Roundup of Recent Posts (May 2013)

A roundup of recent posts from this site.

Roundup of Recent Posts


Roundup of Recent Posts (May 2013)

Roundup of recent posts from this blog.

Roundup of Recent Posts


Roundup of Recent Posts (March 2013)

Roundup of recent posts from this blog.

Roundup of Recent Posts

Stoicism and Research

Menedemos: Cynic in Fancy Dress?

Snippet about the ancient Cynic philosopher Menedemos, and his unusual attire.

Arcadian Hat
Man in Arcadian Pointy-Hat

Menedemos was a pupil of Colotes of Lampsacos [a pupil  of Epicurus who also studied Cynicism in 3-4th century BC].

According to Hippobotos, he advanced to such a degree of imposture that he went around in the guise of a Fury [an ancient chthonic goddess of vengeance], saying that he had come from Hades to take note of sins that were committed, so as to be able to report them, on his return, to the deities below.

This was the manner of his dress: he wore a dark tunic reaching down to his feet, with a red belt tied around it, and an Arcadian hat on his head with the twelve signs of the zodiac embroidered on it, and tragic buskins, and he had an enormously long beard, and carried an ash-wood staff in his hand. (Diogenes Laertius)

Roundup of Recent Posts

Roundup of recent posts from this blog.

Roundup of Recent Posts


The Succession of Philosophical Schools

Outline of the lines of philosophical succession, spanning the four main Hellenistic philosophical traditions, as described by Diogenes Laertius.

PythagorasAccording to Diogenes Laertius’ The Lives of Eminent Philosophers, there were two major schools of ancient Greek philosophy, the Ionian and Italian (or Eleatic) schools, which divide into four distinct successions that survived down to the Hellenistic period.  The Ionian School was founded by Thales and Anaximander, and their succession led down to Socrates, at which point his followers, “Socratics”, divided into two sub-divisions: The Cynic-Stoic tradition founded by Antisthenes and the Academic tradition founded by Plato.  Plato’s student Aristotle then split off to form his own tradition, creating three sub-divisions of the Ionian succession.  The Italian school began with Pherecydes and Pythagoras and ended with Epicurus.

The Ionian School

  1. Anaximander (“pupil of Thales”)
  2. Anaximenes
  3. Anaxagoras
  4. Archelaus
  5. Socrates (“who introduced ethics or moral philosophy”)

[Diogenes doesn’t include Heraclitus in the Ionian succession.  Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes are usually described as part of the Milesian school.]

The Italian School

  1. Pythagoras (“pupil of Pherecydes”)
  2. Telauges (his son)
  3. Xenophanes
  4. Parmenides
  5. Zeno of Elea
  6. Leucippus
  7. Democritus (“who had many pupils”)
  8. Nausiphanes [and Naucydes] (“in particular”)
  9. Epicurus (Succession ends)

The Socratics

The Academic Succession

  1. Plato (Student of Socrates, “founder of the Old Academy”)
  2. Speusippus
  3. Xenocrates
  4. Polemo
  5. Crantor
  6. Crates
  7. Arcesilaus (“founder of the Middle Academy”, who introduced an emphasis on skepticism)
  8. Lacydes (“founder of the New Academy”)
  9. Carneades
  10. Clitomachus (Succession ends)

The Cynic-Stoic Succession

  1. Antisthenes (student of Socrates)
  2. Diogenes the Cynic (founder of Cynicism)
  3. Crates of Thebes
  4. Zeno of Citium (founder of the Stoa)
  5. Cleanthes
  6. Chrysippus (Succession ends)

The Peripatetic Succession

  1. Aristotle (student of Plato)
  2. Theophrastus (Succession ends)

Excerpt from Diogenes Laertius

But philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom, has had a twofold origin; it started with Anaximander on the one hand, with Pythagoras on the other. The former was a pupil of Thales, Pythagoras was taught by Pherecydes. The one school was called Ionian, because Thales, a Milesian and therefore an Ionian, instructed Anaximander; the other school was called Italian from Pythagoras, who worked for the most part in Italy.  And the one school, that of Ionia, terminates with Clitomachus and Chrysippus and Theophrastus, that of Italy with Epicurus. The succession passes from Thales through Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, to Socrates, who introduced ethics or moral philosophy; from Socrates to his pupils the Socratics, and especially to Plato, the founder of the Old Academy; from Plato, through Speusippus and Xenocrates, the succession passes to Polemo, Crantor, and Crates, Arcesilaus, founder of the Middle Academy, Lacydes, founder of the New Academy, Carneades, and Clitomachus. This line brings us to Clitomachus.

There is another which ends with Chrysippus, that is to say by passing from Socrates to Antisthenes, then to Diogenes the Cynic, Crates of Thebes, Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes, Chrysippus. And yet again another ends with Theophrastus; thus from Plato it passes to Aristotle, and from Aristotle to Theophrastus. In this manner the school of Ionia comes to an end.

In the Italian school the order of succession is as follows: first Pherecydes, next Pythagoras, next his son Telauges, then Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Leucippus, Democritus, who had many pupils, in particular Nausiphanes [and Naucydes], who were teachers of Epicurus. (Diogenes Laertius)

Some Comments on Stoicism & Cynicism

Some excerpts from Diogenes Laertius, discussing the close relationship between ancient Cynicism and Stoicism.

Some Comments on Stoicism & Cynicism

Diogenes-Laertius_thumb.jpgDiogenes Laertius says in the prologue of his Lives of Eminent Philosophers that there were two main philosophical lineages: the Ionian, starting with Anaximander, and the Italian, starting with Pythagoras.  He then adds:

There is another which ends with Chrysippus, that is to say by passing from Socrates to Antisthenes, then to Diogenes the Cynic, Crates of Thebes, Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes, Chrysippus.

This seems to mean that he sees Stoicism as a development of Cynicism, and in some sense derived from Socrates himself; or he may mean that Stoicism can be traced back beyond Socrates to Anaximander and the Ionian tradition.  He actually seems to describe the Ionian tradition as splitting into three roughly parallel lineages, founded by Plato, Antisthenes and Aristotle respectively.  These correspond to the major Hellenistic schools of the Academy, the Cynic-Stoic tradition, and Aristotelianism, with the addition of the Epicurean school, which he claims follows the Italian succession.

However, preceding his comments about the Cynic-Stoic succession, he explains that although Socrates stood in the Ionian tradition, he “introduced ethics or moral philosophy” , which may suggest that the lineage Socrates-Cynicism-Stoicism originates in Socrates’ novel conception of moral philosophy.   It may be worth noting that Diogenes says in his chapter on Socrates that “he discussed moral questions in the workshops and the market-place, being convinced that the study of nature is no concern of ours; and that he claimed that his inquiries embraced ‘Whatso’er is good or evil in an house'”, quoting Homer.  This appears to mean that Socrates was particularly known for his concern with moral questions that, rather than being purely abstract, dealt with our daily problems of living.  Moreover, Diogenes adds:

In my opinion Socrates discoursed on physics as well as on ethics, since he holds some conversations about providence, even according to Xenophon, who, however, declares that he only discussed ethics. But Plato, after mentioning Anaxagoras and certain other physicists in the Apology, treats for his own part themes which Socrates disowned, although he puts everything into the mouth of Socrates.

This ambivalence about questions of abstract physics can certainly be found in the Stoics as well, despite the fact that their philosophical curriculum was famously divided into: Physics, Ethics and Logic.  Later, in his chapter on Antisthenes, Diogenes goes on to mention Zeno and the Stoics:

It would seem that the most manly section of the Stoic School owed its origin to him. Hence Athenaeus the epigrammatist writes thus of them:

“Ye experts in Stoic story, ye who commit to sacred pages most excellent doctrines–that virtue alone is the good of the soul: for virtue alone saves man’s life and cities.  But that Muse that is one of the daughters of Memory approves the pampering of the flesh, which other men have chosen for their aim.”

Antisthenes gave the impulse to the indifference of Diogenes, the continence of Crates, and the patient endurance of Zeno, himself laying the foundations of their state.

He concludes this chapter by saying “we will now append an account of the Cynics and Stoics who derive from Antisthenes”.  Subsequently, in the last of his chapters on Cynicism (Menedemus) he comments:

They hold further that “Life according to Virtue” is the End to be sought, as Antisthenes says in his Heracles: exactly like the Stoics. For indeed there is a certain close relationship between the two schools. Hence it has been said that Cynicism is a short cut to virtue; and after the same pattern did Zeno of Citium live his life.

However, in De Finibus, Cicero portrays the Stoic Cato as saying:

Some Stoics say that the Cynics’ philosophy and way of life is suitable for the wise person, should circumstances arise conducive to its practice.  But others rule this out altogether.

With this in mind, it’s noticeable that whereas Epictetus very frequently refers to Diogenes the Cynic as an exemplar or role-model for his students, Seneca very seldom refers to Cynicism.  Indeed, at one point Seneca lists the philosophers he most admired, all of whom were Stoics, apart from Socrates and Plato – but neither Diogenes nor any other Cynic was included by him.

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