Hellenistic philosophy

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Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.

Western philosophy philosophy of the Western world

Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales and Pythagoras, and eventually covering a large area of the globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek: philosophia (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom".

Hellenistic period Period of ancient Greek and Mediterranean history

The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE and the subsequent conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt the following year. The Ancient Greek word Hellas is the original word for Greece, from which the word Hellenistic was derived.

Aristotle philosopher in ancient Greece

Aristotle was a philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.


Hellenistic schools of thought


Pythagoreanism is the name given to the system of philosophy and science developed by Pythagoras, which influenced nearly all the systems of Hellenistic philosophy that followed. Two schools of Pythagorean thought eventually developed; one based largely on mathematics and continuing his line of scientific work, while the other focused on his metaphysical teachings, though each shared a part of the other.

Pythagoreanism system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers

Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early-Pythagorean communities lived throughout Magna Graecia. Espousing a rigorous life of the intellect and strict rules on diet, clothing and behavior comprised a cult of following Pythagorean's Code. For example, the Code's diet prohibits the consumption or even touching any sort of bean or legume. Pythagoras’ death and disputes about his teachings led to the development of two philosophical traditions within Pythagoreanism. The practitioners of akousmatikoi were superseded in the 4th century BC as a significant mendicant school of philosophy by the Cynics. The Pythagorean mathēmatikoi philosophers were in the 4th century BC absorbed into the Platonic school.

Pythagoras ancient Greek philosopher and mystic

Pythagoras of Samos was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend, but he appears to have been the son of Mnesarchus, a seal engraver on the island of Samos. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras's education and influences, but they do agree that, around 530 BC, he travelled to Croton, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed a number of dietary prohibitions, traditionally said to have included vegetarianism, although modern scholars doubt that he ever advocated for complete vegetarianism.

Hippasus Pythagorean philosopher and mathematician

Hippasus of Metapontum, was a Pythagorean philosopher. Little is known about his life or his beliefs, but he is sometimes credited with the discovery of the existence of irrational numbers. The discovery of irrational numbers is said to have been shocking to the Pythagoreans, and Hippasus is supposed to have drowned at sea, apparently as a punishment from the gods for divulging this. However, the few ancient sources which describe this story either do not mention Hippasus by name or alternatively tell that Hippasus drowned because he revealed how to construct a dodecahedron inside a sphere. The discovery of irrationality is not specifically ascribed to Hippasus by any ancient writer. Some modern scholars though have suggested that he discovered the irrationality of 2, which is believed to have been discovered around the time that he lived.


In Ancient Greece, the sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching arete (excellence, virtue) predominantly to young statesmen and nobility.

A sophist was a specific kind of teacher in ancient Greece, in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. Many sophists specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric, though other sophists taught subjects such as music, athletics, and mathematics. In general, they claimed to teach arete, predominantly to young statesmen and nobility.

<i>Arete</i> Concept

Arete, in its basic sense, means "excellence of any kind". The term may also mean "moral virtue". In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.

Protagoras pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with inventing the role of the professional sophist.

Gorgias was an ancient Greek sophist, pre-Socratic philosopher, and rhetorician who was a native of Leontinoi in Sicily. Along with Protagoras, he forms the first generation of Sophists. Several doxographers report that he was a pupil of Empedocles, although he would only have been a few years younger. "Like other Sophists, he was an itinerant that practiced in various cities and giving public exhibitions of his skill at the great pan-Hellenic centers of Olympia and Delphi, and charged fees for his instruction and performances. A special feature of his displays was to ask miscellaneous questions from the audience and give impromptu replies." He has been called "Gorgias the Nihilist" although the degree to which this epithet adequately describes his philosophy is controversial.

Antiphon of Rhamnus was the earliest of the ten Attic orators, and an important figure in fifth-century Athenian political and intellectual life.


The Cynics were an ascetic sect of philosophers beginning with Antisthenes in the 4th century BC and continuing until the 5th century AD. They believed that one should live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, or celebrity, and living a life free from possessions.

Cynicism (philosophy) ancient school of philosophy

Cynicism is a school of thought of ancient Greek philosophy as practiced by the Cynics. For the Cynics, the purpose of life is to live in virtue, in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures, people can gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which is natural for themselves, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame. Instead, they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions.

Antisthenes Greek philosopher

Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers regarded him as the founder of Cynic philosophy.

Virtue Positive trait or quality deemed to be morally good

Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. In other words, it is a behavior that shows high moral standards. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The opposite of virtue is vice.


The Cyrenaics were a hedonist school of philosophy founded in the fourth century BC by Aristippus, who was a student of Socrates. They held that pleasure was the supreme good, especially immediate gratifications; and that people could only know their own experiences, beyond that truth was unknowable.


Platonism is the name given to the philosophy of Plato, which was maintained and developed by his followers. The central concept was the theory of forms: the transcendent, perfect archetypes, of which objects in the everyday world are imperfect copies. The highest form was the Form of the Good, the source of being, which could be known by reason. In the 3rd century BC, Arcesilaus adopted Academic skepticism, which became a central tenet of the school until 90 BC when Antiochus added Stoic elements, rejecting skepticism. With the adoption of oriental mysticism in the third century AD, Platonism evolved into Neoplatonism.


The Peripatetic school was the name given to the philosophers who maintained and developed the philosophy of Aristotle. They advocated examination of the world to understand the ultimate foundation of things. The goal of life was the happiness which originated from virtuous actions, which consisted in keeping the mean between the two extremes of the too much and the too little.


Pyrrhonism is a school of philosophical skepticism that originated with Pyrrho in the 3rd century BC, and was further advanced by Aenesidemus in the 1st century BC. Its objective is ataraxia (being mentally unperturbed), which is achieved through epoché (i.e. suspension of judgment) about non-evident matters (i.e., matters of belief).


Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus in the 3rd century BC. It viewed the universe as being ruled by chance, with no interference from gods. It regarded absence of pain as the greatest pleasure, and advocated a simple life. It was the main rival to Stoicism until both philosophies died out in the 3rd century AD.


Zeno of Citium (333-263 BC), the founder of Stoicism Paolo Monti - Servizio fotografico (Napoli, 1969) - BEIC 6353768.jpg
Zeno of Citium (333–263 BC), the founder of Stoicism

Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC. Based on the ethical ideas of the Cynics, it taught that the goal of life was to live in accordance with Nature. It advocated the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.

Academic Skepticism

Academic skepticism is the period of ancient Platonism dating from around 266 BC, when Arcesilaus became head of the Platonic Academy, until around 90 BC, when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected skepticism, although individual philosophers, such as Favorinus and his teacher Plutarch continued to defend Academic skepticism after this date. The Academic skeptics maintained that knowledge of things is impossible. Ideas or notions are never true; nevertheless, there are degrees of truth-likeness, and hence degrees of belief, which allow one to act. The school was characterized by its attacks on the Stoics and on the Stoic dogma that convincing impressions led to true knowledge.


Eclecticism was a system of philosophy which adopted no single set of doctrines but selected from existing philosophical beliefs those doctrines that seemed most reasonable. Its most notable advocate was Cicero.

Hellenistic Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism was an attempt to establish the Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism. Its principal representative was Philo of Alexandria.


Neopythagoreanism was a school of philosophy reviving Pythagorean doctrines, which was prominent in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. It was an attempt to introduce a religious element into Greek philosophy, worshipping God by living an ascetic life, ignoring bodily pleasures and all sensuous impulses, to purify the soul.

Hellenistic Christianity

Hellenistic Christianity was the attempt to reconcile Christianity with Greek philosophy, beginning in the late 2nd century. Drawing particularly on Platonism and the newly emerging Neoplatonism, figures such as Clement of Alexandria sought to provide Christianity with a philosophical framework.


Neoplatonism, or Plotinism, was a school of religious and mystical philosophy founded by Plotinus in the 3rd century AD and based on the teachings of Plato and the other Platonists. The summit of existence was the One or the Good, the source of all things. In virtue and meditation the soul had the power to elevate itself to attain union with the One, the true function of human beings. It was the main rival to Christianity until dying out in the 6th century.

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Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtedly the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of Neoplatonism, although little is known about his own philosophical views. Later Christian writers stated that Ammonius was a Christian, but it is now generally assumed that there was a different Ammonius of Alexandria who wrote biblical texts.

Zeno of Citium Ancient Greek Stoic philosopher

Zeno of Citium was a Hellenistic thinker, of Phoenician descent, from Citium, Cyprus. Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of Virtue in accordance with Nature. It proved very popular, and flourished as one of the major schools of philosophy from the Hellenistic period through to the Roman era.

Ancient Greek philosophy

Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Ancient Greece was part of the Roman Empire. Philosophy was used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics.

Aenesidemus was a Greek Pyrrhonist philosopher, born in Knossos on the island of Crete. He lived in the 1st century BC, taught in Alexandria and flourished shortly after the life of Cicero. Photius says he was a member of Plato's Academy, but he came to dispute their theories, adopting Pyrrhonism instead. Diogenes Laërtius claims an unbroken lineage of teachers of Pyrrhonism through Aenesidemus, with his teacher being Heraclides. However, little is known about the names between Timon of Phlius and Aenesidemus, so this lineage is suspect. Whether Aenesidemus re-founded the Pyrrhonist school or merely revitalized it is unknown.

Eclecticism conceptual approach

Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases. However, this is often without conventions or rules dictating how or which theories were combined.

Neopythagoreanism school of Hellenistic philosophy

Neopythagoreanism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy which revived Pythagorean doctrines. Neopythagoreanism was influenced by Middle Platonism and in turn influenced Neoplatonism. It originated in the 1st century BCE and flourished during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The 1911 Britannica describes Neopythagoreanism as "a link in the chain between the old and the new" within Hellenistic philosophy. As such, it contributed to the doctrine of monotheism as it emerged during Late Antiquity. Central to Neopythagorean thought was the concept of a soul and its inherent desire for a unio mystica with the divine.

Panaetius ancient Greek philosopher

Panaetius of Rhodes was a Stoic philosopher. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon and Antipater of Tarsus in Athens, before moving to Rome where he did much to introduce Stoic doctrines to the city. After the death of Scipio in 129 BC, he returned to the Stoic school in Athens, and was its last undisputed scholarch. With Panaetius, Stoicism became much more eclectic. His most famous work was his On Duties, the principal source used by Cicero in his own work of the same name.

Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC – when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the scepticism of the New Academy – until the development of Neoplatonism under Plotinus in the 3rd century. Middle Platonism absorbed many doctrines from the rival Peripatetic and Stoic schools. The pre-eminent philosopher in this period, Plutarch, defended the freedom of the will and the immortality of the soul. He sought to show that God, in creating the world, had transformed matter, as the receptacle of evil, into the divine soul of the world, where it continued to operate as the source of all evil. God is a transcendent being, which operates through divine intermediaries, which are the gods and daemons of popular religion. Numenius of Apamea combined Platonism with Neopythagoreanism and other eastern philosophies, in a move which would prefigure the development of Neoplatonism.

Aristo of Chios was a Stoic philosopher and colleague of Zeno of Citium. He outlined a system of Stoic philosophy that was, in many ways, closer to earlier Cynic philosophy. He rejected the logical and physical sides of philosophy endorsed by Zeno and emphasized ethics. Although agreeing with Zeno that Virtue was the supreme good, he rejected the idea that morally indifferent things such as health and wealth could be ranked according to whether they are naturally preferred. An important philosopher in his day, his views were eventually marginalized by Zeno's successors.

Platonism philosophical theory

Platonism, rendered as a proper noun, is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In narrower usage, platonism, rendered as a common noun, refers to the philosophy that affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to "exist" in a "third realm" distinct both from the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. Lower case "platonists" need not accept any of the doctrines of Plato.

Antiochus of Ascalon was an Academic philosopher. He was a pupil of Philo of Larissa at the Academy, but he diverged from the Academic skepticism of Philo and his predecessors. He was a teacher of Cicero, and the first of a new breed of eclectics among the Platonists; he endeavoured to bring the doctrines of the Stoics and the Peripatetics into Platonism, and stated, in opposition to Philo, that the mind could distinguish true from false. In doing so, he claimed to be reviving the doctrines of the Old Academy. With him began the phase of philosophy known as Middle Platonism.

The Academy was founded by Plato in c. 387 BC in Athens. Aristotle studied there for twenty years before founding his own school, the Lyceum. The Academy persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC. The Platonic Academy was destroyed by the Roman dictator Sulla in 86 BC.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical studies:

Persaeus of Citium, son of Demetrius, was a Greek Stoic philosopher, and a friend and favourite student of Zeno of Citium.

This page is a list of topics in ancient philosophy.

Stoicism School of Hellenistic Greek philosophy

Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. While Stoic physics are largely drawn from the teachings of the philosopher Heraclitus, they are heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. Stoicism is predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

Eudorus of Alexandria was an ancient Greek philosopher, and a representative of Middle Platonism. He attempted to reconstruct Plato's philosophy in terms of Pythagoreanism.

Academic skepticism refers to the skeptical period of ancient Platonism dating from around 266 BC, when Arcesilaus became head of the Platonic Academy, until around 90 BC, when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected skepticism, although individual philosophers, such as Favorinus and his teacher Plutarch continued to defend Academic skepticism after this date. Unlike the existing school of skepticism, the Pyrrhonists, they maintained that knowledge of things is impossible. Ideas or notions are never true; nevertheless, there are degrees of probability, and hence degrees of belief, which allow one to act. The school was characterized by its attacks on the Stoics and on their belief that convincing impressions led to true knowledge. The most important Academic skeptics were Arcesilaus, Carneades, and Philo of Larissa.