Political Decline and Varieties of Intellectual Reaction in Post-Aristotelian Philosophy
The philosophers considered in this essay were in search of the way to achieve happiness and mental serenity in an unsteady socio-political situation brought about by the conquests of Alexander the Great. The philosophers in different ways maintained a deterministic metaphysics. In spite of this, they prescribed ways to happiness which assume that man is free in the exercise of his will and hence can be held responsible for his actions, as he relates with either nature or neighbours in society. When considered against the background of their various deterministic metaphysics, this ethical position raises questions about theoretical consistency on one hand, and the possibility of morality (especially with regard to the Epicureans) on the other. This essay therefore considers an ethical problem in two different schools of thought which had the same view of the aim of life, and suggests that metaphysical presuppositions can be used to illuminate our understanding of problems in other areas of philosophy. It further suggests that our gains are immense when historical and societal factors are taken into consideration in tackling a philosophical problem.