The Pessimism of Pre-Socratic Thought

We are like the leaves that shoot in the spring-time of the flowers, when they grow quickly in the sunshine. Like the leaves, for a span of time we rejoice in the flowers of youth, taught by heaven neither good nor evil. On either hand are the black Fates, the one holding the fullness of miserable age, the other of death.

Mimnermus of Colophon [circ. 650-600), frag. 2. Source

Not only is life without hope, others saw the pursuit of knowledge as vain:

We men know nothing, and our thoughts are vain;

Theognis, Elegies 133. Theognis is believed to have died
after 490 B.C.

Socrates and Plato began a tradition of attempting answers in hope of finding meaning to life. But by the time of Christ pessimism has set in again:

Soon, very soon, thou wilt be ashes, or a skeleton, and either a name or not even a name; but name is sound and echo. And the things which are much valued in life are empty and rotten and trifling, and [like] little dogs biting one another, and little children quarreling, laughing, and then straightway weeping. But fidelity and modesty and justice and truth are fled.

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Chapter 5, 33



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