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We know almost nothing about d  


© Later generations told many anecdotes about
this wise man, but it is difficult to verify the reliability of these stories© What seems certain,
however, is that he predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May 585, which was remembered because
the Lydian king Alyattes and the Median leader Cyaxares were fighting a battle on that day©
Another reliable bit of information is that he did geometrical research, which enabled him to
measure the pyramids© However, his most important contribution to European civilization is his
attempt to give rational explanations for physical phenomena© Behind the phenomena was not a
catalogue of deities, but one single, first principle© Although his identification of this principle
with water is rather unfortunate, his idea to look for deeper causes was the true beginning of
philosophy and science© Thales died after 547©
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Thales was not the only one who was looking for a first cause©
Py
   (c©570-c©495) did the same© According to legend, he left his country and
studied with the wise men of Egypt, but was taken captive when the Persian king Cambyses
invaded the country of the Nile (525)© He now became a student of the Chaldaeans of
Babylonand the Magians of Persia© Some even say that he visited the Indian Brahmans, because
Pythagoras believed in reincarnation© At the end of the sixth century, he lived in southern Italy,
where he founded a community of philosophers© In his view, our world was governed by
numbers, and therefore essentially harmonious©
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a 
 was a rich man from Ephesus and lived c©500, during the
Persian occupation of his home town© His philosophical work consists of a series of cryptical
pronouncements that force a reader to think© Unfortunately, a great part of his work is lost, which
makes it very difficult to reconstruct Heraclitus' ideas© It seems certain, however, that he thought
that the basic principle of the universe was the ?  , i©e© the fact that it was rationally organized
and therefore understandable© Bipolar oppositions are one form of organization, but the sage
understands that these oppositions are just aspects of one reality© Fire is the physical aspect of the
perfect logos©
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P   was a younger contemporary of Heraclitus of Ephesus, but he lived at the
opposite end of the Greek world: in Italy© Both men were intrigued by the immense variety of
phenomena, but where Heraclitus discerned order in the chaos, Parmenides pointed out that the
endless variety and eternal changes were just an illusion© In a long poem, which partially
survives, he opposed 'being' to 'not being', and pointed out that change was impossible, because it
would mean that something that was 'not being' changed into 'being', which is absurd© In other
words, we had to distrust our senses and rely solely on our intellect© The result was a distinction
between two worlds: the unreal world which we experience every day, and the reality, which we
can reach by thinking© This idea was to prove one of the most influential in western culture©
Ô   ü  0   

ü 
]ne of the solutions to the problem postulated by Parmenides of Elea,
was the hypothesis of V
 : matter is made up from atoms© There was no real
evidence for this idea (which was not completely new), but it explained why change was
possible© The atoms were always moving and clustering in various, temporary combinations©
Therefore, things seemed to change, but 'not being' never changed into 'being'© (It was assumed
that 'not being' was a vacuum, which means that it is in fact not a 'not being' because a vacuum
exists in four dimensions©) The consequence of this idea is that we are allowed to use our senses,
although Democritus warns us to be careful©
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Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Democritus had been trying to explain the
diversity of nature© The object of the studies of the Athenian philosopher  
 (469-399) was
altogether different: he was interested in ethics© It was his axiom that no one would knowingly
do a bad thing© So knowledge was important, because it resulted in good behavior© If we are to
believe his student Plato, Socrates was always asking people about what they knew, and
invariably they had to admit that they did not really understand what was meant by words like
courage, friendship, love etc© Socrates was never without critics© The comic poet Aristophanes
ridiculed him in d ? , and when his pupil Alcibiades had committed high treason,
Socrates' position became very difficult© He was forced to drink hemlock after a charge that he
had corrupted the youth© Among his students were Antisthenes, Plato and Xenophon©
À  
In the decade after the death of Socrates, 

 (c©445-c©365) was
the most important Athenian philosopher© Like his master, he tried to find out what words mean,
but he was convinced that it was not possible to establish really good definitions (which brought
him into conflict with Plato)© He did only partially agree with Socrates that someone who knew
what was good, would not do a bad thing© Antisthenes added that one also had to be strong
enough ("as strong as Socrates") to pursue what was good© Therefore, Antisthenes recommended
physical training of all kinds, and wanted his students to refrain from luxury© His most famous
pupil was Diogenes of Sinope©
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The Athenian philosopher P


 (427-347) is usually called a pupil of Socrates, but his ideas are
no less inspired by Parmenides© Plato accepted the world of the phenomena as a mere shadow of
the real world of the ideas© When we observe a horse, we recognize what it is because our soul
remembers the idea of the horse from the time before our birth© In Plato's political philosophy,
only wise men who understand the dual nature of reality are fit to rule the country© He made
three voyages to Syracuse to establish his ideal state, both times without lasting results© Plato's
hypothesis that our soul was once in a better place and now lives in a fallen world made it easy to
combine platonic philosophy and Christianity, which accounts for the popularity of Platonism in
Late Antiquity© ]ne element, however, was not acceptable: the idea of platonic love - a
homosexual relation with pedagogical aspects©
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V    (c©412-c©323) was a student of Antisthenes© Both
men are called the founder of the school that is known as Cynicism© The essential point in this
world-view is that man suffers from too much civilization© We are happiest when our life is
simplest, which means that we have to live in accordance with nature - just like animals© Human
culture, however, is dominated by things that prevent simplicity: money, for example, and our
longing for status© Like his master, Diogenes refrained from luxury and often ridiculed civilized
life© His philosophy gained some popularity because he focused upon personal integrity, whereas
men like Plato and Aristotle of Stagira had been thinking about man's life and honor as member
of a city state - a type of political unit that was losing importance in the age of Alexander the
Great© However, we can not return to nature© The Cynics became some sort of jesters, accepted at
the royal courts because their criticism was essentially harmless©
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Plato's most famous student was the Macedonian scientist  





  (384-322)© After the death of his master, he studied biology and accepted a position as
teacher of the Macedonian crown prince Alexander at Mieza© When the Macedonians subdued
Greece, Aristotle founded a school at Athens© Most of his writings are lost; what remains are his
lecture notes, which were rediscovered in the first century BCE© During the last decades,
scholars have started to re-examine the fragments of the lost works, which has led to important
changes in our understanding of Aristotle's philosophy© However, the accepted view remains that
he replaced his master's speculations with a more down-to-earth philosophy© His main works are
the Pri r?i(in which he described the rules of logic), the P i, the im?i r, the
  ri, the P i, the  i, the i m   i, and the P ?ii© All these
books have become classics, and it is not exaggerated to say that Aristotle is the most influential
philosopher of all ages and the founder of modern science©
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All philosophers are confident that rational thinking is the road to truth© Except for Py 
  (c©360-c©270BCE), who entertained some doubts about the quest for knowledge© He argued
that we can not fully comprehend nature, do not know for certain whether a statement is true or
false, and are unable to build an ethical system on so weak a fundament© People would be
happier if they gave up these useless intellectual exercises and postponed their judgment© The
result was a conservative political philosophy, because Pyrrho recommended that, even though
we had no moral absolutes, we should live by time-honored traditions© The weakness of his
system is, of course, twofold: in the first place, one can not postpone a judgment forever, because
sometimes action has to be undertaken; in the second place, how can you be certain that certain
knowledge is impossible? Pyrrho's world-view is called Skepticism, and may be compared to the
postmodernist philosophy of the 1980's©

We live happiest when we are free from the pains of life, and a virtuous
life is the best way to obtain this goal© This is, in a nutshell, the view of the Samian philosopher
   (342-271)© In his opinion, we are unable to understand the gods, who may or may not
have created this world but are in any case not really interested in mankind© Nor do we know life
after death - if there is an existence at all after our bodies have decomposed© Therefore, we must
not speculate about gods and afterlife© In Antiquity, Epicurism was the most popular of all
philosophical schools, a popularity which it partially owed to the fact that its founder had
explained his thoughts in several maxims, which even the illiterate could remember© Predictably,
Christian philosophers attacked Epicurus' ideas about the afterlife and divine providence©
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After the conquests of Alexander, the world was larger than ever, and the city-state had ceased to
be an important political unit© Like Diogenes of Sinope and Epicurus, Ú
 (336-264
BCE) ignored traditional values like prestige and honor, and focused on man's inner peace© In his
view, this was reached when a person accepted life as it was, knowing that the world was
rationally organized by the ?  © A man's mind should control his emotions and body, so that
one could live according to the rational principles of the world© It has often been said that Zeno's
ideas combine Greek philosophy with Semitic mysticism, but except for his descent from a
Phoenician town on Cyprus and an interest in (Babylonian) astronomy, there is not much proof
for this idea© This philosophy, called Stoicism, became very influential under Roman officials©
’ ü
  

Zeno of Citium was succeeded as head of the Stoic school at Athens by


Cleanthes, who was in turn succeeded by  y  , a native of Soli in Cilicia (c©279-c©206)©
His contributions to the development of philosophy can especially be found in the field of logic,
where he studied paradoxes and the way an argument should be constructed© He also reflected
upon the use of allegoresis, which is a way to read a text metaphorically and find hidden
meanings (or construct them)© From now on, philosophers started to use the epics of Homer and
the tragedies of Euripides as if they were philosophical treatises© Finally, Chrysippus was the
man who concluded that if the rational principle of the universe, the ?  , was divine, the world
could be defined as a manifestation of God©
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We are ill-informed about the development of philosophy after the origin


of the Stoa, Epicurism, Skepticism, Cynicism, Aristoteleanism, and Platonism© For several
reasons, nearly all texts are lost© This was also the fate of the works of the Stoic sage P  
 (c©135-51), but his books are often quoted by other authors© As a philosopher, he was
not an innovator, but applied the theory to science and scholarship© For example, his i ri
were a philosophical continuation of the
r?i r of Polybius of Megalopolis© Among his
other publications were treatises in which the Stoic world view was applied to everyday subjects:
r, 
ir, and  ?i © Being more interested in educating the masses than in
theoretical purity, he often borrowed ideas from other schools© Philosophy after Posidonius often
was a cross-fertilization between viewpoints (e©g©, Plutarch of Chaeronea and Plotinus)©
’    

The charismatic teacher and miracle worker   lived in the first century AD© He was
born in Tyana and gave a new interpretation to Pythagoreanism, which was essentially a
combination of ascesis and mysticism© In his books r ?  and rifi, he
demanded bloodless offerings to the ]ne God, who needs nothing even from beings higher than
ourselves© This brought Apollonius into conflict with the religious establishment, but he was
recognized as a great sage and received divine honors in the third century© Although the
Athenian Philostratus wrote a lengthy if f ?? i, hardly anything is certain about the
man who was and is frequently compared to the Jewish sage and miracle worker Jesus of
Nazareth©

In his own age, the Delphian oracle priest P


     (46-c©122) was immensely
popular because he was, like Posidonius of Apamea, able to explain philosophical discussions to
a general audience© Among his  r?ri are treatises like  ir, the useful d 
r f?ii, the fascinating       r r r 
ir, and the charming

i  rir m© Plutarch also wrote double biographies, in which he usually
compared a Greek to a Roman (e©g©, Alexander and Julius Caesar)© In the epilogue, he analyzed
their respective characters© The result is not only an entertaining biography, but also a better
understanding of a morally exemplary person, which the reader can use for his own progress to
virtue©
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Born in Phrygia,  

 (c©50-c©125 CE) became a slave of the emperorNero's courtier
Epaphroditus© When he was old, useless and therefore "freed" from slavery, he had to make a
living and started to teach the Stoic philosophy, first at Rome and (after the emperor Domitian
had expelled the philosophers in 89) at Nicopolis in western Greece© Because Epictetus was able
to explain Stoicism in a systematic way and with an open eye to its practical applications, he had
many students from the rich senatorial order, which ruled the Roman empire© Among these men
were the future emperor Hadrian and the historian Arrian of Nicomedia, who published several
of his conversations© Epictetus wrote a  , which is arguably the most popular book on
philosophy that was ever written©
After the age of Posidonius of Apamea, it was not uncommon that philosophers from one school
borrowed concepts and ideas from other branches of philosophy© Slowly, the schools were
merging, and a new synthesis (called Neo-Platonism) was created by P
 (205-270)© Like
Plato, he accepted that our world was a mere shadow of the world of the ideas, which was in turn
-and this was a novel idea- a shadow of an even higher world, which was again a shadow of the
]ne God© In other words, the world has four levels of reality: God was the highest level, and
then there were the levels of the intellect, the soul, and matter© (That matter is more real than the
speculative levels of existence, was an unusual idea in Antiquity©) According to Plotinus, the
wise man would try, by means of ascesis, to free his soul from matter and unite it with God©
Plotinus achieved this mystical unity several times© His philosophy was adopted by the fathers of
the church Ambrose and Augustine, and was to remain the philosophical school par excellence
until Aristotle of Stagira was rediscovered in the twelfth century©