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Introduction to Greek Philosophy That is, the really important Greek philosophy.

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1 Introduction to Greek Philosophy That is, the really important Greek philosophy

2 Socrates 469-399 B.C. Socrates set the standard for Western philosophy as we know it today. Since we have no extant writings by his own hand, we look to his contemporaries (Xenophon, Aristophanes) for information about his life and work. His interest in philosophy began with physical science, but moved into morality and ethics. He served in the army during the Peloponnesian War, and dabbled in politics after the war, but eventually retired to a private life. Coming into some money, he devoted his time to philosophical dialogue.

3 Socrates’ method of discussion was a question/answer system in which he claimed ignorance and questioned the aristocratic youths of Athens. He was very influential among the young men of the city, but unlike the Sophists, a groups of philosophers who charged a fee for education, Socrates despised material wealth and thus won the loyalty of his students. The wealthy parents of these young men were not happy with the new ideas their sons were espousing, and, since many of them were involved in politics, they managed to make Socrates a controversial political figure. An Athenian jury brought Socrates up on charges of corruption of youth and interfering with religion in the city. He was convicted. In 399 B.C., Socrates drank hemlock and died in the company of family and friends. Socrates survives as a character in the dialogues of Plato, bringing enlightenment to the men of Athens by asking leading questions and applying reason.

4 Plato 428-328 B.C. Plato is one of the best authors among the philosophers, and thus his work has remained widely read and influential. Born in Athens, he served in the military from 409- 404 B.C., the end of the Peloponnesian War. He opted for a political career and at the end of the war joined the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, but their violent acts disillusioned him and he left. In 403 B.C. democracy returned to Athens, but Plato seemed little interested in politics. The death of Socrates in 399 B.C. had a profound effect upon him.

5 Plato left Athens and traveled to Egypt, Sicily, and Italy. When he returned around 387 B.C., he founded a school on the land that belonged to Academos, which later became the Academy. He presided over this institution, which encouraged research and instruction in philosophy and science, until he died. Plato’s main contributions are in mathematics, philosophy, and science. Following in his footsteps of his teacher Socrates, Plato wrote his works as dialogues. His early dialogues feature Socrates as a character, his middle set out the general doctrines of Platonism, and his late discuss the nature of the ideal republic and civic life and duty. The Republic discusses an ideal state and includes the allegory of the cave and the ages of man. The Apology discusses the death of Socrates, and the Symposium, perhaps one of the more enjoyable, takes place at a dinner party, at which each guest (drunken or not) was required to expound upon the nature of love.

6 Aristotle 384-322 B.C. Aristotle, born in Stagirus, was sent to Athens at age 17 to complete his education at the Academy of Plato. He attended lectures at the Academy for about 20 years, eventually lecturing himself, especially on rhetoric. He was supposed to have succeeded Plato as the head of the Academy at his death, but his own thought diverged too much from Plato’s. After spending time in Mysia and Mytilene, Philip of Macedonia invited him to become the tutor of his 13 year-old son Alexander. He remained in Macedonia for 5 years.

7 After leaving Macedonia, Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own school, the Lyceum. The term “peripatetic” means “to walk around,” which described Aristotle’s perambulatory habits while lecturing. He lectured and wrote in Athens for the next 13 years, usually lecturing to a small group of students in the morning, and then publicly in the evening. After the fall of Macedonian rule in 323 B.C., a charge of impiety was brought up against Aristotle. To avoid execution, he fled to Chalcis in Euboea. He died in 322 B.C. as result of stomach illness. Aristotle’s works generally fall under 3 categories: dialogues, collections of scientific material, and systematic works. A few of note: On the Heavens constructed a system of the universe; On the Soul discusses mind and imagination, and Nicomachean Ethics were written for his son.

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