Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy and Middle Eastern philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.

Pre-Hellenistic schools of thought

The Hellenistic era saw the continuation of several pre-Hellenistic era schools of thought, including:

Sophism - a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching arete (excellence, virtue) predominantly to young statesmen and nobility.

Cynicism - an ascetic sect of philosophers beginning with Antisthenes in the 4th century BC and continuing until the 5th century AD. They believed that one should live a life of virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, or celebrity, and living a life free from possessions.

Cyrenaicism - a hedonist school of philosophy founded in the fourth century BC by Aristippus, who was a student of Socrates. They held that pleasure was the supreme good, especially immediate gratifications; and that people could only know their own experiences, beyond that truth was unknowable.

Peripatetic school - the philosophers who maintained and developed the philosophy of Aristotle. They advocated examination of the world to understand the ultimate foundation of things. The goal of life was the eudaimonia which originated from virtuous actions, which consisted in keeping the mean between the two extremes of the too much and the too little.

In addition to these schools of thought, the Hellenistic era produced many new schools of thought.

Hellenistic schools of thought


Pyrrhonism is a school of philosophical skepticism that originated with Pyrrho in the 3rd century BC, and was further advanced by Aenesidemus in the 1st century BC. Its objective is ataraxia (being mentally unperturbed), which is achieved through epoché (i.e. suspension of judgment) about non-evident matters (i.e., matters of belief).


Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus in the 3rd century BC. It viewed the universe as being ruled by chance, with no interference from gods. It regarded absence of pain as the greatest pleasure, and advocated a simple life. It was the main rival to Stoicism until both philosophies died out in the 3rd century AD.