Philosophy is contemplation

According to the tradition, Pythagoras went to Philume, a town in the northwest of Peloponnese, to talk to Leon, the ruler of the town. Admiring his intelligence and eloquence, Leon asked him what science he particulary preffered.


Pythagoras replied that he had no particular science, but he was a philosopher. Surprised by the novelty of this term, Leon asked him what the philosophers were and how the philosopher differed from other people. To this question, Pythagoras replied that human life seemed to his as the market where the Olympic Games took place and where all Greece was gathering.

There, he said, some were looking to win the crown of laurels using their physical skill. Others came there as sellers and buyers, being led by lust for gain. There was also a category of people who didn’t want applause or profit, but they came there as spectators and watched carefully what was going on there and how events happened.

So too, as if we were going from a town to a multi-people market, we started from other life and world to get into our present life: some wanted to become slaves of glory, others of money. A few scattered here and there didn’t care about these unimportant things, but they were interested in nature reserch. Pythagoras called them lovers of wisdom, meaning philosophers.

And as there in the market the most beautiful thing is to watch the events without winning anything for you, so in life contemplation and study of nature are far above all other activities.

from CiceroTusculane

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