Ancient philosophy

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This page lists some links to ancient philosophy. In Western philosophy, the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire marked the ending of Hellenistic philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of Medieval philosophy, whereas in Eastern philosophy, the spread of Islam through the Arab Empire marked the end of Old Iranian philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of early Islamic philosophy.

Introduction[edit]

Genuinely philosophical thought, depending upon original individual insights, arose in many cultures roughly contemporaneously. Karl Jaspers termed the intense period of philosophical development beginning around the 7th century and concluding around the 3rd century BCE an Axial Age in human thought.

Ancient Chinese philosophy[edit]

Main article: Chinese philosophy

Chinese philosophy is the dominant philosophical thought in China and other countries within the East Asian cultural sphere that share a common language, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Schools of thought[edit]

Hundred Schools of Thought[edit]

The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from the 6th century to 221 BCE,[1] an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China. Even though this period – known in its earlier part as the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period – in its latter part was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, it is also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. This period ended with the rise of the Qin Dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent. The Book of Han lists ten major schools, they are:

  • Confucianism, which teaches that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi.[2]
  • Legalism, which maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.
  • Taoism, a philosophy which emphasizes the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos; health and longevity; and wu wei (action through inaction). Harmony with the Universe, or the source thereof (Tao), is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices.
  • Mohism, which advocated the idea of universal love: Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as primitive materialist empiricism; he believed that human cognition ought to be based on one's perceptions – one's sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on the human capacity for abstraction. Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as extravagant.
  • Naturalism, the School of Naturalists or the Yin-yang school, which synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements; Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school.[3]
  • Agrarianism, or the School of Agrarianism, which advocated peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism.[4] The Agrarians believed that Chinese society should be modeled around that of the early sage king Shen Nong, a folk hero which was portrayed in Chinese literature as "working in the fields, along with everyone else, and consulting with everyone else when any decision had to be reached."[4]
  • The Logicians or the School of Names, which focused on definition and logic. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek sophists or dialecticians. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi.
  • The School of Diplomacy or School of Vertical and Horizontal [Alliances], which focused on practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.
  • The Miscellaneous School, which integrated teachings from different schools; for instance, Lü Buwei found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lüshi Chunqiu cooperatively. This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws.
  • The School of "Minor-talks", which was not a unique school of thought, but a philosophy constructed of all the thoughts which were discussed by and originated from normal people on the street.
  • Another group is the School of the Military that studied strategy and the philosophy of war; Sunzi and Sun Bin were influential leaders. However, this school was not one of the "Ten Schools" defined by Hanshu.

Early Imperial China[edit]

The founder of the Qin Dynasty, who implemented Legalism as the official philosophy, quashed Mohist and Confucianist schools. Legalism remained influential until the emperors of the Han Dynasty adopted Daoism and later Confucianism as official doctrine. These latter two became the determining forces of Chinese thought until the introduction of Buddhism.

Confucianism was particularly strong during the Han Dynasty, whose greatest thinker was Dong Zhongshu, who integrated Confucianism with the thoughts of the Zhongshu School and the theory of the Five Elements. He also was a promoter of the New Text school, which considered Confucius as a divine figure and a spiritual ruler of China, who foresaw and started the evolution of the world towards the Universal Peace. In contrast, there was an Old Text school that advocated the use of Confucian works written in ancient language (from this comes the denomination Old Text) that were so much more reliable. In particular, they refuted the assumption of Confucius as a godlike figure and considered him as the greatest sage, but simply a human and mortal.

The 3rd and 4th centuries saw the rise of the Xuanxue (mysterious learning), also called Neo-Taoism. The most important philosophers of this movement were Wang Bi, Xiang Xiu and Guo Xiang. The main question of this school was whether Being came before Not-Being (in Chinese, ming and wuming). A peculiar feature of these Taoist thinkers, like the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, was the concept of feng liu (lit. wind and flow), a sort of romantic spirit which encouraged following the natural and instinctive impulse.

Buddhism arrived in China around the 1st century AD, but it was not until the Northern and Southern, Sui and Tang Dynasties that it gained considerable influence and acknowledgement. At the beginning, it was considered a sort of Taoist sect, and there was even a theory about Laozi, founder of Taoism, who went to India and taught his philosophy to Buddha. Mahayana Buddhism was far more successful in China than its rival Hinayana, and both Indian schools and local Chinese sects arose from the 5th century. Two chiefly important monk philosophers were Sengzhao and Daosheng. But probably the most influential and original of these schools was the Chan sect, which had an even stronger impact in Japan as the Zen sect.

Philosophers[edit]

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy[edit]

Graphical relationship among the various pre-socratic philosophers and thinkers; red arrows indicate a relationship of opposition.
Raphael's School of Athens, depicting an array of ancient Greek philosophers engaged in discussion.

Philosophers[edit]

Presocratic philosophers[edit]

Thales (624 – c 546 BCE)
Anaximander (610 – 546 BCE)
Anaximenes of Miletus (c. 585 – c. 525 BCE)
Pythagoras (582 – 496 BCE)
Philolaus (470 – 380 BCE)
Alcmaeon of Croton
Archytas (428 – 347 BCE)
Xenophanes (570 – 470 BCE)
Parmenides (510 – 440 BCE)
Zeno of Elea (490 – 430 BCE)
Melissus of Samos (c. 470 BCE – ?)
Empedocles (490 – 430 BCE)
Anaxagoras (500 – 428 BCE)
Leucippus (first half of 5th century BCE)
Democritus (460 – 370 BCE)
Metrodorus of Chios (4th century BCE)
Protagoras (490 – 420 BCE)
Gorgias (487 – 376 BCE)
Antiphon (480 – 411 BCE)
Prodicus (465/450 – after 399 BCE)
Hippias (middle of the 5th century BCE)
Thrasymachus (459 – 400 BCE)
Callicles
Critias
Lycophron

Classical Greek philosophers[edit]

Hellenistic philosophy[edit]

Hellenistic schools of thought[edit]

Early Roman and Christian philosophy[edit]

See also: Christian philosophy

Philosophers during Roman times[edit]

Plotinus

Ancient Indian philosophy[edit]

Main article: Indian philosophy

The ancient Indian philosophy is a fusion of two ancient traditions : Sramana tradition and Vedic tradition.

Vedic philosophy[edit]

Indian philosophy begins with the Vedas where questions related to laws of nature, the origin of the universe and the place of man in it are asked. In the famous Rigvedic Hymn of Creation (Nasadiya Sukta) the poet says:

Vyasa, at middle of the picture
"Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows—or maybe even he does not know."

In the Vedic view, creation is ascribed to the self-consciousness of the primeval being (Purusha). This leads to the inquiry into the one being that underlies the diversity of empirical phenomena and the origin of all things. Cosmic order is termed rta and causal law by karma. Nature (prakriti) is taken to have three qualities (sattva, rajas, and tamas).

Sramana philosophy[edit]

Jainism and Buddhism are continuation of the Sramana school of thought. The Sramanas cultivated a pessimistic worldview of the samsara as full of suffering and advocated renunciation and austerities. They laid stress on philosophical concepts like Ahimsa, Karma, Jnana, Samsara and Moksa. Cārvāka (Sanskrit: चार्वाक) (atheist) philosophy, also known as Lokāyata, it is a system of Hindu philosophy that assumes various forms of philosophical skepticism and religious indifference. It is named after its founder, Cārvāka, author of the Bārhaspatya-sūtras.

Classical Indian philosophy[edit]

In classical times, these inquiries were systematized in six schools of philosophy. Some of the questions asked were:

  • What is the ontological nature of consciousness?
  • How is cognition itself experienced?
  • Is mind (chit) intentional or not?
  • Does cognition have its own structure?

The Six schools of Indian philosophy are:

Ancient Indian philosophers[edit]

3rd millennium - 2nd millennium BCE[edit]

Philosophers of Vedic Age (2000–600 BCE)[edit]

Philosophers of Axial Age (600–185 BCE)[edit]

Buddha.

Philosophers of Golden Age (184 BCE – 600 CE)[edit]

Ancient Iranian philosophy[edit]

Zarathustra as depicted in Raphael's The School of Athens beside Raphael who appears as the ancient painter Apelles of Kos.
Main article: Iranian philosophy

See also: Dualism, Dualism (philosophy of mind)

While there are ancient relations between the Indian Vedas and the Iranian Avesta, the two main families of the Indo-Iranian philosophical traditions were characterized by fundamental differences in their implications for the human being's position in society and their view of man's role in the universe. The first charter of human rights by Cyrus the Great as understood in the Cyrus cylinder is often seen as a reflection of the questions and thoughts expressed by Zarathustra and developed in Zoroastrian schools of thought of the Achaemenid Era of Iranian history.[7][8]

Schools of thought[edit]

Ideas and tenets of Zoroastrian schools of Early Persian philosophy are part of many works written in Middle Persian and of the extant scriptures of the zoroastrian religion in Avestan language. Among these are treatises such as the Shikand-gumanic Vichar by Mardan-Farrux Ohrmazddadan, selections of Denkard, Wizidagīhā-ī Zātspram ("Selections of Zātspram") as well as older passages of the book Avesta, the Gathas which are attributed to Zarathustra himself and regarded as his "direct teachings".[9]

Philosophy and the empire[edit]

Literature[edit]

Ancient Jewish philosophy[edit]

See also: Jewish philosophy

First Temple (c. 900 BCE to 587 BCE)[edit]

Assyrian exile (587 BCE to 516 BCE)[edit]

Second Temple (516 BCE to 70 CE)[edit]

Early Roman exile (70 CE to c. 600 CE)[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chinese philosophy", Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed 4/6/2014
  2. ^ Lo, Ping-cheung (1999), Confucian Ethic of Death with Dignity and Its Contemporary Relevance, Society of Christian Ethics 
  3. ^ "Zou Yan". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Deutsch, Eliot; Ronald Bontekoei (1999). A companion to world philosophies. Wiley Blackwell. p. 183. 
  5. ^ The significance of Purusha Sukta in Daily Invocations by Swami Krishnananda
  6. ^ P. 285 Indian sociology through Ghurye, a dictionary By S. Devadas Pillai
  7. ^ Philip G. Kreyenbroek: "Morals and Society in Zoroastrian Philosophy" in "Persian Philosophy". Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy: Brian Carr and Indira Mahalingam. Routledge, 2009.
  8. ^ Mary Boyce: "The Origins of Zoroastrian Philosophy" in "Persian Philosophy". Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy: Brian Carr and Indira Mahalingam. Routledge, 2009.
  9. ^ An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia. From Zoroaster to 'Umar Khayyam. S. H. Nasr & M. Aminrazavi. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London & New York, 2008. ISBN 978-1845115418.
  10. ^ Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma. Robert Charles Zaehner. Biblo and Tannen, 1972. ISBN 0-8196-0280-9.
  11. ^ a b Sasanian Iran - intellectual life. A. Tafazzoli and A. L. Khromov in: History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Crossroads of Civilization. B. A. Litvinsky, Zhang Guand-Da, R. Shabani Samghabadi. Unesco, 1996. ISBN 9231032119.
  12. ^ Mansour Shaki. Falsafa. Philosophy in the pre-Islamic period. Encyclopædia Iranica. Volume IX. 1999. ISBN 0-933273-35-5.
  13. ^ Prods Oktor Skjaervo. Bardesanes. Encyclopædia Iranica. Volume III. Fasc. 7–8. ISBN 0-7100-9121-4.
  14. ^ David A. Scott. Manichaean Views of Buddhism in: History of Religions. Vol. 25, No. 2, Nov. 1985. University of Chicago Press.
  15. ^ Yarshater, Ehsan. 1983. The Cambridge history of Iran, volume 2. pp. 995–997

Further reading[edit]

  • Luchte, James, Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn, in series, Bloomsbury Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2011. ISBN 978-0567353313

External links[edit]