Notebook, 1993-


Ancient Greek Philosophy
Hellenistic Philosophy

The creativity of the Hellenistic period in the realm of philosophy is reflected in three new systems of contemplation and the three new respective schools of thought which interpreted the spirit of the Hellenistic world, to wit, the Epicurean, the Stoic, and the Sceptic philosophies.

Man of the Hellenistic age no longer resided in a democratic city-state, as in classical times. He no longer elected his leaders, as formerly, nor did he express his views in the assembly of the city as in former times. Man either lived under a Macedonian-supported oligarchy, or somewhat later in the so-called states of the Alexandrian succession, which though they may have had good intentions, could not possibly be democratic in nature. The citizen no longer felt being 'master of his own castle', a fact which weakened his self-confidence and resulted in his withdrawal into himself. It also created the mentality of personal and selfish interest. Moreover, successive wars and wretchedness which always accompanied war, harassed mankind to such a degree that the only thing it sought was spiritual relief and peace. On this account, the youthful love which the Greeks had for theoretical knowledge soon withered, and philosophy consequently aimed at the pacification of the disturbed spirit, the consolation of the pained body, and the assurance of personal happiness. Each of the three Hellenistic systems, in its own fashion, strove to attain these ends.

At all events, besides the social and historical realities in which it developed, the course of philosophical contemplation which was purely theoretical also played its role in [p. 185] the development of such spirit up to that age, and sanctified especially the logical forces of the soul. Feeling and specially passion in the classical age had still been frowned upon and this is clearly evident in the works of classical art. But the situation had changed in the Hellenistic period, and passion came to dominate. This is reflected in the philosophy of the period in which passion was the driving force, whether it was allowed to reign free and unbridled, or whether an effort was made to uproot it, or lastly, whether it was polarized, that is to say, it allowed man to become indifferent, undisturbed or inured to any intense or vigorous feeling of passion or pain. The first stage of such development was reflected in the thinking of the Epicureans, followed by the Stoics, and lastly by the Sceptics, in that order. Epicurus makes hedonism the aim of life, or in other words, the satisfaction of the passions. On the other hand, the Stoics sought the elimination of the passions. To the latter, the wise man is to be admired not for his learning but for his strength of will-power to overcome passion. And the Sceptics, finally, relinquish or deny any vigorous dialogue, abandon all passion--even that of learning--to attain the state of equilibrium or tranquillity of the soul.

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]



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