This is a close scrutiny of "De Anima II 5", led by two questions. First, what can be learned from so long and intricate a discussion about the neglected problem of how to read an Aristotelian chapter? Second, what can the chapter, properly read, teach us about some widely debated issues in Aristotle's theory of perception? I argue that it refutes two claims defended by Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Sorabji: (i) that when Aristotle speaks of the perceiver becoming (...) like the object perceived, the assimilation he has in mind is ordinary alteration of the type exemplified when fire heats the surrounding air, (ii) that this alteration stands to perceptual awareness as matter to form. Claim (i) is wrong because the assimilation that perceiving is is not ordinary alteration. Claim (ii) is wrong because the special type of alteration that perceiving is is not its underlying material realisation. Indeed, there is no mention in the text of any underlying material realisation for perceiving. The positive aim of II 5 is to introduce the distinction between first and second potentiality, each with their own type of actuality. In both cases the actuality is an alteration different from ordinary alteration. Perception exemplifies one of these new types of alteration, another is found in the acquisition of knowledge and in an embryo's first acquisition of the power of perception. The introduction of suitably refined meanings of 'alteration' allows Aristotle to explain perception and learning within the framework of his physics, which by definition is the study of things that change. He adapts his standard notion of alteration, familiar from "Physics" III 1-3 and "De Generatione et Corruptione" I, to the task of accounting for the cognitive accuracy of (proper object) perception and second potentiality knowledge: both are achievements of a natural, inborn receptivity to objective truth. Throughout the paper I pay special attention to issues of text and translation, and to Aristotle's cross-referencing, and I emphasise what the chapter does not say as well as what it does. In particular, the last section argues that the textual absence of any underlying material realisation for perceiving supports a view I have defended elsewhere, that Aristotelian perception involves no material processes, only standing material conditions. This absence is as telling as others noted earlier. Our reading must respect the spirit of the text as Aristotle wrote it. (shrink)
Theaetetus, asked what knowledge is, replies that geometry and the other mathematical disciplines are knowledge, and so are crafts like cobbling. Socrates points out that it does not help him to be told how many kinds of knowledge there are when his problem is to know what knowledge itself is, what it means to call geometry or a craft knowledge in the first place—he insists on the generality of his question in the way he often does when his interlocutor, asked (...) for a definition, cites instead cases of the concept to be defined. (shrink)
The question contrasts two ways of expressing the role of the sense organ in perception. In one the expression referring to the sense organ is put into the dative case ; the other is a construction with the preposition δiá governing the genitive case of the word for the sense organ.
M. F. Burnyeat taught for 14 years in the Philosophy Department of University College London, then for 18 years in the Classics Faculty at Cambridge, 12 of them as the Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy, before migrating to Oxford in 1996 to become a Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at All Souls College. The studies, articles and reviews collected in these two volumes of Explorations in Ancient and Modern Philosophy were all written, and all but two published, before that decisive (...) change. Whether designed for a scholarly audience or for a wider public, they range from the Presocratics to Augustine, from Descartes and Bishop Berkeley to Wittgenstein and G. E. Moore. Their subject-matter falls under four main headings: 'Logic and Dialectic' and 'Scepticism Ancient and Modern', which are contained in this first volume; 'Knowledge' and 'Philosophy and the Good Life' make up the second volume. The title 'Explorations' well expresses Burnyeat's ability to discover new aspects of familiar texts, new ways of solving old problems. In his hands the history of philosophy becomes itself a philosophical activity. (shrink)
The ethics of Aristotle , and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central arguments in Aristotle's (...) Nicomachean Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)
This article is detective work, not philosophy. J. S. Mill's Autobiography records that at the age of seven he read, in Greek, ‘the first six dialogues of Plato, from the Euthyphron to the Theaetetus inclusive’. Which were the other dialogues? On the arrangement common today, it would be Crito, Apology, Phaedo, Cratylus. On the arrangement common then, Theages and Erastai replace Cratylus, which makes seven dialogues. I show that this must be the answer by the evidence of James Mill's commonplace (...) books and his writings on Plato. These reveal which collected edition of Plato he owned and which he would want to own. Conditions for studying Plato in the original were much harder than we are used to. The inquiry highlights both the ideological purity of the education James Mill designed for his son, and the difficulties he faced in realizing his plan. (shrink)
In the course of its 53 Stephanus pages Plato's Protagoras uses the verb διαλέγεσθαι 32 times: a frequency considerably greater than that of any other dialogue. The next largest total is 21 occurrences in the Theaetetus . In the vast bulk of the Republic διαλέγεσθαι occurs just 20 times over 294 Stephanus pages. The ratios are striking. In the Protagoras the verb turns up on average once every 1.65 Stephanus pages; in the Theaetetus once every 3.25 pages; in the Republic (...) only once every 14.7. The statistics reflect a fact evident to any reader of the Protagoras and Theaetetus, that the first of these dialogues is Plato's most sustained treatment of the comparative merits of the many different forms of διαλέγεσθαι, the second his most ambitious exhibition of the type of dialectic with which Socrates there wins his contest against Protagoras. It is the former dialogue that interests me here. (shrink)
Plato's Euthyrphro, Apology, andCrito portray Socrates' words and deeds during his trial for disbelieving in the Gods of Athens and corrupting the Athenian youth, and constitute a defense of the man Socrates and of his way of life, the philosophic life. The twelve essays in the volume, written by leading classical philosophers, investigate various aspects of these works of Plato, including the significance of Plato's characters, Socrates's revolutionary religious ideas, and the relationship between historical events and Plato's texts.
It is a standing temptation for philosophers to find anticipations of their own views in the great thinkers of the past, but few have been so bold in the search for precursors, and so utterly mistaken, as Berkeley when he claimed Plato and Aristotle as allies to his immaterialist idealism. In Siris: A Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries Concerning the Virtues of Tar-Water , which Berkeley published in his old age in 1744, he reviews the leading philosophies of antiquity (...) and finds them on the whole a good deal more sympathetic to his own ideas than the ‘modern atheism’, as he calls it, of Hobbes and Spinoza or the objectionable principles of ‘the mechanic and geometrical philosophers’ such as Newton . But his strongest and, I think, his most interesting claim is that neither Plato nor Aristotle admitted ‘an absolute actual existence of sensible or corporeal things’. (shrink)
The framework of this paper is a defence of Burnet's construal of Apology 30b 2-4. Socrates does not claim, as he is standardly translated, that virtue makes you rich, but that virtue makes money and everything el se good for you. This view of the relation between virtue and wealth is paralleled in dialogues of every period, and a sophisticated development of it appears in Aristotle. My philological defence of the philosophically preferable translation extends recent scholarly work on eínai in (...) Plato and Aristotle to gígnesthai, which is the main verb in the disputed sentence. When attached to a subject, both verbs make a complete statement on their own, but a statement that is further completable by adding a complement. The important point is that the addition of a complement does not change the meaning of the verb from existence to the copula. Proving this is a lengthy task which takes me into some of the deeper reaches of Platonic and Aristotelian ontology, and into discussion of whether Greek ever acquired a verb that corresponds to modem verbs of existence. I conclude that even when later authors such as Philo Judaeus, Sextus Empiricus and Plotinus debate what we naturally translate as issues of existence, none of the verbs they use (eínai, úpárkhein, úphestekénai) can be said to have existential meaning. (shrink)
Since the arguments that Plato provides in the Republic for the thesis that the human soul consist of three parts (reason, spirit, appetite) are notoriously problematic, I propose other reasons for accepting tripartition: reasons that we too could endorse, or at least entertain with some sympathy. To wit, (a) the appetitive part of Plato's divided soul houses desires and tendencies we have because we are animal bodies programmed to survive (as individuals and as a species) in disequilibrium with a variegated, (...) often varying environment, (b) the spirited middle part houses status concerns that belong to us as social animals, while (c) what makes us rational animals is a faculty of reason, conceived in strikingly non-Humean terms, which determines what is best all things considered. Other psychic tendencies may then be explained in terms of the education and mutual interaction of the three parts we are 'programmed' for from birth. (shrink)
The framework of this paper is a defence of Burnet's construal ofApology30b 2-4. Socrates does not claim, as he is standardly translated, that virtue makes you rich, but that virtue makes money and everything else good for you. This view of the relation between virtue and wealth is paralleled in dialogues of every period, and a sophisticated development of it appears in Aristotle. My philological defence of the philosophically preferable translation extends recent scholarly work on εἶναι in Plato and Aristotle (...) to γίγνεσθαι, which is the main verb in the disputed sentence. When attached to a subject, both verbs make a complete statement on their own, but a statement that is further completableby adding a complement. The important point is that the addition of a complement does not change the meaning of the verb from existence to the copula. Proving this is a lengthy task which takes me into some of the deeper reaches of Platonic and Aristotelian ontology, and into discussion of whether Greek ever acquired a verb that corresponds to modern verbs of existence. I conclude that even when later authors such as Philo Judaeus, Sextus Empiricus and Plotinus debate what we naturally translate as issues of existence, none of the verbs they use can be said to have existential meaning. (shrink)