Greek Philosophy

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

by Tatiana Velitchkov © 2009

Greek philosophy is a way of thinking and concepts that focus on the large role of reason and enquiry. In fact, most of Western thought is shaped right from the roots of Greek philosophy. It is thought that Greek philosophy itself was influenced by the thoughts and philosophies of the people from the Near East.

The first among the acknowledged Greek philosophers was Socrates. He hailed from Athens. His philosophy was based on his belief that all men should “know thyself”. According to him, you are not allowed to do wrong just because you were commanded to do wrong. He therefore advocated for disobedience of the command, as opposed to carrying it out. He played a vital role in calling for democracy in ancient Greece. In the end, when another government took over, Socrates was given the option of either being banished or taking poison. He opted for the poison, which turned out to be hemlock. Unfortunately, Socrates never wrote anything down, so much of his work we learn through one of his students, Plato.

Plato is the author of a number of philosophical dialogues. These were essentially arguments which took the form of normal conversations. Socrates was a participant in many of these works. Among these works were some letters. His works covered the various ways of getting knowledge, thoughts on justice, practical ethics, and even metaphysics and discourses on human life. He popularized thought on forms and essences of objects. He implied that the person who ignores the world actually manages to acquire true knowledge. This means that Plato can be termed as a radical idealist and/or nationalist.

Aristotle was actually one of Plato’s students. Much of his way of thinking was influenced by knowledge gained from the senses, and his work would later develop into a whole method of thinking scientifically. He did a lot of work that covered both physics and metaphysics. He was a superb thinker and theorist and ultimately, a philosopher. Most of his doctrines actually govern intellectual thought in western systems. He was also an inventor, who came up with many new inventions and observations. Alexander the Great studied under him. In fact, his teachings influenced the western societies for almost 2000 full years.

Hellenistic philosophy included such schools of thought as Platonism, Peripateticism, Cynicism, Cyrenaicism, Stoicism, Pyrrhonism and Neo-Platonism. Greek philosophy was also carried through by means of Islam.

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