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A short history of the genealogy of 
Greek philosophy
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| Miletian Philosophers
| | Thales of Miletus 624 - 546 BC
| | | Anaximander 610 - 546 BC
| | | | Anaximenes 570 - 526 BC
| Heracleitus 540 - 480 BC
| | Socrates 470 - 399 BC
| | | Antisthenes 445 - 365 BC
| | | | Diogenes 400 - 325 BC Cynicism
| | | | | Crates of Thebes
| | | | | | Stilpon of Megara 380 - 300 BC
| | | | | | | Zeno of Citium 335 - 263 Stoic
| | | Eucleides of Megara
| | | Plato 428 - 347 BC
| | | | Aristotelianism  384 - 322 BC
| | | | Pamphilus
| | | | Speusippus  (389) - 339 BC
| | | | Xenocrates   (360) -  314 BC
| Parmenides 540 - 480 BC
| | Empedocles 490 - 430 BC
| | Anaxagoras 500-428 BC
| Leucippus (C500 BC)
| | Democritus 460 - 370
| | | Nausiphanes
| | | | Epicureanism  341 - 270 BC

Miletian philosophers
"Believed in the existence of a basic substance as the source of all things."

Sophie's World - Jostein Gaarder 1991

"Greek philosopher remembered for his cosmology, in which fire forms the basic material principle of an orderly universe. Little is known about his life, and the one book he apparently wrote is lost. His views survive in the short fragments quoted and attributed to him by later authors."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"(fl. 5th century BC, probably at Miletus, on the west coast of Asia Minor), Greek philosopher credited by Aristotle and by Theophrastus with having originated the theory of atomism. It has been difficult to distinguish his contribution from that of his most famous pupil, Democritus. Only fragments of Leucippus' writings remain, but two works believed to have been written by him are The Great World System and On the Mind. His theory stated that matter is homogeneous but consists of an infinity of small indivisible particles. These atoms are constantly in motion, and through their collisions and regroupings form various compounds. A cosmos is formed by the collision of atoms that gather together into a "whirl," and the drum-shaped Earth is located in the centre of man's cosmos."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Socrates of Athens, who flourished in the last half of the 5th century BC, was the first of the great trio of ancient Greeks--Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle--who laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. As Cicero said, Socrates "brought down philosophy from heaven to earth"--i.e., from the nature speculation of the Ionian and Italian cosmologists to analyses of the character and conduct of human life, which he assessed in terms of an original theory of the soul. Living during the chaos of the eloponnesian War, with its erosion of moral values, Socrates felt called to shore up the ethical dimensions of life by the admonition to "know thyself" and by the effort to explore the connotations of moral and humanistic terms."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

Democritus was a "Greek philosopher whose theories were important in the development of the atomic theory of the universe."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Greek Epicurus (341-270 BC); and in a broad sense, a system of ethics embracing every conception or form of life traceable to the principles of his philosophy. Epicureanism espouses, in physics, Atomism and a largely mechanical conception of causality, with the gods remaining extraneous; and, in ethics, the identification of good with pleasure and the absence of pain, utility and the limitation of desire, and a withdrawn and quiet life enriched by the company of friends.

On the day in his 72nd year that Epicurus died painfully of prostatitis, he dictated an affectionate and touching letter to Idomeneus--probably intended, in fact, for all of his friends in Lampsacus--which displayed the spirit in which he had remained true to his philosophy of repose (from which the singular form ripose is spawned) and serenity even in the throes of pain. He argued that good was pleasure and that evil was pain. He also stressed the importance of virtue and moderation in all things."

He was alleged to have been taught by both Pamphilus and Xenocrates (both student of Plato).

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Greek philosopher, of Athens, who was a disciple of Socrates and is considered the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy, though Diogenes of Sinope often is given that credit."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Diogenes advocated a simple, self sufficient life as the best way of achieving happiness. His scorn for mankind gave rise to the present meaning of cynicism."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"In about 387 Plato founded the Academy as an institute for the systematic pursuit of philosophical and scientific teaching and research. He presided over it for the rest of his life.

The Academy's interests were not limited to philosophy in a narrow sense but also extended to the sciences: there is evidence that Plato encouraged research in such diverse disciplines as mathematics and rhetoric. He himself lectured (on at least one occasion he gave a celebrated public lecture "On the Good"), and he set problems for his pupils to solve. The Academy was not the only such "school" in Athens--there are traces of tension between the Academy and the rival school of Isocrates."

"Plato sent Aristonymus to the Arcadians, Phormion to Elis, Menedemus to Pyrrha. Eudoxus and Aristotle wrote laws for Cnidus and Stagirus. Alexander asked Xenocrates for advice about kingship; the man who was sent to Alexander by the Asiatic Greeks and did most to incite him to his war on the barbarians was Delios of Ephesus, an associate of Plato."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Plato founded a school of philosophy in Athens known as the Academy. Here Aristotle (384-322 BC), Plato's younger contemporary and only rival in terms of influence on the course of Western philosophy, came to study. Aristotle was often fiercely critical of Plato, and his writing is very different in style and content, but the time they spent together is reflected in a considerable amount of common ground. Thus Aristotle holds with Plato that the life of virtue is rewarding for the virtuous, as well as beneficial for the community. Aristotle also agrees that the highest and most satisfying form of human existence is that in which man exercises his rational faculties to the fullest extent. One major difference is that Aristotle does not accept Plato's theory of common essences, or universal ideas, existing independently of particular things. Thus he does not argue that the path to goodness is through knowledge of the universal form or idea of "the good."

Aristotle's ethics are based on his view of the universe. He saw it as a hierarchy in which everything has a function. The highest form of existence is the life of the rational being, and the function of lower beings is to serve this form of life. This led him to defend slavery--because he thought barbarians were less rational than Greeks and by nature suited to be "living tools"--and the killing of nonhuman animals for food or clothing. From this also came a view of human nature and an ethical theory derived from it. All living things, Aristotle held, have inherent potentialities and it is their nature to develop that potential to the full. This is the form of life properly suited to them and constitutes their goal. What, however, is the potentiality of human beings? For Aristotle this question turns out to be equivalent to asking what it is that is distinctive about human beings, and this, of course, is the capacity to reason. The ultimate goal of humans, therefore, is to develop their reasoning powers. When they do this, they are living well, in accordance with their true nature, and they will find this the most rewarding existence possible.

Aristotle thus ends up agreeing with Plato that the life of the intellect is the highest form of life; though having a greater sense of realism than Plato, he tempered this view with the suggestion that the best feasible life for humans must also have the goods of material prosperity and close friendships. Aristotle's argument for regarding the life of the intellect so highly, however, is different from that used by Plato; and the difference is significant because Aristotle committed a fallacy that has often been repeated. The fallacy is to assume that whatever capacity distinguishes humans from other beings is, for that very reason, the highest and best of their capacities. Perhaps the ability to reason is the best of our capacities, but we cannot be compelled to draw this conclusion from the fact that it is what is most distinctive of the human species."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"For a long time Xenophanes of Colophon, a religious thinker and rhapsode of the 6th-5th century BC, was considered the founder of the Eleatic school and Parmenides' mentor. This ancient claim, however, has been successfully criticized by Reinhardt. It is even possible that, on the contrary, Xenophanes was an older pupil of Parmenides. In any case, his monistic view of a cosmic God, whom he may have equated pantheistically with Being itself, was Eleatic in its contention that God is one and ungenerated, that his seeing, thinking, and hearing are equally all-pervading (i.e., he is not a composite), and that he "always remains in the same place, not moving at all.""

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

Thales of Miletus
"No writings by Thales survive, and no contemporary sources exist; thus, his achievements are difficult to assess. Inclusion of his name in the canon of the legendary Seven Wise Men led to his idealization, and numerous acts and sayings, many of them no doubt spurious, were attributed to him. According to Herodotus, Thales was a practical statesman who advocated the federation of the Ionian cities of the Aegean region. The Greek scholar Callimachus recorded a traditional belief that Thales advised navigators to steer by the Little Bear (Ursa Minor) rather than by the Great Bear (Ursa Major), both prominent constellations in the north. He is also said to have used his knowledge of geometry to measure the Egyptian pyramids and to calculate the distance from shore of ships at sea. Although such stories are probably apocryphal, they illustrate Thales' reputation. The Greek writer Xenophanes claimed that Thales predicted the solar eclipse that stopped the battle between the Lydian Alyattes and the Median Cyaxares, evidently on May 28, 585. Modern scholars believe, however, that he could not possibly have had the knowledge to predict accurately either the locality or the character of an eclipse. Thus, his feat was apparently isolated and only

approximate; Herodotus spoke of his foretelling the year only. That the eclipse was nearly total and occurred during a crucial battle probably contributed considerably to his exaggerated reputation as an astronomer.

In geometry Thales has been credited with the discovery of five theorems: (1) that a circle is bisected by its diameter, (2) that angles at the base of a triangle having two sides of equal length are equal, (3) that opposite angles of intersecting straight lines are equal, (4) that the angle inscribed in a semicircle is a right angle, and (5) that a triangle is determined if its base and the angles relative to the base are given. His mathematical achievements are difficult to assess, however, because of the ancient practice of crediting particular discoveries to men with a general reputation for wisdom.

The claim that Thales was the founder of European philosophy rests primarily on Aristotle, who wrote that Thales was the first to suggest a single material substratum for the universe--namely, water, or moisture. Even though Thales as a philosopher renounced mythology, his choice of water as the fundamental building block of matter had its precedent in tradition. A likely consideration in this choice was the seeming motion that water exhibits, as seen in its ability to become vapour; for what changes or moves itself was thought by the Greeks to be close to life itself. To Thales the entire universe is a living organism, nourished by exhalations from water.

Thales' significance lies less in his choice of water as the essential substance than in his attempt to explain nature by the simplification of phenomena and in his search for causes within nature itself rather than in the caprices of anthropomorphic gods. Like his successors Anaximander and Anaximenes, Thales is important in bridging the worlds of myth and reason."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

(b. 610 BC, Miletus [now in Turkey]--d. 546/545 BC), Greek philosopher often called the founder of astronomy, the first thinker to develop a cosmology, or systematic philosophical view of the world.

Anaximander is thought to have been a pupil of Thales of Miletus. Evidence exists that he wrote treatises on geography, astronomy, and cosmology that survived for several centuries, and that he made a map of the known world. As a rationalist he prized symmetry and introduced geometry and mathematical proportions into his efforts to map the heavens. Thus, his theories departed from earlier, more mystical conceptions of the universe and prefigured the achievements of later astronomers.

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"Greek philosopher of nature and one of three thinkers of Miletus traditionally considered to be the first philosophers in the Western world. Of the other two, Thales held that water is the basic building block of all matter, whereas Anaximander chose to call the essential substance "the unlimited."

Anaximenes substituted aer ("mist," "vapour," "air") for his predecessors' choices. His writings, which survived into the Hellenistic Age, no longer exist except in passages in the works of later authors. Consequently,interpretations of his beliefs are frequently in conflict. It is clear, however, that he believed in degrees of condensation of moisture that corresponded to the densities of various types of matter. When "most evenly distributed," aer is the common, invisible air of the atmosphere.

By condensation it becomes visible, first as mist or cloud, then as water, and finally as solid matter such as earth or stones. If further rarefied, it turns to fire. Thus hotness and dryness typify rarity, whereas coldness and wetness are related to denser matter."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"(b. c. 500 BC, Clazomenae, Anatolia [now in Turkey]--d. c. 428, Lampsacus), Greek philosopher of nature remembered for his cosmology and for his discovery of the true cause of eclipses. He was associated with the Athenian statesman Pericles.About 480 Anaxagoras moved to Athens, then becoming the centre of Greek culture, and brought from Ionia the new practice of philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry. After 30 years' residence in Athens, he was prosecuted on a charge of impiety for asserting that the Sun is an incandescent stone somewhat larger than the region of the Peloponnese. The attack on him was intended as an indirect blow at Pericles, and, although Pericles managed to save him, Anaxagoras was compelled to leave Athens. He spent his last years in retirement at Lampsacus.

Only a few fragments of Anaxagoras' writings have been preserved, and several different interpretations of his work have been made. The basic features, however, are clear. His cosmology grows out of the efforts of earlier Greek thinkers who had tried to explain the physical universe by an assumption of a single fundamental element. Parmenides, however, asserted that such an assumption could not account for movement and change, and, whereas Empedocles sought to resolve this difficulty by positing four basic ingredients, Anaxagoras posited an infinite number. Unlike his predecessors, who had chosen such elements as heat or water as the basic substance, Anaxagoras included those found in living bodies, such as flesh, bone, bark, and leaf. Otherwise, he asked, how could flesh come from what is not flesh? He also accounted for biological changes, in which substances appear under new manifestations: as men eat and drink, flesh, bone, and hair grow. In order to explain the great amount and diversity of change, he said that "there is a portion of every thing, i.e., of every elemental stuff, in every thing," but "each is and was most manifestly those things of which there is most in it.""

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997

"(490 BC, Acragas, Sicily--d. 430, the Peloponnese, Greece), Greek philosopher, statesman, poet, religious teacher, and physiologist.

According to legend only, Empedocles was a self-styled god who brought about his own death, as dramatized by the English poet Matthew Arnold in "Empedocles on Etna," by flinging himself into the volcanic crater atop Mount Etna to convince followers of his divinity. To his contemporaries he did indeed seem more than a mere mortal; Aristotle reputedly hailed him as the inventor of rhetoric, and Galen regarded him as the founder of Italian medicine. Lucretius admired his hexametric poetry. Nothing remains of the various writings attributed to him other than 400 lines from his poem Peri physeos ("On Nature") and fewer than 100 verses from his poem Katharmoi ("Purifications").

Although strongly influenced by Parmenides, who emphasized the unity of all things, Empedocles assumed instead that all matter was composed of four essential ingredients, fire, air, water, and earth, and that nothing either comes into being or is destroyed but that things are merely transformed, depending on the ratio of basic substances, to one another. Like Heracleitus, he believed that two forces, Love and Strife, interact to bring together and to separate the four substances. Strife makes each of these elements withdraw itself from the others; Love makes them mingle together. The real world is at a stage in which neither force dominates. In the beginning, Love was dominant and all four substances were mixed together; during the formation of the cosmos, Strife entered to separate air, fire, earth, and water from one another. Subsequently, the four elements were again arranged in partial combinations in certain places; springs and volcanoes, for example, show the presence of both water and fire in the Earth."

Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1997



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