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There exists a widely spread tradition which maintains that the term
"philosopher" was coined, or first used by, Pythagoras. Pythagoras is said not
only to have called himself a "philosopher", that is, "a lover of wisdom", but
also to have explained the meaning of this novel and, it appears, startling
term. The tradition which declares Pythagoras to be the originator and interpreter of the ^.erm,"philosopher" is commonly traced to Heracleides of Pontus
and hisTT^-T^S Q.TNOV $ mpl \/06LC*>\/ , a work wnich is completely lost.
Fortunately, in his Tusculan Disputations
V. 8-10, Gicerc has preserved what seem
to be the essentials of Heracleides c account. It may also be presumed that Cicero
recorded this story fairly accurately.
According to Cicero's report, Pythagoras once visited the town of Phlius.
When asked in what particular art or skill he excelled, he is said to have replied
that he was a "philosopher" and, hence, did not possess any particular practical
skill. Explaining further this unusual term, which apparently baffled his listeners, Pythagoras continued: "The life of man resembles a great festival celebrated.,
before the concourse £rom the whole of Greece. At this festival some people sought
to win the glorious distinction of a crwon; and others were attracted by the prospect of material gain through buying and selling. But there was also a certain
type of people, and that quite the best type of men, who were interested neither
in competing, applauding or seeking material gain, but who came solely for the
sake of the spectacle itself and, hence, closely watched what was done and how it
was done. So also we, as 'though we had come from some city to a crowded festival,
leaving in like fashion another life and another nature of being, entered upon
this life. And some were slaves of ambition, and some slaves of money. But there
are a special few who, counting all else for nothing, closely scanned the nature
of things. These men gave themselves the name of 'philosophers' (sapientiae
studiosi)...and this is the meaning of the term 'philosophers'. And just as at
these festivals the men of the most exalted education looked on without any
self-seeking interest, so in life the contemplation of things and their rational
apprehension (cognitio) by far surpasses all other pursuits."4
That Heracleides of Pontus was not the inventor or perhaps the first
reporter of this engaging story might be gathered from Aristotle's Protrepticus
which,' it is fairly reasonable to assume, was composed about 350 B.C., that is,
some time before Heracleides wrote his rtfa\ της drt^cxJ ° In the Protrepticus
Aristotle maintains: "It is by no means strange that philosophic wisdom
(^puv^eiS ) should appear devoid of immediate practical usefulness and, at the
same time, might not at all prove itself advantageous. For we call philosophic
wisdom not advantageous, but good. It ought to be pursued, not for the sake of
anything else, but solely for its own sake« For as we journey to the Games at
Olympia for the sake of the spectacle itself - for the spectacle as such is worth
more than just a great deal of money - and as we watch the Dionysia not in order
to derive some material gain from the actors - as a matter of fact, we spend
money on them - and as there are many more spectacles we ought to prefer to great
riches: so, too, the viewing and contemplation of the universe is to be valued
above all other things commonly considered to be useful in a practical sense.
For, most certainly, it would make little sense were we to take pains to watch
men imitating women or slaves, or fighting or running, but not think it proper
to view, bfree of all charges, the nature and tne true reality of everything that
This passage from Aristotle's Protrepticus, which has apparently been
completely overlooked or simply ignored, sttould make it quite clear that the use
of the panegyric analogy for the purpose of explaining the term "philosopher" or
"theoretic man", is certainly older than Heracleides' nff>t **?J ctrTVOtJ , and
perhaps even older than Aristotle's Protrepticus. It might be conjectured that
it was already known, and already used, during the first part of the fourth century
B.C., and, as fragment 194 (Diels-Kranz) of Democritu*- seems to indicate, probably
before that time. The further question as to whether this analogy may in fact be
traced back to Pythagoras himself, is outside the scope of this brief comment. It
does seem doubtful, however, that so "technical" a term as "philosopher"
already be in use during the latter part of the sixth century B.C. In any event,
Aristotle does not credit it specifically to Pythagoras.

he himself becomes.. For some unknown reason Heracleides links this observation to the story that Pythagoras invented the term "philosopher" The panegyric analogy employed by Aristotle and credited by Heracleides to Pythagoras in no way explains the term "philosopher 10 . truth.. being capable of visualizing and loving absolute beauty. the accounts of Aristotle and Heracleides of Pontus actually combine two major themes: the three fundamental ways of life and the way of the true philosopher. which he advocates and extolls» . the philosopher's"eyes are forever directed towards things immutable and fixed" (Republic 500C)... that the good is also the beautiful and. "God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses of the intelligences in the heavens.constitutes the main or preferred a c t i v i t y of the true philosopher. ) . represented by those wn& '°aeeK a crown". and the philosopher's mind. is enjoyable per se without any material gain . a life centered around (Pfd^dct ° Hence. "being fixed on true being.. measuring earth and heaven" (Theaetetus 173E). but merely proclaims or illustrates that dispassionate contemplation . is flying about. Heracleides. Republic 475E: "Who. ) . and the life of pure contemplation (or theoretic life wholly dedicated to a l i f e of contemplation and '"theory". . in turn. Pythagoras»^ In Aristotle's account. the panegyric analogy refers primarily to the truee basic ways of life: the life of bodily pleasure or material gain. ) . hence... W. the philosopher alone.And holding conversation with the divine order. it seems. tries to point out that in human l i f e we might be either a passionate participant or a dispassionate spectator. and love is of the beautiful. as it is extolled in the story of Pythagoras and stated in Aristotle's Protrepticus..and from this source we have derived philosophy" (Timaeus 47A f f . "recognizes the existence of absolute beauty" (Republic 476B).15.. presumably when late Piatonism assumed a distinct Pythagorizing trends Undoubtedly.. it will be noted.. It would not be too far fetched to surmise that the above mentioned passage from Aristotle's Protrepticus is a faint echo of Plato. All these statements. . discussed in Plato's Symposium (201C f f . we mav surmise. the mind of the philosopher. thie ideal was retroactively attributed or credited to Pythagoras.and this seems to be a definite Platonic twist . The philosopher .divine": (Republic 500C f f .$F£j£>tft ) » represented by the dispassionate (philosophic) observer. the key terrfi is Oe^jpco. and.a distinctly Platonic twist. And therefore love is also a philosopher» 1 But ail these explanations and references still leave unsolved the problem of the panegyric analogy«. then.. .Jaeger Suggests that Heracleides took these two themes directly from Aristotle's Protrepticus (a&d more remotely from P l a t o ) . the l i f e of virtue and honor (the practical or political l i f e ) .. and "of experiencing the delight which is to be found in the understanding of true being" (Republic 582D). combined to tried to integrate them into a single account» In order to endow this story with greater authority he projected into the remote past by creo*iting it to. and the philosopher a ςΡ/λοΗαΑο^ : "But who are the lovers of wisdom? ° „ <> They are those who are in a mear. the close interrelation of τ& KC^ON/ /nd yb $Λ&/ permits us to call philosophy βΡ/λθ«?/1<βΙ . Hence it might be argued that the link between the term "philosopher" and the main activity of the philosopher is not altogether successful : it simply presupposes the term "philosopher" as a well-established term.the purely "theoretic life" . bring us close to the problem. but not to be discussed here. at the same time. are the true philosophers? Those. It might be safe to assume that the ideal of the contemplative or theoretic l i f e . has surely no time to look down on human affairs .. and that love is directed towards the beautiful and the true 0 The dispassionate viewing of the sublimely beautiful is the dispassionate love of the sublimely beautiful and of the ultimate truth arid beauty« With Plato.and it is this (9f6J£t&.was originally advocated by PJatc and the Academy» At one time. that is. "those who love the truth in each thing are to be called philosophers" (Republic 480A). represented by those who attend the festival tor the sake of "buying and selling". "disdaining the pettiness and nothingness of human a f f a i r s . "the philosophers alone are capable of grasping that which is eternal and unchangeable" (Republic 484B). "only the philosopher is capable of knowing the truth of each thing" (Republic 484D). between the twOo Love is one of them 0 For wisdom is a most beautiful thing. .who are the lovers of the vision of truth (τοΰί iff? aUf ctaS G e/tO sdtA&'Ctϊ ) « " One might quote here also the many Platonic references to the true nature or function of philosophy and the philosopher: "Philosophical minds always have knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature" (Republic 485B). Both Pythagoras and Aristotle seem to stress that /fzjptci.

p. XII. 53." . Vita Pythagorae. lovers of honor (or virtue or fame). perhaps. Notre Dame Law School. incidentally a fairly early work: "Now to be happy."^ Hence we realize that "there are three lives which all those choose who have the power to do so. that is. it goes without saying. Athenaeus.H. perhaps. the 'political (practical) man' to noble deeds. from which Plato also derives the three ways of life as well as the three types of happiness or pleasure. I may not call them (seil. "Some Observations on the Origin of the Term 'Philosopher'". and some say physical pleasure. line 5. 28.12. G teborg. the philosopher is determined to dedicate himself to <pf>o\S')6l5 . Protrepticus (Summaria). where we are told that there exist "three classes of men: lovers of wisdom. frag. Notre Dame. 12. must consist mainly in three things which appear to be most desirable. 54. and the voluptuary to bodily pleasures. Aristotle iProtrepticus A Reconstruction. Nicomachean Ethics 1100 b 19-20). For the purpose of illustration Aristotle draws certain parallels between the contemplative or theoretic life of the true philosopher and the celebrated spectacle (or dispassionate viewer of the spectacle) at Olympia or the Great Dionysia. . likewise uses the panegyric analogy (the Isthmian Games). virtue (or noble deeds) and physical pleasure. 463DE. See also lamblichus.p. vol. 1964. which is vitally related to Plato's basic philosophic outlook. frag. 4. Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia. Aristotle's Protrepticus. 3. lines 15 f f . See also lamblichus «Protrepticus. Paul. p. ) is their modest and befitting title. For^this is an exalted term which belongs to God alone. 1 the life of the philosopher. An Attempt at Reconstruction. 423-434. according to Plato (and Aristotle) there are three main purposes in human life as well as in all fundamental human pursuits. those whose compositions are based on the knowledge of truth. But 'lovers of wisdom 1 (φ/λο&οφοί. Diogenes Laertius 1. no. . 1888). and ibid. Indiana. frag. 5. Chroust (A 0 -H»Chroust. line 5 . or in physical pleasure or material gain. or in virtue (honor or fame). Of these. and who are able to defend or prove them). 4. (1964). 44. and that St. -H. Here Diogenes Laertius credits the story to Sosicrates' Succession of Philosophers rather than to Heracleides of Pontus. is once again restated in Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics. pp. Protrepticus.. pp. to acts which originate with virtue. 1. some say virtue (or honor). Walzer. frag.Since Pythagoras compares the philosopher to the "fond viwer of the sublime spectacle (or vision). p. Dur ing (I. and lovers of material gain. at 476A) or. 1961." he should have called himself a <^i/ioOFQ//c^y (see Plato. Notre Dame. lamblichus.16. vol. either in ifpOWeiS . 8. to wit. (edit. For some maintain that <Upow76iS is the greatest good. 53. During. Indiana. 58.Ti 6. closely follows Cicero's account. Chroust. p. Ross. to live blissfully 'and beautifully. 42.18 ff. 2. 4. . lines 15 ff .Pitelli. Hence it may be assumed that lamblichus relies on Cicero for his information or. . 67). pp. It is not impossible that he saw the original work of Heracleides of Pontus. a (see Aristotle. See A. The New Scholasticism. Phaedrus 278D: "Wise (6o<po£).·^ Different people seek their happiness and fulfilment in these three pursuits. and the life of the voluptuary." In short." 14 The triad of <^DV<9tftS . the life of 'political (practical) man. on a source close to that used by Cicero. 58 f f . Anton-Hermann Chroust Notes. Deipnosophistae XI. It is not impossible that the definition of the philosopher as the "lover of wisdom" goes back to Plato. 12. That the story of the three basic ways of life goes back to Plato may be gathered from Republic 581C. Diogenes Laertius VIII. Rose. This triadic notion. is closely related to Plato's doctrine of the tripartite soul. frag. Republic 475E. It will be noted that Aristotle refers to the Olympic Games in Nicomachean Ethics 1099 a 3. rather than a 7. I Corinthians 9:24. namely. lamblichus.