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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 inter-
preter 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 listen-
ers, 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 pros-
pect 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\ 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.
15. Both Pythagoras and Aristotle seem to stress that /fzjptci, is enjoyable
per se without any material gain - a distinctly Platonic twist. Heracleides, it
seems, tries to point out that in human l i f e we might be either a passionate
participant or a dispassionate spectator. 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 Pythag-
oras in no way explains the term "philosopher 10 , but merely proclaims or illustrates
that dispassionate contemplation - the purely "theoretic life" - constitutes the
main or preferred a c t i v i t y of the true philosopher. 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.

It would not be too far fetched to surmise that the above mentioned
passage from Aristotle's Protrepticus is a faint echo of Plato, Republic 475E:
"Who, then, are the true philosophers? Those...who are the lovers of the vision
of truth ( iff? aUf ctaS G e/tO sdtA&'Ct ) " 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); "the philosophers alone are capable of
grasping that which is eternal and unchangeable" (Republic 484B); "those who
love the truth in each thing are to be called philosophers" (Republic 480A);
"only the philosopher is capable of knowing the truth of each thing" (Republic
484D); and "of experiencing the delight which is to be found in the understanding
of true being" (Republic 582D); the philosopher alone, being capable of visual-
izing and loving absolute beauty, "recognizes the existence of absolute beauty"
(Republic 476B); the philosopher's"eyes are forever directed towards things
immutable and fixed" (Republic 500C); "God invented and gave us sight to the end
that we might behold the courses of the intelligences in the heavens....and from
this source we have derived philosophy" (Timaeus 47A f f . ) ; the mind of the
philosopher, "disdaining the pettiness and nothingness of human a f f a i r s . . . . is
flying about, measuring earth and heaven" (Theaetetus 173E); and the philosopher's
mind, "being fixed on true being, has surely no time to look down on human affairs
....And holding conversation with the divine order, he himself becomes....divine":
(Republic 500C f f . ) .
All these statements, in turn, bring us close to the problem, discussed
in Plato's Symposium (201C f f . ) , but not to be discussed here, that the good is
also the beautiful and,, hence, truth; and that love is directed towards the beaut-
iful 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, the close interrelation of & KC^ON/ /nd yb $&/ permits us to call
philosophy /?/1< , and the philosopher a /^ : "But who are the lovers
of wisdom? <> They are those who are in a mear. between the twOo Love is one of
them 0 For wisdom is a most beautiful thing,, and love is of the beautiful. And
therefore love is also a philosopher 1 But ail these explanations and references
still leave unsolved the problem of the panegyric analogy,

It might be safe to assume that the ideal of the contemplative or theor-

etic l i f e , as it is extolled in the story of Pythagoras and stated in Aristotle's
Protrepticus.was originally advocated by PJatc and the Academy At one time, we
mav surmise, thie ideal was retroactively attributed or credited to Pythagoras,
presumably when late Piatonism assumed a distinct Pythagorizing trends Undoubtedly,
the panegyric analogy refers primarily to the truee basic ways of life: the life
of bodily pleasure or material gain, represented by those who attend the festival
tor the sake of "buying and selling"; the l i f e of virtue and honor (the practical
or political l i f e ) , represented by those wn& 'aeeK a crown"; and the life of pure
contemplation (or theoretic life - $Fj>tft ) represented by the dispassionate
(philosophic) observer. The philosopher - and this seems to be a definite Platonic
twist - is wholly dedicated to a l i f e of contemplation and '"theory", that is, a
life centered around (Pfd^dct Hence, 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,, W.Jaeger Suggests that Heracleides took these
two themes directly from Aristotle's Protrepticus (a&d more remotely from P l a t o ) ,
and, at the same time, 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. Pythagoras^ In Aristotle's account., it will be noted,
the key terrfi is Oe^jpco, - and it is this (9f6Jt&. which he advocates and extolls
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
That the story of the three basic ways of life goes back to Plato may
be gathered from Republic 581C, where we are told that there exist "three classes
of men: lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor (or virtue or fame), and lovers of
material gain." In short, according to Plato (and Aristotle) there are three
main purposes in human life as well as in all fundamental human pursuits.^
Different people seek their happiness and fulfilment in these three pursuits,
namely, either in ifpOWeiS , or in virtue (honor or fame), or in physical
pleasure or material gain. This triadic notion, which is vitally related to
Plato's basic philosophic outlook, is once again restated in Aristotle's Eudemian
Ethics, incidentally a fairly early work: "Now to be happy, to live blissfully
'and beautifully, must consist mainly in three things which appear to be most
desirable. For some maintain that <Upow76iS is the greatest good, some say
virtue (or honor), and some say physical pleasure."^ Hence we realize that
"there are three lives which all those choose who have the power to do so, to wit,
the life of 'political (practical) man, 1 the life of the philosopher, and the
life of the voluptuary. Of these, the philosopher is determined to dedicate
himself to <pf>o\S')6l5 ; the 'political (practical) man' to noble deeds, that is,
to acts which originate with virtue; and the voluptuary to bodily pleasures." 14
The triad of <^DV<9tftS , virtue (or noble deeds) and physical pleasure, it goes
without saying, is closely related to Plato's doctrine of the tripartite soul,
from which Plato also derives the three ways of life as well as the three types
of happiness or pleasure.

Notre Dame Law School, Anton-Hermann Chroust

Notre Dame, Indiana.

1.. See A. -H. Chroust, "Some Observations on the Origin of the Term 'Philosopher'",
The New Scholasticism, vol. 28. no. 4. (1964), pp. 423-434.
2. Diogenes Laertius 1.12.
3. See also lamblichus, Protrepticus (Summaria), p. 4, lines 15 ff . (edit.H.Pitelli,
4. lamblichus, Vita Pythagorae, pp. 58 f f . , closely follows Cicero's account.
Hence it may be assumed that lamblichus relies on Cicero for his information or,
perhaps, on a source close to that used by Cicero. It is not impossible that he
saw the original work of Heracleides of Pontus. See also lamblichus Protrepticus,
p. 53, lines 15 f f . ; Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XI. 463DE; Diogenes Laertius VIII.
8. Here Diogenes Laertius credits the story to Sosicrates' Succession of Philoso-
phers rather than to Heracleides of Pontus.
5. lamblichus, Protrepticus, p. 53, line 5 - p. 54, line 5; frag. 58, Rose; frag. 12,
Walzer; frag. 12, Ross; frag. 44, Dur ing (I. During, Aristotle's Protrepticus; An
Attempt at Reconstruction, Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia, vol. XII,
G teborg, 1961, p. 67); frag. 42, Chroust (A 0 -HChroust, Aristotle iProtrepticus -
A Reconstruction, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1964, pp.18 ff.Ti
6. It will be noted that Aristotle refers to the Olympic Games in Nicomachean
Ethics 1099 a 3; and that St. Paul, I Corinthians 9:24, likewise uses the panegyric
analogy (the Isthmian Games). - Since Pythagoras compares the philosopher to the
"fond viwer of the sublime spectacle (or vision)," he should have called himself
a <^i/ioOFQ//c^y (see Plato, Republic 475E, and ibid, at 476A) or, perhaps, a
(see Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1100 b 19-20), rather than a

7. It is not impossible that the definition of the philosopher as the "lover of

wisdom" goes back to Plato, Phaedrus 278D: "Wise (6o<po), I may not call them
(seil. , those whose compositions are based on the knowledge of truth, and who are
able to defend or prove them). For^this is an exalted term which belongs to God
alone. But 'lovers of wisdom 1 (/&, ) is their modest and befitting title."