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By Lawrence C. Becker, Charlotte B. Becker

This newly revised and up-to-date version of A background of Western Ethics is a coherent and available assessment of an important figures and influential rules of the background of ethics within the Western philosophical culture.

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His immediate successors, Speusippus (c. ), concentrated on a systematic exposition of ideas, especially in metaphysics, that Plato had hinted at rather than elaborated. The Socratic legacy, so far as we can tell, was not their concern. LONG which virtually nothing is known about its activities. ). Under his initiative, the Academy abandoned all interest in doctrinal philosophy and became a school of radical skepticism. This dramatic shift of orientation is one of the most intriguing events in Greek philosophy.

Lucretius designed his great poem, De rerumnatura (On the Nature of Things), as a detailed lesson in Epicurean philosophy of nature. Cicero, in an ambitious series of essays, expounded many of the doctrines of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy. The two authors were not professional philosophers, and present themselves, in the main, as disseminators of this Greek material. Yet at many points they convey their own viewpoint on the contemporary world, or rather, they use their philosophical material as a vehicle for commenting on the contemporary corruption of Roman values.

What needs to be emphasised is Arcesilaus’s concern to return the Academy to the Socratic legacy, albeit a very different interpretation from that adopted by the other Socratic schools. As a Platonist, Arcesilaus was certainly original in his skepticism. But his immediate Academic predecessors, it seems, had already begun to regard the life and ethics of Socrates as the key to Platonism, in reaction against the scholarly exegesis of Plato practised by Speusippus and Xenocrates. For an adequate introduction to Epicureanism and Stoicism one needs to be aware of all the ethical alternatives that have just been outlined.

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