Book Club | March 2021: Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers

Word cloud philosophers

The first to use the term, and to call himself a philosopher or lover of wisdom, was Pythagoras; for, said he, no man is wise, but a god alone. … All too quickly the study was called wisdom and its professor a sage, to denote his attainment of mental perfection; while the student who took it up was a philosopher or lover of wisdom. Sophists was another name for the wise men, and not only for philosophers but for the poets also. … But philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom, has had a twofold origin; it started with Anaximander on the one hand, with Pythagoras on the other. … some philosophers left writings behind them, while others wrote nothing at all … Philosophy has three parts, physics, ethics, and dialectic or logic. … So much for the beginnings of philosophy, its subsequent developments, its various parts, and the number of the philosophic sects. … It remains to speak of the philosophers themselves…
Book 1: “Prologue,” selections from sections 12, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, translation by R.D. Hicks[1]

This month’s Book Club selection continues our biographical theme, with Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

Diogenes Laërtius, (flourished 3rd century CE), Greek author noted for his history of Greek philosophy, the most important existing secondary source of knowledge in the field. One of its traditional titles … (“Lives, Teachings, and Sayings of Famous Philosophers”), indicates its great scope. The work is a compilation, the excerpts of which range from insignificant gossip to valuable biographical and bibliographical information, competent summaries of doctrines, and reproductions of significant documents such as wills or philosophical writings. Though he quoted hundreds of authorities, he knew most of them only by second hand; his true sources have not been ascertained except in a few cases.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, entry on “Diogenes Laërtius”[2]

We will all read the chapter on Socrates from Book 2, Chapter 5, and you can choose to read about any other philosopher(s) you wish depending on your interests.

Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers
The translation by R.D. Hicks is available online:

at Perseus

at LacusCurtius

and can be read online or downloaded from

Volume I, Books 1–5
Volume II, Books 6–10

The translation by C.D. Yonge can be read online or downloaded from
Translation by Yonge

Link to Life of Socrates
On Perseus
On LacusCurtius
On (Hicks)
On (Yonge)

For those who would prefer to listen, there is an audio version of the translation by Pamela Mensch available to download from in Apple Audiobook format (.m4b).
and LibriVox has Book 6 (the Cynics) available to listen online or download:
in the English translation by C.D. Yonge
in a Spanish translation by Joseph Ortiz y Sanz

The Greek text is available online at Perseus for those who would like to take a look.

We will start and continue discussion in the forum, and will meet via Zoom on Tuesday, March 30 at 11 a.m. EDT.
Note that the USA changes to daylight saving time from March 14—Europe will be switching to daylight saving on March 28—please check the meeting time for your local timezone.

Happy readings!

[1] Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Diogenes Laertius. R.D. Hicks. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1972 (First published 1925). Online at Perseus.
[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica, entry on “Diogenes Laërtius” online edition, accessed February 2021.