THE HELLENISTIC ERA
GREECE -300BCE TO 100BCE
TERMS TO KNOW
WHERE DOES A PHILOSOPHY COME FROM?
From grand conclusions about ultimate reality or from the hard knocks of life?
EXAMPLES FROM AMERICAN HISTORY
The Roaring Twenties
Post WWII America – 1950’s (contentment)
Baby Boomers 4.3 mill born 1946-65
Generation X 1965-79
Generation Y (Millennials) 1980-95
Generation Z 1996-2010
“Generations” Howe and Strauss, 4 repeating generational types
Do circumstances dictate philosophy of life?
HELLENISTIC ERA 300-100BC
Alexander’s death (323BCE at age 33) brought chaos to Greece /City state system gives way to central govern. Alienation, purposelessness, powerlessness rise especially in light of Roman rise. Philosophies of theory give way to philosophies of therapy/ coping or survival philosophies emerge.
(This description could fit today where many have lost confidence in institutions and in overarching worldviews.)
Greek culture and administration remain in Mediterranean world until the Romans finally control the area. (31 BCE battle of Actium settles Roman rule. )
HELLENISTIC ERA PHILOSOPHIES
4 Main “Schools”
1. Plato- material world transitory- soul drawn up to God
Aristotle-less dualistic than Plato- forms shape material reality
Who is Sahlstrom Hall 107 named after?
What did you discover about #3?
EPICUREANISM – EPICURUS 341-270 BC
Epicurus creates the “Garden” in Athens and advertised for students –including women.
Hedonistic- pleasure seeking (paradox of Hedonism)
“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!” But Epicurus not about reckless decadent pleasure seeking but about enjoying food and friends in moderation and retreating from the stress of the world.
Inscription on wall of Garden
“Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure. The caretaker of the abode, a kindly host, will be ready for you; he will welcome you with bread, and serve you water also in abundance, with theses words; Have you not been well entertained? This garden does not whet your appetite ; but quenches it.
Pleasure, the sole intrinsic good/obtain state of tranquility/freedom from fear
Misery comes from false beliefs promoted in society like religious beliefs that bring guilt.
Epicurus could justify his ideas because of atomistic materialism- followed Democritus.
Death is simply dissolving of atoms
No god/afterlife so – no guilt or punishment after death
God(s) are creation of society
Epicureans most reviled philosophy- accused of being anti-god/ retreating from society so disturb social order/ ultra hedonistic/
Cyrenaics (led by Aristippus of Cyrene- 435-355 BC) similar to Epicurean
Maximize pleasure, don’t delay gratification/ Reflection and contemplation is out – fun is in
Today Epicurean mostly refers to gourmet food
What are consequences/
implications of Epicurus’ thought?
Evolution; predominant explanation of beginning of life
Beginning, a random happening, a fluke
Single cell is the beginning
What is the “why” of this cell? What is its purpose?
MEANING AND PURPOSE?
If cell has no purpose, how about the frog?
MEANING AND PURPOSE?
Evolutionary thinking is foundational in our society
Do we hold incongruent ideas in our thinking?
Do you think you have value, meaning or purpose?
Change the equation
Materialistic Evolution = no purpose
Theistic Evolution = provides possibility of purpose
Value comes from something greater than self
Where does $10 bill get its value?
If human beings have value, where does it come from?
STOICISM – 4TH MAJOR SCHOOL OF THE HELLENISTIC ERA AND A MAJOR FORCE IN THE ROMAN ERA
Zeno of Citium is founder, 335-263 BCE – taught from a stoa
Synthesis of other philosophies before it (including Epicureanism) Seek life of peace but for different reasons that Epicurus.
Universe is one organism- a rational whole defined as either God or nature- Pantheism (Pantheistic) God is everything and in everything
See order through nature and act in accordance with it- seek your place in the order of things- dutifully accept your fate- duty is to be happy- everything happens as it must so its senseless to try to improve your life.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus- (Horace) “Carpe Diem” Ask not—we cannot know—what end the gods have set for you, for me; nor attempt the Babylonian reckonings Leuconoë. How much better to endure whatever comes, whether Jupiter grants us additional winters or whether this is our last, which now wears out the Tuscan Sea upon the barrier of the cliffs! Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!
Zeno – 333-261BC Father of Stoicism – see slide 13
A. Slave- leg broken by master– eventually started school
B. Philosophy a way of life not just theoretical
C. Suffering caused by trying to control fate- Can only control attitude
D. Writings read by prisoners in Vietnam
-James Stockdale, John McCain
Marcus Aurelius 121-180 AD Emperor
Seneca 4BC- 65AD Philosopher
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF STOICISM
Dealing with evil- just let it happen? Is everything outside our control?
Does Stoicism lead to apathy?
Human nature does tend away from peace but it also tends toward purposefulness
There is a rationality to the universe but can you prove that?
OTHER HELLENISTIC GROUPS
Skeptics – can’t know anything so just follow customs
Individualistic freedom of speech and freedom from societal custom
The hippies of Hellenistic era
Diogenes of Sinope
Is your philosophy determined by an absolute idea of what is true or by the circumstances you encounter? (or both?)
TERMS TO KNOW
THINGS TO KNOW
Can you describe a little bit of what Epicurean philosophy is about? Can you critique it?
Can you describe a little bit of what Stoic philosophy is about? Can you critique it?
Can you critique evolutionary philosophy?
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