Roman Philosophies

Posted by on Dec 27, 2016 in Community, Prayer | 0 comments

Roman Philosophies

Education and Philosophy*

Most people in the ancient Roman Empire could not afford an extensive education. Slaves were trained for their specific duties; the poor continued in family agrarian life or were apprenticed to a specific craft. However, education was central to the Hellenistic ideal.

Formal education was generally private. Certain slaves, called pedagogues, could be responsible for overseeing the education of their master’s children through hiring teachers. That teacher would educate the children in a set curriculum, including reading and writing, literature, mathematics, Greek and/or Latin, rhetoric, and philosophy. Rhetoric (the study of verbal persuasion) was necessary for political and legal life, and philosophy was considered the highest expression of learning.

Philosophy involved investigation into the physical and conceptual makeup of the world (metaphysics as well as science) and into ethics. Most religions in antiquity did not substantively address ethical matters (Judaism and Christianity were significant exceptions); rather, this was the realm of philosophy. Various competing philosophical systems were taught around the first century – see chart below:

Middle Platonists
  • Expanded and dogmatized upon Plato’s concept of the realm of ideas/forms as more substantial than their individual physical expression.
  • Enamored with the successful execution of rhetorical argumentation (sometimes regardless of the particular position taken in the argument).
  • Contended for a more naturalistic way of pious living, often engaging in shocking verbal and physical feats to make their points.
  • Believed that all that exists were miniscule packets of matter (atoms), that humans were entirely composed of aggregate matter (thus ceasing to exist upon death), and that life was consequently about maximizing earthly pleasure through friendships and enjoyment of life.
  • Argued that the world was fundamentally the expression of a rational force (the logos), and that harmonious good living required an exaltation of reason over spontaneous emotions in all of life.

*Article and table above are from the ESV Study Bible.

What’s different now?

As you review the ancient philosophies in the chart above, reflect on where your might fit in. Is your life guided by your faith or more by one of the ancient (timeless?) philosophies articulated above? The dawn of a new calendar year is always a good time to reflect, reevaluate, and redirect your future.

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