Abstract | The Anaxagorean-Socratic Moment in the History of the Philosophos

Christopher Moore

The half-dozen fifth-century attestations to the word philosophos (and its cognates), from Eastern and Western Greece, do not promise the term’s longevity. But it did live on, crystallizing in Athens the discipline called philosophia around it. I argue for a late-fifth century conduit for the name’s preservation and success. Anaxagoras and his associates appear to have been called philosophoi by their Athenian contemporaries, probably for their intellectual and practical affinity to Empedocles. Their fame grew as they were judged cynically to advocate impiety in rhetorically and politically effective ways. Plato and Xenophon present Socrates as conflated with Anaxagoreans and thus stuck with the appellation philosophos. They failed in their efforts to dissociate Socrates from philosophia. But Plato at least – with Thucydides, Isocrates, and others – softened that failure by wringing a charitable reconstruction from the earlier usages.

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