The History of Philosophy: Origins of Ancient Philosophy Around the Globe


Kelly Macquire
published on 16 November 2021

In honour of World Philosophy Day on November 18th, we are bringing you an introduction to the history of philosophy, and the origins of ancient philosophy from around the world! What is philosophy you may be asking? Well, the word philosophy comes from the two Greek words philos meaning love and sophos meaning wisdom, so philosophy literally means the love of wisdom. Philosophy can be broadly defined as the study of human existence and the fundamental nature of existence, reality, and knowledge.

There are five main areas of interest in modern-day philosophy which can be applied to philosophy in both the east and the west, but the names that they’re now known by came from the Greeks; Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics. By c. 4000 BCE it seems that philosophy was already established in Egypt in the form of a response to the Field of Reeds and in Mesopotamia, they saw themselves as co-workers with the gods; the gods created humanity and so the humans owed the gods a debt of gratitude through worship and proper behaviour. Problems arose when humans kept their part of the bargain but it seemed the gods didn’t come through with theirs.

Philosophy developed in India as a response to the Hindu texts known as the Vedas, in the form of the Upanishads and philosophy in ancient Persia was certainly developed before 1500 BCE, which is known due to the Avesta (Zoroastrian scripture) that was written down between 1500 and 1000 BCE and draws on concepts from the Polytheistic early Iranian religion. During the Zhou Dynasty in China between 1046 and 256 BCE, philosophy was first written down in the form of the early Confucian texts. Ancient Greek Philosophy began in the 6th century BCE with Thales of Miletus asking the question, what is the basic stuff of the universe? He was the first of the Pre-Socratics (all the philosophers before Socrates), and then after Socrates came Plato, Aristotle and others.

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0:00​ Introduction
1:00 What is Philosophy?
1:47 The Five Main Branches of Philosophy
4:00 Philosophy in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt
5:54 Philosophy in Ancient India
7:05 Philosophy in Ancient Persia
8:32 Philosophy in Ancient China
9:58 Philosophy in Ancient Greeks (The Presocratics and beyond!)
14:20 Outro

Greek Philosophy
Similarities Between Eastern and Western Philosophy—western-philosophy/
Ancient Chinese Philosophy
Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Hypatia of Alexandria: The Female Mathematician, Astronomer and Philosopher
Introduction to the Vedas: the Religious Texts from Ancient India
Ancient Medicine, Healing and Physicians in Antiquity

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

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World History Encyclopedia

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2021, November 16). The History of Philosophy: Origins of Ancient Philosophy Around the Globe. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The History of Philosophy: Origins of Ancient Philosophy Around the Globe." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 16, 2021.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The History of Philosophy: Origins of Ancient Philosophy Around the Globe." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 16 Nov 2021. Web. 15 Apr 2024.