Sunday, April 8, 2018

On the Influence of Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics

In The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics, Martha C. Nussbaum notes that in the modern age, the Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics have been more influential than Aristotle and Plato; even the founders of USA were influenced by Stoic and Epicurean thought: "Twentieth-century philosophy, in both Europe and North America, has, until very recently, made less use of Hellenistic ethics than almost any other philosophical culture in the West since the fourth century B. C. E. Not only late antique and most varieties of Christian thought, but also the writings of modern writers as diverse as Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Adam Smith, Hume, Rousseau, the Founding Fathers of the United States, Nietzsche, and Marx, owe in every case a considerable debt to the writings of Stoics, Epicureans, and/or Skeptics, and frequently far more than to the writings of Aristotle and Plato. Especially where philosophical conceptions of emo­tion are concerned, ignoring the Hellenistic period means ignoring not only the best material in the Western tradition, but also the central influ­ence on later philosophical developments."

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