6: Hellenistic Philosophy



Freedom from Want
Norman Rockwell

Key Terms


  • Read and analyze a description of philosophical thought
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between Hellenistic philosophy
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism.

I. Historical Context

  • Athens no longer center of Greek Culture
  • Macedon comes to power under Phillip II
  • Phillip unifies Greece (except for Sparta) in the League of Corinth
  • Assassinated in 336 BCE
  • Son, Alexander the Great succeeds him
  • Alexander conquers most of the known world

II. Epicureanism


When I eat, I eat with friends;
only a wolf dines alone.

What are these ads really selling?

  • A. What Makes Us Happy?
    • Friendship / Comraderie
    • Freedom / Self-Sufficiency
    • Thought / Philosophy (see: On Truth)
  • B. How to Achieve Happiness?
    • Happiness comes from placing value on the right things
    • Prioritizing
      • What is natural and necessary
      • What is natural but unnecessary
      • What is neither natural nor necessary
    • Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation
    • Facebook vs. Reality
    • How to identify what we need
      • Identify a project for happiness
      • Imagine you don’t get it:
        • Could you still be happy without it?
        • Could you be unhappy even if you do get it?
      • If either answer is yes, it is not a natural + necessary need

III. Stoicism


We are mistaken if we believe
any part of the world is exempt
and safe.

Example of Stoicism

  • A. The Stoics
    • Zeno of Citium
      • Know thyself (c.f. Socrates/Plato)
      • Live according to nature (c.f. Aristotle)
      • Seek moderation in all things
      • We are all interconnected through the Logos (c.f. Plato)
      • All have opinions, but must yield to Fortuna
      • Personal growth arises from seeking virtue (c.f. Aristotle)
      • Peace is attained by ridding yourself of desire (c.f. Buddha)
      • Be glad for what you have now. Rid yourself of optimism.
      • All of this has happened before, and will happen again. Accept it.
    • Seneca
    • Epictetus
    • Marcus Aurelius
    • Stoicism offers an antidote to all because we are all prisoners of our fate
  • B. What is Frustration and how do we respond?
    • Inability to control everything we want to control
    • We respond with anger, shock, a sense of injustice, anxiety, and insult
    • We should instead be less optimistic, expect Fortuna to change our fate randomly, expect the worst that could happen from people and the world  
  • C. Arguments and Counter Arguments
    • Stoicism encourages apathy
      • Stoicism encourages us to pick our battles
    • Stoicism encourages lack of emotion
      • Stoicism encourages the right emotions, not irrational ones

IV. Skepticism

  • We lack knowledge in some way
  • Especially relevant when we study Descartes in the early modern period
  • Pyrrho of Elis, recorded by Sextus Empiricus, outlines 10 arguments for Skepticism

Logic Week 6: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc