Notebook, 1993-


Ancient Greek Philosophy

Anthishtenes the Cynic
Aristippus of Cyrene
Cyreneaic School
Diogenes 412-323 BC
Euclid of Megara
Megarian School

Although Socrates himself had never founded a school, or developed a system of philosophy of his own, his verbal discourses nevertheless led directly to the formulation of [p. 166] various schools of thought on the part of his disciples. The numerous and varied facets of his personality, combined with the difference in the personalities of his auditors, account for the various Socratic schools of philosophy which evolved. With the exception of Xenophon who contented himself with recording what he could himself understand of the precepts of his teacher Socrates, and Plato who, although a pupil of his, cannot be placed among the Socratics on account of the originality of his thought and his genius, there remain principally three disciples of the great master who, after his death, founded philosophical schools of their own. These were 1] Antisthenes the Cynic, 2] Aristippus, the Cyreneaic, and 3] Euclid or Eucleides the Megarian.

Esoteric liberation and freedom from desire for material goods were to Antisthenes [445-360] B.C.] of such basic spiritual significance that he set his ideal to the end of practicing frugality and temperance, self-sufficiency, and self-discipline by which means this inner freedom could be realized. He taught that needs and desires should not be permitted to enslave man, on the contrary, they should be curtailed as far as possible, so that man can become free. Self-sufficiency and independence were the means to this end, and they in turn are obtained by self-discipline. He thus renounced civilization and its material benefits which delude and tempt man away from the ideal of self-sufficiency and self-discipline.

His disciple Diogenes [412-323 B.C.] applied the ideal of frugality and self-sufficiency to the extreme. It is reputed that when he had observed a boy drinking water from the palms of his hands, he discarded his drinking cup, and moreover, being unable to find a house, contented himself by residing in a large vat. Indeed, so great was his disapprobation of civilization and its cultivated habits, that he would relieve himself in public unashamedly. In Athens he was known as Diogenes the Dog from the manner of his life and behavior. And from him was derived the school of Cynics.

Aristippus [435-355 B.C.] of Cyrene in North Africa [the Cyrenaic school] had taught that the supreme good in life is hedonism. There exist, he was wont to say, both physical and intellectual pleasures, but he personally preferred the physical. But since a great pain or grief could follow in the wake of extreme pleasure, and this in turn bring on further pleasure, and so on ad infinitum, man must beforehand consider the consequences of pleasure and pain, and adjust his behavior accordingly.

Euclid [450-380 B.C.] of Megara in Attica [the Megarian school] identified the 'good' as the ultimate aim of philosophy with the 'One' of the Eleatics, and taught that this was the unique reality. The guideposts of the Parmenidean 'being' --immutable, ungenerated, and indestructible, were in the eyes of Euclid due to the 'good.' He thus came to believe that all things having movement or motion, mutability, generation, and corruptibility were nonexistent. It is for this reason that he strove to show that the sensible concept of the universe was nothing but deception. [pp. 166-157]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]



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