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History of Philosophy|
Greek and Greco-Roman Philosophy
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
|Origin. Greek philosophy first appeared in the Ionic colonies of
Asia Minor, and never throughout the course of its development did it
wholly lose the marks of its Oriental origin. Whether this influence
was as preponderant as Roth and Gladisch contend,  or as unimportant
as Zeller and others maintain,  it is certain that the philosophy of
Greece was characterized from the beginning by a spirit which is
peculiarly Hellenic. The Greek looked out upon the world through an
atmosphere singularly free from the mist of allegory and myth: the
contrast between the philosophy of the East and the first attempts of
the Ionian physicists is as striking as the difference between an
Indian jungle and the sunny, breeze-swept shores of the Mediterranean.
 Cf. Zeller,
Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Vol. I, pp. 35 ff.
Greek Religion exercised hardly more than an indirect influence on
Greek philosophy. Popular beliefs were so crude as to their speculative
content that they could not long retain their hold on the mind of the
philosopher. Consequently, such influence as they directly exercised
was antagonistic to philosophy. Yet it was the popular beliefs which,
by keeping alive among the Greeks an exquisite appreciation of form and
an abiding sense of symmetry, did not permit the philosopher to take a
partial or an isolated view of things. In this way Greek religion
indirectly fostered that imperative desire for a totality of view
which, in the best days of Greek speculation, enabled
Greek philosophy to attain its most important results. In one
particular instance Greek religion contributed directly to Greek
philosophy by handing over to philosophy the doctrine of immortality,
-- a doctrine which in every stage of its philosophical development
has retained the mark of its theological origin. Plato, for example,
distinctly refers it to the (Bacchic and Orphic) mysteries.
 Cf. ibid.
 Cf. Phaedo, 69, 70.
Poetry. The philosophy as well as the religion of the Greeks
found its first expression in poetry, philosophical speculation,
properly so called, being preceded by the effort of the imagination to
picture to itself the origin and the evolution of the universe.
Homer presents, without analyzing, types of ethical character:
Achilles, the indomitable; Hector, the chivalrous; Agamemnon, of kingly
presence; Nestor, the wise; Ulysses, the wary; Penelope, the faithful.
Hesiod gives us the first crude attempts at constructing a
world-system. His cosmogony, however, is presented in the form of a
theogony; there is as yet no question of accounting for the origin of
things by natural causes. The so-called Orphic Cosmogonies had
the Hesiodic theogony for their basis. They did not advance much
farther in their inquiry than Hesiod himself had gone, unless we
include as Orphic those systems of cosmology to which all scholars now
agree in assigning a post-Aristotelian date. Pherecydes of Syros
(about 540 B.C.) more closely approaches the scientific method. He
describes Zeus, Chronos, and Chthon as the first beginnings of all
things. There is here a basic thought that the universe sprang from the
elements of air and earth, through the agency of time. This thought,
however, the poet conceals under enigmatical symbols, referring the
phenomena of nature not to natural agencies, but to the
incomprehensible action of the gods.
The beginnings of moral philosophy are found in the ethical portrayals
of the Homeric poems, in the writings of the Gnomic
Poets of the sixth century B.C., and especially in the sayings
attributed to the Seven Wise Men. These sayings are
characterized by a tone of cynicism, and exhibit a knowledge of the
world's ways which is certainly remarkable if it belongs to the age to
which it is generally assigned. 
 Plato's story (Protagoras, 343 A) of the meeting of the
Seven Wise Men at Delphi is totally devoid of historical foundation.
Even the names of the seven are not agreed upon. The enumeration which
most frequently occurs is the following: Thales, Bias, Pittacus, Solon,
Cleobulus, Chilo, and Periander. Cf. Ritter and Preller,
Hist. Phil. Graecae (ed. 1888), p. 2, note d.
The Division of Greek philosophy into periods and schools is
partly chronological and partly dependent on the development of
philosophic thought. The following seems to be the most convenient
In the first period, the era of beginnings, philosophical speculation
was largely objective; it busied itself with the study of nature and
the origin of the world. In the second period Socrates brought
philosophy down to the contemplation of man's inner self; it was a
period in which the objective and subjective methods were blended. In
the third period the subjective element was made preponderant; the
Stoics and Epicureans concerned themselves with man and his destiny, to
the almost complete exclusion of cosmological and metaphysical
- I. Pre-Socratic Philosophy.
- II. Philosophy of Socrates and the Socratic Schools.
- III. Post-Aristotelian Philosophy.
Sources. The sources of Greek philosophy are:
Primary sources. Besides the complete works of Plato and
Aristotle, we have several collections of fragments of philosophical
writings; for instance, Mullach's Fragmenta Philosophorum
Graecorum, Ritter and Preller's Historia Philosophiae
Graecae, Diels' Doxographi Graeci, Fairbanks' The First
Philosophers of Greece, Adams, Texts, etc. (New York, 1903).
Secondary sources. (1) Ancient writers, such as Plato,
Aristotle, Xenophon, and Theophrastus, in reference to pre-Socratic
and Socratic philosophy; (2) Alexandrian authorities, such as
Demetrius of Phalerus (third century B.C.), Ptolemy Philadelphus (third
century B.C.), Callimachus (third century B.C.), author of the
pinakes or "tablets"; (3) Later writers: Cicero, Seneca,
Plutarch, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Diogenes Laertius
(about A.D. 220); (4) Modern critics and historians. Tiedemann,
Ritter and Preller, Zeller, Windelband, Diels, Tannery, Burnet, etc.
Diels' Doxographi Graeci (Berlin, 1879) is of great value in
determining the affiliation of sources. 
 On Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, etc., as sources
for the history of Greek philosophy, cf. Fairbanks, The First
Philosophers of Greece (New York, 1898), pp. 263 ff.; also Burnet,
Early Greek Philosophy (London, 1892), pp. 370 ff.
 Tiedemann, Griechenlands erste Phiosophen (Leipzig, 1781);
Ritter, History of Ancient Philosophy, trans. by Morrison (4
vols., Oxford, 1838); Ritter and Preller, Hist. Phil. Graecae
(Ed. VII, Gothae, 1888); Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen
(fünfte Aufl., Leipzig, 1892 ff.). (References will be made to the
English translations by Alleyne and others under the titles
Pre-Socratic. Philosophy, etc.) Tannery, Pour l'histoire de
la science hellène (Paris, 1887); Windelband, History of
Ancient Philosophy, trans. by Cushman (New York, 1899); History
of Philosophy, trans. by Tufts (second edition, New York and
To these add Erdmann, History of Philosophy, trans. by Hough (3
vols., London, 1890) ; Benn, The Greek Philosophers (2 vols.,
London, 1883); The Philosophy of Greece (London, 1898); Gomperz,
The Greek Thinkers, Vol. I, trans. by Magnus (London, 1901);
Ueberweg, op. cit.; Schwegler, Gesch. der griech. Phil.
(dritte Aufl., Tübingen, 1886).
For a more complete bibliography, cf. Weber, History of
Philosophy, trans. by Thilly (New York, 1896), p. 8; Ueberweg,
op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 19 ff.; Erdmann, op. cit., pp. 14