“Philosophy as we understand it is a Greek creation.” – Martin Litchfield West

The Greek word philosophy means “the love of wisdom”.  Ancient Greek philosophy was the ancient Greeks’ attempt to make sense out of the world, in a non-religious way. So rather than using myths to understand the world, they used their intelligence and reasoning skills Philosophy gained prominence in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period when Alexnader the Great spread the Greek ideals and culture in most of the known world of his time.

Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric, and aesthetics.

It’s widely accepted by most modern philosophers and historians that Greek philosophy has influenced much of Western culture since its inception.

As stated by the philosopher Martin Litchfield West “Greek philosophers taught themselves to reason. Philosophy as we understand it is a Greek creation“.

Western philosophic tradition was so influenced by Socrates (as presented by his student Plato, and also by Xenophon) that it is conventional to refer to philosophy developed prior to Socrates as pre-Socratic philosophy. The periods following this until the wars of Alexander the Great are those of “classical Greek” and “Hellenistic” philosophy.

Ancient Greek philosophy: Is it still relevant today?

Why is ancient Greek philosophy still important today?

Ancient Greeks brought many gifts to the world, including democracy, theatre and of course philosophy. Although ancient philosophical thought may seem irrelevant at first glance, that is really not the case upon closer examination. Greek philosophers were quite advanced for their times, bringing along revolutionary philosophical contributions to politics, science and ethics.

Politics

In his work the “Republic” Plato introduces the idea of an ideal political system. Through this philosophical idea he urges people avoid darkness and ignorance, and step into reality and truth. His beliefs couldn’t be more relevant today, in a world saturated with polarization and bias. By accepting that people’s ideas of reality are inevitably filtered by subjectivity and ignorance, Plato encourages us to actively and continuosly seek the truth.

Ethics and critical thinking

Socrates was one of the first philosophers to develop and teach the notion of ethics. To this day, people continue to engage in the debate of the human condition (what is right and wrong, good and evil). As Socrates taught thousands of years ago, by actively listening and participating in intellectual discourse people can avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary arguments. Socrates encourages us to ask questions and think critically.

Logic

Aristotle believed that we live in a world made of facts, and in order to perceive knowledge, people need logical and methodical discourse. Logic and reasoning paved the way for modern sciences, including biology, psychology, and physics. Aristotle’s ideas conflict with Plato’s in that not everything in life is subjective and open to interpretation. Instead of finding your truth, he encourages people to find the truth.

Happiness

A school of thought influenced by the philosophy of Socrates – known as Stoicism – emerged as a way to respond to daily endeavors in human lives with ultimate goal the search and discovery of inner peace and happiness in each individual.

Stoics encouraged people to try and overcome their difficulties, recognize their impulses, and understand what is within their control. Introspective thinking and being present in the moment are the two principles that stand the test of time according to the stoic philosophy.

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Ancient Greek philosophy: famous philosophers

Who are the most important Greek philosophers?

Ancient Greek philosophy: important works

What are the most important books of ancient Greek philosophy?

  • Plato’s Republic
  • Plato’s Politics
  • Plato’s Apology
  • Plato’s The Symposium
  • Plato’s The Trial and Death of Socrates
  • Aristotle’s Metaphysics
  • Aristotle’s De Anima (On the soul)
  • Aristotle’s The Nichomachean Ethics
  • Aristotle’s Physics
  • Aristotle’s Poetics
  • Xenophon’s Conversations of Socrates
  • Epictetus’ The Discourses of Epitctetus (Stoicism)
  • Heraclitus’ Fragments
Philosophers, historians, poetry, tragedy, comedy

Ancient Greek literature

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Ancient Greek philosophy and philosophers (external links)

Want to read more about Greek philosophy and the Greek philosophers?

This is a comprehensive list of all Greek philosophers (external link, Wikipedia), and here you can find more information about the ancient Greek philosophy, including information about the pre-Socratic philosophy, and the classical Greek philosophy (external link, Wikipedia)

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