Phenomenology and ancient Greek philosophy. The title of this book, indicating these topics as its two main subjects, could give the impression that the subjects are held together by a circumstantial “and.” The title would then indicate a connection between phenomenology and a topic, ancient Greek philosophy, the way titles such as Art and Phenomenology, Phenomenology and Psychological Research, Phenomenology and Virtue Ethics do.
This impression would be wrong. First, ancient Greek philosophers take pride of place in the dialogues initiated by many phenomenologists with various figures from the history of philosophy. Second, this is not just because phenomenological philosophers have tended to regard ancient Greek philosophy as the revered beginning of Western thought, reflection upon which may help illuminate any topic modern human beings wish to inquire into or give it a kind of historical dignity. It is first and foremost because ancient Greek philosophy, understood as the scientific attempt to understand the world, ourselves, and our place in the world, in the phenomenological tradition is regarded as one important origin of contemporary Western philosophy and science, even if contemporary philosophy and science is also determined by a new ideal of philosophy that emerges in early modernity. Indeed, for most phenomenologists, Greek philosophy can be regarded as the roots supporting this new ideal—even if these roots are sometimes hidden from sight or forgotten.
The main rationale for confronting ancient Greek philosophy phenomenologically is accordingly the attempt to bring to light in its full radicality the phenomenon “philosophy.” Unearthing philosophy as it was originally understood by Greek thinkers may, according to many phenomenologists at least, help us understand what philosophy in the full sense of the word was, has been, and may be again, but also what it has become or even degenerated into in modern times, for instance positivism.
It is this way of approaching ancient Greek philosophy that we wish to concentrate on in this book, in the hope that the volume will prove instructive both to people who have an interest in ancient Greek philosophy and wish to know more about the phenomenological approach to it and to people who work within phenomenology and wish to know more about the various approaches to ancient Greek philosophy characterizing the phenomenological movement. We have therefore sought to make the introduction and the individual chapters accessible to non-experts, for instance by transliterating all Greek text, and confining quotes in other languages than English to footnotes and glosses.