Epicurean Philosophy

Epicurus, Aristippus, and Lucretius: History of Epicurean Philosophy

Was Epicureanism a cult? Or perhaps we should ask, was Epicureanism like a philosophical fraternity? One prominent scholar, AA Long, suggests that Epicurus’ school of philosophy was more a philosophical community centering on personal friendship than it was a formal school of philosophy. Many ancient philosophers wrote about the virtues of friendship, but the virtues of friendship are core to the Epicurean experience, and the Epicureans sought pleasure through their friendships. This community was egalitarian, it was one of the few in ancient world that admitted women and slaves, and in his letters, Epicurus expresses deep affection for his friends and followers. AA Long says this, “those who committed themselves to Epicurus we not so much students ‘reading for a course’ as men and women dedicated to a certain style of life.” […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho the Jew on Circumcision and Jesus

When the debate begins, the first question Trypho asks is about circumcision, which was a major stumbling block for Christian converts in the early days of the Church, when many converts were confused on whether they first needed to convert to Judaism before becoming Christian.  Converting to Judaism meant you had to be circumcised.  St Paul in his Epistles famously reassures his Gentile converts that they only needed to be circumcised in their heart.  Not only did Christian converts not need to be circumcised; it was wrong to require that converts be circumcised, and he is quite strident in his exhortations in Galatians in particular. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

Philokalia, On the Character of Men and the Virtuous Life

What is our most precious possession? “A virtuous way of life, conforming to God’s will, surpasses all wealth. When you reflect on this and keep in your mind constantly, you will not grumble, whine or blame anyone, but will thank God for everything, seeing that those who rely on repute and riches are worse off than yourself.”(4) “The more frugal a man’s life, the happier he is, for he is not troubled by a host of cares.” We should seek the prosperity that fills our soul rather than our pocket, for chasing after new cars and castles and country clubs will only add to the cares of this world. Should we pray to God to fill our pockets, and should we complain to God when our pockets are not filled, complaining how our prayers are never answered? Should our prayers be a shopping list we hand to God? Thieves can steal our wealth, but never our virtue. Here the Philokalia teaches that we should never consider it a loss when we lose our children, our money, or our possessions, but be thankful for all the God has loaned to us for our use, realizing it could be taken away at any time. […]

Plato

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Sentencing and Execution of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 2

In the end of his speech to the jurors who will decide whether he will live or die, he says, “Judges, be of good cheer about death, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.” Socrates is forgiving. “I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm. Although the did not mean to do me any good; for this I gently blame them.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Trial of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 1

How do you encourage your neighbor to grow in wisdom without preaching to him? The Platonic method is the dialectic, the Socratic Dialogue, questions and answers to encourage the citizen to think. The method used by the Gospels is the parable, similar in function to the Delphic Oracle, that also entices the listener to think through questions of right and wrong, justice and virtue. Plato does not use parables as often, but he does use parables very effectively, the most famous parable in the history of philosophy is his Allegory of the Cave in the Republic. […]

Greek Philosophy

Plato: Euthyphro, Who Won’t Listen

Socrates has been charged by the citizens of Athens of impiety, of corrupting the youth, and in preparation he must go to the porch of the King Archon. There he meets his friend, Euthyphro, and they converse about the serious charges filed against Socrates, and the serious charges Euthyphro intends against, surprisingly, his very own father. Socrates senses that his friend has little idea of the consequences of this action, and that his youthful haste may lead to a miserable and penurious future, and that his friend has pondered little of this drastic action. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Blog 3, Justin Is Converted

Justin asks him why he needs philosophy when he can profit from Moses, his lawgiver, and the prophets. Trypho responds, “Why not? Do not the philosophers turn every discourse on God? Do not questions continually arise on God’s unity and providence? Is it not truly the duty of philosophy to investigate the Deity?”

How do the Jewish Scriptures and Greek philosophy relate to the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they conflict with the Gospel? Can Christians profitably study Jewish Scripture and Greek philosophy? These are the questions this dialogue explores, and St Justin the Martyr was one of the first of apostolic fathers to explore these issues. When you read teachings you have read many times before, remind yourself, you are probably reading the original source. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr’s Second Apology to Senate, Quoting Xenophon’s Socrates, Blog 2

Justin compares Jesus to Socrates, who was accused of the same crimes as the Christians, being accused of atheism and impiety, and of corrupting the youth.  The Greeks accused Socrates “of introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods that the state recognized.  In the Republic he cast out from the state both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poet related.”  The early Church Fathers, including Justin, did not deny the existence of the pagan gods, rather they saw them as demons active in the world.  But Jesus was mightier than Socrates, whereas “no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine,” many willingly believes and are martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Blog 1, First Apology to the Emperor

Justin opens his apology, “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow the opinions of the ancients if these be worthless,” a surprising argument, given the weight that the Romans placed on the ancient traditions.  Right belief matters, “the lover of truth should choose to do and say what is right, by all means, and if threatened with death,” be willing to lay down his own life.

Justin quotes Plato, “unless both the rulers and the ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”  The ancients believed that to pursue philosophy was to seek to live a godly life.  Justin also echoes Plato when he says “rulers should rule in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy,” a somewhat ironic wish since under the rule of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius he would suffer a martyr’s death. […]