Hellenistic Philosophy

In these episodes, Peter considers the contribution of the main schools of the Hellenistic age: the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics, and also discusses their reception in the Roman empire. Minor schools like the Cynics and Cyrenaics are also included. With interviews from James Warren, David Sedley, John Sellars, Raphael Woolf, A.A. Long and R.J. Hankinson.

 

Further Reading

A good place to start, with helpful texts and commentary is:

• Long and Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers (Cambridge: 1987), vol. 1: translations and commentary, vol.2: texts.

See also:

• K. Algra et al (eds), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge: 1999).

• J. Annas, Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind (Berkeley: 1992).

• R. Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism (Cambridge: 2010).

• M. Burnyeat and M. Schofield (eds.), Doubt and Dogmatism: Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology (Oxford: 1980).

• K. Ierodiakonou, Topics in Stoic Philosophy (Oxford: 1999).

• B. Inwood (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (Cambridge: 2003).

• A.A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy (London: 1974).

• R.W. Sharples, Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics: an Introduction to Hellenistic Philosophy
 (London: 1996).

• G. Striker, Essays on Hellenistic Epistemology and Ethics (Cambridge: 1996).

• J. Warren (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism (Cambridge: 2009).

Hellenistic Episodes:

Posted on: 30 October 2011

Peter introduces the Hellenistic philosophical schools – the Cynics, Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics – and asks how they responded to earlier thinkers.

13,428 views
7 comments
Posted on: 06 November 2011

In this episode we unleash the most outrageous ancient philosophers, Diogenes and the Cynics, and their quest to “deface the currency” by exposing the hypocrisy of Greek society.

15,546 views
5 comments
Posted on: 13 November 2011

Peter considers Aristippus and the Cyrenaics, a group of hedonistic philosophers who were in touch with their feelings… but nothing else.

10,890 views
1 comments
Posted on: 20 November 2011

Peter begins to examine the philosophy of Epicurus, focusing on his empiricist theory of knowledge and his atomic physics.

14,068 views
7 comments
Posted on: 27 November 2011

Epicurus is infamous for thinking that pleasure is the good. But surprisingly, he says the highest pleasure is mere absence of pain. In this episode, Peter enjoys the challenge of trying to understand why.

12,774 views
2 comments
Posted on: 04 December 2011

Peter considers Epicurus’ attempt to dispel the fear of death and the gods, and along the way looks at the topics of soul, atheism, and philosophy as therapy.

10,396 views
12 comments
Posted on: 11 December 2011

Lucretius’ poem On the Nature of Things sets Epicureanism into verse. Peter takes a look at its treatment of the soul, free will and the swerve and human society.

10,938 views
4 comments
Posted on: 18 December 2011

James Warren of Cambridge University talks to Peter about Epicurus, his atomism, his hedonism and the Epicurean arguments against the fear of death.

9,045 views
2 comments
Posted on: 25 December 2011

Peter arrives at the most influential of the Hellenistic schools, the Stoics, focusing on the early school from Zeno to Chrysippus, and on Stoic innovations in logic.

12,193 views
4 comments
Posted on: 01 January 2012

The Stoics think there could be a perfect sage, so wise that he is never wrong. Is this a big mistake? Peter investigates their epistemology to find out.

10,349 views
4 comments
Posted on: 08 January 2012

Peter looks at the Stoic idea of god, a providential fire that pervades nature, and considers their idea of a deterministic and eternally recurring cosmos.

9,984 views
1 comments
Posted on: 15 January 2012

Peter considers two of the Stoics’ most challenging ideas, a determinism that leaves room for moral responsibility, and the ideal of an ethically perfect sage.

13,984 views
32 comments
Posted on: 22 January 2012

David Sedley of Cambridge University chats with Peter about the development of the Stoic school, from the early days to the imperial age.

11,484 views
Posted on: 29 January 2012

Peter starts to explore the Roman Stoics, beginning with Seneca and the Stoic attitude towards the emotions.

12,079 views
5 comments
Posted on: 05 February 2012

The greatest of the Roman Stoics is Epictetus, arguably the first thinker to discuss the nature of human will, and author of some of the most powerful and demanding ethical writings in history.

10,260 views
8 comments
Posted on: 12 February 2012

The life and thought of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and author of the classic text of Stoic self-examination, the Meditations.

11,503 views
4 comments
Posted on: 19 February 2012

Peter chats about Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus with John Sellars, an expert on Roman Stoicism and the reception of Stoicism in the early modern era.

10,229 views
6 comments
Posted on: 26 February 2012

Peter turns to the final major Hellenistic school, the Skeptics, beginning with Pyrrho and the question of how ancient skepticism compares to modern skepticism.

11,273 views
3 comments
Posted on: 04 March 2012

Under Arcesilaus and Carneades, Plato’s Academy took a skeptical turn, casting doubt on the possibility of knowledge. But was their skepticism skeptical enough?

7,809 views
11 comments
Posted on: 11 March 2012

Cicero’s philosophical works are invaluable records of Hellenistic thought. But what kind of philosopher was Cicero himself?

9,231 views
7 comments
Posted on: 18 March 2012

Peter talks to Raphael Woolf about the method and philosophical allegiance of Cicero, focusing on the work On Ends (De Finibus).

7,548 views
3 comments
Posted on: 25 March 2012

Sextus Empiricus, the last great ancient skeptic, expounds a radical branch of the tradition called Pyrrhonism. Peter raises some doubts about how to interpret him.

9,040 views
Posted on: 01 April 2012

Leading Hellenistic philosophy scholar Tony Long talks to Peter about the self, ethics and politics in the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics.

8,530 views
2 comments
Posted on: 08 April 2012

The ancient relationship between medicine and philosophy culminates in Galen, who passes judgment on the three main “sects”: rationalism, empiricism and methodism.

8,062 views
Posted on: 15 April 2012

Jim Hankinson, a leading expert on philosophical themes in Galen, joins Peter to discuss this greatest doctor of the ancient world.

8,135 views