Why are ancient Greek philosophers still considered relevant even today? Does this universe really have some purpose? What makes us really happy? Who are we?
In fact, Socrates questioned the ethical matters – an approach towards best quality of life for humans. With Plato, the simple and critical approach towards philosophy has since attracted people.
Therefore, sit back and take a look at the 10 ancient Greek philosophers and drink some ancient wisdom.
In The Article
- Date of birth – 428 B.C.E
- Place of birth – Classical Athens
- School of thought – The Academy
- Died – 348 B.C.E
In fact, many historians argue that Plato was definitely not his birth name. Moreover, Plato means flat or broad in Greek and it’s believed that he himself gave this name.
However, Plato’s rejection in the Olympics urged an immediate profession change.
Also, Plato’s accidental meeting with his teacher Socrates changed his life for good and forever. But, later he escaped to Sicily and his association with numbers and Pythagoreans found a new meaning.
How Plato viewed this world?
In general, Plato coined the word “perfection” which is in use today. According to Plato, a song is as an extension or a reproduction of a more perfect song. Moreover, he named this concept as an “ide” or “idea” that he believed exists in nature since time immemorial.
He then went on to state that these ideas exist in the moon, the sun, stars, and the sky. To sum up, Plato’s school of thought continues this concept of “Goodness”.
Plato and humans – A study
Furthermore, Plato mentions that human beings are generally “Good” but trapped in the most unrealistic level. In addition, what we learn is something we already know beforehand due to the presence of our divine eternal nature.
According to Plato, we are just remembering what we had learnt in the past.
Especially, Plato presented most of his thought process in conversations popularly known as “Dialogues”. In this “Dialogues”, it also shows Socrates as a speaker. “The Republic” by Socrates mentions how governments and cities should be ruled and what justice actually means?
Plato says, a philosopher-king is the ideal person to rule the people and Aristotle was one of his brightest students.
- Date of birth – 470 B.C.E
- Place of birth – Deme Alopece, Athens
- School of thought – Socratic
- Died – 399 B.C.E
In fact, Socrates is considered the first popular Greek philosopher. He created a new method known as the Socratic Method.
This method incorporated a subtle technique of understanding problems and issues through a series of Q & As. Not to mention, he introduced the modern political philosophy and encouraged the Greeks to learn about society, evil, and good.
Surprisingly, Socrates did not write tons and tons of books but we know more about him from his student, Plato.
Socrates – A study
The emergence of Socrates marks a milestone in ancient philosophy, particularly Greek. However, in those days, it was regarded as a grave mistake to discuss matters below the earth or above the heavens.
With philosophers like Anaxagoras fleeing Athens to save his life, Socrates was caught and executed in 399 BCE.
The Socratic Method
Most of the conversations involving Socrates stop without having discovered a proper conclusion, a method called as “Aporia”. In fact, Socrates taught that people generally do not desire anything bad and all bad things are only done out of sheer ignorance.
According to Plato, Socrates appears different from the rest of mankind because he confesses that he simply knows nothing good or noble.
How Socrates differed from other Greek philosophers?
As a matter of fact, Socrates lived politically, intellectually, and morally at odds with other Greek philosophers. Also, when Socrates was arrested and put on trial, he argued using the elenchus method of questioning.
One of the greatest philosophers, Socrates became famous for the way he taught rather than for things he taught.
- Date of birth – 384 BC
- Place of birth – Stagira, Greece
- School of thought – Aristotelian
- Died – 322 BC
Plato’s most well-respected student, Aristotle remains as the greatest ancient Greek philosophers. In fact, Aristotle is known for his Four Causes theory (Final, efficient, formal, and material) and also for his formal logic concept.
Furthermore, he emphasized the empirical way to understand nature. Being Alexander the Great’s teacher, Aristotle still remains as a tall figure in the world of philosophy.
How Aristotle became famous?
The ancient Greek philosopher made lasting and important contributions to various aspects of human development. From aesthetics to biology to logic, Arabians regarded him as their “First Teacher” and the Westerners called him “The Philosopher”.
Aristotle’s view on different subjects
In general, Aristotle has contributed more than 150 philosophical treatises. Moreover, many were in the form of lecture notes. Where Aristotle differed from other thinkers was in his understanding that this universe never had any beginning or end, it was simply eternal.
Later, all his work’s was enthusiastically accepted by many medieval scholars. Integrated and reconciled with ancient religious Christian doctrine called as Scholasticism, his philosophy was accepted by the Roman Catholic authorities.
Overall, as a result, many scientific achievements were rejected as they were not part of his teachings.
- Date of birth – 620 BC
- Place of birth – Miletus, Greece
- School of thought – Aristotelian
- Died – 546 BC
As a matter of fact, Thales was considered as one of the Great Seven Sages, he was an engineer by profession. Founder of the geometry of lines, he was, in general, regarded as a unique scientist, mathematician, and philosopher.
In addition, he founded the Ionian philosophical school and his student was Anaximander. Also, some believe Thales composed a document on topics such as navigation.
Philosophical works of Thales
In particular, experts are of an opinion that Thales wrote two important books, “On the Equinox” and “On the Solstice” but none survived. In Aristotle’s Metaphysics, he states that Thales considered that all things originate from the water.
Not to mention, Seneca mentions that Thales also borrowed this water concept to understand the occurrence of earthquakes. Finally, Thales of Miletus also became the first Greek thinker to emphasize on the concept of unifying hypothesis.
- Date of birth – 570 BC
- Place of birth – Samos, Greece
- School of thought – Pythagorean
- Died – 495 BC
This pre-socratic genius Pythagoras is sometimes referred to as a science man and also as a philosopher. Firstly, it’s believed that we all owe our mathematical prowess to Pythagoras but his contributions are somewhat controversial.
Why? He, in fact, left no writings himself, and things we have gathered about him today come from Pythagorean scholars and Philolaus.
He established a school at Croton and this became the centre of all his Pythagorean works. Certainly, Pythagoras concentrated mainly on mathematics, but it also involved mysticism to some extent.
Moreover, he advocated odd ideas including secret rites, communal living, vegetarianism, and quasi-religious concepts on all his students.
The students were mainly divided into two departments namely, Akousmatikoi (listeners) or Mathematikoi (learners). Moreover, the Akousmatikoi learned ritualistic and religious aspects while the Mathematikoi studied numbers.
He propagated the theory of soul transmigration and also proposed the existence of soul and thoughts in the brain. Another important Pythagorean belief states that the essence of creation and numbers are inter-related.
Later, Pythagorean tuning and golden ratio assumed importance as more and more scholars studied them.
- Date of birth – 334 BC
- Place of birth – Citium
- School of thought – Stoicism
- Died – 262 BC
The creator of the Stoic thought of philosophy, Zeno imbibed the ideas of the Cynics. As a matter of fact, he was a very wealthy businessman and somehow became intrigued by philosophy on a trip.
Furthermore, he has authored many books but none exist other than his stray quotes elsewhere.
What is Stoicism?
This philosophical concept deals with good quality of life. In addition, the ancient Stoics believed that the universe consists of divine format and it’s up to us to decide how we react.
Not to mention, the Stoics stated that a normal human being should work untiringly to live virtuously. To sum up, persons influenced by Zeno include many noble persons like Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- Date of birth – 535 BC
- Place of birth – Ephesus
- School of thought – Ephesian
- Died – 475 BC
Heraclitus, another eminent Greek philosopher, became widely known for his concept of ‘constant ‘change. In reality, he believed that this universe was created on the basis of change. He further stated that opposites naturally attract and also fire remains at the base
Moreover, Heraclitus had several nicknames. Some were “Weeping Philosopher” or “The Obscure”.
Heraclitus and his cosmology
Like other philosophers, he too founded a new cosmology. According to him, his cosmos consists of only fire and has no end or beginning. On the other hand, this cosmos is always susceptible to changes but still maintains the key elements in proportion.
Difference between Plato and Heraclitus
In fact, the philosophical giant, Plato claimed that Heraclitus rejected the existence of knowledge. However, Heraclitus agreed that gaining wisdom looks possible but quite difficult.
Overall, his books were totally obscure and many named as “The Riddler”.
- Date of birth – 412 BC
- Place of birth – Sinope
- School of thought – Cynicism
- Died – 323 BC
Regarded as the most talented yet least celebrated philosophers, Diogenes lived according to his principles. Notably, he enjoyed a virtue-filled simple way of life.
Prescribing a self-sufficient way of life, Diogenes managed to live in a container and owned no material possessions. Particularly, Diogenes has written many essays but he was regarded as the one who stressed on education.
Diogenes and King Alexander
A popular story explains that Diogenes once met Alexander the Great before the latter embarked on a world-conquering journey. Also, when Alexander asked Diogenes what he wished for, the philosopher is said to have shown him the door.
- Date of birth – 515 BC
- Place of birth – Elea
- School of thought – Eleatics
- Died – 450 BC
The creator of the Eleatic philosophy, Parmenides stressed that all things in this universe are from one source. He even stated that everything that we perceive exists in this world since time immemorial and that nothing really changes.
In other words, Parmenides argues that only this concept is correct and all other things are immaterial.
In his poem, “On Nature”, he attempts to understand one of the biggest questions – Is it not or is it? Finally, philosophers who succeeded him worked on these lines of thought and explored these other possibilities.
- Date of birth – 500 BC
- Place of birth – Velia, Italy
- School of thought – Pluralist
- Died – 428 BCE
Anaxagoras taught for almost three decades in Athens, and his philosophy moved around nature. Moreover, his ideas collided and contrasted with the prevailing ideologies that forced him to face serious consequences.
Anaxagoras and his philosophy
He established the concept of ancient philosophy in Athens. Furthermore, Anaxagoras spent hours together explaining nature. According to Anaxagoras, he mentioned that everything consists of a section of everything else.
Overall, he advocated that there is nothing called as pure in this world.