Greek philosophical schools (Colossians 2)

Bilderesultat for Greek philosophy

Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy may be divided into several schools or traditions in the first century A.D.:

  • Classical philosophy: Plato was still deeply influential. Those who adhered most closely to his teachings (among who Philo of Alexandria is most notable) are known today as Middle Platonists. Aristotle’s followers, known as the Peripatetics, were also still active.
  • The Skeptics: The linear descendants of Plato’s Academy took a more negative view about the possibility of gaining true knowledge and accordingly became known as the Skeptics. This tradition is said to have begun with Pyrrho of Elis (fourth century B.C.); hence the designation of Skepticism as Pyrrhonism. While some Skeptics determined that “suspension of judgement” was the most reasonable approach to philosophy, others modified this to include a measure of probability.
  • The Stoics: The Skeptics were highly critical of the most influential school of Hellenistic philosophy, the Stoics (named after the stoa, or colonnade, from which their founder, Zeno of Citium), taught. Known for their high moral standard and devotion to duty, the Stoics taught that reality is ultimately material and that it is governed by a logos, a kind of fiery, divine substance that pervades the cosmos and confers upon it order and direction. This logos, in their view, is also resident within people, enabling them to make sense of the universe. The goal for the Stoics was thus a life lived “in accordance with Nature”. There was ultimately little difference in Stoic discourse between nature, logos and God.
  • The Epicureans: This school of philosophy was founded ny Epicurus (fourth century B.C.). Its adherents sought to counter traditional views of the gods, relegating them to the intermundia, the religion “between the worlds”, from which they were assumed to take no notice of human affairs. Followers of Epicurus anticipated modern evolutionists in their belief in a closed universe emerging from the chance collision of atoms within a void. In terms of ethics, they regarded pleasure as the ultimate good.  Pleasure for them did not signify devotion to sensual excess but a life lived in moderation, since the traditional virtues of prudence and justice in their view yielded truse happiness.


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