What Is Ancient Philosophy? / Edition 1

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Overview

A magisterial mappa mundi of the terrain that Pierre Hadot has so productively worked for decades, this ambitious work revises our view of ancient philosophy—and in doing so, proposes that we change the way we see philosophy itself. Hadot takes ancient philosophy out of its customary realm of names, dates, and arid abstractions and plants it squarely in the thick of life. Through a meticulous historical reading, he shows how the various schools, trends, and ideas of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy all tended toward one goal: to provide a means for achieving happiness in this life, by transforming the individual’s mode of perceiving and being in the world.
Most pressing for Hadot is the question of how the ancients conceived of philosophy. He argues in great detail, systematically covering the ideas of the earliest Greek thinkers, Hellenistic philosophy, and late antiquity, that ancient philosophers were concerned not just to develop philosophical theories, but to practice philosophy as a way of life—a way of life to be suggested, illuminated, and justified by their philosophical “discourse.” For the ancients, philosophical theory and the philosophical way of life were inseparably linked.
What Is Ancient Philosophy? also explains why this connection broke down, most conspicuously in the case of academic, professional philosophers, especially under the influence of Christianity. Finally, Hadot turns to the question of whether and how this connection might be reestablished. Even as it brings ancient thoughts and thinkers to life, this invigorating work provides direction for those who wish to improve their lives by means of genuine philosophical thought.
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Editorial Reviews

University of Chicago
This book is a masterpiece of erudition and insight--it combines Pierre Hadot's extraordinary textual knowledge, his profound and original philosophical vision, and his famously lucid prose to give us a new way of approaching ancient philosophy. Beyond this, it proposes a conception of the tasks of philosophy that will be of abiding interest to philosophers and nonphilosophers alike.
— Arnold Davidson
Globe & Mail

Hadot's account moves gracefully from the beginning of philosophy among the Greeks, though its transformation under the Romans, and the encounter with Christianity, also touching on the relation between Eastern and Western philosophy. Profound learning stylishly worn makes the whole book, and the whole sweep of philosophy's first 1,000 years, accessible to any reader interested in what philosophy was like before it was taken over by the professors.
— Barry Allen

Christian Science Monitor - Thomas D'evelyn
Pierre Hadot is determined to change our view of ancient philosophy, and by extension, of philosophy as a discipline… Like Hadot's hero Socrates, What is Ancient Philosphy? is a triumph of irony: a meticulous historical survey that ends by inspiring the reader to actually do philosophy. Handsomely designed, with useful bibliography and chronology, it's a compact text for the 'never-ending quest.'
Globe & Mail - Barry Allen
Hadot's account moves gracefully from the beginning of philosophy among the Greeks, though its transformation under the Romans, and the encounter with Christianity, also touching on the relation between Eastern and Western philosophy. Profound learning stylishly worn makes the whole book, and the whole sweep of philosophy's first 1,000 years, accessible to any reader interested in what philosophy was like before it was taken over by the professors.
New York Times Book Review - Barry Gewen
Pierre Hadot deserves to be better known to English-language readers—and not just because he was a favorite of Michel Foucault's and is the man largely responsible for introducing Wittgenstein to the French. Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy, a professor emeritus at the prestigious Collège de France. But it is more accurate to say that he is a philosopher who makes use of the ancients for his own ideas… In What is Ancient Philosophy? Hadot brings all his concerns together in a small volume of extraordinary erudition and surprising…clarity of prose… It is the summa of a distinguished career.
Choice - R. Kamtekar
This is a stimulating book. Thinking comparatively about what philosophy was and is will surely enrich the field.
Brian Stock
In its sweep and clarity of presentation, I would compare this book with some of the great syntheses of an earlier generation—for instance, Werner Jaeger's Paideia. At the center of the study is the strikingly original notion of the spiritual exercise, which Professor Hadot here and elsewhere shows to lie at the heart of Greek Hellenistic thinking about man, morality, and the universe.
Michael Frede
Hadot's What Is Ancient Philosophy? is a wonderful book. It strives to persuade us to revise our view of philosophy—to think of philosophy, as the ancients did, as crucially involving a philosophical way of life.
Arnold Davidson
This book is a masterpiece of erudition and insight—it combines Pierre Hadot's extraordinary textual knowledge, his profound and original philosophical vision, and his famously lucid prose to give us a new way of approaching ancient philosophy. Beyond this, it proposes a conception of the tasks of philosophy that will be of abiding interest to philosophers and nonphilosophers alike.
Christian Science Monitor

Pierre Hadot is determined to change our view of ancient philosophy, and by extension, of philosophy as a discipline… Like Hadot's hero Socrates, What is Ancient Philosphy? is a triumph of irony: a meticulous historical survey that ends by inspiring the reader to actually do philosophy. Handsomely designed, with useful bibliography and chronology, it's a compact text for the 'never-ending quest.'
— Thomas D'Evelyn

Globe and Mail
Hadot's account moves gracefully from the beginning of philosophy among the Greeks, though its transformation under the Romans, and the encounter with Christianity, also touching on the relation between Eastern and Western philosophy. Profound learning stylishly worn makes the whole book, and the whole sweep of philosophy's first 1,000 years, accessible to any reader interested in what philosophy was like before it was taken over by the professors.
— Barry Allen
New York Times Book Review

Pierre Hadot deserves to be better known to English-language readers—and not just because he was a favorite of Michel Foucault's and is the man largely responsible for introducing Wittgenstein to the French. Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy, a professor emeritus at the prestigious Collège de France. But it is more accurate to say that he is a philosopher who makes use of the ancients for his own ideas… In What is Ancient Philosophy? Hadot brings all his concerns together in a small volume of extraordinary erudition and surprising…clarity of prose… It is the summa of a distinguished career.
— Barry Gewen

Choice

This is a stimulating book. Thinking comparatively about what philosophy was and is will surely enrich the field.
— R. Kamtekar

Publishers Weekly
A prominent historian of ancient thought, Pierre Hadot (Philosophy as a Way of Life) revisits the work of Plato, Aristotle, the Hellenistic schools and the philosophical schools of imperial Rome in What Is Ancient Philosophy? He provides an overview of the evolution of ancient thought, focusing particularly on the role of philosophical theory in the lives of the thinkers. Showing how the ancients endeavored to live by their philosophy, Hadot reflects on the rift between theory and practice that came about with the professionalization of philosophy in the Christian era. (May 20) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
First published in France in 1995, Hadot's overview of ancient philosophy (that is, Greek and Roman philosophy) is quite possibly one of the best one-volume works on the subject to have appeared in English in a very long time, not only for the clarity with which it is written (Chase's translation reads exceptionally smoothly) but also for the point of view Hadot takes. In keeping with Socrates' dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living, Hadot (Philosophy as a Way of Life) places each philosopher or movement discussed firmly within its cultural and intellectual context and shows that philosophy was not simply a process for creating theories but, more importantly, a way of life for many. Hadot argues further that this connection between philosophical theory and practice ultimately broke down when Christianity came to dominate the Western world. Hadot closes the book by pointing to two dangers that the (modern) philosopher must avoid. The first is to think that philosophical discourse is sufficient in itself, without reference to a philosophical way of life. The second, and for Hadot the more important, is "to believe that one can do without philosophical reflection. The philosophical way of life must be justified in rational, motivated discourse, and such discourse is inseparable from the way of life." Hadot eloquently provides such discourse; highly recommended. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674013735
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/16/2004
  • Edition description: First Harvard University Paperback Editi
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 735,023
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Pierre Hadot was Professor Emeritus, Collège de France. His books include Philosophy as a Way of Life and Plotinus.
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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Translator’s Note
  • Introduction
  • I. The Platonic Definition of “Philosopher” and Its Antecedents
    • 1. Philosophy before Philosophy
    • 2. The Inception of the Idea of “Doing Philosophy”
    • 3. The Figure of Socrates
    • 4. The Definition of “Philosopher” in Plato’s Symposium


  • II. Philosophy as a Way of Life
    • 5. Plato and the Academy
    • 6. Aristotle and His School
    • 7. The Hellenistic Schools
    • 8. Philosophical Schools in the Imperial Period
    • 9. Philosophy and Philosophical Discourse


  • III. Interruption and Continuity: The Middle Ages and Modern Times
    • 10. Christianity as a Revealed Philosophy
    • 11. Eclipses and Recurrences of the Ancient Concept of Philosophy
    • 12. Questions and Perspectives


  • Notes
  • Quotations of Ancient Texts
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Chronology
  • Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    The Practice of Philosophy

    The idea of philosophy as a lived practice, rather than an academic discipline from which one retires at the end of the work day, is articulated by Hadot through the many examples of ancient philosophy in the western tradition. The writing here is engaging enough that it doesn't matter if you don't know Epictetus from Epicurus, you will get something out of this book. That aside, even the most lofty, Greek-reading classicist should be able to find something of interest since Hadot presents his ideas (and the ancients themselves) with such life. This book is another reminder that the history of philosophy isn't just the history of ideas and disembodied arguments, it is the history of people, their situations, and their practices.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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