Tagged: Ancient Philosophy

Ancient Philosophy

Ancient philosophy is philosophy in antiquity, or before the end of the Roman Empire. It usually refers to ancient Greek philosophy. It can also encompass various other intellectual traditions, such as Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, and Iranian philosophy. Ancient philosophies are generally deeply rooted in religious traditions. Accordingly, ancient philosophies have a comprehensive outlook as opposed to modern or contemporary philosophies, which tend to have more narrow methodologies and areas of focus. In the Western tradition, ancient philosophy was developed primarily by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Ancient philosophy, however, also includes the Pre-Socratics, Hellenistic philosophy, and Roman philosophy. Ancient philosophy...

Murderous Rage: The Story of Achilles

Achilles, the hero of the Iliad, is one of the most famous Greeks: He is the exemplary warrior who leads the Greeks to victory against Troy, but he is also emotionally unbalanced. He falls in love, he is easily angered, he becomes passive-aggressive, and finally he is so enraged that he goes on a killing spree. Is it his anger that makes him a great warrior, or is he a victim of his own emotions? Should we call a man who is engulfed in rage “a hero?” The emotions of Achilles are at the center of the story in the Iliad. What...

Cicero

I recently added some texts from the ancient Roman politician and philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) to this blog. Cicero rose to the highest political offices in Rome, and he defended the Roman Republic, a limited version of democracy within an oligarchy, against various attempts by individuals and small groups to usurp power. He saw the rise of Caesar, and was present at his assassination in the Senate, but he was not one of conspirators. In the volatile political situation after Caesars’ death, he gave speeches in which he tried to defend the Senate and the Republican System against the revenge of Mark Antony,...

Cicero: In Verrem

In Verrem (“Against Verres”) is a series of speeches made by Cicero in 70 BC, during the corruption and extortion trial of Gaius Verres, the former governor of Sicily. The speeches made Cicero famous. This is the only known case where he acted as prosecutor. Verres basically plundered Sicily as governor, and he went into exile before the case came to a verdict. Thus Cicero, who opened the prosecution by simply presenting the witnesses and their damning stories, never got to make his speeches, but he published them later anyway. Here are some excerpts of the text:   In Verrem, I, 1-6 I think...

Antigone

“Antigone” is a tragedy by Sophocles, written on or before 441 BC. It is the third of a trilogy of Theban plays, but it was written chronologically first. The play expands on the Theban legend that predated it and picks up where Aeschylus’ “Seven Against Thebes” ends. The Theban plays consist of three plays: Oedipus the King (also called Oedipus Tyrannus or by its Latin title Oedipus Rex), Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. All three plays concern the fate of Thebes during and after the reign of King Oedipus. They have often been published under a single cover. Sophocles, however, wrote the...

Cicero: First Speech against Catilina

The speech was given in 63 BC before the Roman Senate. The following quote from the Perseus Digital Library first summarizes the political background, then reprints the text of the speech.  THE ARGUMENT. Lucius Catiline, a man of noble extraction, and who had already been praetor, had been a competitor of Cicero’s for the consulship; the next year he again offered himself for the office, practicing such excessive and open bribery, that Cicero published a new law against it, with the additional penalty of ten years’ exile; prohibiting likewise all shows of gladiators from being exhibited by a candidate within two...

Cicero: On the Best Style of Orators

This little piece was composed by Cicero as a sort of preface to his translation of the Orations of Demosthenes and Aeschines de Coronâ; the translations themselves have not come down to us. I. THERE are said to be classes of orators as there are of poets. But it is not so; for of poets there are a great many divisions; for of tragic, comic, epic, lyric, and also of dithyrambic poetry, which has been more cultivated by the Latins, each kind is very different from the rest. Therefore in tragedy anything comic is a defect, and in comedy anything...

Presocratic Fragments and Testimonials

The Presocratics were 6th and 5th century BCE Greek thinkers who introduced a new way of inquiring into the world and the place of human beings in it. The history of the texts is complicated; the standard collection of texts for the Presocratics is that by H. Diels revised by W. Kranz (always abbreviated as DK). Good introduction to Presocratic philosophy can be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia. The following selection of quotes is based on passages in John Burnet’s Early Greek Philosophy. (Burnet, John. 2014. Early Greek Philosophy. Edited by Paul A. Boer Sr. 1 edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.)...

Thucydides: Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’ Funeral Oration is a famous speech from Thucydides’ book History of the Peloponnesian War. The speech was delivered by Pericles, an famous Athenian politician, at the end of the first year of the war, which lasted from 431 to 404 BC. It was a part of the annual public funeral for the war dead, and the speech defines the character of the Athenian democracy.  “Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given...

Aristotle – Metaphysics

This text is a foundational text of Western philosophy; it was written in 350 B.C.E. In it, Aristotle defines the nature of philosophy in relation to scientific knowledge. He starts with human curiosity – the desire to know does not need any further explanation.His approach differs from Plato: knowledge starts with the senses, but the senses do not tell us the “why” of anything. Wisdom is not just experience or knowledge about things in the world, it is knowledge about the principles and causes of things. Here is the beginning of Metaphysics: Book I: Part 1 “ALL men by nature...

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

It’s one of the classics of Western Philosophy. You can find the full text at the Internet Classics Archive, here. Quotes from the Nicomachean Ethics (c. 325 BC): We are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it. (NE 2.2) If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim...

Aristotle: Politics

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics addresses the character and the behavior of the individual (virtue ethics.) At the end of this book, he declares that the inquiry into ethics necessarily leads to politics, and his book Politics therefore deals with the “philosophy of human affairs” in the city.  The city is for him a natural community, therefore he is not concerned with questions that were raised by later philosophers, like what is the basis of the “social contract.”  Aristotle considers the city or the “political community” (koinōnia politikē) to be the basic unit of the social field, prior to the family, and...

Aristotle – Biography

Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) is one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Together with Plato, he shaped Western philosophy for two millenia, and his ideas and concepts are still discussed today. He wrote about two-hundred treatises, but we currently know only about 31. He writes about logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics, political theory, aesthetics and rhetoric. The following short biography is quoted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Shields, Christopher, “Aristotle”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/aristotle/>.) Aristotle’s Life Born in 384 B.C.E. in the Macedonian region of northeastern Greece in the small...

Platon’s dialogue “Phaidon,” 64a

Socrates to Simmias: “Other people are likely not aware that those who pursue philosophy right study nothing but dying and being dead. Now if this is true, it would be absurd to be eager for this all their lives, and then to be troubled when that came for which they had all along been eagerly practicing.