ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

Chapter III.

Grecian Philosophy from the Death of Aristotle to the Rise of the Neo-Platonic School.

(From the end of the fourth century B.C. to the third century A.D.)


58. General Features. -- The fundamental characteristic of philosophy after the death of Aristotle was the predominance of moral speculations. External causes were not without their influence in developing this new tendency. The battle of Chaeronea (B.C. 338) put an end to the political independence of Greece. Henceforth her destinies were bound up with those of Macedonia, and later on with those of the Roman Republic. National troubles weakened the synthetic power of the Greek mind; and the thinkers of the period, shrinking back within themselves, became solicitous chiefly for personal security. They likewise felt all the more keenly the pressing need of seeking the secret of happiness in philosophy, now that religious scepticism was gaining ground steadily every day.

A theory of personal morality was most in demand. Happiness was considered by every one to consist in tranquillity of soul, but all were not agreed as to the best means of attaining this. Social and political morality was scarcely studied.

Theoretical speculations were made subordinate to ethics. All felt inclined rather to borrow their doctrines ready-made from the past, than to take the trouble of thinking out anything new for themselves.

Grecian philosophy, like Grecian civilization, became cosmopolitan, and shook off all sentiment of nationality. The Macedonian conquest scattered the Greeks; the cities of the mother-country were forsaken and the emigrants directed their steps towards other important centres: Alexandria, Rome, Rhodes, and Tarsus soon became rivals of Athens.

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