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The Heirs of PlatoA Study of the Old Academy (347-274 BC)$
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John Dillon

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198237662

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198237669.001.0001

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Polemo, Champion of Ethical Praxis

Polemo, Champion of Ethical Praxis

Chapter:
(p.156) 4 Polemo, Champion of Ethical Praxis
Source:
The Heirs of Plato
Author(s):

John Dillon (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198237669.003.0004

Polemo, who was converted to philosophy after hearing Xenocrates lecture, presided over the Academy for much longer than either of his predecessors (from 314–276 B.C.). Polemo is best known for emphasizing the practical application of ethics over theory, and for his doctrine that the purpose of life is to live ‘in conformity with nature’, which he may well have adopted from Xenocrates. While it is difficult to disentangle Polemo's ethical theory from that of Xenocrates, Polemo tends to be credited with an increase in the austerity of ethical theory, which anticipates and may have influenced the ethical theory of Zeno of Citium, who had been a pupil of Polemo. There is also a possibility that Polemo anticipated Stoic materialism. Dillon draws upon Cicero's De Finibus to point to many subtle distinctions between the ethics of Polemo and Zeno; nevertheless, it is clear that Polemo was an important bridge between Platonism and Stoicism.

Keywords:   Cicero, De Finibus, practical ethics, Stoicism, Xenocrates, Zeno of Citium

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