Who invented philosophers and why?
Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz
This is an old story. No-one knows if it’s true. But it’s one of those stories that seems so true, they should be.
About 2500 years ago there was a man called Pythagoras, who had a private school going in Kroton, which is in Italy. In this school he taught mathematics, music and astronomy. Many of the citizens were worried about this difficult curriculum. Why is this fellow teaching these really hard subjects? And also: how come he is so clever and we are so dull? There was quite a bit of jealousy about, you see. In those days all schools were private, so many ordinary people missed out on going to school.
Now at the same time, there were similar schools all over the Mediterranean teaching similar subjects. Many of the uneducated Greeks were suspicious of them as well. Why? Because they did not teach you religion and what the gods are all about, but the sciences.
So they called those people who taught and studied in those school ‘logographoi’. The word means, in English, ‘people who use their brains and write books’.
And so, back to Pythagoras in Kroton. One day a man came up to him in the market place and asked him: ‘Hey, Pythagoras, is it possible that you are one of these logographoi?’
Pythagoras may have thought to himself, this fellow wants to pick a fight with me. So he just smiled and said instead: ‘I am a friend of wisdom!’
In Greek, friend=philo and wisdom=sophia. So the word he used was ‘Philosopher’.
And from then on, people like him — people who think and teach wisdom — have been called philosophers.