Scholars long regarded ancient Greece as the birthplace of Western philosophy. After all, the word philosophy itself derives from the ancient Greek words philos (affection) and sophos (wisdom)—and indeed, ancient Greece produced the great minds of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Yet the path of classical philosophy begins in North Africa, reaches Greece and Rome, jumps back across the Mediterranean, and spreads from Persia to Spain before it emerges to support what is frequently called the birth of modernity. This chapter examines that path.
In order to consider the historical path of philosophy across these various cultures, we need to begin with a brief account of how philosophers have studied the history of philosophy and how we might consider the practice of philosophy throughout history before turning to these historical traditions themselves.