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The Philosophy Portal

Philosophy is unavoidable. Even to claim that philosophy is useless is to compare it to some standard of value—and thus to engage in philosophy. Worse yet, to ignore those values is simply to allow others to set them for you without your knowledge or participation. Thus John Maynard Keynes wrote:

Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

Philosophy is the most abstract vantage point of any inquiry, addressing questions of purpose and significance, of ideals and the nature of knowledge itself. As such, western civilization has usually over-emphasized dialectic and exegesis to the exclusion of creating a way of life. Nietzsche attempted to correct this trend by pointing back to the Pre-Socratic Greeks, but was generally ignored. Pierre Hadot continued this attempt in the 20th century with Philosophy As a Way of Life, but today the philosophy-as-commentary trend has only continued as the general public becomes increasingly convinced of its uselessness. And this perception is only exacerbated by the frustration of turning to philosophy to learn what to value and finding so many schools of thought.

This is because ultimately, the lesson of philosophy is to discover what it is that you value. And when you have multiple values situationally in conflict—say, loyalty and justice—you have to make choices, sometimes even sacrificing the lesser to the greater. No philosophy will ever change this cold hard reality.

Classical Greek and Roman Philosophers
Pre-Socratics: PythagorasHippasas
Socratics: SocratesPlatoAristotle
Sophists: ProtagorasGorgiasAntiphon
Cynics: AntisthenesDiogenesCratesMennipusDemetrius
Platonists: SpeusippusXenocratesArcesilausCarneadesAntiochusPlutarch
Peripatetics: TheophrastusStratoAlexander of Aphrodisias
Pyrrhonists: • PyrrhoTimonAenesidemusSextus Empiricus
Epicureans: EpicurusMetrodorusZeno of SidonPhilodemusLucretius
Stoics: Zeno of CitiumCleanthesChrysippusPanaetiusPosidoniusSenecaEpictetusMarcus Aurelius
Eclectics: Varro ReatinusCiceroSeneca the Younger
Neopythagoreans: Nigidius FigulusApollonius of TyanaNumenius of Apamea
Neoplatonists: PlotinusPorphyryIamblichus of ChalcisProclus
Classical Chinese Philosophers
Confucians: Confucius
Daoists: LaoziZhuangzi
Legalists: Lord ShangHanfeizi