Christopher Moore

How did the name philosophos come to be? Two views are now popular. Some say it first meant “lover of wisdom.” Others say it first meant “intellectual curious person” before later acquiring a specialized disciplinary meaning defined by Plato. Two views were popular in ancient times. Both take it as Pythagoras’ selfapplied name. One has Pythagoras demurring that the name sophos is appropriate only for god. The other has him distinguishing philosophoi from the people who care for either honor or money.
This paper argues against these four views. It conjectures instead that philosophos was coined as a bemused, ironic, perhaps derisive name-calling name meaning “wanting to become sophos,” where sophos names the elite cultural status for which the Seven Sages are archetypes.

The name-calling origins of the philosophos (PDF)

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