Ancient Eclecticism

I’m going to resume my old practice of blogging about the reading I do for comps. I find that I focus more on my reading when I try to come up with things to write about it.

G. Reale, A History of Ancient Philosophy: The Schools of the Imperial Age, trans. John R. Catan (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) 9, 19.

[Diodorus of Tyre in the second century BCE], in ethics…attempted a peculiar compromise which simultaneously tried to satisfy the Peripatetic, the Stoic, and the Epicurean positions…Diodorus attempted to satisfy the Peripatetics by identifying the highest good with virtue, and the Stoics by positing virtue as clearly superior to all other goods, and, finally, the Epicureans by affirming…that happiness consisted in the absence of pain. (9)

In the first century BCE…almost all of these [Peripatetic] philosophers had a tendency to interpret Aristotle, in some key positions of his system, in a tendentiously naturalistic mode…with some concessions to Stoicism. (19)

The Peripatetics were followers of Aristotle, and they believed that people should have a variety of good things: virtue, a good social life, political prominence, physical pleasures, etc. At the same time, they were clear that virtue was the highest good.

Stoics were much more ascetic, and they maintained that virtue was the only good a person should pursue. They thought people could arrive at a peace of mind only if they detached themselves from objects. So they overlapped with Buddhism, in a sense.

I don’t know that much about Epicureanism, to be honest. They wanted to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, somewhat like the English utilitarians centuries later. While Epicureans have been stereotyped to advocate a shallow hedonism, actually they emphasized intellectual pleasure as well.

The above quotes stood out to me because they demonstrate that there could be a certain eclecticism in the second-first centuries B.C.E., as people drew from the various schools. Of course, when they did so, they had to compromise each of the schools in some manner, since the three schools contradicted one another in significant areas.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Comps, Greco-Roman, History, School. Bookmark the permalink.