Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus

Princeton University Press
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This is a major reinterpretation of ancient philosophy that recovers the long Greek and Roman tradition of philosophy as a complete way of life--and not simply an intellectual discipline. Distinguished philosopher John Cooper traces how, for many ancient thinkers, philosophy was not just to be studied or even used to solve particular practical problems. Rather, philosophy--not just ethics but even logic and physical theory--was literally to be lived. Yet there was great disagreement about how to live philosophically: philosophy was not one but many, mutually opposed, ways of life. Examining this tradition from its establishment by Socrates in the fifth century BCE through Plotinus in the third century CE and the eclipse of pagan philosophy by Christianity, Pursuits of Wisdom examines six central philosophies of living--Socratic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Epicurean, Skeptic, and the Platonist life of late antiquity.

The book describes the shared assumptions that allowed these thinkers to conceive of their philosophies as ways of life, as well as the distinctive ideas that led them to widely different conclusions about the best human life. Clearing up many common misperceptions and simplifications, Cooper explains in detail the Socratic devotion to philosophical discussion about human nature, human life, and human good; the Aristotelian focus on the true place of humans within the total system of the natural world; the Stoic commitment to dutifully accepting Zeus's plans; the Epicurean pursuit of pleasure through tranquil activities that exercise perception, thought, and feeling; the Skeptical eschewal of all critical reasoning in forming their beliefs; and, finally, the late Platonist emphasis on spiritual concerns and the eternal realm of Being.

Pursuits of Wisdom is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding what the great philosophers of antiquity thought was the true purpose of philosophy--and of life.

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About the author

John M. Cooper is the Henry Putnam University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He is the general editor of the authoritative English-language edition of Plato's complete writings, and the author of Reason and Emotion and Knowledge, Nature, and the Good (both Princeton), among other books.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 27, 2012
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Pages
456
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ISBN
9781400842322
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
Philosophy / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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John M. Cooper
Knowledge, Nature, and the Good brings together some of John Cooper's most important works on ancient philosophy. In thirteen chapters that represent an ideal companion to the author's influential Reason and Emotion, Cooper addresses a wide range of topics and periods--from Hippocratic medical theory and Plato's epistemology and moral philosophy, to Aristotle's physics and metaphysics, academic scepticism, and the cosmology, moral psychology, and ethical theory of the ancient Stoics.

Almost half of the pieces appear here for the first time or are presented in newly expanded, extensively revised versions. Many stand at the cutting edge of research into ancient ethics and moral psychology. Other chapters, dating from as far back as 1970, are classics of philosophical scholarship on antiquity that continue to play a prominent role in current teaching and scholarship in the field. All of the chapters are distinctive for the way that, whatever the particular topic being pursued, they attempt to understand the ancient philosophers' views in philosophical terms drawn from the ancient philosophical tradition itself (rather than from contemporary philosophy).

Through engaging creatively and philosophically with the ancient texts, these essays aim to make ancient philosophical perspectives freshly available to contemporary philosophers and philosophy students, in all their fascinating inventiveness, originality, and deep philosophical merit. This book will be treasured by philosophers, classicists, students of philosophy and classics, those in other disciplines with an interest in ancient philosophy, and anyone who seeks to understand philosophy in philosophical terms.

John M. Cooper
Knowledge, Nature, and the Good brings together some of John Cooper's most important works on ancient philosophy. In thirteen chapters that represent an ideal companion to the author's influential Reason and Emotion, Cooper addresses a wide range of topics and periods--from Hippocratic medical theory and Plato's epistemology and moral philosophy, to Aristotle's physics and metaphysics, academic scepticism, and the cosmology, moral psychology, and ethical theory of the ancient Stoics.

Almost half of the pieces appear here for the first time or are presented in newly expanded, extensively revised versions. Many stand at the cutting edge of research into ancient ethics and moral psychology. Other chapters, dating from as far back as 1970, are classics of philosophical scholarship on antiquity that continue to play a prominent role in current teaching and scholarship in the field. All of the chapters are distinctive for the way that, whatever the particular topic being pursued, they attempt to understand the ancient philosophers' views in philosophical terms drawn from the ancient philosophical tradition itself (rather than from contemporary philosophy).

Through engaging creatively and philosophically with the ancient texts, these essays aim to make ancient philosophical perspectives freshly available to contemporary philosophers and philosophy students, in all their fascinating inventiveness, originality, and deep philosophical merit. This book will be treasured by philosophers, classicists, students of philosophy and classics, those in other disciplines with an interest in ancient philosophy, and anyone who seeks to understand philosophy in philosophical terms.

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