Who is Xenocrates?June 25, 2021
He is a Greek philosopher who lived around 300 BC.
After the death of his teacher Plato in 348 BC, he left Athens with Aristotle and stayed in Assos for a while.
When he was elected as the successor of Speusippos to the presidency of the Akademia founded by Plato in 339 BC, he returned to Athens and continued this duty until the end of his life. Diogenes Laertios writes of him: “He was sluggish by nature, so much so that when comparing him to Aristotle, Plato said ‘one must spur, the other must be restrained’.”
He was respected by the people of Athens, and in 332 BC he was among the envoys to be sent to Antipatros.
He was influenced by Plato in terms of his philosophical views. Judging by the titles of his numerous works, none of which have survived, he was more concerned with practical moral issues.
His dividing his philosophical studies into three as physics, theory of knowledge (logic) and ethics has been decisive on the philosophers after him. According to the results of Aristotle, who does not value his thoughts in the field of philosophy, either from the remaining parts of his works and from what Aristotle tells, Xenocrates, despite being influenced by Pythagoras’s “Theory of Numbers”, adhered to the principles of the Platonic doctrine more than Speusippos. Trinities have great importance in Xenocrates’ philosophical system. He divides philosophy into three as physics (natural philosophy), morality and dialectic (logic). The source of all reality is the opposing first principles, which he describes as the “One” and the “Infinite Multitude” (diad). “One” is goodness, stability and unity, and “Multiplicity” is diversity, evil and movement. These two principles combined to form the universe. Numbers and geometric shapes are the first products of this union. According to Xenocrates, numbers and Plato’s concept of “Idea” are identical. Spirit is a number that moves on its own. After these number-forms comes the divinity solid. Between gods and humans, there are semi-human, semi-divine beings, some good and some bad, who provide communication. These creatures called jinn are influential in the formation of Neo-Platonian theology. Gods are represented by the same equilateral triangle, humans and all mortals are represented by a scalene triangle, and demons by an isosceles triangle connecting these two extremes.
Another trilogy of Xenocrates in the field of reality is about the quality of the fields of existence. These are 1) audible, 2) perceptible, 3) the realm of divine existence that draws attention between these two areas. The third area, in a way, serves to bridge the gap between sensory and rational knowledge. According to him, every body had an essence. This is specific to that object, corresponding to a special triangle. Therefore, there are also indivisible lines. The concept of indivisible units and lines caused Xenocrates to be described as an atomist.
According to Xenocrates, who is said to have at least 29 works on morality, happiness is related to virtue, and happiness can be reached with a virtuous life. The “good” of spirit and body are different. One has to choose between them. There is no possibility of attaining absolute happiness.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook