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Ancient philosophy

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-A130-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A130-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/overview/ancient-philosophy/v-1

Article Summary

The philosophy of the Greco-Roman world from the sixth century bc to the sixth century ad laid the foundations for all subsequent Western philosophy. Its greatest figures are Socrates (fifth century bc) and Plato and Aristotle (fourth century bc). But the enormously diverse range of further important thinkers who populated the period includes the Presocratics and Sophists of the sixth and fifth centuries bc; the Stoics, Epicureans and sceptics of the Hellenistic age; and the many Aristotelian and (especially) Platonist philosophers who wrote under the Roman Empire, including the great Neoplatonist Plotinus. Ancient philosophy was principally pagan, and was finally eclipsed by Christianity in the sixth century ad, but it was so comprehensively annexed by its conqueror that it came, through Christianity, to dominate medieval and Renaissance philosophy. This eventual symbiosis between ancient philosophy and Christianity may reflect the fact that philosophical creeds in late antiquity fulfilled much the same role as religious movements, with which they shared many of their aims and practices.

Only a small fraction of ancient philosophical writings have come down to us intact. The remainder can be recovered, to a greater or lesser extent, by piecing together fragmentary evidence from sources which refer to them.

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Citing this article:
Sedley, David. Ancient philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A130-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/overview/ancient-philosophy/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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