Philosophers’ Eponyms: Early and Late Modern

An eponymous adjective is a type of adjective that refers to and is named after a specific person and can be used to denote their work. When describing a philosophical system, when categorizing a type of metaphysics or ethics, one might say, “That is Platonic,” meaning it resembles Plato’s philosophy. While some are better known, such as Socratic or Buddhist, others are more obscure, so here is a list—somewhat chronological—of philosophers’ eponyms! (Of course, seeing as there are hundreds of philosophers, some will not be mentioned).

Renaissance

Petrarchan: Pertaining to Petrarch

Erasmian: Pertaining to Desiderius Erasmus
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Machiavellian: Pertaining to Niccolò Machiavelli

Early Modern

Baconian: Pertaining to Francis Bacon
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Cartesian: Pertaining to René Descartes

Hobbesian: Pertaining to Thomas Hobbes

Leibnizian: Pertaining to Gottfried Leibniz

Spinozan: Pertaining to Baruch Spinoza

Pascalian: Pertaining to Blaise Pascal
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Lockean: Pertaining to John Locke

Humean: Pertaining to David Hume

Enlightenment

Voltairean: Pertaining to Voltaire
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Rousseauian: Pertaining to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Kantian: Pertaining to Immanuel Kant

Post-Kantian

Fichtean: Pertaining to Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Hegelian: Pertaining to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Marxist: Pertaining to Karl Marx

Kierkegaardian: Pertaining to Søren Kierkegaard
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Schopenhauerian: Pertaining to Arthur Schopenhauer

Emersonian: Pertaining to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thoreauvian: Pertaining to Henry David Thoreau

Nietzschean: Pertaining to Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Philosophers’ Eponyms: Greco-Roman

An eponymous adjective is a type of adjective that refers to and is named after a specific person and can be used to denote their work. When describing a philosophical system, when categorizing a type of metaphysics or ethics, one might say, “That is Platonic,” meaning it resembles Plato’s philosophy. While some are better known, such as Socratic or Buddhist, others are more obscure, so here is a list—somewhat chronological—of philosophers’ eponyms! (Of course, seeing as there are hundreds of philosophers, some will not be mentioned).

Presocratic/Eastern

Xenophanic: Pertaining to Xenophanes of Colon
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Pythagorean: Pertaining to Pythagoras of Samos

Buddhist: Pertaining to The Buddha

Heraclitean: Pertaining to Heraclitus

Confucian: Pertaining to Confucius
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Parmenidean: Pertaining to Parmenides

Empedoclean: Pertaining to Empedocles of Acragas

Democritean: Pertaining to Democritus of Abdera

Prodicean: Pertaining to Prodicus

Protagorean: Pertaining to Protagoras

Classic

Socratic: Pertaining to Socrates

Platonic: Pertaining to Plato

Aristotelian: Pertaining to Aristotle
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Hellenistic

Stoic: Pertaining to Stoics
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Epicurean: Pertaining to Epicurus

Cynic: Pertaining to Cynics

Pyrrhonian: Pertaining to Pyrrho

Plotinian: Pertaining to Plotinus

Imperial/Roman

Ciceronian: Pertaining to Cicero

Senecan: Pertaining to Seneca the Younger

Lucretian: Pertaining to Lucretius

Plutarchian: Pertaining to Plutarch

Augustinian: Pertaining to St. Augustine
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What Was Orphism?

Unknown.jpegBack in Ancient Greece, religion was a critical part of daily life. In addition to their rich, extensive mythology, the Greeks could be initiated into mysteries, secretive and occult groups, almost like secret societies, such as the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries. The groups all coexisted, and they all had unique rituals, and some taught different stories about the creation of the world. The idea of reincarnation, thought outlandish by some, is actually a commonly accepted belief practiced worldwide, and one particular creed in Greece, called Orphism, played a monumental role in Greek culture, not to mention philosophy, its teachings adopted by Pythagoras and even as far as Plato. Little can be said about the creation of the group, no less about the founder; further, the literature that is attributed to the society is scant, and authors have yet to be identified.


According to Orphic cosmological tradition, the universe was conceived of in a cosmic egg. In other words, the cosmos was initially an embryo, self-contained, which at a certain point hatched, the upper half of the egg forming the Heavens, the lower, Earth. There was chaos at first. Then, the three realms—Heaven, Earth, and Sea—were bound by Æther. This substance, described as the fifth element by Aristotle, was like a belt that held the three realms together tightly, creating a compact universe. The Orphics believed in an omnipotent creator, a demiurge, whom they called Phanes, who was the embodiment of both male and female, and thus the objective progenitor of humanity. img_phanes.jpgPhanes was the mightiest of the deities, the god of all gods, until he was devoured by Zeus—a common motif in Greek mythology. It is considered by scholars that this creation story was most likely inspired by contemporary civilizations like Egypt, India, and Babylon, each of which had a creation story of the almost exact structure. Orphism was named after the mythical musician Orpheus, who, so skilled at playing the lyre he could lull rocks and Hades’ three-headed dog Cerberus, tried to retrieve his wife from the Underworld under the condition that he not look at her. He failed in the end and was killed by mænads, passionate followers of Dionysus. The actual religious foundations for the society derive from another myth: that of Dionysus. Born to Zeus and Persephone, Dionysus was dismembered and eaten by the Titans. An angered Zeus struck the Titans with his thunderbolt, disintegrating them, and reviving from their ashes a reincarnated Dionysus, along with man.

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Man, born divine and depraved, half-god and half-Titan, was therefore impure. His holy blood from Dionysus’ ashes was tainted with the blood of the corrupt Titans. This mirrors the Christian doctrine of original sin in that it assigns man an innate evil that is up to him to remove, through virtuous action. For this reason, the Orphics thought the body (soma, σωμα) was a tomb (sema, σημα). The body was an impediment, something of which to be ridden, as it reminded man of his corporeality, as opposed to his spirituality, his imperfection, as opposed to his perfection. Plato attested, “I have heard a philosopher [Pythagoras] say that at this moment we are actually dead, and that the body is our tomb…”.[1] To the Orphics, the body was on the same plane of being dead; so tainted is it, that it is like a sarcophagus. Only through certain religious rituals could an individual temporarily transcend his earthly tomb and become one with his divinity. During rituals, the goers would try to enter a state of “enthusiasm,” or an intense and passionate fervor, usually achieved through music, dance, or meditation. The objective of the participant was to escape his body, to relinquish his consciousness, to relieve his sense of self, and to unite with his divine side, in an attempt to reunite with God. Thus, Orphics tried to induce ecstasy, which means etymologically “to stand outside oneself”—literally to escape oneself. In the afterlife, said the Orphics, the soul would be put through judgment, where it would be subject to rigorous testing to see whether its bodily owner was virtuous or not. Sinners would be punished accordingly. The luckier ones had to face Hades, while those who were worse off would be reincarnated until they purified their soul. On the other hand, those who properly tended to their soul were able to be reunited with the World-soul, an overarching, all-inclusive spirit that permeated the world—a pantheistic spirit—from which they came. Central to Orphic doctrine was metempsychosis, a nice way of saying reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul. This concept is similar to the Buddhist idea of Samsara, the wheel of rebirth: If, when we die, we have not balanced our Karma, we are condemned to another life, ad infinitum, until we do so.


When one brings up Orphism, the next topic that will come up, most probably, would be Pythagoreanism, the philosophical brotherhood started by Pythagoras, inventor of the Pythagorean Theorem, since he took many of their doctrines and implemented them into his teachings. Historians accredit Pythagoras with being the first to call himself a philosopher; as such, he took philosophy seriously, considering it a way of life. To him, the happy life was one of contemplation; philosophy was a theoretical life, lived in Unknown-2.jpeginquiry, in discussion, in experimentation. He is said to have “intellectualized” Orphism, applying scientific thinking and reasoning to its beliefs, making it a viable way of life, rather than a mystery. Again, we have Plato to testify: “[T]hey say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but never destroyed. And the moral is, that man ought to live always in perfect holiness.”[2] Here, Plato describes the ethical system of Orphism, explaining the idea of purification, which is required if one wants to join the World-soul. Moreover, he sets up the idea of the immortality of the soul advocated by Pythagoras—an idea that Socrates would have taught him and that would play a crucial role in his philosophy. The soul exists eternally and can never be destroyed; if it is impure at the end of its body’s life, it is to take the body of a new person, and then another, until purification; if, however, at death, the soul is pure, it can go to the World-soul. This last sequence can be detected in Platonic thought in the Phædrus. If Pythagoras considered philosophy a way of life, if a good life was one of purity, what then did purification look like, and what good did philosophy do anyone? For Pythagoreans, a virtuous life consisted of dutiful moral responsibility and ascetic self-constraint. The body, remember, was a tomb, but the soul was holy and needed to be pure if it wanted to return to divinity; hence, the life of the Pythagorean was dedicated to caring for and tending to the soul, cautious not to commit any vices. In the afterlife, the soul was judged by its scars, which of course were not physical, but spiritual, symbolic of the vices of which the body was guilty. Based on this belief, the soul was of paramount importance and took precedence over the well-being of the body.


One of the key beliefs of the Pythagoreans, derived from Orphism, was the transmigration of the soul. In fact, there are several stories about Pythagoras and his belief therein. “Once they said that he [Pythagoras] was passing by when a puppy was being whipped, and he took pity and said: Stop, do not beat it; for it is the soul of a friend that I recognized when I heard it giving tongue,” reported Xenophanes.[3] In this story, Pythagoras remembered the voice of a friend of his and reasoned that his soul must have been reincarnated as a dog. Pythagoras was famously a vegetarian. Anyone who joined qm1428642438.jpgthe Pythagorean creed was a vegetarian, on the basis that animals could be the host of either a friend’s or an ancestor’s soul. Similarly, beans were to be refrained from, for Pythagoras said they were the seeds from which humans were birthed. To eat a bean, was to eat a fellow human. Interestingly, it is worth pointing out that, according to legend, Pythagoras died because he was chased to a bean field by an angry mob, and, not wanting to trample the beans, decided to surrender himself to the mob instead. The eating of meat or beans was called Adikia (αδικια). It was a grave vice. Plato recounts, “[M]en are said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things.”[4] Orphism was practically synonymous with vegetarianism as a result. The Pythagoreans, it can be entertained, were pantheistic, insofar as they believed all life was interconnected, like a web, which was connected to Unknown-3.jpegthe World-soul, of which all living things were a part. Another story in Pythagorean tradition tells of a man named Æthalides who was bestowed by Hermes the gift of being able to remember his past lives. Upon passing, he was reincarnated as Euphorbus, who was slain by Menelaus in the Trojan War; his soul went to Hermotimus, who went to a temple and allegedly pointed out the shield used by Menelaus, proving he was Euphorbus in his previous life; then, Hermotimus died and became Pyrrhus; and finally, the soul went on to inhabit yours truly, Pythagoras. Pythagoras urged his followers every night to go through their previous day, recalling as much detail as possible, as a way of strengthening their memory, whereby they could eventually remember as far back as their own previous lives. Herodotus also mentions a strange ritual practiced by the Pythagoreans in his Histories:

Nothing of woolen, however, is taken into their temples or buried with them, as their religion forbids it. Here their practice resembles the rites called Orphic and Bacchic, but which are in reality Egyptian and Pythagorean; for no one initiated into these mysteries can be buried in a woolen shroud, a religious reason being assigned for the observance.[5]

Another Presocratic philosopher who borrowed from Orphic thought was Empedocles, the originator of the four elements, who claimed, “For by now I have been born a boy, girl, plant, bird, and dumb seafish.”[6] It is important to note how exactly Pythagoras—and Empedocles for that matter—came into knowledge, specifically, of the Orphic teachings, and generally, his own teachings. Scholar Theodor Gomperz suggested that Unknown-4.jpegPythagoras was influenced by nearby civilizations, like Egypt, Babylon, and India; as I explained earlier, the creation stories of the Orphics, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Indians were all related. Of these traditions, Gomperz said, India was most likely the connection. After all, it is not that unreasonable, seeing as Pythagoras was a contemporary of the Buddha through the 6th- and 5th-centuries BC. More evidence is that during this time, India and Greece were united under Cyrus’ Persian Empire, meaning there were definitive interactions between the two. The similarities between Pythagoreanism and Buddhism are numerous, from the shared tradition of vegetarianism to the theory of reincarnation.


Conclusively, Orphism, while now outdated, impacted ancient civilization on a considerable scale, having been used by Pythagoras, the Buddha, Empedocles, and Plato. Categorizing Orphism is as difficult as categorizing Buddhism, as it is neither a religion nor a philosophy in its proper sense, although it does share some characteristics of the ritualistic mysteries of Ancient Greece, along with its literature. The practices of vegetarianism, pantheism, and immortality and transmigration of the soul, while seemingly foreign to the Western world—the latter two more so—have undeniably defined Western culture.

 


[1] Plato, Gorgias, 493a
[2] Plato, Meno, 81a
[3] Diogenes Läertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, 8.36.12-15
[4] Plato, Laws, VII, 782c
[5] Herodotus, Histories, II.81
[6] Empedocles, 117

 

For further reading: Philosophic Classics: Ancient Philosophy by Forrest E. Baird (2000)
A History of Ancient Western Philosophy by Joseph Owens (1959)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 6 by Paul Edwards (1967)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 7 by Paul Edwards (1967)
A History of Philosophy Vol. 1 by Frederick Copleston (1993)
The Greek Thinkers Vol. 1 by Theodor Gomperz (1964)
The Story of Civilization Vol. 2 by Will Durant (1966)
The Dream of Reason  by Anthony Gottlieb (2013)
History of Philosophy by Julian Marías (1967)
Socrates to Sartre by Enoch S. Stumpf (1982)

When we have our own why of life, we shall get along with almost any how

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 3.45.43 PM.pngAs Victor Frankl wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” once man finds meaning in life, he can endure anything, for it awards him the utmost happiness and equanimity in life. Once we have a reason to wake up in the morning, we will never have to worry again. We can do anything knowing there is a greater purpose waiting for us. To get out of bed in the morning without a “why” is purposeless, and frankly, a waste of life. You do not need to have found your passion to have a “why”: perhaps you simply enjoy being with others. Consequently, upon finding meaning, we can endure anything, as the knowledge of fulfillment is always with us.

There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes to have clean dishes, and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 11.37.03 AMWhen we do an activity, usually a tedious and repetitious one, whether it be a chore or a job, we tend to do it “for” something. In the above quote, we wash the dishes so we have clean dishes, but by thinking this, we automatically say that the activity itself is useless, meaningless, and that we do it only because it has a result. By saying this, we devalue the act, and we do it with another end we desire in mind. Because we focus on the end result and the end result alone, we instantly vaporize any pleasure from the activity; it is merely a way of getting something else, so it is of less importance. However, this makes the process more difficult, as it has no purpose anymore, and we are relieved only when we get what we wanted in the end. If, however, we do the process for the sake of the process, if we clean the dishes for the sake of cleaning the dishes, we will be more disposed to doing it, and the smaller things in life will be more enjoyable.

If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 3.37.17 PMWe must change ourselves before we can change others. We must treat others how we want to be treated. When we expect something in others, when we want others to act a certain way, it is expected that you act just the same, for actions speak louder than words. To want things to be a certain way, is different than things actually being a certain way; so if you want to be treated with respect, treat others with respect. There is no reason to be dour or be offended if you don’t like how someone acts toward you; clearly, what they were lacking is evident in your behavior, too. Therefore, be the one who sets an example, and others will follow.

To look at everything always as though you were seeing it for the first or last time: This is your time on earth filled with glory

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 3.33.12 PMAs conscious beings, rarely are we conscious of the world around us. We take for granted the reality in which we find ourselves, forgetting to be curious about nature, neglecting the most beautiful of objects, whether they be in nature or even at home. Everything has a beauty to it—the trees, the endless blue sky, even your bed! When we were young, we were fascinated by the simplest of things, but now in our complex lives, which are full of distractions and technology, we fail to see the sublimity of the life around us. Similarly, were we to find out we had a day to live, we would experience everything as best as we could, to say our goodbyes to the world and to our loved ones. Therefore, every morning, when you wake up, go outside and pretend as though you were seeing everything for either the first or last time. Wonder makes life worth living.

Athletics in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece is remembered for many things, among them philosophy, science, architecture, and drama. Rich in culture and diversity, the Greek city-states were the perfect place for new innovations and achievements. In addition to the intellectual climate, the Greeks were famous for their athletics as well. In Ancient Greece, the athlete received just as much honor as the intellectual, and thus the mental and the physical flourished together. Of the athletic achievements in Greece, the most notable are the Olympics. The Games saw the coming together of the city-states in a collective embrace of the athlete and his feats. And outside of the Olympics, the Greeks continued their love for sport.


Unknown.jpegThe first Olympics, it is said, were held in 776 BCE, its purpose not athletic but religious. When the Olympics were first conceived, the Greeks intended for it to be a religious ceremony, a way for them to honor Zeus. Introducing athletics into the Olympics was a way of pleasing the Gods, as the performance, they hoped, would entertain the gods. However, the ceremony was not wholly religious in that the Greeks did it also to celebrate their humanism, specifically that of which the body was capable. Athletic achievement was one of the highest honors; it showed to what discipline and dedication could lead, and it inspired others by example. Originally, the competitions extended only to foot races and wrestling. Only later were horse and chariot racing, boxing, and javelin added. The popularity of the Games grew thereafter, and in 582 BCE Delphi initiated the Pythian Games; a year later, Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games; and in 573 BCE, Nemea had their own Olympic Games. Popular legend says the marathon is derived from the historical battle of the same name. The historian Herodotus recorded that the Greeks “sent off to Sparta a herald, one Pheidippides, who was by birth an Athenian, and by profession and practice a trained runner…. The Athenians… established in his honour yearly sacrifices and a torch-race.”[1] Pheidippides gave word to Sparta that Athens had defeated a massive Persian army, running 26 miles, it is said, in a day, which led to the creation of the modern-day marathon. In 394, the Olympic Games were outlawed by Theodosius.


Unknown-1.jpegThe standard performance was the Pentathlon, a five-event competition consisting of the broad jump, discus, javelin, wrestling, and 200-yard dash. Jumpers would begin at a stand still, dumbbells in hand, and leap; discus throwers used 12lb-weights; wrestlers were graded by referees based on takedowns and form; and the dash was called the stadion (σταδιον), since it was the length of a stadium. Running in Ancient Greece was comparably tantamount to today, with up to three events: the diaulos (διαυλος), a single lap around a stadium; the dolichos (δολιχος), 12 laps around a stadium; and the images.jpegarmor race, which was adapted from military training, and was a race in which the competitors sprinted with a full suit of armor on. Evidence of marble sprinting blocks can be found in stadiums, dilapidated, worn-down, from repeated usage. Boxing was a popular sport, more so than today, and attracted large audiences. Hide gloves that extended to the elbows were worn by boxers, and hits were restricted to the head alone. There were no rounds; the winner was determined by whoever surrendered first. Unlike modern boxing, the Greeks did not compete based on weight classes, so the competition devolved from a sport of skill to a sport of pure brawn and muscle. A hippodrome, built specifically for horse-racing, was constructed for the Olympics, the arena wide enough for 10 four-horse chariots to race at once, everyone scrambling around the 23 turns that awaited them at every corner. To the enjoyment of the crowd, this affair would usually end with one racer making it to the Unknown-2.jpegfinish line successfully—the others, due both to the lack of space and tight corners, all wiping out. Like today, this event caught the attention of rich bidders, who would bet on horses; if their bet paid off, they—not the racer—got the horse. More popular than all the other events combined was the pankration (παγκρατιον), which translates to “all-strength.” This event was a mix of boxing and wrestling. The only rules were no stomping and no finger-breaking. Gory tales of famous pankratiasts survive, some accounts telling of one who killed his opponent by ripping out his innards. Women were not allowed to compete in the Olympic Games, so they got their own version: the Heraea, which had but one event, which was running.


Today, athletes have four years to train for the Olympics, whereas the Greeks had 10-months of training. Athletes trained in gymnasiums (γυμνασιον) or xystos (ξυστος), a type of colonnade. Wrestlers had their own training grounds called palæstra (παλαιστρα). Runners, on the other hand, trained outside. “They [athletes] also set the Artist-re-creation-of-ancient-wrestling.jpgexample of contending naked, publicly stripping and anointing themselves with oil in their gymnastic exercises. Formerly, even in the Olympic contests, the athletes who contended wore belts across their middles,” wrote Thucydides [2]. A shocking fact to some, the Greeks competed naked, covering themselves in olive oil to prevent themselves from getting dirtied from the mud, as well as to make themselves more mobile and slippery. Married women were not allowed to spectate during the games, but girls were allowed to because then they could find future husbands. Every city-state came to a truce during the Games, even if they were in the middle of the war, because everyone looked forward to the games, which occurred every four years, like today. The city-states even had separate games for younger athletes, those who were not yet matured. Olympia and Pythia had a boys division, and Nemea and Isthmia had an intermediate (ageneioi, αγενειοι) competition. So competitive were the Greeks that they had only first place prizes; there was no second or third, nor was there a team prize; the individual athlete had his time to shine in the Olympics—it was, after all, a celebration of the body and human excellence. The Greek roots athlon-, meaning prize, and agon-, meaning game, from which comes agony and antagonist, all embodied suffering. The agonistic games were not meant for fun for the athletes; rather, they were vigorous, challenging tests that put them to their limits, forcing them to endure more. Each Game, it is estimated 40-50,000 spectators came from around Greece, and each athlete was announced by their name, followed by their home city.


Upon winning an event, the victor would be crowned. The Olympia gave out olive wreaths, Pythia laurel, and Isthmia and Nemea parsley. Those who won were awarded lavishly. Plutarch said Solon had a handsome reward for those who got first: “[T]he victor in the Isthmian games was to have for reward an hundred drachmas; the conqueror in the Olympian, five hundred.”[3] During the winner’s celebration they were showered in leaves (phyllobolia, φυλλοβολια), given free food for a lifetime by their home polis (sitesis, συτησις), awarded with all kinds of gifts, promised free seats at future Unknown-3.jpegGames (prohedria, προεδρια), praised by poets, made into sculptures, and bestowed the honor of having their name engraved into the corridors which led to the arena. The Persians, when they witnessed the Olympic Games, purportedly remarked that the Greeks were “men who contend with one another, not for money, but for honour!”[4] It was strange to them, that these people would commit themselves to such arduous training, to fight their brethren for their namesake, and not out of anticipation of compensation. But according to Homer, “there is no greater glory that can befall a man than what he achieves by speed of his feet or strength of his hands.”[5] Those who lost at the Olympics, understandably, fell victim to depression and carried with them tremendous shame, a stigma which stuck with them through life.


During childhood, children would play in ball rooms (sphairisteria, σφαιριστερια), where they would play, you might guess, ball. It is thought that they played a version of wall ball, in which they would bounce a ball, either on the wall or on the ground, catch it, then throw it back. Evidence also shows that they might have had their own version of lacrosse. With sticks with nets at the end, they would play on two teams, each trying to get the ball past the other. Youths had trainers of their own, paidotribai (παιδοτριβαι) and gymnastai (γυμνασται), who respectively were the equivalent of wrestling coaches and physical educators. Some other games they played were khytrinda, a variation of monkey-in-the-middle and tag; posinda, a guessing game; and drapinda, which was like duck-duck-goose, where the objective was to catch the other children, who pretended to be “runaway slaves.”


Amidst the philosophical contemplation, political strife, and cultural growth, the Ancient Greeks found the time to enjoy their four-yearly Olympic Games that united all the city-states, reminding them of the common joy they shared for athletic competitiveness and glory. Victory odes from poets are plenteous and tell of the greatest athletes, all of whom trained hard, fought hard, and won hard. Sometimes we forget how similar we are to the Ancients, who once you think about them, are not so far of from us as we think: We share the same love of athletics and the same appreciation for the wonders the body can do when put to the test.


[1] Herodotus, The Histories, VI.105
[2] Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, I.6
[3] Plutarch, Twelve Lives, p. 99
[4] Herodotus, op. cit., VIII.26
[5] Homer, The Odyssey, VIII.145

For further reading: Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History 2nd ed. by Sarah B. Pomeroy (2008)
The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization by Simon Hornblower (1998)
The Story of Civilization Vol. 2: The Life of Greece by Will Durant (1966)
Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture Vol. 1 by Werner Jaeger (1945)
The Story of Man: Greece and Rome by Paul MacKendrick (1977)
The Western Experience 6th ed. by Mortimer Chambers (1995)
The Founders of the Western World by Michael Grant (1991)
The History of the Peloponnesian War
by Thucydides (1990)

The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox (2006)
The Histories by Herodotus (1990)
Twelve Lives by Plutarch (1950)
The Odyssey by Homer (1990)
The Illiad by Homer (1990)

Who was Pierre Hadot?

Unknown-1.jpegPierre Hadot was born in Reims, France on February 21, 1922, to a Catholic family. Raised in a Catholic household, Hadot would be influenced in his views later in life by such beliefs, although he soon renounced his religious beliefs, finding them incompatible with his life. His experience with Catholicism, however, would not be completely over, as it would play a bigger role when he began studying mysticism. When studying at college, Hadot befriended the eminent Aquinas scholar Jacques Maritain, who was prolific in his works. Thomism is a combination of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism, and through working with Maritain, Hadot developed a fascination with ancient and medieval philosophy and mysticism. It was around this time in Hadot’s life that he began questioning his faith. He got started in Biblical criticism, asking himself whether Catholicism was viable as a way of life and whether ancient manuscripts could still be understood in the modern age.


From 1942-6, Hadot claimed he went through a “metaphysical phase,” in which he turned his attention to religious mysticism, specifically the Gnosticism of Plotinus, a post-Unknown-2.jpegPlatonic philosopher who had a considerable influence on Christianity. Hadot went to the Sorbonne for two years, from 1946-7, where he found Existentialism, Marxism, and Bergsonism, each of which would have a profound effect on his thinking. Some important lessons Hadot learned from his times there were praxis, perception, and experience, respectively. It was important to Hadot that philosophy be centered around action, and that we pay attention to how we perceive the world, how we experience it individually. In the same year, Hadot collaborated with Paul Henry on a translation and commentary of a work by the Neoplatonist Marius Victorinus, a thitherto untranslated author, earning him acclaim in the intellectual world. Hadot had the honor of writing the commentary by himself, which sparked his love for philology—the study of ancient texts—and the works of ancient philosophers. Just as with the Bible, Hadot wondered whether old texts could be used in daily life.


Hadot’s early writings took place between the period of 1957-68. He read Heidegger and Wittgenstein in the late 1950’s, and the latter again in 1960; he was particularly
influenced by Wittgenstein’s
Tractatus, a favorite quote of his being, “There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.” Hadot was the first author to introduce Wittgenstein to French audiences. It was in 1957 that Hadot got into Plotinian philosophy, and his first book came out six years later, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision, at the urging of his colleagues. From there, he continued writing commentaries on Plato and Plotinus before switching to Hellenistic philosophy. He moved away from Plato, focusing instead on Stoicism and Epicureanism—two schools that offered a practical way of life, he felt. Hadot received his diploma from the École Pratique de Hautes Études (The Practical School of Higher Studies) in 1961. The same year, he was elected to the Fifth Section: Religious Sciences; three years later, he became the director thereof. Then, in 1982, Hadot was awarded the prestigious position of chair of History of Hellenistic and Roman Thought at the Collège de France; he got this position without going to the École Normale Supérieure, to which most professors are expected to go before getting such a title.


Hadot did not like the way philosophy was taught in school. Too much time and effort was wasted on the theoretical and the abstract, rather than the practical and the concrete. Dialectic and discussion were valued more than practice. The scholarly Unknown-4.jpegenvironment of schools, he thought, created a cloud of obscurity over the name of philosophy. Hadot believed in living in harmony with the world and with others, a view he adopted from his extensive studies of Stoicism. When asked about how to use spiritual exercises in our daily life, Hadot replied, “We must … use striking formulations of ideas in order to exhort ourselves. We must create habits, and fortify ourselves by preparing ourselves against hardships in advance.”[1] This quote also expresses Hadot’s opinions on reason. According to Hadot, man should use his reason to perfect himself, to “exercise” himself, so to say. Spiritual exercises, for Hadot, were about perfecting the character and living life to its fullest.


At the age of 88, Pierre Hadot died on April 24, 2010, with 15 books to his name. His most famous works are Philosophy as a Way of Life, What is Ancient Philosophy?, The Inner Citadel, and, of course, his first book, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision. Thanks to Hadot, philosophy has been studied in a new direction, a direction of which he would be proud, which sees philosophy not as abstract reasoning, but as a manière de vivre, a way of life. Through his brilliant interpretation of ancient manuscripts, insightful commentaries on obscure authors, and fresh style of writing, Hadot reinvented the study of philosophy, making it accessible to all readers. Philosophy, the love of wisdom, was, in Hadot’s eyes, an endless quest for the truth, for the best way of living, from Socrates to Foucault. Overall, looking at Hadot’s life, it is evident philosophy was, for him, a way of life.

 


[1] Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, p. 284

 

For further reading: Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot (1995)

Existential Moods

Unknown.jpegIn our everyday lives, we tend to throw around the words “anxiety,””dread,” and “despair” interchangeably, substituting one for the other, as in the anxiety we feel before a test, or the dread of losing a competition. These words, in particular, are taken to be the same expression of uneasiness and uncomfortableness, so they find themselves being used frequently and incorrectly. However, these words are each separated by a nuance, and they find their roots, surprisingly, in Existential philosophy, deriving from such eminent thinkers as Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger, all of whom investigated the essence of man’s existence and his place in the universe. In this post, I will be exploring the philosophical significance of the following moods: angst/anxiety/dread, despair, anguish, forlornness, and nausea.


Christian Existentialist Søren Kierkegaard wrote in 1844 The Concept of Anxiety, in which he put forth his theory regarding angst, coining the new word, which he developed as a sort of philosophical anxiety. Unlike fear, dread is intransitive; it has no object. Fear is fear of something, whereas dread is of nothing, literally. It is absurd, yet gripping nonetheless, as he describes it as both appealing and discouraging, like curiosity, to the extent that it draws you in, although you do not know what it is. In this sense, it is a fear of the unknown, but the mere thought of it still piques your interest. Therefore, anxiety results from an ignorance, or naïveté, of a sort. Kierkegaard stated that anxiety is the precursor to sin. He says the first instance of anxiety can be found in Adam, who, told by God not eat from the tree, was enticed by what would happen, knowing he would have no way of knowing what would happen otherwise, if he had not. Accordingly, Kierkegaard defined the feeling as follows: “[D]read is freedom’s reality as possibility for possibility”[1] and “the alarming possibility of being able.”[2] Anxiety, then, is the realization of one’s unbridled freedom. The fact that we are able to make choices at any time, that there is a possibility for us to make possibilities, gives us the ability to do anything we desire. Adam had no knowledge of good and evil before eating the apple, so it was impossible for him to know images.jpegnot to eat from it; as such, he was faced with a choice: obey God or risk eating the apple, to see what happens. The same fascination that occurs in a child occurs in Adam, as he knows he probably should not, but when he is told No, he becomes all the more interested. Famously, Kierkegaard declared, “Thus dread is the dizziness of freedom,” by which he meant that the tremendous freedom we are awarded is often overwhelming.[3] The fact that we can do whatever, whenever, is frightening, and it produces within us a dizzying effect, for we know that whatever we do will have an irreversible effect. However, dread is not entirely negative; rather, it helps us after we experience it. When we are placed in a dilemma in which we encounter anxiety, we become aware of ourselves as actors, and we realize the importance of decision-making, so every time we make choices, we learn from them, and they, in effect, influence our future decisions—of course, Kierkegaard puts it much more eloquently:

[H]e who is educated by possibility remains with dread, does not allow himself to be deceived by its countless counterfeits, he recalls the past precisely; then at last the attacks of dread, though they are fearful, are not such that he flees from them. For him dread becomes a serviceable spirit which against its will leads whither he would go. Then when it announces itself, when it craftily insinuates that it has invented a new instrument of torture far more terrible than anything employed before, he does not recoil, still less does he attempt to hold it off with clamor and noise, but he bids it welcome, he hails it solemnly, as Socrates solemnly flourished the poisoned goblet, he shuts himself up with it, he says, as a patient says to the surgeon when a painful operation is about to begin, “Now I am ready.”[4]

For Jean-Paul Sartre, anxiety took the form of responsibility. We experience anxiety whenever we make a decision, reflecting on the possible consequences it may carry. Every action, we must remember, will have an effect, not only on ourselves, but on others and the environment. There are other people who will be affected by our decisions, and they, too, will be making decisions that will impact us. Martin Heidegger concurred with Kierkegaard regarding the nature of dread. He identified dread with no object, claiming dread was the confrontation between pure Being and negation, Nothingness. To Heidegger, dread is a matter of distinguishing the authentic from the inauthentic. In our everyday life, we are in condition Heidegger called “Verfallenheit,” or “fallenness,” which refers to the trivialization of our lives. Because we are thrown, as Heidegger liked to say, into life, we are forced to conform, since we find comfort in doing so. We lose our individuality to das Man, or the average, inauthentic personality, becoming just another, ordinary person, not unique in any way. This state of being thrown results in Verfallenheit, and we forget about who we are and why we are here, surrendering to our boring, repetitive routines, until we are authentic no more. It is only through dread, Heidegger argued, that we can become aware of ourselves as beings-in-Unknown-2.jpegthe world. Dread is like a memento mori. “But the state-of-mind which can hold open the utter and constant threat to itself arising from Dasein’s [an individual] ownmost individualized Being, is anxiety,” Heidegger said.[5] Since Heidegger said dread was confrontation with Nothingness, and since Nothingness to us means death, the absence of self, it means dread is confrontation with our own deaths. When Heidegger talked about death, he meant it in the most serious way; he showed contempt for today’s society, which makes death seem less serious than it really is—“This ordinary hackneyed Nothing, so completely taken for granted and rolling off the tongue so casually.”[6] He criticized our culture for denying the reality of death, because whenever we speak of the death, we say it will inevitably come, just not yet, not at this moment. What vexed Heidegger was the fact that death is the most certain thing in each of our lives, and it can happen at any moment, even when we do not expect it. Death, Heidegger believed, is our most personal possession, the only thing that cannot be taken from us; one can take our material positions, one can take our pride, one can even take our own life, yet even in the last case, it is we who die, so our death is reserved for us alone. Because of this unique property of ours, Heidegger called humans “Sein-und-Tode,” or “Beings-toward-death,” as we are always on our way to death. In this way, Heidegger assured us we all have a “freedom to death” (“Freiheit zum Tode”).


The second most common of these words is probably despair, usually used to signify hopelessness. Kierkegaard thought despair was instead an unacceptance of the self in his 1849 book The Sickness Unto Death. Throughout our life, we come at points in our life where do not like ourselves, either out of ignorance or rejection. In the case of the former, we usually do not find who we are until later in life; until then, we are ignorant of our true nature, and since we do not even know our own identities, we hate ourselves; unfortunately, we are stuck with ourselves, so there is no point in despairing, Kierkegaard warned. In the case of the latter, it is the opposite. Eventually, we find out Unknown-3.jpegwho we are, or we find out for what we are destined or about what we are passionate, and as a result, we do not like who we are or for what we are destined; this, too, leads to despair, as we do not want to live with ourselves. If we find that we have a personality or vocation we would rather not have, we trick ourselves into thinking it is the personality or vocation itself with which we are unsatisfied, but it is really us with whom we have a problem. We want to change ourselves and be someone else, but this, Kierkegaard said, is cowardly, and we should accept and love ourselves for who we are. Despair for Sartre is manifest in our dependence upon the world. Oftentimes we like to count on Life to play by our rules, or we expect it to do what we want it to. Life, however, does not play by our rules, nor does it work in our favor. Meaning is internalized, not externalized, Sartre asserted. Deriving meaning or morality from the world is not a reliable method, nor a dependable one; we need to derive meaning from ourselves. Imagine planning an outdoor party and accounting for the weather perfectly; the success of your party depends entirely on the weather, about which you are confident; you place your trust in the weather forecast as a result; however, when the date comes, the part is ruined because a storm comes—this is what Sartre found wrong with relying on the world to give us meaning. We cannot rely on the world. When we discover that we are alone, we despair.


Unknown-4.jpeg“[I]t is in anguish that freedom is, in its being, in question for itself,” wrote Sartre.[7] Anguish is similar to Kierkegaard’s angst in that it is the realization of one’s choices. In the above quote, Sartre explains that when we consider our freedom to make choices, we are exercising our freedom in an attempt to understand our choices. Freedom is manifest in anguish, as we become free to act of our own free will. Sartre develops anguish further as an awareness not only of choices, but of possibilities, of could-be’s. “Vertigo is anguish to the extent that I am afraid not of falling over the precipice, but of throwing myself over,” he clarified.[8] All possibilities must be considered when making a choice, because even the improbable ones can be made possible. In a rather confusing passage in Being and Nothingness, Sartre talks about possibilities. Our present state is determined by the possibilities we acknowledge, self-persevering and self-destructive, but the latter still exist as possibilities that can happen, but it is we who, acting out of self-preservation, hold out from making them actuality, and so avoid them, but it is the fact that these possibilities exist as able-to-happen that anguish occurs. Hence, anguish is the consciousness of the unpredictability of one’s future. Echoing his opinion of anxiety as well, Sartre commented, “[T]his kind of anguish,… is explained,… by a direct responsibility to the other men whom it involves.”[9]


Forlornness is not common nowadays, although it is a classic Existential mood, insofar as it is the loneliness and abandonment of man. Man is a lonely being, seeing as he is responsible for his actions and his actions alone; it is he who answers for everything he does. Everyday man has to carry this burden on his own shoulders throughout life, without help from anyone or anything. In pure Existentialism, as in Sartre and Heidegger, God does not exist, and as such, we have no outside being from which to derive our values. There is no scripture from which to read, no commandments by which we can live, nor any words of others to which we can listen, as we must pave our own paths. Meaning comes from the self. This is not like school where we can ask our peers or teachers for help. And there is certainly no reading any Self-Help books or reading famous philosophers, for wise though they may be, their words cannot be abided by, considering they do not work for everyone. According to Sartre, tradition cannot be adhered to either, because cultural norms are just the choices made by previous people, and they are not here anymore; now it is you; therefore, you must make your own norms and live by them, with no God, no aids, no guidance whatsoever. It is just you and the world.


4UYBZd1a.jpegThe feeling of nausea will be lightly be touched upon, as delineated in Sartre’s novel Nausea. A notable work of Sartre’s, Nausea tells of a man who suffers from bouts of nausea, the cause of which is the total meaninglessness of the world. To think that every day we encounter lifeless, non-conscious matter is not often considered, though when it is, it is truly nauseating. Man, a conscious being, what Sartre called the “For-itself,” constantly comes into contact with objects, non-conscious beings, what Sartre called “In-themselves.” Look around you right now and take account of every inanimate matter around you. Recognize that you are surrounded by matter—abiological, inanimate, dead, non-conscious, lifeless, inert, matter. It is when we realize the profound absurdity of life, the total and complete meaninglessness of the world around us, that we feel nauseated.


In conclusion, Existentialism is very sad—but it also provides us with a deeper view of life and the meaning of the universe, or lack thereof. Compared to their everyday usage, Existential emotions carry with them much more depth, insight, and relatability than we usually think. Occasionally, we should all reflect on Nothingness, death, despair, possibility, loneliness, and nausea so we can appreciate life more and get a deeper feel for life and perhaps be more authentic.

 


[1] Gardiner, Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, p. 311
[2] Ibid., p. 314
[3] Ibid., p. 315
[4] p. 320
[5] Heidegger, Being and Time, H. 266
[6] Heidegger, What is Metaphysics?, p. 301c*
[7] Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 35
[8] Id.
[9] Bierman, Philosophy for a New Generation, 4­­th ed., p. 396
For further reading: 
Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy 3rd ed. by Simon Blackburn (2016)
Philosophy for a New Generation 4th ed. by A.K. Bierman (1981)
Introduction to Modern Existentialism by Ernst Breisach (1962)
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy 
by Ted Honderick (1995)

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 3 by Paul Edwards (1967)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Vol. 4 by Paul Edwards (1967)
A History of Philosophy
Vol. 7 by Frederick Copleston (1994)

Philosophy: The Classics 3rd ed. by Nigel Warburton (2008)
Nineteenth-Century Philosophy by Patrick Gardiner (1969)
Dictionary of Philosophy by Thomas Mautner (2005)
Being and Nothingness
by Jean-Paul Sartre (1966)

The Philosophy Book by Will Buckingham (2011)
The Story of Philosophy by James Garvey (2012)
History of Philosophy by Julian Marías (1967)
Being and Time by Martin Heidegger (1962)

*Page in reference found in The Great Books of the Western World Vol. 55 by Mortimer J. Adler (1990)