The Four Elements
Philosophy, Not God
After Socrates’ death, Plato founded the Platonic Academy and Platonic philosophy. As Socrates had done, Plato identified virtue with knowledge. This led him to questions of epistemology on what knowledge is and how it is acquired.
Plato believed that the senses are illusionary and could not be trusted, illustrating this point with the allegory of the cave.
He thought that knowledge had to be sourced from eternal, unchanging, and perfect objects, which led to his theory of forms. Alfred North Whitehead claimed that “Philosophy is footnotes to Plato”.
Socrates had several other students who also founded schools of philosophy. Two of these were short-lived: the Eretrian school, founded by Phaedo of Elis, and the Megarian school, founded by Euclid of Megara.
Cynics and Hedonists
Two other offshoots of Plato’s line of Philosophy were: Cynicism, founded by Antisthenes, and Cyrenaicism, founded by Aristippus. Both of these school of thoughts still survives to this day.
The Cynics considered the purpose of life is to live in virtue, in agreement with nature, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, and fame, leading a simple life free from all possessions.
The Cyrenaics promoted a philosophy nearly opposite that of the Cynics, endorsing hedonism, holding that pleasure was the supreme good, especially immediate gratifications; and that people could only know their own experiences, beyond that truth was unknowable.
The final school of philosophy to be established during the Classical period was the Peripatetic school, founded by Plato’s student, Aristotle. Aristotle wrote widely about topics of philosophical concern, including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, politics, and logic.
Aristotelian logic was the first type of logic to attempt to categorize every valid syllogism. His epistemology comprised an early form empiricism. Aristotle criticized Plato’s meta-physics as being poetic metaphor, with its greatest failing being the lack of an explanation for change.
Aristotle proposed the four causes model to explain change – material, efficient, formal, and final – all of which were grounded on what Aristotle termed the “unmoved mover”.
His ethical views identified eudaimonia as the ultimate good, as it was good in itself. He thought that eudaimonia could be achieved by living according to human nature, which is to live with reason and virtue, defining virtue as the golden mean between extremes.
Aristole saw politics as the highest art, as all other pursuits are subservient to its goal of improving society. The state should aim to maximize the opportunities for the pursuit of reason and virtue through leisure, learning, and contemplation.
Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, who conquered much of the ancient Western world. Hellenization and Aristotelian philosophy have exercised considerable influence on almost all subsequent Western and Middle-Eastern philosophers.