ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY AFTER ARISTOTLE Greek philosophy continued to flourish more or less for several centuries after the death of Aristotle. But its character was changed in some important respects. Plato and Aristotle attached supreme value to theoretical reflection as such. This is evident from their conception of God, for whom they could conceive no higher activity than thought. But Greek conditions in the latter part of the 4th century B.C. were not favourable to such dis interested thought. After the battle of Chaeronea, in 338 B.C., the Greeks lost their independence, and the Macedonian ascen dancy, even if it was not an unmixed evil, created too many prac tical problems to leave much scope for abstract speculations. People who turned to philosophy did so mainly in search of some kind of moral or religious tonic. Hence the subordination of theoretical to ethical discussions in post-Aristotelian philosophy. The most important of the Greek schools of philosophy after Aristotle were the Epicureans, the Stoics and the Sceptics. They were all interested mainly in the moral problems of human life, and their history belongs chiefly to the history of ethics.
Epicurus (?341-271 B.C.) and the Epicureans put no intrinsic value on knowledge. Its value, according to them, consists entirely in its usefulness for practical purposes. The study of nature is useful mainly because it emancipates us from groundless fears and superstitions. The study of human nature also has some
value as an aid to self-control. But most other studies they despised as learned lumber. Under the circumstances, they were not likely to make any valuable contributions to metaphysical theory. Yet we owe them something. As a reaction against the idealism and teleology of Plato and Aristotle, the Epicureans embraced the atomic theory of Democritus with its mechanistic explanations of all things. Even the soul was regarded as cor poreal, "composed of fine particles dispersed all over the body, most nearly resembling wind with an admixture of heat"; for. says Epicurus, "it is impossible to conceive anything incorporeal except empty space"; "hence those who call soul incorporeal talk foolishly." In the 2nd century B.C. Epicureanism obtained a foot hold in Rome, and there produced its most famous exponent in Lucretius (95-51 B.C.), whose poem, On the Nature of Things, contains the classic account of ancient atomism. In ethics they developed the hedonism of the Cyrenaics. While regarding pleasure as the only good, they distinguished different kinds, as well as degrees of pleasure, valuing mental pleasures, especially those resulting from the practice of virtue, above all others. (See