). A name given to those ancient students of
philosophy who, from the existing philosophical beliefs, tried to select (ἐκλέγειν
) the doctrines that seemed to them most reasonable, and out
of these constructed a new system. (Cf. Diog. Laert. prooem. 21.) The name was first generally
used in the first century B.C. Stoicism and Epicureanism had made the search for pure truth
subordinate to the attainment of practical virtue and happiness; Skepticism had denied that
pure truth was possible to discover; Eclecticism sought to reach by selection the highest
possible degree of probability, in the despair of attaining to what is absolutely true. In
Greek philosophy, the best known Eclectics were the Stoics Panaetius (B.C. 150) and Posidonius
(B.C. 75); the New Academic, Carneades (B.C. 155), and Philo of Larissa (B.C. 75). Among the
Romans, Cicero, whose cast of mind made him always doubtful and uncertain of his own attitude,
was thoroughly eclectic, uniting the Peripatetic, Stoic, and New Academic doctrines, and
seeking the probable (illud probabile
). The same general line was
followed by Varro, and in the next century the Stoic Seneca propounded a philosophical system
largely based upon eclecticism.
In the latest Greek philosophy appears an eclectic system consisting of a compromise between
the Neo-Pythagoreans and the various Platonic sects. Still another school is that of Iudaeus
Philo (q. v.), who at Alexandria, in the first century A.D., interpreted the Old Testament
allegorically, and endeavoured to harmonize it with selected doctrines of Greek philosophy.
Neo-Platonism (q. v.), the last product of Greek speculation, was also a fusion of Greek
philosophy with Oriental religion. Its chief representatives were Plotinus (A.D. 230),
Porphyrius (A.D. 275), Iamblichus (A.D. 300), and Proclus (A.D. 450). The desire of this
school was to attain right relations between God and man; it was therefore religious.
See Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy
, vol. i. pp. 217- 221 (Eng. trans. N.
; Mayor, A Sketch of Ancient Philosophy
, pp. 212 foll.
; Ritter, Hist. of Ancient Philosophy
, vol. iv.,
first part (Eng. trans. Oxford, 1838-46)
; Zeller, Hist. of
Eclecticism in Gk. Philosophy (Eng. tr. London, 1882)
Lectures on the Philosophy of Cicero (London, 1871)
Untersuchungen z. Cicero's philosoph. Schriften (1877-83)
the article Philosophia
should be read, as also his Tusculanae
(bk. iv.) and
his De Natura Deorum.