Conventional wisdom suggests that the Platonist philosophers of Late Antiquity, from Plotinus (third century) to the sixth-century schools in Athens and Alexandria, neglected the political dimension of their Platonic heritage in their concentration on an otherworldly life. Dominic O'Meara presents a revelatory reappraisal of these thinkers, arguing that their otherworldliness involved rather than excluded political ideas, and he reconstructs for the first time a coherent political philosophy of Late Platonism.
The Pythagorean idea that numbers are the key to understanding reality inspired philosophers in late Antiquity (4th and 5th centuries A.D.) to develop theories in physics and metaphysics based on mathematical models. This book draws on some newly discovered evidence, including fragments of Iamblichus's On Pythagoreanism, to examine these early theories and trace their influence on later Neoplatonists (particularly Proclus and Syrianus) and on medieval and early modern philosophy.
Knowledge of the structure of the cosmos, Plato suggests, is important in organizing a human community which aims at happiness. This book investigates this theme in Plato's later works, the Timaeus, Statesman, and Laws. Dominic J. O'Meara proposes fresh readings of these texts, starting from the religious festivals and technical and artistic skills in the context of which Plato elaborates his cosmological and political theories, for example the Greek architect's use of models as applied by Plato in describing the making (...) of the world. O'Meara gives an account of the model of which Plato's world is an image; of the mathematics used in producing the world; and of the relation between the cosmic model and the political science and legislation involved in designing a model state in the Laws. Non-specialist scholars and students will be able to access and profit from the book. (shrink)
This book is addressed to readers new to the Enneads. One of the greatest of ancient philosophers, Plotinus is attracting ever-increasing attention from those interested in ancient philosophy, late Antiquity, and the importance of this period for the Western intellectual tradition. O'Meara presents a brief outline of Plotinus's life, and of the composition of the Enneads, placing Plotinus within the intellectual context of the philosophical schools and religious movements of his time. He then discusses selected Plotinian texts in relation to (...) a number of central philosophical issues to show how Plotinus's thinking on these issues evolved, and to assess the historical importance of his philosophy. (shrink)
From the Preface: "The majority of the papers contained in this volume was delivered in the fall of 1978 at The Catholic University of America as part of the Machette series of lectures on Aristotle. Although collections of essays on Aristotle are hardly lacking at present, this volume presents new studies which, it is hoped, give some idea of the variety of philosophical perspectives in which Aristotle has held and continues to hold great interest and of the scholarly analysis needed (...) in order to reach a better understanding of a difficult author." • CONTENTS: 1. Categories in Aristotle, Michael Frede • 2. Definitions in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, Alfonso Gomez-Lobo • 3. Aristotle and Galileo: The Uses of ΥΠΟΘΕΣΙΣ (suppositio) in Scientific Reasoning, William A. Wallace • 4. Aristotle and the History of Greek Scepticism, A. A Long • 5. Aristotle's Metaphysics Viewed by the Ancient Greek Commentators, Gérard Verbeke • 6. ΕΙΔΗ in Aristotle's Earlier and Later Theories of Substance, John A. Driscol • 7. Averroes as Commentator on Aristotle's Theory of the Intellect, Arthur Hyman • 8. Aristotle's Method of Ethics, Terence Irwin • 9. Goodness and Human Aims in Aristotle's Ethics, Nicholas P. White • 10. Aristotle on the Essence of Happiness, Daniel T Devereux • 11. The ΚΑΛΟΝ in Aristotelian Ethics, Joseph Owens • 12. Telos and Teleology in Aristotelian Ethics, Henry B Veatch. (shrink)
"Consists for the most part of papers delivered at the Catholic University of America in the fall of 1983 as part of the Matchette Lectures on 'Plato and his legacy'"--Pref. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
The essays in this book discuss a number of the central metaphysical and ethical themes that engaged the minds of Platonist philosophers during late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. One particular theme is that of the structure of reality, with the associated questions of the relations between soul and body and between intelligible and sensible reality, and the existence of mathematical objects. Other topics relate to evil and beauty, political life and its purpose, the philosophical search for the absolute (...) Good, and how one can speak about this Absolute and have union with it. Going from Plato to Eriugena, the ways in which Platonist philosophers understood and developed these themes are analysed and compared. (shrink)
Much of contemporary research concerning the Platonic schools of late antiquity is philological and historical in approach. This research is needed, since late antiquity is a period that has long been neglected in the historiography of philosophy, which means that many facts and documents still await examination and publication in reliable form. Much rarer is a philosophical approach to Neoplatonism based on sound historical knowledge rather than on the cliches that until recently have masked ignorance. Such an approach is proposed (...) in the present book, whose important task it is to analyze the logical and metaphysical structures that constitute Neoplatonic philosophy. Lloyd brings together and develops ideas he has explored over many years. He takes account of a very wide range of thinkers. Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus play a major role, of course. But many others are also considered: Simplicius, Philoponus, Damascius, Elias--the list extends to include Neoplatonists of the Byzantine period. While allowing for the differences between these philosophers, Lloyd successfully shows how they share and elaborate on certain theories which he examines systematically, bringing out the difficulties and dilemmas that these theories often contain. One might compare his approach with that of S. Gersh, whose interests however are not exclusively philosophical, and who, like Lloyd, stresses the importance of Aristotelian ideas in the constitution of Neoplatonic philosophy. (shrink)
A good illustration of the interpretation of ancient philosophy argued for by P. Hadot in the book reviewed above is provided by the Roman Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus, the teacher of Epictetus. In the present work A. Jagu supplies a rather brief introduction to Musonius, a French translation of ancient texts reporting Musonius' views, and comprehensive indices. The translation is accurate and reads well. Jagu's notes on the texts are copious, showing Musonius' orthodoxy by referring to the early Stoics and (...) his influence on Epictetus and Clement of Alexandria. Musonius himself wrote nothing, but his opinions were recorded by pupils, in particular by a certain Lucius. The Christian John Stobaeus, in compiling his anthology, incorporated excerpts from Lucius' work, thus saving it partially from oblivion. This means that as far as our evidence for Musonius is concerned, we are largely at the mercy of Lucius' understanding of his master and of Stobaeus' conventional moralistic interests. These factors account for the almost total absence of material concerning logic and physics and the preservation of fairly trivial discussions concerning, for example, food, clothing, furniture, and even beards! More central issues are also touched on--marriage, children, education, should women do philosophy?, exile, etc. If then what survives relates almost exclusively to ethics, it is clear that in any case Musonius subordinated logic and physics to ethics as did classical Stoicism. Apart from what derived from Lucius, a small amount of evidence concerning Musonius and originating elsewhere is preserved in Stobaeus, Plutarch and some other authors, but it does little more than give a somewhat different impression of Musonius than does Lucius. This book, especially the notes, will be of use not only to those interested in Stoic philosophy and its history but also to students of Roman society and politics of the first century A.D., in which Musonius played a prominent role.--Dominic J. O'Meara, Université de Fribourg. (shrink)
Sandbach, who has given us a very useful introduction to early Stoicism, examines here a problem of more interest to specialists, that concerning the possible influence of Aristotle on the first Stoic philosophers. It is his view that Aristotle's influence, if any, was of little importance, and that if the development of Stoic philosophy is to be understood, it should be seen in relation rather to ideas to be found in Plato, in the Academy and in other thinkers such as (...) Diodorus. However it is not Sandbach's purpose to explore this second, positive thesis here. The negative critique of the supposed links between Aristotle and the Stoics is the focus of the book. Sandbach starts with a survey of what was known of Aristotle's works in the third century B.C. to philosophers and non-philosophical writers. A theme is introduced here that will be emphasized throughout the book: little of Aristotle was read outside his school, and neither he nor his school were held in high regard at that time. The next chapter strengthens this position and is followed by chapters organized according to each of the parts of Stoic philosophy, in which the claims of a variety of scholars for Aristotelian influence in particular areas of Stoicism are examined and rejected. Reading these chapters is rather like going through a set of file cards containing references and brief remarks. The critique ends with a short section on what the Stoics disregarded in Aristotle's philosophy, a Conclusion, and Appendices on some later Stoics and on Ocellus Lucanus. (shrink)
This book consists of essays exploring aspects of a single theme, philosophy as an effort to transform our vision of, and being in, the world. The first and second essays show that the Christian tradition of "spiritual exercises" is inspired by a similar tradition in pagan philosophy. The first essay indeed argues that ancient philosophy is to be understood in the main, not as a variety of doctrinal systems, but as an attempt to transform the soul by means of techniques (...) which can properly be referred to as "spiritual exercises." For example, Stoicism teaches, not an abstract theory, but a new way of life achieved through training the logos in us. Epicureanism also aims at changing our lives through the use of various exercises. Hadot then points to Socrates' interest in "care of the soul" and to the function of Socratic and Platonic dialogue in training the soul of the participant/reader so as to "turn it around." Hadot concludes this first major essay by noting that to treat ancient philosophies as if they were attempts at system-building is to misunderstand their character. The third essay is an important study of the figure of Socrates as a transformer of souls. The themes of irony and eros in particular are explored and compared to their recurrence in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. This is followed by another major essay, which shows that Marcus Aurelius' Meditations are not at all the sort of autobiographical journal that they are usually assumed to be. They are in fact a Stoic manual of spiritual exercises. One specific training technique is examined, that of "physical definition." This and two other techniques are shown in the next essay to constitute the organizational principle of Marcus Aurelius' apparently disorganized work and to derive from Epictetus. The following essay establishes the influence Marcus Aurelius' work had on the French historian Michelet. The book concludes with a very general survey of the theme of "conversion," considered from religious, philosophical, social, and psychological points-of-view, and with an essay on the limitations of language in Greek philosophy and in Wittgenstein. Hadot demonstrates in this book a deep and unusually comprehensive knowledge of ancient philosophy and an ability to throw new light on aspects not only of ancient philosophy but also of the Western cultural tradition and indeed of human nature.--Dominic J. O'Meara, Université de Fribourg. (shrink)
Scholarly work on Plotinus has now reached the point where serious philosophical evaluation of his writings can develop on a sound basis. Many of the tasks presupposed by such an evaluation have been completed: a critical edition of the Greek text, a complete lexicon, reliable translations. Other tasks are rapidly advancing, in particular the publication of commentaries on individual Plotinian treatises. We can now consult commentaries on Enneads III.7; III.8, V.8, V.5, II.9; IV.3, 1-8; V.1; VI.6; VI.7; and now the (...) present work on VI.8. Leroux provides a long introduction in which the structure, content, philosophical interest, and historical importance of Ennead VI.8 are discussed; a Greek text of the treatise ; a facing French translation; a long commentary; indices and a bibliography. Leroux's Greek text is conservative and makes no new contribution. He prefers Henry-Schwyzer's original readings in fifteen cases and adopts the reading of another editor at 7, 49. The translation appears in general to be sound and clear. The commentary includes brief introductions to each of the chapters of the treatise and explanation of individual passages: Leroux indicates Plotinus' sources, provides further references to Plotinus, and sets passages in a larger context. At times one could wish for more help, for example at 13, 1-5, where Plotinus announces a change in approach: what precisely is this change? Are there comparable changes elsewhere in the Enneads? [[sic]] The commentary sometimes refers back to the introduction to which we should turn for Leroux's overall interpretation of the treatise. (shrink)
This book proposes a reexamination of ancient skepticism with the purpose of both throwing new light on ancient skepticism and contributing to modern epistemological debate. The author hopes to achieve these goals by approaching the ancient texts with a more developed philosophical viewpoint than is found in much historical scholarship, and by showing how the account of ancient skepticism thus achieved is philosophically superior in various ways to modern versions of skepticism. He interprets ancient skepticism as being essentially directed against (...) "realist truth," that is, against the theory that "a claim is true if it corresponds to an objective world that exists independently of the mind". Ancient skepticism is therefore antirealist: it is a mitigated form of skepticism which admits an antirealist conception of truth, "arguing that our beliefs are necessarily relative to human nature and perception, the culture we live in, philosophical commitments, and so on". Ancient skeptics are thus much nearer to modern antirealists than would be the case if their skepticism were unmitigated, as is frequently claimed in modern work on ancient skepticism. Interpreted as antirealism, ancient skepticism turns out to present certain philosophical advantages as compared to modern forms of antirealism. (shrink)
This 1978 Oxford dissertation is a useful addition to the commentaries on individual Plotinian treatises at present available: Schröder on I.8; Beierwaltes on III.7; Wolters on III.5. Atkinson notes the important facts about Plotinus' life and writing in a brief introduction; provides a summary of the contents of Ennead V.1; reprints the Greek text of V.1 as printed in Henry-Schwyzer's editio maior ; provides an English translation; a long and detailed commentary; a brief bibliography; and indices. The translation is generally (...) very careful, clear and reliable and there are few places that I have doubts about. Line references in the margins of the translation would help. The commentary is also of a high standard. Writing an extensive commentary on such a text requires a range and depth of reading that is to be expected from someone with much more experience. But Atkinson meets the challenge well. The commentary is thorough, well-informed, sensible, and based on the exegesis of particular phrases. Perhaps a few essays giving a more comprehensive view would have helped. The commentary is for the most part philological. Atkinson writes in his Preface: "It is now generally accepted that Plotinus is not an irrelevant curiosity to be dismissed"--in the English-speaking world, he should add--"by the historian of ancient philosophy." This had no doubt to do with contempt for Plotinus as a philosopher. However Ennead V.1 is not I think a text that will convert the modern sceptic. As Atkinson notes the treatise is a protreptic. Much is presupposed. There is little argument. Plotinus leads us to self-knowledge by indicating the nature of soul and its grounding in Intellect and ultimately in the One. The path consists of images and brief recallings of principles whose exploration and justification can be found developed at greater length elsewhere. Ennead V.1 can thus be read as an introduction to Plotinus. But I suspect the philosopher will find of greater interest some of Plotinus' later, more elaborate and problematical treatises, e.g., V.3; V.4; VI, 1-3; VI, 7-8.--Dominic J. O'Meara, Université de Fribourg. (shrink)