We’ve all heard of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but who are the three most important Greek philosophers? These philosophers influenced Western civilization, and their works continue to be relevant today. Here’s a quick primer on their lives, philosophy, and works. And as you’ll see, their ideas are not so dissimilar from our own. Read on to learn more about their lives and impact on Western philosophy.
Socrates is credited with having shifted the focus of philosophy away from the physical sciences and toward the abstract realm of morality and ethics. All of his schools of philosophy focused on morality and ethics, and they each interpreted his central message differently. Regardless of what their focus was, their contributions were invaluable in shaping the course of philosophy. Here are three ways Socrates influenced Western philosophy.
Socrates was an influential figure in Athens, but he was not widely revered by his fellow citizens. He was a controversial figure, and most of his plays about him are lost or in fragmented form. Despite this, there are several plays featuring Socrates. The most famous is the Clouds of Aristophanes, which was written in the 4th century BCE. Despite Socrates’ lack of writings, his portrait is portrayed in conversation by admirers and critics as a man of great insight, self-mastery, and argumentative skill.
Socrates was a master stonemason, a social critic, and a philosopher. Although Socrates did not write much, his contributions to philosophy were instilled in his students. Socrates’ most important contribution to philosophy is the Socratic Method, a method of learning through dialogue, argument, and discussion. Socrates was the first philosopher to introduce political philosophy and the use of discussion to discern truth and value.
Empedokles is another pre-Socratic philosopher. He lived in Sicily and founded a medical school. His fundamental doctrine was the cosmogenic theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces of Love and Strife. He believed we breathe through our pores, and that the heart is the organ of consciousness. Socrates and Parmenides are often regarded as the most influential Greek philosophers.
Before Socrates, there were other important Greek philosophers. These are known as the Pre-Socratics, and they were active in ancient Greece in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.E. They attempted to find the original principles that govern all of nature’s phenomena, including human behaviour. In doing so, they developed the foundations of modern cosmology and zoology.
Socrates was an exemplary philosopher who was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens. Rather than being exiled, he chose to commit suicide instead of being punished. The tragedy of Socrates’ death has led to the study of life and the human mind. Ultimately, Plato and Aristotle influenced Western philosophy and culture and were among the most influential philosophers of all time.
Throughout the ages, the teachings of the three major Greek philosophers have shaped Western philosophy. Socrates was the big city philosopher of ancient Athens. He was imprisoned and slandered for his corrupting the youth and embarrassing the important people. Fortunately, he did not write books about his philosophy – he simply liked to ask probing questions to people and make a career out of deflating their pompous windbags.
One of the most well-known works of Plato is his Apology. In it, Socrates tries to dismiss accusations of being a sophist and of corrupting the youth. Although Socrates denies being wise, he explains that his life as a philosopher began when he was sent to Delphi to study the oracle. Thus, he became at odds with his fellow man in his quest to resolve the oracle’s riddle. Consequently, he was considered a threat to the city of Athens.
The earliest works of Plato are widely considered the most reliable ancient sources of knowledge about the life and work of Socrates. Though some scholars question their authenticity, many of the dialogues fit the style of the time. Nevertheless, there are still many disagreements over the meaning of Plato’s works. For instance, some scholars believe that the Apology is an incomplete and unreliable version of the Apology.
Athenian philosopher Plato is considered the most influential person in the history of Western philosophy. His ideas on the nature of knowledge are still relevant today, as he developed the first system of categorization in Western thought. In addition, his philosophical system provided the vehicle for medieval Islamic philosophy and Christian Scholasticism. His ideas have also remained deeply embedded in Western culture despite major intellectual revolutions.
While the philosophical works of Plato were widely admired, the controversial doctrines of Plato have long remained controversial. Some modern books tend to downplay the importance of the unwritten doctrines. Interestingly, Aristotle mentions these doctrines in his Physics. Moreover, Plato’s unwritten doctrines are referred to as “agrapha dogmata” in Aristotle’s book of Physics. This is the most fundamental metaphysical teaching of Plato.
Plato was born to a wealthy family in Athens. His mother married his uncle Pyrilampes, a Greek politician and ambassador to Persia. Plato had two full brothers and one half brother. There is no record of the exact order of his birth, but his relatives are often mentioned in his dialogues. Historians believe that this is a reflection of Plato’s pride in his family’s lineage.
According to Plato, there are three realms. The apparent world is made up of material objects, while the third world consists of Forms. This third world is called the Platonic Forms. In 18th century philosophy, this concept of Forms and Matter is called “Platonic idealism”.
It is unknown exactly when Plato first visited Italy. The Seventh Letter claims that he was forty years old when he traveled to Sicily and Italy. While there, he became the tutor of Dion in Syracuse, the brother-in-law of the tyrant Dionysius I. In this period, Dion became enraged and set about selling Plato into slavery.
Aristotle was one of the most influential philosophers of the Ancient World. His writings encompass a broad spectrum of topics and are still widely regarded as the foundations of Western philosophical thought. He studied under Plato and founded the Lyceum, a school of philosophy that continues to this day. His work reflects a sophisticated synthesis of various philosophies. He is credited with giving the West its intellectual lexicon and methods of inquiry.
Aristotle’s definition of time is very simple: “Time is a measure of motion or change, like length is to a line”. In other words, time is dependent on form, not on the existence of matter. Socrates is not merely a mass; he is something more. But, he is a philosopher of time, so he does have his own views on time.
Aristotle’s philosophy is difficult to summarize in one page, so it’s important to consider his work in three separate tiers. The first tier offers an in-depth introduction to each of Aristotle’s philosophical activities. The second tier contains more generalized information and explains his main themes. If you’re interested in Aristotle, read the entire essay – it’s a valuable starting point for understanding his work.
Besides establishing the nature of truth, Aristotle also developed a philosophy of matter and the soul. As a result, he created the framework for Christian philosophical thought from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. These concepts would ultimately influence a wide range of philosophical activities. Examples of his work include the doctrine of plurality of forms and the notion of the binarium famosum.
The second pillar of his work is the principle of causality. He argues that all phenomena admit of at least one of the four causes, including chance. Therefore, nothing is “free” unless something else is operating upon it. Therefore, Aristotle’s philosophy of causality is incomplete without the causal role of the operative agent. Therefore, he advocates that actuality is preferred over potentiality.
Aristotle’s investigations into logic were part of the Middle Ages’ Organon. “Organon” means tool, and although Aristotle never defined it, his works include category theory, doctrine of propositions, terms, the structure of scientific theory, and the basic principles of epistemology. Aristotle also sought to establish the intuitive validity of perfect deductions.
While Aristotle is considered one of the three greatest philosophers in history, his philosophy relies on his theory of categories. He rejects the core-dependent homonymy of being, which introduces more contentious considerations. Nevertheless, he argues for the use of categories to guide his thought. And he argues that such categories help us evaluate much of his philosophy.