"No hay manera de escapar a la filosofía […] Quien rechaza la filosofía profesa también una filosofía pero sin ser consciente de ella." Karl Jaspers, filósofo y psiquiatra. "There is no escape from philosophy. Anyone who rejects philosophy is himself unconsciously practising a philosophy." [Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom 12 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951)]
The Ancient Greek philosophers
The Ancient Greek philosophers have played a pivotal role in the shaping of the western philosophical tradition. This article surveys the seminal works and ideas of key figures in the Ancient Greek philosophical tradition from the Presocratics to the Neoplatonists. It highlights their main philosophical concerns and the evolution in their thought from the sixth century BCE to the sixth century CE.
The Ancient Greek philosophical tradition broke away from a mythological approach to explaining the world, and it initiated an approach based on reason and evidence. Initially concerned with explaining the entire cosmos, the Presocratic philosophers strived to identify its single underlying principle. Their theories were diverse and none achieved a consensus, yet their legacy was the initiation of the quest to identify underlying principles.
This sparked a series of investigations into the limit and role of reason and of our sensory faculties, how knowledge is acquired and what knowledge consists of. Here we find the Greek creation of philosophy as “the love of wisdom,” and the birth of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were the most influential of the ancient Greek philosophers, and they focused their attention more on the role of the human being than on the explanation of the material world. The work of these key philosophers was succeeded by the Stoics and Epicureans who were also concerned with practical aspects of philosophy and the attainment of happiness. Other notable successors are Pyrrho’s school of skepticism and the Neoplatonists such as Plotinus who tried to unify Plato’s thought with theology.