In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche famously claims that every great philosophy consists of a personal confession, or an unconscious autobiography of moral philosophy. In other words we care about a philosopher's teaching as well as how he lived his life. However upon reading Diogenes Laertius, the memorable antiquarian and collector of Hellenistic rumors, Nietzsche … Continue reading What Is The Value of Biography?
Book X, the final chapter of Diogenes Laertius's Lives, is dedicated entirely to a biography of Epicurus. As a result, many writers throughout the centuries have speculated as to whether or not Diogenes Laertius was an Epicurean. As a narrator, his opinions appear several times to defend Epicurus. Although he is something of a mere … Continue reading On Diogenes Laertius’s Biography of Epicurus
Pyrrho is often remembered as the founder of the "skeptics." He was a painter from Elis before studying under the "naked sages" of India as well as the Persian Magi. Diogenes Laertius says of Pyrrho: "...he seems to have adopted a profoundly noble philosophy, having introduced the notion of inability to attain conviction and that … Continue reading On Diogenes Laertius’s Biography of Pyrrho
Democritus "the Atomist" was either a native of Abdera or Miletus (Abdera was on the coast of Thrace while Miletus was on the coast of Asia Minor). He studied under the Magi (Persian priests) and the Chaldeans (Mesopotamian mystics). Diogenes claims that Herodotus recounts a story of Democritus's father entertaining Xerxes in Histories and that … Continue reading On Diogenes Laertius’s Biography of Democritus
Parmenides is a native of Elea and he was either a student of Xenophanes or Anaximander, however he was most influenced by the Pythagoreans. From them he was persuaded to pursue the contemplative life. Parmenides was the first to declare the earth is spherical, but unlike the Pythagoreans he thought the earth was located at … Continue reading On Diogenes Laertius’s Biography of Parmenides
Heraclitus "The Weeping Philosopher" was a native Ephesus (in Asia Minor). He was said to disdain Homer, Hesiod, and Pythagoras. Ever a misanthrope, he vocally rejected civic life (he refused to establish laws for Ephesus). He departed the city to live in the mountains where he lived on herbs until he contracted dropsy. He returned … Continue reading On Diogenes Laertius’s Biography of Heraclitus