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Xenophanes of Colophon

(278 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] (c. 570 bce, Colophon – c. 475 bce), philosopher and poet. Around 545 Xenophanes emigrated to the West, where he lived as an itinerant rhapsodist. Many surviving quotations come from his Silloi (“Satires”). He attacked the cult of victorious athletes as well as Homer and Hesiod, especially for their portraits of the gods, criticized anthropomorphisms (V), and rejected divination. Conversely he demanded honors for wise individuals like himself, recommended civilized behavior and edification as guidelines for wri…

Xenophon

(178 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] (between 430 and 425 bce, Athens – after 355), historian and admirer of Socrates. Xenophon came to know Socrates after 410; after 401 he accompanied various military expeditions, especially Spartan, and was therefore banished. His literary oeuvre comprises historical, ethical, technical, and Socratic works; it was very popular in antiquity and has survived intact. In his historical works, Xenophon in part continued the history of Thucydides, with a predilection for the Spartan way of life. Among the works in the second group, his Polity of the Spartans was a contri…

Antiochus of Ascalon

(170 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] (c. 130 – c. 68 bce) was a Platonist and a pupil of Philo of Larissa, with whom he broke in the year 87 at the latest. In 79/78, Cicero heard him lecture in Athens; occasionally he traveled with Lucullus. The sources mention four of his works. It is unclear why he broke with Philo, whose Skepticism he had long supported, and took up Stoic ideas. …

Hellenistic Philosophy

(385 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] Hellenistic Philosophy, designation for the philosophy of the period stretching from Alexander the Great's death (323 bce) to the death of Cleopatra (30 bce). In spite of this blanket definition, it is taken to apply not to all philosophies of this period but rather to Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the ubiquitous skeptic tradition (Skepticism). The first direction of philosophy is representedin particular by Epicurus; the most prominent representatives of the Stoics were Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus of S…

Empedocles

(240 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] of Akragas in Sicily (probably born c. 491, died c. 430 bce), a multifaceted Greek philosopher concerned to heal and set things right as an itinerant orator, physician, priest and magician. To some extent, his biography was embellished (the account of his leap into Etna). Empedocles wrote On Nature (2 books) and Purifications. Apart from fragments, two major passages from his first work have been directly transmitted; having only been found recently, they complete our knowledge of Emp…

Pythagoras

(490 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] (c. 570 bce, Samos – c. 480 bce). After many years as an itinerant teacher, Pythagoras migrated to Croton in southern Italy, where he exercised great influence as a charismatic teacher. He left no written works, but a century later (as was the case with Plato) people began to capitalize on his great reputation, with the result that it is hardly possible to separate Pythagoras from his effective history; this Pythagorean tradition is hagiographic and makes any historically reliable statem…

Theophrastus

(184 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] (c. 371 bce, Eresos, Lesbos – 286 bce, Athens), philosopher, student of Aristotle, whom he followed on his journeys after Plato’s death (347) and succeeded as head of the Peripatetic school in 322. Theophrastus was a renowned teacher and is reported to have had 2,000 students. Given that the catalogue of his works contains 225 titles, covering many fields, he clearly had enormous influence. In the 17th century, his work on moral characters inspired the literary genre of the character stu…

Pythagoreans/Pythagoreanism

(804 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] In the broad sense, all who were influenced by Pythagoras were Pythagoreans, which would include even Empedocles. In the narrow sense, the term covers only the disciples of Pythagoras who belonged to his school or at least were associated with it, since full membership required a lengthy probationary period and a drastic change in lifestyle. In the first decades after the school was founded as ¶ an aristocratic secret society, it exercised substantial political influence – initially in Croton, but after c. 500 bce also in Metapontum and other towns in southern I…

Heracliteans

(137 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz
[German Version] Because Heraclitus of Ephesus did not found a school, anyone who was in any way dependent upon him in philosophical matters could be regarded as a Heraclitean (cf. D.L. IX 6). In particular the circle around Kratylos, to which also Plato was attracted at times after 399 bce, was actually known as such. This group surpassed Heraclitus with the theory that all things perceived are in a constant flux and unfit for cognizance. The Academy countered such skepticism with the doctrine of ideas (Arist. Metaph. 987a32–34, 1010a7ff., 1078b12–17). Aristotle ( Problemata 908a30, 9…

Pre-Socratics

(2,301 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz | Cancik, Hubert
[German Version] I. Historiography of Philosophy The Pre-Socratics include all Greek thinkers prior to c. 400 bce who contributed something to what was later called philosophy, above all Thales, Anaximan­der, Anaximenes, Pythagoras and his school, Xenophanes of Colophon, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zenon, Melissus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the atomists (Atomism: I) and other natural philosophers (Natural philosophy), and the Sophistic school. The term first appeared in the late 18th century and occupied an important place in the 19th-century histories of ¶ philosophy. It firs…

Plutarch

(1,126 words)

Author(s): Hülser, Karlheinz | Betz, Hans Dieter
[German Version] I. Philosophy While studying in Athens, Plutarch was converted to Platonism by Ammonius. Later he maintained a philosophical school in his home town, where the students read Plato but were exposed to other philosophical schools as well, especially the Stoics and Epicureans (Epicureanism). Plutarch had good contacts with some renowned contemporary philosophers; like many others, he cultivated philosophy as the art of living a life focused on happiness (II). In antiquity more than 260 works were ascribed to him. A good half of them were devoted to p…

Cosmology

(3,917 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph | Hülser, Karlheinz | Herrmann, Klaus | Mühling-Schlapkohl, Markus | Stoeger, William R.
[German Version] I. Terminology – II.#x2002;Ancient Near East and Old Testament – III.#x2002;Greco-Roman Antiquity – IV. Judaism – V. Christianity – VI. History of Modern Science I. Terminology Cosmology is a specific culture's orientation in space and time as conceived in words, images, and rituals. The orientation combines signs that can be perceived with signs that are set. Only in the complementarity of the construed other does the “natural” phenomenon acquire the meaning of a significant marke…