This is a major study of conceptions of selfhood and personality in Homer and Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. The focus is on the norms of personality in Greek psychology and ethics. Gill argues that the key to understanding Greek thought of this type is to counteract the subjective and individualistic aspects of our own thinking about the person. He defines an "objective-participant" conception of personality, symbolized by the idea of the person as an interlocutor in a series of psychological and (...) ethical dialogues. (shrink)
Christopher Gill offers a new analysis of what is innovative in Hellenistic--especially Stoic and Epicurean--philosophical thinking about selfhood and personality. His wide-ranging discussion of Stoic and Epicurean ideas is illustrated by a more detailed examination of the Stoic theory of the passions and a new account of the history of this theory. His study also tackles issues about the historical study of selfhood and the relationship between philosophy and literature, especially the presentation of the collapse of character in Plutrarch's Lives, (...) Senecan tragedy, and Virgil's Aeneid. As all Greek and Latin is translated, this book presents original ideas about ancient concepts of personality to a wide range of readers. (shrink)
This collection of essays explores analogous issues in classical and modern philosophy that relate to the concepts of person and human being. A primary focus is whether there are such analogous issues, and whether we can find in ancient philosophy a notion that is comparable to "person" as understood in modern philosophy. Essays on modern philosophy reappraise the validity of the notion of person, while essays on classical philosophy take up the related questions of what being "human" entails in ancient (...) ethics and psychology, and whether we should regard ourselves as, essentially, human or rational beings. (shrink)
It is often claimed that in the ancient world character was believed to be something fixed, given at birth and immutable during life. This belief is said to underlie the portrayal of individuals in ancient historiography and biography, particularly in the early Roman Empire; and tc constitute the chief point of difference in psychological assumptions between ancient and modern biography. In this article, I wish to examine the truth of these claims, with particular reference to Plutarch and Tacitus.
For much of the twentieth century it was common to contrast the characteristic forms and preoccupations of modern ethical theory with those of the ancient world. However, the last few decades have seen a growing recognition that contemporary moral philosophy now has much in common with its ancient incarnation, in areas as diverse as virtue ethics and ethical epistemology. Christopher Gill has assembled an international team to conduct a fascinating exploration of the relationship between the two fields, exploring key issues (...) in ancient ethics in a way that highlights their conceptual significance for the study of ethics more generally. Virtue, Norms, and Objectivity will be as interesting and relevant to modern moral philosophers, therefore, as it will be to specialists in ancient thought. (shrink)
Galen is well known as a critic of Stoicism, mainly for his massive attack on Stoic (or at least, Chrysippean) psychology in "On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato" (PHP) 2-5. Galen attacks both Chrysippus' location of the ruling part of the psyche in the heart and his unified or monistic picture of human psychology. However, if we consider Galen's thought more broadly, this has a good deal in common with Stoicism, including a (largely) physicalist conception of psychology and a (...) strongly teleological view of natural entities, shared features which are acknowledged in several treatises outside "PHP." Why, then, is Galen such a remorseless and negative critic of Stoicism in "PHP"? Various factors are relevant, including the shaping influence on Galen of the Platonic-Aristotelian (part-based) psychological framework. But, it is suggested here, an important underlying factor is the contrast between two ways of thinking about the part-whole relationship, a 'composition' and a 'structure' approach or an atomistic and holistic approach. This contrast is most evident and explicit in one section of "PHP" 5, where Galen, criticising Chrysippus' holistic psychology, denies that the Stoic thinker is entitled to use the concept of part at all. But the contrast is also seen as pervading Galen's response to Stoic thought more generally, in "PHP" and elsewhere, in ways that inform his explicit disagreements with Stoic theory. Stoicism is presented here as having a consistently 'structure' (or holistic) approach. Galen's approach is seen as more mixed, sometimes sharing, or aspiring towards, a holistic picture, and yet sometimes (especially in "PHP" 5), adopting a strongly 'composition' or atomistic standpoint. This (partial) contrast in conceptual frameworks is presented as offering a new perspective on Galen's critique of Stoic psychology in "PHP" and on his relationship to Stoic thought more generally. (shrink)
Why did Plato put his philosophical arguments into dialogues, rather than presenting them in a plain and readily understandable fashion? A group of distinguished scholars here offer answers to this question by studying the relation between form and argument in his late dialogues. These penetrating studies show that the literary structure of the dialogues is of vital importance in the ongoing interpretation of Plato.
Four related themes in Greek thought are examined in this book: (1) personality and self, (2) ethics and values (3) individuals and communities, and (4) the idea of nature as a moral norm. Although the focus is on Greek philosophy (the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic period), links between philosophy and literature or the wider culture are also explored. The book combines a survey of recent scholarship on these topics with the author's own interpretations. It can be used by (...) students or teachers of classical studies or philosophy as an introduction to key themes and issues in Greek ethics or psychology. One aspect of the subject given special emphasis is the relationship between ancient and modern ideas on the issues treated here. The book closes with a selective bibliography on modern work on Greek philosophy. (shrink)
The scene at the end of the Phaedo, in which Plato describes how Socrates dies by poisoning from hemlock, is moving and impressive. It gives us the sense of witnessing directly an actual event, accurately and vividly described, the death of the historical Socrates. There are, however, certain curious features in the scene, and in the effects of the hemlock on Socrates, as Plato presents them. In the Phaedo hemlock has only one primary effect: it produces first heaviness and then (...) numbness in the body. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the ethical theories of Cynics and Stoics. Cynicism traces its origins to Diogenes of Sinope, the most colourful and outrageous of all such founders of philosophical movements. The core Cynic doctrines articulate the principles embodied in Diogenes' way of life. The central theme is that of following nature, understood as leading a life of extreme primitiveness or self-chosen bestiality. Stoicism offers an alternative to Aristotle, who has been the main Classical source of inspiration for those evolving modern (...) versions of virtue ethics. A striking feature of Stoic ethical theory lies in its combination of radical moral rigour or aspiration and a strongly naturalistic outlook. (shrink)