Philosopher, Mathematician (394 BC – 314 BC)
Xenocrates was one of Plato’s students. He studied philosophy in the Academy before becoming a scholar there. Xenocrates, while a Platonic philosopher had also profound knowledge of Pythagorean philosophy. He had travelled in Syracuse together with Plato and Speusippus to study the Pythagoreans.
Little is known about his life. He lived an ascetic life; at one point in his life he didn’t have money to pay the taxes to the Athenians so they sold him as slave. Thankfully, he was bought by Demetrius of Phalera and granted him his freedom. The two would later become close friends. Xenocrates had also deep respect for mathematics.
Xenocrates work begins when he becomes a scholar of the Academy. He compiled and published all of Plato’s works. Furthermore, he wrote numerous books, namely “Logistics”, composed of 9 tomes, “On Studies”, composed of 6 tomes, “On Distances”, “On Astrology” (6 books). In total, Xenocrates wrote more than 60 books on physics, logic, philosophy and ethics, nearly none of which has survived today.
Philosophically, Xenocrates believed that the soul is immortal that is able to go beyond the body. He accepted that there are somatic and spiritual goods and that priority should be given to the latter. By means of a virtuous life, one could free himself from the bonds of the body and live a life free of materialism. Xenocrates supported the fact that virtuous life does not simply mean avoiding bad actions but also avoiding bad thoughts. According to him cognition is the only form of knowledge that enables us to safely reach the truth. Finally, he had philosophical ideas on ethics and physics, though details, unfortunately today are not known.
- Pleuris. Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Athens: Hilektron, 2012. Print.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. ”Xenocrates.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.