Many of the names of Ancient Greek Philosophers are well-known due to the fact that philosophy was actually born in Greece, as the word itself proclaims. The base of science, political theory, law, physics and arts was set by these wise men that lived in Ancient Greece.
Ancient Greece was remembered for its many great philosophers. Philosophers were people who discussed, debated, and studied wisdom. The word philosophy comes from the Greek term meaning “the love of wisdom.” The ancient Greeks were concerned with rhetorical skills. Rhetoric is speech that is used to persuade someone. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were three of the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece. There are more than 60 Greek philosophers known to us today because of their theories and ideas; here is a short list of the most popular and renowned philosophers.
Names of Ancient Greek Philosophers
- Thales of Miletus (624-560 B.C.) (Greek name: Thalis – Θαλής). Astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. Learned astronomy from the Babylonians. Founder of the Ionian school of natural philosophy.
Thales predicted the solar eclipse on May 28, 585. Proved general geometric propositions on angles and triangles.
He considered water to be the basis of all matter and he believed that the Earth floated in water.
Thales used the laws of prospectives to calculate the height of the pyramids.
- Xenophanes (Caliphon, 570-475 B.C.), (Greek name: Xenophanis – Ξενοφάνης). Xenophanes was a Greek philosopher who speculated, based on fossils sea shells found on mountain tops, that the surface of the Earth must have risen and fallen.
- Heraclitus (Ephesus, 535-475 B.C.), (Greek name: Irakleitos – Ηράκλειτος) Known as “the weeping philosopher” because of his pessimistic view of human nature and “the dark one” because of the mystical obscurity of his thought.
Heraclitus considered fire to be the primary form of the real world. According to him, everything is in the process of flux (panta rhei).
- Anaximander of Miletus (c.611-c.547 B.C.), (Greek name: Anaximadros – Αναξίμανδρος) another Milesian thinker, rejected Thales, and argued instead that an indefinite substance — the Boundless — was the source of all things.
According to Anaximander, the cold and wet condensed to form the earth while the hot and dry formed the moon, sun and stars. The heat from the fire in the skies dried the earth and shrank the seas. It’s a rather fantastic scheme, but at least Anaximander sought natural explanations for the origin of the natural world.
- Democritus of Abdera (c.460-370 B.C.) (Greek name: Dimokritos – Δημόκριτος) argued that knowledge was derived through sense perception — the senses illustrate to us that change does occur in nature.
However, Democritus also retained Parmenides’ confidence in human reason. His universe consisted of empty space and an infinite number of atoms (a-tomos, the “uncuttable”).
Eternal and indivisible, these atoms moved in the void of space. An atomic theory to the core, Democritus saw all matter constructed of atoms which accounted for all change in the natural world.
- Empedocles (born in Akragas, now Cicily, 492-440 B.C.) (Greek name: Empedoklis – Εμπεδοκλής). Natural philosopher, who introduced the idea of elements.
Empedocles recognized the heart as the center of a system of blood vessels, but erroneously suggested that the heart is the origin of human emotions. Considered that fire, air, earth, and water as the elementary substances.
According to the legend, Empedocles died by falling into a volcano’s crater after failing to become a god as he predicted.
- Protagorus (480-411 B.C.), also Protagoras of Abdera (Greek name: Protagoras – Πρωταγόρας). He is the most famous of the group of philosophers known as the sophists. Although his teaching fees were in fact high, was a serious philosopher.
Protagoras can be credited with founding the science of grammar, being the first to distinguish the various conjugations of verbs and declensions of nouns. He was also a major contributor to logic and was using the Socratic method (teaching by question and answer) before Socrates.
- Plato (Athens, 430-350 B.C.) (Greek name – Platon or Platonas – Πλάτων, Πλάτωνας) He was the founder of the Academy (named from the hero Academos owner of the grove where the Academy was built). Believed that mathematics played an important role in education. Disregarded practicality, a belief he passed to his students such as Eucledes.
- Aristotle (Stagira, 384-322 B.C.)(Greek name: Aristotelis – Αριστοτέλης) was considered the father of life sciences. Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander the Great.
He undertook the classification of animals and plants at a large scale. His main discovery in embryology was that the mother’s contribution is as important as the father’s.
Aristotle believed that the Earth was static and at the center of the universe. He also believed, erroneously, that motion was due to the tendency of all objects to reach there natural state. He discovered that free fall is an accelerated form of motion, but also believed that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones.
He considered chemical elements, which cannot be decomposed, to be the constituents of all bodies. He was the founder of the Lyceum in Athens, also called the peripatetic school because the philosophers were thought while walking.
- Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.) (Greek name : Sokratis – Σωκράτης) , perhaps the most noble and wisest Athenian to have ever lived. In his use of critical reasoning, by his unwavering commitment to truth, and through the vivid example of his own life, fifth-century Athenian Socrates set the standard for all subsequent Western philosophy.
Our best sources of information about Socrates’s philosophical views are the early dialogues of his student Plato, who attempted there to provide a faithful picture of the methods and teachings of the master
- Epictetus (about 50–130 A.D.) (Greek name: Epiktitos – Επίκτητος), a Greek Stoic philosopher. Like other Stoics, he resembled the Christians in his love of good and hatred of evil.
He taught the desirability of wanting nothing more than freedom and peace of mind, and that even the gods could not mar the happiness of persons who rely on their own free will.