'Ancient Philosophy, Ancient Science: who were the earliest thinkers, and why do they still matter?' a talk by Simeon Underwood at the Bull's Head Barnes, 09 April 7.30 -9pm

On some accounts Western philosophy began on 28 May 585 BCE when an eclipse of the sun took place which had been predicted by Thales of Miletus.  There are a number of problems with this version of events.  But Thales was certainly the first of a series of thinkers, now grouped together as the Pre-Socratics, who lived in and around Greece in the 150 years before Socrates and Plato came to the fore.  Other key figures include Parmenides, Heraclitus and Empedocles.  What we now know of their thinking is fragmentary, often puzzling and teasing.  But, as the example of the solar eclipse shows, it was wide-ranging and entered into what we now think of as science just as much as what we now think of as philosophy.

In this talk I will give a brief historical introduction to the Pre-Socratics.  I then want to look at the questions the Pre-Socratics asked and the answers they gave to them.  Finally I will offer some thoughts as to why this is more than a historical footnote.