POST-ARISTOTELIAN PHILOSOPHY

Last Updated 21/04/05

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  1. The Paper
  2. Hellenistic Philosophy
  3. Neoplatonism and Christianity

1. The Paper

This period of 900 years from 322 B.C. to 600 A.D. is full of philosophical excitement and innovation. Philosophers transformed old problems and introduced new ones, in such a way as to turn the subject in fresh directions. Much that we encounter in modern philosophy takes its character from the developments of this time. Seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy cannot be fully understood without it. Since the history of philosophy is a continuous story, this period in its turn cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of Plato and Aristotle. It connects well with the Medieval Philosophy paper, which from 2001 will include Islamic, as well as Latin Medieval Philosophy.

There are two main areas covered by this paper:

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2. Hellenistic Philosophy

General Reading

Main Source Book

Hellenistic Philosophy can now be studied very simply because the fragments previously scattered, have been collected in an excellent translation with very helpful commentary:

They study the Epicureans, Stoics and Sceptics, covering the main topics as they were distinguished by the ancients. This is the main book for Hellenistic Philosophy.

For overviews of the whole subject, the following books are very useful:

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Philosophical Treatments of Hellenistic Philosophy

Philosophy students will want to see the light that these schools shed on modern philosophical concerns, and for this purpose the relevant sections of any of the following books are worth reading.

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Further Reading

Introduction to the main Hellenistic Schools and early Roman Period

Stoics

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Epicureans

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Sceptics

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Philosophy of the Roman Republic & Early Empire

See also

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Further Sources

Although many of the texts for the Hellenistic period are fragmentary, there are a number of non-fragmentary texts available, many in the volumes of the Loeb Classical Library, which has English on one side and Greek or Latin facing (marked LCL in what follows).

Epicureans

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Aristotelians

See above for Alexander On Fate.

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Stoic Ethics

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Sceptics

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Collections of Articles

There are some excellent collections of articles.

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Influence

For the influence of ancient scepticism on seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy, see

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Further Bibliography

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3. Neoplatonism and Christianity

Eleven philosophers are particularly important

Neoplatonists

Christians

Christian Neoplatonists

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Sources

For background to Neoplatonism, which begins with the thought of Plotinus, see:

For Plotinus himself the best translation is the Loeb edition:

For the whole Neoplatonic tradition, especially the Neoplatonic commentators on Aristotle, there is now an invaluable Sourcebook available:

This covers the entire period by philosophical topic: (i) Logic and Metaphysics; (ii) Psychology with Ethics and Religion; (iii) Physics.

For further translations of primary texts, see:

Over 50 volumes of Neoplatonic commentaries and related literature have been translated into English in the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Project. Particularly interesting philosophical texts from this series include:

On the Christian side, the two most important thinkers of all, Augustine and Boethius, are available in numerous translations. A useful start would be Augustine, Confessions (Henry Chadwick's translation, in Oxford World's Classics, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991) is the best), a riveting autobiography, which describes how Neoplatonism converted him to Christianity and any part of the larger and later City of God, in which he distances himself from Neoplatonism (available both in Penguin, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972) and Loeb, (London: Heinemann, 1957-1972).) (Look esp. at Books 8-14.)

Boethius Consolation of Philosophy, (Penguin, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books) and Loeb, (Rev. ed. London: Heinemann, 1918)) is also attractive. Written by him in prison awaiting execution on a doubtful charge, frustrated in completing his life's work of putting Aristotle, Plato, and Neoplatonist-style commentaries on them into Latin. The result was truncated knowledge of Plato and Aristotle in the West until the 12th century, although the Consolation itself was paraphrased or translated by King Alfred and Queen Elizabeth. Philosophy students will find Book 5 the most interesting, on whether life is governed by chance, fate or divine providence.

Plotinus's Christian contemporary Origen wrote the clever and original On First Principles translated by Butterworth (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1973).

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Philosophical Treatments

There are again books bringing out the relation of the above texts to modern philosophical concerns

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Books on Particular Philosophers

Augustine

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Boethius

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Plotinus

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Philoponus

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Proclus

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Later Athenian Neoplatonism

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General Treatments of Neoplatonism

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