"study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw us from our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die"1
Cynics believe: ‘What good is philosophy if it never moves you to criticize your comfortable habits and actually change yourself for the better?’ Cynicism was conceived of as a way of life unbeholden to social convention or political demand, that is, a life lived according to nature. (This phrase is a recurring theme in debates among the Hellenistic philosophies.)
For Cynics, nature is the opposite of society’s conventions and norms. All that the ordinary social herd is interested in is getting on in this world. They flatter, they beg, they posture. Such people think that they are better if they can throw a big fancy party! ‘How shallow! How fleeting! How ridiculous!,’ say the Cynics. These people have lost touch with nature. 2
Here's a song by Extreme called "Cynical":
"And whatever you do / someone's done it first / though it's sad but true / this us just another verse / if you can't take it with you / then what's the use? / I never saw a u-haul / being pulled behind a hearse."
Skeptics: Pyrrho of Elis (c. 365/360-275/270 BCE) was the first celebrated Skeptic. He was said to have accompanied Alexander to India. His philosophical position was that we can only know how things appear to us, and we can’t rightly resolve disagreements as to what appears. This is all very disturbing. Wouldn’t it be better just to suspend judgment and live according to probable opinion and custom?
- "Skeptics aimed to undermine the supposed certainties of all their other philosophical competitors. While this might seem to limit it to making only a negative contribution, Skepticism did at least provide a voice for humility and tolerance, even if the Skeptics themselves did not always practise those qualities." 2
Epicureans: "Epicurus modified the materialistic philosophy of the 5th century bce atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. Everything is composed of matter, more specifically, of atoms moving in a void. For the most part, they move in regular ways. Their principal movement is to fall down in straight lines. (How ‘down’ can be identified in a void is a problem that the Epicureans did not clarify.) However, occasionally atoms ‘swerve.’ From these irregular movements, atoms began to collide and clump together. and the universe we know through our senses began to form. The movements and interactions of atoms suffice for a complete explanation of the world. The swerve is also the basis of Epicurus’ defense of free will.
- "Epicurus takes this absence of a cosmic purpose to mean that pleasure is the only good. Indeed, pleasure is the meaning of the good. The Greek word translated as ‘pleasure’ is the root of the English word, hedonism. Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the highest good." 2Editor's note: If this quote to the left attributed to Epicurus can be accurately pinned to him, then maybe there's more than just the anti-hedonist attitudes like Cicero's that this school has had to endure. It could most definitely have come from a church that had tried to solidfy itself over the centuries.
Stoicism: "your average Hellenistic Joe Schmoe feels his life running away from him in fifty directions—but God has got it together. There is a pattern to it all, despite what Epicureans will tell you. There is a grand plan—no—a perfect plan, behind the seemingly haphazard affairs of life, a logos." (<--Bust of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism) 3
- "Unfortunately, as the world is entirely material and perfectly ordered it is also thoroughly determined. Thus, it is also correct to name the divine as fortune. The earlier Stoics put a brave spin on this, and said that the plan evidenced divine providence, a reassuring God. Later Stoics, who must have been a bit discouraged by suicides, exiles and the like, thought that the plan was more like an impersonal, implacable fate.
- "The Stoics argue that, since every person has logos, the natural law is a universal law for all people, irrespective of ethnic background and political allegiance. Our true citizenship is not with any particular city and its parochial little customs. We are all citizens of the city of the world—the cosmopolis. The Roman Empire adopts Stoicism as the official ideology, exactly for this view." 2
Now that we've looked at the main schools of Hellenist philosophy (heck, throw in NeoPlatonism in there w/ ol' man Plotinus in there too), how will you face the end?