• Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy

    Translator(s): Joseph A. Murphy
    Pages: 176
    Illustrations: 1 map
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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  • Translator's Note  vii
    Map  viii
    Author's Preface to the Japanese Edition  ix
    Universal Religion  1
    Ethical Prophets   5
    Exemplary Prophets  7
    1. Ionian Society and Thought
    Athens and Ionia  11
    Isonomia and Democracy  14
    Athenian Democracy  17
    State and Democracy  20
    Colonization and Isonomia  22
    Iceland and North America  26
    Isonomia and Council  31
    2, The Background of Ionian Natural Philosophy
    Natural Philosophy and Ethics  35
    Hippocrates  39
    Herodotus  42
    Homer  46
    Hesiod  51
    3. The Essential Points of Ionian Natural Philosophy
    The Critique of Religion  56
    Self-Moving Matter  58
    Poiesis and Becoming  62
    4. Post-Ionian Thought
    Pythagoras  68
    Heraclitus  80
    Parmenides  87
    Post-Eliatics  96
    5. Socrates and Empire
    The Athenian Empire and Democracy  103
    Sophists and Rule by Rhetoric  107
    The Trial of Socrates  110
    The Riddle of Socrates  114
    Daimon  118
    The Socratic Method  121
    Plato and Pythagoras  125
    The Philosopher-King  127
    Isonomia and the Philosopher-King  130
    Appendix. From Structure of World History to Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy  135
    Timeline of the Ancient World  141
    Notes  143
    Bibliography  155
    Index  159
  • "A work of historical importance, this book should be read by all who are interested in the innumerable conflicts that beset the contemporary world. Essential."


  • "A work of historical importance, this book should be read by all who are interested in the innumerable conflicts that beset the contemporary world. Essential."

  • "In our anti-Eurocentrist era, attempts abound to 'decenter' European legacy, to demonstrate how European ideology borrowed from and simultaneously oppressed other traditions. Kojin Karatani does something very different: he decenters European legacy from within, shifting the accent from the classic Greek idealism (Plato, Aristotle) to its half-forgotten predecessors, the so-called Ionian materialists (Thales, Democritus), the first philosophers who were also the true founders of democratic egalitarianism. Karatani’s book makes you see the entire history of philosophy in a new way; it deserves to become an instant classic." — Slavoj Žižek

    "A unique and ambitious intellectual project, Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy marks a new phase in the history of Marxism and in the career of Kojin Karatani. It should be regarded as one of the radical critiques of Western metaphysics by virtue of its challenge to conventional accounts of the origins of philosophy. This work is of historical importance." — Naoki Sakai, author of, Translation and Subjectivity: On Japan and Cultural Nationalism

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  • Description

    In Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy—published originally in Japanese and now available in four languages—Kojin Karatani questions the idealization of ancient Athens as the source of philosophy and democracy by placing the origins instead in Ionia, a set of Greek colonies located in present-day Turkey. Contrasting Athenian democracy with Ionian isonomia—a system based on non-rule and a lack of social divisions whereby equality is realized through the freedom to immigrate—Karatani shows how early Greek thinkers from Heraclitus to Pythagoras were inseparably linked to the isonomia of their Ionian origins, not democracy. He finds in isonomia a model for how an egalitarian society not driven by class antagonism might be put into practice, and resituates Socrates's work and that of his intellectual heirs as the last philosophical attempts to practice isonomia's utopic potentials. Karatani subtly interrogates the democratic commitments of Western philosophy from within and argues that the key to transcending their contradictions lies not in Athenian democracy, with its echoes of imperialism, slavery, and exclusion, but in the openness of isonomia.

    About The Author(s)

    Kojin Karatani is an internationally renowned theorist and philosopher. Previously, he was a professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, Kinki University in Osaka, and Columbia University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange and Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, both also published by Duke University Press.
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