The world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the (...) "creationist" option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle's celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant members—the atomists—sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics. (shrink)
Plato's Theaetetus is an acknowledged masterpiece, and among the most influential texts in the history of epistemology. Since antiquity it has been debated whether this dialogue was written by Plato to support his familiar metaphysical doctrines, or represents a self-distancing from these. David Sedley's book offers a via media, founded on a radical separation of the author, Plato, from his main speaker, Socrates. The dialogue, it is argued, is addressed to readers familiar with Plato's mature doctrines, and sets out to (...) show how these doctrines, far from being an abandonment of his Socratic heritage, are its natural outcome. The Socrates portrayed here is the same Socrates as already portrayed in Plato's early dialogues. While not a Platonist, he is exhibited - to put it in terms of an image made famous by this dialogue - as having been Platonism's midwife. In a comprehensive rereading of the text, Sedley tracks the ways in which Socrates is shown unwittingly preparing the ground for Plato's mature doctrines, and reinterprets the dialogue's individual arguments from this perspective. The book is addressed to all readers interested in Plato, and does not require knowledge of Greek. (shrink)
Plato's Cratylus is a brilliant but enigmatic dialogue. It bears on a topic, the relation of language to knowledge, which has never ceased to be of central philosophical importance, but tackles it in ways which at times look alien to us. In this reappraisal of the dialogue, Professor Sedley argues that the etymologies which take up well over half of it are not an embarrassing lapse or semi-private joke on Plato's part. On the contrary, if taken seriously as they should (...) be, they are the key to understanding both the dialogue itself and Plato's linguistic philosophy more broadly. The book's main argument is so formulated as to be intelligible to readers with no knowledge of Greek, and will have a significant impact both on the study of Plato and on the history of linguistic thought. (shrink)
This paper examines Plato's ideas on cause-effect relations in the "Phaedo." It maintains that he sees causes as things (not events, states of affairs or the like), with any information as to how that thing brings about the effect relegated to a strictly secondary status. This is argued to make good sense, so long as we recognise that aition means the "thing responsible" and exploit legal analogies in order to understand what this amounts to. Furthermore, provided that we do not (...) pre-suppose that we already know what can and what cannot count as a cause, Plato proves to have an attractive case for his principle that all causation is a matter of like causing like. Once we appreciate this, we are a little closer to understanding his more idiosyncratic principle, which although puzzling is ubiquitous in his writings and often invoked as a premise in key arguments, that opposites cannot cause opposites. The last part of the paper turns to formal causes, defending Plato's advocacy of them, and examining their role in the "Parmenides'" Third Man Argument. The main proposal is that Plato's conception of Forms as causes opens the door to a better version of that argument's "Non-identity" premise than those currently available. (shrink)
Plato's Meno and Phaedo are two of the most important works of ancient western philosophy and continue to be studied around the world. The Meno is a seminal work of epistemology. The Phaedo is a key source for Platonic metaphysics and for Plato's conception of the human soul. Together they illustrate the birth of Platonic philosophy from Plato's reflections on Socrates' life and doctrines. This edition offers new and accessible translations of both works, together with a thorough introduction that explains (...) the arguments of the two dialogues and their place in Plato's thought. (shrink)
Antiochus of Ascalon was one of the seminal philosophers of the first century BC, an era of radical philosophical change. Some called him a virtual Stoic, but in reality his programme was an updated revival of the philosophy of the 'ancients', meaning above all Plato and Aristotle. His significance lies partly in his enormous influence on Roman intellectuals of the age, including Cicero, Brutus and Varro, and partly in his role as the harbinger of a new style of philosophy, which (...) thereafter remained dominant for the remainder of antiquity. Yet much remains controversial about his ideas. This volume, the first in English to be devoted entirely to Antiochus, brings together a team of leading scholars to discuss every major aspect of his life, work and significance. In addition, it contains the first full guide to his testimonia in any modern language. (shrink)
This article is a return to a theme I first tackled in “The Stoic criterion of identity” : the Academics’ ‘Growing Argument’ and the Stoic response to its attack on diachronic identity. This time my aim is to separate out approximately five different stages of the debate between the two schools. This will be done by shifting more of the focus onto developments that seem likely to belong to the late second and/or early first century BC.
This lecture was designed as an introduction to Plato's theory of Forms. Reference is made to key passages of Plato's dialogues, but no guidance on further reading is offered, and numerous controversies about the theory's interpretation are left in the background. An initial sketch of the theory's origins in the inquiries of Plato's teacher Socrates is followed by an explanation of the Forms’ primary characteristic, Plato's metaphysical separation of them from the sensible world. Other aspects discussed include the Forms’ metaphysical (...) relation to sensible particulars, their ‘self-predication’, and the range of items that have Forms. Finally, the envisaged structure of the world of Forms is illustrated by a look at Plato's famous Cave simile. (shrink)
This paper is a critical re-examination of the argument in Plato's "Phaedo" for the thesis that all learning is recollection of prenatal knowledge. Plato's speaker Socrates concentrates on the case of 'equal sticks and stones', viewed as striving without complete success to resemble a Form, the Equal itself. The paper argues that (a) this is a rather special case, focused on geometry; (b) Plato is at pains to emphasize that the Form-particular relation need not be one of resemblance at all, (...) a concession which he insists would not, if made, damage his theory of recollection; (c) even if resemblance is assumed to be the correct account of that relationship, the 'striving to be like' gloss is not an integral component of Plato's metaphysics. (shrink)
Presocratic atomism was one of the most influential of the early theories: both Plato and Aristotle thought of it as a major competing theory, and it was an important source for post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories. It has been commonplace that the atomism developed first by Leucippus of Abdera and then by Democritus of Abdera was a reaction to the Eleatic arguments of Zeno and Melissus, but the details of that influence have sometimes seemed rather hazy. This article brings them into sharper (...) focus. This article considers the Eleatic foundations of atomism, especially the question of the importance of Zeno and Melissus for Democritus. By concentrating on some of the less-studied aspects of atomism and especially of the development of the concept of the unlimited into the notion of the infinite, it furthers the understanding of not only the development of early atomism but also the Eleatics Zeno and Melissus. (shrink)
Zenão de Cítio, o fundador do Estoicismo, introduziu como critério de verdade a impressão cognitiva, definida como “a partir do que é”. Esse “a partir” veio a ser interpretado por estoicos posteriores como causal, mas argumenta-se aqui que o próprio Zenão concebeu-o antes em um sentido “representacional”..
‘Atheism’ is a term that has historically carried a wide range of meanings and connotations. Popular speech, in particular, admits of a range of definitions, but the same is true of contemporary scholarly usage also. This chapter therefore surveys the sheer variety of ways of defining ‘atheism’, before outlining the pressing need for a generally agreed-upon usage in the growing—and, thus far, Babel-like—field of scholarship on atheism. It then outlines and explains the precise definition used throughout the Handbook: an absence (...) of belief in the existence of a God or gods. The utility of such a broad definition, taking atheism to be an ‘umbrella concept’ that admits of a range of subdivisions, is then explored and defended at length. (shrink)
How does God think? How, ideally, does a human mind function? Must a gap remain between these two paradigms of rationality? Such questions exercised the greatest ancient philosophers, including those featured in this book: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and Plotinus. This volume encompasses a series of studies by leading scholars, revisiting key moments of ancient philosophy and highlighting the theme of human and divine rationality in both moral and cognitive psychology. It is a tribute to Professor A. A. Long, (...) and reflects multiple themes of his own work. (shrink)