A Critical History of Greek Philosophy

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Book Details

Author  W.T. Stace
Publisher  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date   December 7, 2015
ISBN  1519730284
Pages  188

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In 427 B.C., the Ancient Greek city-state of Athens was flourishing. Approximately 80 years earlier, the Athenians had formed the first self-representative democracy in history, the Peloponnesian War against Sparta had only just started, and Socrates was only beginning to lay the foundation of what would become Western philosophy.   None of Socrates’ works survived antiquity, so most of what is known about him came from the writings of his followers, most notably Plato. What is known about Socrates is that he seemed to make a career out of philosophy, and Plato was intent on following in his footsteps. Yet for all of the influence of Socrates’ life on his followers, it was Socrates’ death around 399 B.C. that truly shaped them. Plato was so embittered by Socrates’ trial in Athens that he completely soured on Athenian democracy, and Aristotle would later criticize politicians who relied on rhetoric; when Aristotle’s own life was threatened, he fled Greece and allegedly remarked, “I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy."  About a decade after Socrates’ death, Plato returned to Athens and founded his famous Platonic Academy around 387 B.C., which he oversaw for 40 years until his death. One of Plato’s philosophical beliefs was that writing down teachings was less valuable than passing them down orally, and several of Plato’s writings are responses to previous writings of his, so Plato’s personally held beliefs are hard to discern. However, Plato educated several subsequent philosophers, chief among them Aristotle, and his writings eventually formed the backbone of Western philosophy.  Alongside Socrates and Plato, Aristotle is, without question, one of the most influential ancient Greek philosophers and arguably the greatest icon of ancient thought. His life and work expanded rapidly and extensively across the ancient world, helped in part by the fact he tutored Alexander the Great, he was a recognized and celebrated intellectual force during all of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Furthermore, after Aristotle, Greek thought and political influence began a rapid decline, and the cultivation of knowledge, so important during the classic period, slowly but surely began to fade, making Aristotle the last of ancient Greece’s great philosophers.   Aristotle’s influence on Western philosophical thought is marked by an extensive list of crucial issues that both signaled the way forward but at the same time boggled philosophers’ minds throughout the centuries. Aristotle’s reflections on Being, as well as his rigorous Logic, were his most important philosophical legacy, but he was also an intellectual in the broadest sense of the word. His interests went beyond metaphysical questions and into practical life and practical knowledge, from ethics to politics, rhetoric and the sciences, all of which left a profound impact on Western political thought and ethics. Naturally, this has also made him one of the foundations of knowledge and philosophical thought that subsequent philosophers relied on when forming and refining their own philosophies.

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