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Chapter 3

Chapter 3.docx

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PSYC 397
Mary C Olmstead

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PSYC 397
Antiquity: 323 BCE to 1000 CE
Chapter 3
Hellenism and the Empire
Roman Empire (31 BCE – 476 CE)
Alexander the Great
Student of Aristotle
Wanted to create a universal empire that would bring Greek culture to all lands
Romans were able to achieve this – used a common language, culture, and politics to
bind its citizens together
Polis: small city-state in ancient Greece.
The Romans abolished the idea of the polis – persons were citizens of Rome as opposed to identifying
with the city-state (polis) in which they lived.
Why is this important?
Idea that the state comes before the community had powerful influence in settling ethnic and
geographic disputes
“The idea that a universal empire of reason – of mutual trust rather than genetic altruism – that
embraced yet transcended local and ethnic divisions exerted a powerful influence on the
modernizers of the Enlightenment Project and the founders of the American republic.”
Hellenistic period (323 – 331 BCE)
Began with the death of Alexander the Great; ended at the final conquest of Egypt
Time of turmoil and intense social change between Alexander the Great’s death and
establishment of the Roman Empire
What happened during the Hellenistic period:
When Alexander the Great dies, the vision he had for a universal empire becomes perverted by
his generals, who rule conquered lands and wage wars against one another
“Having lost their beloved polis, Hellenistic women and men turned away from public life
toward the pleasures of private life and home.”
Consequences of the Hellenistic period
Greater value was placed on marriage as lifelong companionship (previously wives were kept as
a means to produce heirs)
Home life emphasized
Citizens sought comfort from turmoil (i.e., the wars among Alexander the Great’s former
generals – aka, the “warring kings”) through philosophy or religion
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PSYC 397
Pax Romana: period of relative peace and minimal territorial expansion by the Roman Empire.
Neoplatonism: a philosophical religion, popular in the Hellenistic period.
Tyche (fate): Greek figure who controls the destiny of a city; able to bring fortune or destruction onto a
city’s people.
Ataraxia: state of happy peacefulness characterized by freedom from distress and worry. This is
achievable without luck.
Eudaemonia: living well; flourishing. This is thought to depend on luck.
Whereas the Classic Greeks sought eudaemonia, Hellenistic Greeks and Romans sought ataraxia.
Self-mastery increased – idea that contentment was not the will of fortune but in one’s own
Physicians acting as philosophers – catalyze psychology as a science.
Philosophers acting as physicians (such in the case of reducing distress in striving for ataraxia as
opposed to eudaemonia) catalyze psychology as psychotherapy.
Why is this important for psychology?
New beginnings – psychological freedom from distress when Hellenes seek ataraxia
This moves psychology toward a role of psychotherapy
Emphasis on therapy for the soul
New philosophies focused on therapy for the soul, and by turning inward they reduced adherence
to cult-like religions
Religion became more about soul-searching
Paved the way for Christianity
Epicureanism: philosophy established by Epicurus, which posited that suffering should be flushed from
the body and spirit. He subscribed to the idea of ataraxia, describing pleasure as the absence of suffering.
He encouraged introversion and avoiding of strong passions (e.g., erotic love). He renounced the idea of
a soul as a means to state that there would be no afterlife (an idea known as atomism). His philosophy
gave rise to a cult-like following.
Lifestyle and philosophy
Withdrawal from the world (literally – seeking quiet places like gardens – and figuratively,
meaning not relying on others or the world)
Cynicism: rejection of all social constraints and worldly conventions. As opposed to Epicureanism, this
had less to do with withdrawal from the social aspect of the world and more to do with rejecting the
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PSYC 397
status quo. Like Epicureanism, this stresses the importance of rejecting society, controlling emotions,
and avoiding passion.
Diogenes (400 – 325 BCE) was the most famous adherent of cynicism - called “the Dog”
because he lived as dogs do (e.g., public urination and masturbation)
Skepticism: philosophy founded by Pyrrho of Elis (360 – 270 BCE). They classified philosophy into
three schools of thought. Theirs was characterized by the desire to continuously pursue the truth. Like
the other philosophies, they stressed against pleasure-seeking, and stated that happiness would come
from “quietude.”
Philosophy Key Players Main Principles
Dogmatists Aristotelians
These people claimed to know the truth
Academics Heirs to Plato’s
Academy (?)
Humans cannot know the truth at all, but can
aim to reach Socrates’ aporia (understanding
that there are no single answers; awareness of
contradictory evidence)
Skeptics Says on page 81
that Plato’s
academy turned to
Continuous search for the truth
Developed empiricist epistemology
Important because of their emphasis on empiricism.
Plato’s Forms: idea that truth lies in abstract ideas and not what can be immediately deduced by the
naked eye.
Skeptics rejected the idea of Forms, favouring appearances in the search for truth. However, they did
agree that impressions could be different between beholders.
Epistemology: philosophy concerned with the origins, nature, and limits of human intelligence.
Stoicism: most influential of all the Hellenistic philosophies; was held across social statuses and was the
philosophy of the ruling class.
Stoics made advances in science and logic (e.g., propositional logic)
Certain truths were held for individuals and universally, and these could be combined to
form propositional statements
Founded by Zeno of Citium (333 – 262 BCE)
Only God is perfect, all men are somewhat evil
Personal choice over happiness/unhappiness
The only thing that makes one man better than another is mastery of emotion. All other things
(e.g., wealth, talent) are dealt as your fate, and are predetermined.
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