The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius

The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius

The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius

The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius

Synopsis

The philosophers of the Roman world were asking questions whose answers had practical effects on people's lives in antiquity, and which still influence our thinking to this day. In spite of being neglected in the modern era, this important age of philosophical thought is now undergoing a revival of interest.Mark Morford's lively survey makes these recent scholarly developments accessible to a wide audience, examining the writings and ideas of both famous and lesser known figures - from Cato the Censor in 155 BCE to Marcus Aurelius in 180 CE. Based around extensive and fully translated quotations from the philosophical texts of the era, full consideration is given throughout to historical, political and cultural context.

Excerpt

Since the eighteenth century the Roman philosophers have been underestimated in the English-speaking world, whose academic opinion-makers have generally included them in Swift’s “Gleanings of Philosophy…the Lumber of the Schools”. The group of Oxford scholars led by Miriam Griffin and Jonathan Barnes, who published the two volumes of Philosophia Togata in 1989 and 1997, were in part atoning for the former indifference of the Oxford school of Litterae Humaniores towards philosophers of the nineteen centuries between Aristotle and Descartes. In the years after World War II, lectures were given on Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, but the Hellenistic schools of philosophy were ignored, as were the philosophical works of Cicero and Seneca, to say nothing of later philosophers in the Roman world. Lucretius was read as a Latin text rather than as a thinker, and from Augustine only the chapters on Time in the eleventh book of the Confessions were thought to be worth discussing. Things were no doubt less bleak at Cambridge and in other universities in France, the United States and Germany, where the record of Mommsen’s contempt for Cicero most certainly needed to be erased.

Since I was one of “the hungry sheep who look up and are not fed” at Oxford, I have found the writing of this book both challenging and fulfilling, and I am grateful to Richard Stoneman, kindest of editors, for his invitation to undertake the task and for his patience as deadlines faded into the future. I am not a professional philosopher, and I have not attempted to discuss matters of interest primarily to professional philosophers in any detail. I have written as a classicist and historian of ideas, with the aim of providing a concise, but not superficial, survey of the writings and ideas of the principal philosophers in the Roman world from the middle of the second century BCE down to the death of Marcus

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