What is it about?

This article presents for the first time ever an exhaustive study of a fundamental knowledge practice of Hellenistic and Roman Antiquity: the practice of 'logoi philosophoi', i.e. 'speeches' drawn from the immense store of encyclopaedic knowledge that was 'philosophia'. An examination of the sources reveals three main uses for these 'logoi': a social use (where the 'logoi' are used to 'be together' in an enjoyable way); an ethical use (where the 'logoi' are used to 'stay the right course'); and an epidictic use (where the 'logoi' are used to 'show', indeed 'show off' sometimes, one's knowledge in a lecture-spectacle).

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Why is it important?

It is important because: 1. Along with other articles and books I wrote, it contributes to demonstrate that 'philosophia' in Antiquity was very different from what we call today 'philosophy'; 2. It presents us a way of understanding knowledge and erudition very different from ours : fundamentally oriented toward pleasure; inextricably linked to uprightness; constantly conscious of the fact that truth permanently evades our grip, and therefore deliberately and staunchly committed to tolerance, permanent research, and wit. 3. The practices described here were taken over from the Renaissance onward and very commonly practiced in Western Culture until the 19th century.


As always, diving into ancient sources, far from the dullness of mainstream historiography, was an experience of sheer pleasure and exoticism. I hope it will give readers a fresh look on Antiquity and inspire some of them to begin a research of their own, be it in the classical field of elsewhere.

Pierre Vesperini
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Qu’est-ce que les logoi philosophoi?, Revue de Synthèse, March 2023, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/19552343-14234032.
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