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The Major Philosophers of the Hellenistic Period

Who were the major philosophers of the Hellenistic period? How did the Hellenistic philosophers differ from the philosophers of Classical Greece?

Hellenistic philosophy is the last period of the philosophy of ancient Greece which followed after the school of Aristotle. The main features of Hellenistic philosophy include ethical orientation and adaptation of Eastern religious moments. The basic schools are represented by (Blackson, 2011):

  • Skepticism (Pyrrhon, Enesidem, Agrippa, Xanthos);
  • Epicureanism (Epicurus, Lucretius Carus, Metrodorus);
  • The Stoics (Zenon, Cleanthes, Timon, Chrysippus, Zeno of Tarsus, Xenophanes);
  • Middle and New Academy (Arcesilaus, Lacydes of Cyrene, Evander of Phocis, Carneades, Clitomachus)
  • Cynics (Diogenes, Menippus, Bion Borysthene, Crates, Hipparchia, Metrokl of Maroneia,
  • Peripatetics (Critolaus, Cratippus)

Philosophers and philosophical schools of the Hellenistic period of ancient history are characterized not so much by putting forward new ideas, as by interpretation, clarification, and commenting on the ideas and doctrines created by thinkers of the preceding Classic period. The worldview innovation which originated in post-Aristotle philosophy is associated with the changes that occurred primarily in the social life of the ancient world: the empire created in the result of Alexander of Macedon campaigns did not give the former possibility to literally every citizen to be a “political animal”; ideological orientations developed in the era of Greek city-states changed; and therefore the meaning of life became unclear again (Blackson, 2011).

The interest towards the theoretical elucidation of the world picture, the physics of cosmology, and astronomy, was generally declining. Philosophers were now interested not so much by a question of how to live in this world in order to avoid disasters and hazards threatening from all the sides. The philosopher, who in the era of the “great classics” was a scientist, researcher, observer of Micro-and Macrocosm, now became a “handyman of life”, earner of not so much knowledge, as happiness. Hellenistic philosophy is seen by a philosopher as the activity and structure of thought, freeing a man from the unreliable, misleading reality, out of fear and agitation the life was full of.

 

References:

Blackson, T.A. (2011). Ancient Greek Philosophy: From the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Philosophers. Wiley-Blackwell.