philosopher Aristotle,  

Examined more broadly, the Presocratic thinkers fall into four groups.  First, came the early PIONEERS (the Milesians Pythagoras, and Xenophanes).  Then there were the two great INNOVATORS, Heraclitus and Parmenides.  After them came the CONSOLIDATORS (Zeno, Empedocles, Anaxagoras and a few lesser lights).  Finally, there was the CONCLUDER, Democritus, noted for his thorough exposition of the atomic theory.
Not included in this list are the Sophists.  Although there has been a revival of interest in them in recent years, in my view they do not rank either with the Presocratics or with the classical triumvirate of Socrates, Plato, and AristotleAn earlier section raised the issue of a  possible role of Eastern thought (Babylonian and Persian) on the Ionian cities.  It is possible, for example, that Heraclitus’ emphasis on fire reflects Zoroastrian thought. Yet such links remain speculative.
Shared locations favored linkage in successor groups.  Clearly this is the case with the three Milesians, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes.  Somewhat less certain is the role ascribed to Xenophanes in forming the Eleatic school, distinguished by Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus.
There were also lover pairs, such as Parmenides and Zeno in Elea.  In his youth Zeno had been the eromenos of Parmenides.  Later, as a mature philosopher he faithfully sought to bolster the arguments of his lover with his famous paradoxes.  
Empedocles of Akragas had a less prominent lover, a certain Pausanias, about which little is known.  For his part, Empedocles is known to have discouraged heterosexual copulation, because it tended to disturb the ideal balance of love and strife, the two forces that ruled his universe.  Tacitly, he approved of homosexual unions, for he formed at least one.

V.  GEOGRAPHY 
Where did they come from? Ionia, with the Greek cities in Asia Minor, what is now the Western coast of Turkey was extraordinarily productive.  Miletus provided the earliest thinker, Thales, as well as his successors Anaximander and Anaximenes.  Ephesus was the hometown of Heraclitus, while Colophon produced Xenophanes.
Moving westward, the island of Samos just off the coast of Asia Minor was the homeland of Pythagoras (though his existence remains shadowy) and Melissus.
Finally, the Greek colonies of southern Italy and Sicily were important: Elea in lower Italy, with Parmenides and Zeno; Akragas in Sicily, with Empedocles; and Croton in southern Italy, with Philolaus.
Only with the chronological outlier Democritus (a native of Abdera) does continental Greece become significant.  Of course with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Greece in the narrow geographical sense of the peninsula projecting from the European landmass, become dominant.  The general pattern then is initial concentration on the two extremes, the Greek colonies on the coast of Anatolia and those of Sicily and southern Italy.  Did their status as settler societies foster innovation?  
We have previously noted the possible role of Eastern thought (Babylonian and Persian) on the Ionian cities?  It is possible, for example, that Heraclitus’ emphasis on fire reflects Zoroastrian thought. Yet such links remain speculative.

VI.  UNITY AND PLURALITY

“When we look at the world around us. we seem to see it as made up of a lot of different things. There are trees and stones, houses and squirrels; there are words and flavours, water and grandeur; there are kind actions and major emergencies; birth, deaths, and stereotypes.  All these things seem to be real and observable; all of them (and many others, too) are different kinds of things.  When we divide reality up into chunks like that, we might wonder how many bits there are, and whether we could ever count them.  Are there only so many separate things in the world, just this many and no more?  Or if there are no definite natural divisions, perhaps it is really all one?  Could it be all one with no divisions whatever?  The consequences in that case would seem to bve rather strange, as Parmenides and Zeno deftly show.”  (Catherine Osborne, Presocratic Philosophy, Oxford, 2004, p. xvi).

The Founders, the Milesians felt a strong pull towards unity, towards monism.  Thus Thales identified water as the first principle; Anaximenes, air.  The middle figure, Anaximander was a little more cagey, naming only an indefinite stuff as the primordial feature. Heraclitus, their fellow Ionian, singled out fire, though he held that it could morph into water and earth.

The most thoroughgoing monist was Parmenides who held that the perception of plurality was a dangerous illusion.  There is only one thing, perfect, complete and unchangeable.  In this ultramonism, he was followed by Zeno and Melissus.

Empedocles worked out a compromise.  Taking a leaf from the Milesians with their interest in elements, he proposed four “roots”: earth, air, fire, and water.  Governing by two overarching principles, love and strife, these constituent elements could enter into various combinations, producing the multiplicity of our perceived world.  Empedocles also posited a dynamic, temporal dimension, for there was a time when the elements were not as clearly differentiated as they are now; a similar situation will prevail in the future.
Anaxagoras, the adviser of Pericles, posited numerous infinitely divisible components. 
Finally, the atomists Leucippus and Democritus assumed the existence of numerous indivisible components, known as atoms - as well as the void.

VIII.   OPPOSITES  
In everyday speech we are familiar with antonymic pairs.  Some, such as hot and cold, shallow and deep, are a fairly straightforward matter of perception.  Others, such as good and bad, beauty and ugliness, involve value judgments.
Such pairs are sometimes termed binarisms.  The tendency to assemble them is sometimes decried - as by postmodernism - are representing an oversimplification of complex reality. With his doctrine of the mean, Aristotle asserted that the truth sometimes lies between two extremes, in the way, for example, that moderation stands between abstention from alcohol and drunkenness.
To Aristotle is also due the locus classicus of this mode: a table of ten opposed pairs (Metaphysics,986a22):
limit vs. unlimiited
odd vs. even
one vs. plurality
right vs. left
male vs. female
at rest vs. moving
straight vs. crooked
light vs. darkness
good vs. bad
square vs. oblong

Aristotle seems to wish to ascribe this table to the Pythagoreans.  It may have some different origin.  In any case it is a useful list, a kind of summation of several generations of though.
The first thinker whose writings enable us to recover efforts along these lines is the Milesian Anaximander.
Heraclitus famously sought to reformulate the idea with his speculations about the identity of opposites, though in some instances this is only sequential.
Parmenides is generally regarded as a unitary thinker.  However, he does posit two paths of knowledge: the way of truth and the way of opinion.
For his part, Empedocles posited two dominant forces in the universe: love and strife.
Democritus and the atomists may be said to evade the problem by their concept of atoms which are potentially infinite in number.  Yet modern nuclear scientists do recognized opposing positive and negative particles
Cross-cultural parallels have been detected in ancient China and in tribal societies.  The Zoroastrians held that the world was a battleground between the opposing forces of good, headed by Ahura Mazda, and evil, headed by Ahriman.
Nonetheless, the tendency to think in terms of opposites does seem to be particularly characteristic of the early Greek thinkers.

APPENDIX:    KEY WORDS  

Several general themes have emerged in these investigations.  The first is the variability of meaning over time.  In many cases a term (such as logos) begins with a limited, everyday meaning, which then expands.  Because this is a dynamic process, it can be difficult to discern in a given passage whether the older, simpler meaning prevails, or instead the broader, more expansive (and more philosophical) one (e.g. physis in Herclitus). 

ALETHEIA - truth, a key term for Parmenides.

APEIRON - When first used by Anaximander, it meant something like limit, boundary.  I could also be used for a trajectory on a circle; hence the idea of unceasing.  For A. it replaced the primal element (or arche) of water in the system of Thales. This background seems to have led to the meaning of infinite in Aristotle.

ARKHE - the beginning.  Sometimes used for first principle among the Ionian monists.  The source of our terms archaic and archaeology.

DOXA - mere opinion as distinct from ascertained truth.

ELENCHOS - inquiry

ERIS - strife.  Empedocles contrasts with Storge, or love

ESTI - “it is” in Parmenides. Much discussed, it gave rise to the philosophy of Being.

ENANTIA  -  twin, mirror image.  Hence a term for opposites.
The tendency to think in terms of polar opposites is found in many human societies. In some, probably more than most.  At all events the tendency pervades the Presocratics. On need only think of the famous set that Aristotle ascribes to Pythagoras. The tendency is already evident in Thales.  Parmenides shows two: one pertaining to epistemology: aletheia vs. doxa; the other constituting the structure of the universe; Light (Fire?) vs. Night. 
Heraclitus showed the intimate relationship of the opposites, how some phenomena such as the road up + the road down, showed their fusion, while others such as ice vs. water morphed, the one into the other.
Aristotle’s idea of the mean.

There is a heritage in the coincidentia oppositorum of the German mystics (probably going beyond what Heraclitus maintained).  Freud held that in the early stages of human language a single word could combine two opposite meanings.

HEN - one

KOSMOS - It originally meant ordering, as in a well-drawn up military formation.  In the sense of ornament, decoration it could also refer to a woman’s well-managed toilette (hence the modern term cosmetics).  The idea of ordering led to the broad sense of the universe, conceived of as ruled by an ordering principle.  Sometimes it meant simply the earth, as distinct from the heavens.  This last sense survives in our term cosmopolitan.

LOGOS - originally word(s), utterance, it came to refer to the ordering principle of the universe.  Both senses may be said to persist in the adjective logikos.

NOOS  - mind.  What is its status? it is more than an abstract noun but less than a personification.

PHYSIS -   Nafure.  In a single instance in Homer, the term is applied to a psychodelic plant.  This suggests that the original meaning was something like “characteristic appearance which permits identification” or perhaps “efficacy.”  The association with the verb phuo, to grow, made it seems suitable in relation to plants.  Yet this connection also facilitated a broader sort of meaning.  Many things grown, and if the world is in some sense alive, then it is universally applicable.  Hence the sense of nature, which is dominant in Plato.  Plato’s later works, such as The Laws, show another shift: at first descriptive, it could be normative (so that something could be “against nature,” even though it is part of nature in the descriptive sense).  The Latin equivalent, natura, has a different set of nuances, stemming from the verb nasci, to be born.
TAXIS - ordering, lineup.