10 Research Essay Topics on Hellenistic Philosophies

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Posted on February 4, 2016

If you are tasked with writing your research essay on Hellenistic philosophies, one of the first steps is picking your topic after which you must find suitable facts to substantiate any claim you make as part of unfolding your topic.

That being said, below you will find a multitude of interesting facts on Hellenistic Philosophies some of which might make for suitable evidence in your next writing task:

    1. After Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato, new philosophical thinking was discouraged by the changing cultural and political climate in Athens. The Greek Empire, founded by Alexander and Philip was conquered by the Romans. Culture of the Hellenistic period is what was left among the Greeks who were still in charge of the centralized state and military. While all people were encouraged to participate in the government as part of the Athenian tradition, individual citizens found that they could no longer contribute to shaping the social structure that led their lives. It is for this reason that Hellenistic philosophers did not spend as much time focused on the ideal state or on how this construction would help people to achieve happiness in life. Instead they were more ethical thinkers who focused on the life of individuals, independent from society. The descriptions put forth focused on the kind of actions and character that would best lead to a life well lived despite the then-current political realities.
    2. The Hellenistic philosophers were focused on how people should live when the external circumstances around them are beyond their control. The Hellenistic schools of philosophy did not propose radical changes or solutions to the larger governmental issues of the time, but instead paid attention to personal and individual changes
    3. There were two atomists named Democritus and Leucippus who created a systematic description of the world of nature, which was made up of particles, each having mechanical interactions with one another. This accounted for everything happening in the world. Because of such theory, people were paying significant attention to the consequences resulting from their actions.
    4. Epicurus was the leading philosopher of the Hellenistic period. He and his followers pointed out that since atoms were indestructible and accounted for the material used by all things in the universe to move and collide this movement was actually beyond the control of people. It was believed that these materials which would never go away, were all being controlled by elements within the larger universe that people could not change and so, even things such as politics were beyond control of people. It is for this reason that human life was a passive thing, and that humans could only experience nature and life but were not capable of changing it in the grand scheme of things. But it was still believed that people could live a good life and in doing so have some control over experiencing pleasant things in life rather than the unpleasant.
    5. Epicurus wrote that the goal of human life should be to enjoy mental ease and freedom from any pain. This means that sensual desires are all natural things and that wanting to satisfy them is completely natural too, as satiation is a pleasure in and of itself . However the frustration felt in not satisfying these urges is a form of pain. So to lead a good life free from pain one must satisfy these natural urges.
    6. It was also stated that death is the annihilation of personality, and it is not something which can be experienced. Therefore, people should not be afraid of death or bemoan the fact that all lives must end. Epicurus stated that people should relax, they should eat, and drink, and they should live in merriment.
    7. Epicurus stated that the most successful life is one in which people attain happiness through personal fulfillment, but in addition to this, people must also seek mental peace which can only come from accepting whatever things happen in life without complaining or struggling. These concepts were rivaled by the Stoics who represented a collection of knowledge put forth by Zeno and Chrysippus. The Stoics believed that there was a naturalistic explanation for people and their behaviors and that each person represented a microcosm of the whole universe.
    8. It was Epictetus who promoted that the central component to understanding how few of the occurances in the universe were under people’s control. It was he who stated that people must learn to remain stoic and stern in life, accepting the fates that are given without complaint. He also stated that all things in life, including family and friends, will perish and as such people should never become attached to these things and instead view each thing in life as a temporary blessing or a temporary curse, something that will naturally pass away in time.
    9. Skepticism was another school of Hellenistic philosophy which illustrated a keen lack of confidence in life, and it stated that human knowledge was severely limited in its application and scope. It was Pyrrho of Elis who originally taught skepticism and touted that people do not have any genuine knowledge or understanding of how things. Because of this they were encouraged to practice a suspension of judgment. Meaning that people can respond rationally to all situations in which they have no information or understanding. Such course of thinking concluded that people generally should not be acting at all. This is what brings about the essential peace of mind so heavily integrated into skepticism.
    10. It was Sextus Empiricus who wrote about a history of the skeptics and in doing so criticized the pretentious thoughts and acts of the other schools. It was this historian who noted that skeptics, who challenged the other popular Hellenistic philosophies of the time, arose from an odd and strict definition of “knowledge”. He argued that people truly know very little due to the fact that they cannot know something unless absolutely certain and was heavily ignored at the time of the statement release. However, later on it was used when the skeptical philosophy had been revived.

These facts on Hellenistic Philosophies should give you enough knowledge to start drafting a new academic paper. Also check our collection of 20 potential topics on this matter with a provided sample and complete guide on writing a research essay on Hellenistic Philosophies.

Adamson, Peter. Philosophy in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds. Print.
Algra, Keimpe. “Hellenistic Philosophy”. Phronesis 45.1 (2000): 77-86. Web.
Inwood, Brad, and Lloyd P Gerson. Hellenistic Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1988. Print.
Irwin, Terence. Classical Philosophy. New York [u.a.]: Garland Publ, 1995. Print.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Greek Philosophers of the Hellenistic Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Print.
Long, A. A. From Epicurus to Epictetus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006. Print.
Winston, David, and Gregory E Sterling. The Ancestral Philosophy. Providence, RI: Brown Judaic Studies, 2001. Print.

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