The main purpose which I have had in view in writing this book has been to present an account of Greek philosophy which, within strict limits of brevity, shall be at once authentic and interesting—authentic, as being based on the original works themselves, and not on any secondary sources; interesting, as presenting to the ordinary English reader, in language freed as far as possible from technicality and abstruseness, the great thoughts of the greatest men of antiquity on questions of permanent significance and value. There has been no attempt to shirk the really philosophic problems which these men tried in their day to solve; but I have endeavoured to show, by a sympathetic treatment of them, that these problems were no mere wars of words, but that in fact the philosophers of twenty-four centuries ago were dealing with exactly similar difficulties as to the bases of belief and of right action as, under different forms, beset thoughtful men and women to-day.
In the general treatment of the subject, I have followed in the main the order, and drawn chiefly on the selection of passages, in Ritter and Preller's Historia Philosophiae Graecae. It is hoped that in this way the little book may be found useful at the universities, as a running commentary on that excellent work; and the better to aid students in the use of it for that purpose, the corresponding sections in Ritter and Preller are indicated by the figures in the margin.
In the sections on Plato, and occasionally elsewhere, I have drawn to some extent, by the kind permission of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press and his own, on Professor Jowett's great commentary and translation.
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