“Eric Voegelin's Philosophy of Myth” is an introduction to the eminent political philosopher's theory of the nature and function of myth in pre-modern cultures, particularly in ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. For Voegelin archaic myths and symbols provide grounds or foundations for a broad range of phenomena, from individual objects and events to the entire cosmos. They convey a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness through a type of analogical thinking. The concepts of ‘compactness’ and ‘differentiation’ are essential components in his overall (...) theory. The former designates the unity of the symbol and the symbolized, the latter their separation into immanent and transcendent poles in the reflections of Greek philosophers and of Jewish and Christian thinkers. Both compact and differentiated accounts employ the symbols of the Beginning and Beyond, viz. the originating source of all things and their transcendent goal. Voegelin's treatment of the mythical and philosophical styles of truth is not limited to the distant past. Throughout history individual myths or symbols lose their transformative power, but, he asserts, they are regenerated or replaced by new ones discovered by great souls who have experiential access to the underlying realities. (shrink)
This magnificent book makes original and unique contributions to the understanding of Aristotle's ethical thought. Sparshott's approach is comprehensive but, unlike S. Broadie's excellent Ethics with Aristotle, it is not systematic: he has written a detailed running commentary on the entire text. However, his "aim is not to argue a thesis about the interpretation of the text as a whole, but to enable the reader to see how it actually goes." This method might seem too modest to the specialist who (...) wants to know Sparshott's views on the perennial topics, but no serious student of the text will read more than a page or two without learning something new. The reasons are simple: Sparshott's ear is uncannily attentive to the least ambiguity in Aristotle's expressions; he meticulously paraphrases, reconstructs, and deciphers every argument and line of thought Aristotle pursues. Lavishing care on such a well-known text might seem overindulgent, but Sparshott shows how many of Aristotle's key terms and concepts are vague or general in scope. In his discussion of book 1, for example, he unpacks the ambiguities in several terms: self-sufficiency does not mean isolation ; ultimacy does not mean termination, but completeness or perfection; and completeness does not mean all-inclusiveness, but concentration on an ideal. Also illuminating is his masterly account of justice, the subject of book 5 of the Ethics. In tracking the broad semantic range of "justice," Sparshott concludes that it is intermediate between a moral and an intellectual virtue, and hence includes both the notions of a fair distribution of things and of the whole of virtue. Sparshott's focus on the genesis of concepts and phrases and his pursuit of the penumbras of meaning that radiate through the text as a whole are the most attractive features of the book. Two additional aspects of this exegesis of terminology are noteworthy. Sparshott reveals more thoroughly than before how deeply rooted in Plato are key Aristotelian concepts and arguments. By extensive reference to the Metaphysics and De anima, Sparshott demonstrates that Aristotle indeed provides a metaphysical foundation for his ethical inquiries. (shrink)
This scintillating collection gathers twelve important papers by Jacques Brunschwig. Dating from 1977 to 1990, all but one have appeared only in French and two are previously unpublished. No justification is required for making these exciting, influential papers available to a wider audience. In each paper Brunschwig focuses on a key problem, a puzzle, or a text that is recalcitrant to interpretation, employing marvelous erudition in classical philology, encyclopedic knowledge of Hellenistic philosophy, and subtle familiarity with contemporary philosophy.
It is difficult to imagine a major philosopher more in need of introduction than Plotinus, nor one whose thought is so deeply resistant to summary treatment. O'Meara succeeds by awakening the beginner's interest in his subject and reminding the specialist why it is so fascinating. First we are familiarized with the details of Plotinus's life, the diverse influences upon him, stylistic features of his writings, and remarks on his philosophical method. One hundred pages are devoted to exploring Plotinus's philosophical views, (...) beginning with his complex account of soul's relation to body and the intelligible world's relation to the sensible. O'Meara carefully articulates Plotinus's immaterialism, his comprehensive scheme of hierarchical ontological dependence, and the dense dialectical context within which he seeks to solve difficulties in Plato's positions by responding to Aristotelian and Stoic objections. Chapter 4 tackles Plotinus's very difficult views on knowledge. He severely devalues knowledge of the external world, arguing that it is only a deficient form of self-knowledge. True knowledge pertains to the divine intellect, which is self-reflexive and identical with its "objects." O'Meara rightly wonders whether Plotinus's epistemological stance amounts to a retreat and indeed whether he eliminates knowledge altogether, at least in the contemporary sense. But if--from the Plotinian perspective--pure thought is nonpropositional, it is puzzling why O'Meara believes it is not intuitive, not "a form of knowing that is an alternative... to science and logic" ; in his view, it is the "goal" of the latter. It might, however, be the goal of scientific knowledge precisely by being an alternative to it. (shrink)
This volume contains substantially revised versions of eleven papers delivered at the Fifth Symposium Hellenisticum in France in 1989. Approaches vary from the philosophical to the historical-philological, and the scholarship is consistently excellent. The three French contributors offer exhaustive historical studies. Best of this lot is André Laks's brilliant effort to disentangle threads of the Cyrenaic tradition in Diogenes Laertius 2.8696. He argues that the later Cyrenaic Anniceris is not an innovator as has been argued recently, but that, despite his (...) emphasis on psychic pleasures, Anniceris upholds the traditional line on the primacy of somatic pleasure. The point at issue, really, is whether considering altruistic feelings like friendship and gratitude as pleasures amounts to innovating. J. -L. Labarrière traces the debates between Stoics and Academics concerning animal faculties, especially phantasia. Carlos Levy looks at how the term doxa was wielded as a polemical weapon by early Stoics, the New Academy, and Middle Platonists. Next come three fine papers on Epicurus. Gisela Striker relieves our perplexity at Epicurus's conception of complete pleasure as the absence of pain, illuminating the Epicurean distinction between "kinetic" and "static" pleasures in Cicero's De Finibus. Epicurus identifies happiness with the greatest pleasure, or complete pleasure, which is complete absence of pain--not the accumulation of particular pleasures. Epicurus's views on free agency, surviving in the fragments of book 3 of On Nature, lead Julia Annas to conclude that rationality is associated with flexibility of response and ability to learn, and that rational capacity may very well develop in ways that are not fixed by our atomic constitutions. One might quarrel with her observation that this simple commonsense view is attractive. Finally, David Furley points out that Democritus doubted the senses' ability to reveal truth, while Epicurus claimed that "all perceptions are true." Yet both atomists deny that sensible qualities exist at the level of primary elements. The explanation? Epicureans accept perceptible qualities as properties of external objects, not merely "affections" of the senses; for Democritus aisthem;ta have no reality independent of us. (shrink)
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 surveys biographical information and the complex philological and doxographical evidence that affect questions about authenticity. Part 2 provides an excellent overview of Philolaus's philosophy that is notable both for its clarity and mastery of the scholarly literature. The heart of the book comes in Part 3, which comprises the genuine fragments and testimonia with elaborate philological and philosophical commentary. The genuine texts are divided into seven groups: Basic Principles, Epistemology, Cosmogony, Astronomy, (...) Embryology and Medicine, Soul and Psychic Faculties, Miscellaneous. Huffman helpfully encapsulates the contemporary Greek philosophical theories on offer in each area of thought. Part 4 includes the Spurious and Doubtful Fragments and Testimonia, an important category given Huffman's rejection of fragments considered genuine by others. (shrink)
BOOK REVIEWS 139 Harold Tarrant. Thrasyllan Platonism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993. Pp. x + 26o. Cloth, $34.5 o. Most contemporary readers of Plato assign the dialogues to early, middle, and late periods. However, developmental schemes exercised much less fascination on Plato's ancient readers, especially those who looked upon him as the fount of wisdom or upon the corpus as a whole as comprising all the higher education a civilized person needed. Such was the case, certainly, with Thrasyllus, the (...) court philosopher and astrologer of the Emperor Tiberius, who arranged the thirty-six dialogues into nine tetralogies. Tarrant's central contention is that Thrasyllus' editorial activity ex- tended well beyond simply "recommending a reading order for an otherwise available collection of Plato's texts" and that he made "available a distinctive collection of texts presented in his own chosen manner" . On this view his edition of the dialogues set standards for authenticity and spuriousness. In.. (shrink)