Cover: What Is Ancient Philosophy?, from Harvard University PressCover: What Is Ancient Philosophy? in PAPERBACK

What Is Ancient Philosophy?

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$30.00 • £26.95 • €27.95

ISBN 9780674013735

Publication Date: 03/15/2004

Academic Trade

384 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


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Pierre Hadot deserves to be better known to English-language readers—and not just because he was a favorite of Michel Foucault’s and is the man largely responsible for introducing Wittgenstein to the French. Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy, a professor emeritus at the prestigious Collège de France. But it is more accurate to say that he is a philosopher who makes use of the ancients for his own ideas… In What is Ancient Philosophy? Hadot brings all his concerns together in a small volume of extraordinary erudition and surprising…clarity of prose… It is the summa of a distinguished career.—Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review

Pierre Hadot is determined to change our view of ancient philosophy, and by extension, of philosophy as a discipline… Like Hadot’s hero Socrates, What is Ancient Philosphy? is a triumph of irony: a meticulous historical survey that ends by inspiring the reader to actually do philosophy. Handsomely designed, with useful bibliography and chronology, it’s a compact text for the ‘never-ending quest.’—Thomas D’Evelyn, The Christian Science Monitor

Hadot’s account moves gracefully from the beginning of philosophy among the Greeks, though its transformation under the Romans, and the encounter with Christianity, also touching on the relation between Eastern and Western philosophy. Profound learning stylishly worn makes the whole book, and the whole sweep of philosophy’s first 1,000 years, accessible to any reader interested in what philosophy was like before it was taken over by the professors.—Barry Allen, The Globe & Mail

This is a stimulating book. Thinking comparatively about what philosophy was and is will surely enrich the field.—R. Kamtekar, Choice

First published in France in 1995, Hadot’s overview of ancient philosophy…is quite possibly one of the best one-volume works on the subject to have appeared in English in a very long time, not only for the clarity with which it is written…but also for the point of view Hadot takes. In keeping with Socrates’ dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living, Hadot places each philosopher or movement discussed firmly within its cultural and intellectual context and shows that philosophy was not simply a process for creating theories but, more importantly, a way of life for many.—Terry Skeats, Library Journal

This book is a masterpiece of erudition and insight—it combines Pierre Hadot’s extraordinary textual knowledge, his profound and original philosophical vision, and his famously lucid prose to give us a new way of approaching ancient philosophy. Beyond this, it proposes a conception of the tasks of philosophy that will be of abiding interest to philosophers and nonphilosophers alike.—Arnold Davidson, University of Chicago

Hadot’s What Is Ancient Philosophy? is a wonderful book. It strives to persuade us to revise our view of philosophy—to think of philosophy, as the ancients did, as crucially involving a philosophical way of life.—Michael Frede, Oxford University

In its sweep and clarity of presentation, I would compare this book with some of the great syntheses of an earlier generation—for instance, Werner Jaeger’s Paideia. At the center of the study is the strikingly original notion of the spiritual exercise, which Professor Hadot here and elsewhere shows to lie at the heart of Greek Hellenistic thinking about man, morality, and the universe.—Brian Stock, University of Toronto

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