Anaximander in Context stands to become a very influential book. Most importantly, it allows Hahn to develop further his outstanding and original thesis introduced in Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy. Hahn's thesis urged us to re-consider the importance of cultural context in the origins and early development of Greek philosophy, and in particular the technologies of monumental temple building to the technological elements in Anaximander's early philosophical speculations. Now, Hahn is joined by Naddaf and Couprie to press further the importance of "context" to unfold Anaximander's originality. All three monographs reflect upon the role that Egypt played, as part of the background, but each study reaches deeply into the Greek tradition from which Anaximander's originality emerged. While all three studies breathe a fresh air into a time-worn subject, Hahn's essay is both the boldest and yet most reasonable. The impact of monumental temple projects overwhelmed the archaic communities. A key theme of early Greek philosophy is the search for the "One over Many" and Hahn shows how modular construction of temples succeeded by adopting precisely this technique in building, and how Anaximander made use of this technique. Moreover, in a previously unexplored way, Hahn shows further how Anaximander's vision of the cosmos was "cosmic architecture." The architects wrote prose treatises on their works, presumably to show how to construct the house of the cosmic powers, while Anaximander was something of an architectural historian of the cosmos, explaining in his prose treatise(s) how the cosmic architecture came about, that is, the house that is the cosmos.
For anyone familiar with scholarship on ancient Greek philosophy, Hahn's Anaximander and the Architects is a breath of fresh air. So many of the old studies view the origins of philosophy as if they are exploring brains-in-a-jar, rather than individuals who are motivated and stimulated by practical problems to think abstractly. Hahn reminds us that short of war, monumental temple building was the most overwhelming project that was taken on by archaic Greek communities. The projects required a great variety of technological skills -- planning, quarrying, transporting, installing, and finishing the enormous stones; they demanded vast organization of resources and work forces. And we should not forget that the temples literally transformed the ancient landscapes, and thus affected the mentality of the people who dwelled in these communities. The projects in building gigantic temples offered to these early Greek communities a kind of experimental science; trial and error was displayed for the community like never before. In that cultural environment, the speculative thought of the natural philosophers has its origins. For those studying ancient Greek philosophy, this book is a must-read.