Recent scholarship has steadily been opening up for philosophical study an increasingly wide range of the philosophical literature of antiquity. We no longer think only of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and their pre-Socratic forebears, when someone refers to the views of the ancient philosophers. Julia Annas has been one of the philosophers most closely engaged in the renewed study of Hellenistic philosophy over the past fifteen years, enabling herself and other scholars to acquire the necessary ground-level knowledge of the widely-dispersed texts and the problems of interpretation—both historical and philosophical—that they present. In her new book she takes the next step. She presents to the general philosophical public of today an extended reconstruction of the systems of moral philosophy that were developed and pitted in competition with one another during the period when refinement and professionalism were at their height in Greek philosophy—between the end of the 4th and the middle of the 1st centuries B.C. These include the moral philosophies of Epicurus and his followers, several generations of Stoics, sceptical philosophers both Academic and Pyrrhonian, and the “hybrid” theories put together by Antiochus of Ascalon and other Stoic-influenced philosophers as part of the modernizing revival of Aristotelian ethical thought that took place in the 1st century B.C. She finds significant commonalities among these otherwise very disparate theories, and much of the book is devoted to examining these and showing how the conception of ethics and morality that is common to the ancient theorists compares with and differs from what we are familiar with in modern and contemporary theory. She traces these commonalities back to Aristotle in his ethical treatises, and accordingly includes Aristotle’s theory as one among those to be examined—indeed, in a significant sense as the intellectual father or grandfather of the rest of them. She leaves Plato’s dialogues out of account, and she has nothing to say about ethics and moral philosophy in the revived Platonism that gradually came to dominate philosophical thought in later antiquity. Her book, then, is a book about the structure and content of ancient ethical theory during the Hellenistic period, the period when Greek philosophy was at its high-point in professionalism and sophistication.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0031-8205
DOI ppr199555355
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