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Greek Philosopher: Xenocrates

Updated on October 21, 2009

Xenocrates was Greek philosopher born around 396 BC in Chalcedon, Bithynia, Asia Minor. In 380 BC he migrated to Athens, where he studied philosophy under Plato and eventually presided over Plato's Academy from 339 until his death. As a member of the Academy he accompanied Plato on one of his Sicilian visits.

In logic he tried to exhibit mathematics as mediating between knowledge and perception. He failed to grasp the idealism underlying Plato's ontology and, infected with Pythagoreanism, took arithmetical unity and plurality for his principles in physics and then identified ideal numbers with arithmetical numbers. The titles of over 75 treatises written by him show that he accorded especial attention to ethics. In this philosophical area he was most concerned to give Plato's teaching a more direct applicability to life.

His contemporaries respected Xenocrates for his integrity, dignity, and courtesy. Modern scholars regard him as the most faithful of Plato's followers, as the typical representative of the Old Academy, and as a brilliant teacher rather than an original thinker.

After Plato's death Xenocrates spent some time with Aristotle at Assos, and in 339 succeeded Speusippus as head of the Academy. None of his writings survive, but his teaching is discussed in the Metaphysics of Aristotle and of Theophrastus.

Xenocrates died in Athens, Greece in 314 BC.


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    • dusanotes profile image

      dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

      Thanks, Darkside. I don't know what politics you follow, but wouldn't it be great today if we had an Xnocratic person in the White House. I'm hearing over and over in my mind his greatest trait, integrity, going off over and over again. If we had integrity in schools, business, and government - especially in Washington D.C. - this would be a different world. Thanks for writing such inspirational stuff. Don White