Reading Ancient Texts - Presocratics and Plato Essays in Honour of Denis O'Brien

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<p>CHAPTERTWO</p> <p>Reading Ancient TextsVolume I: Presocratics and PlatoEssays in Honour of Denis OBrien</p> <p>Edited by</p> <p>Suzanne Stern-Gillet and Kevin Corrigan</p> <p>LEIDEN BOSTON 2007</p> <p>On the cover: Olive tree. Photo: Bertrand Stern-Gillet. Frontispiece: Portrait of Denis OBrien. Photo: Franck Lecrenay. This book is printed on acid-free paper. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A C.I.P. record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.</p> <p>ISSN 09208607 ISBN 978 90 04 16509 0 Copyright 2007 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. printed in the netherlands</p> <p>CONTENTS</p> <p>Preface ......................................................................................... Notes on Contributors ................................................................</p> <p>vii xxi</p> <p>I. Presocratics Some Remarks on Noein in Parmenides ..................................... F. Fronterotta (Lecce) The Structure of the Eye and Its Cosmological Function in Empedocles. Reconstruction of Fragment 84 D.-K. ............. M. Rashed (Ecole Normale Suprieure, Paris) Empedocles, Fragment 115.3: Can One of the Blessed Pollute his Limbs with Blood? ................................................ J.-C. Picot (Paris) Philolaus and the Central Fire ................................................... C. Huffman (DePauw) 3</p> <p>21</p> <p>41</p> <p>57</p> <p>II. Plato Self-Knowledge in Platos Alcibiades ............................................. C. Gill (Exeter) Socrates on the Denition of Figure in the Meno ..................... T. Ebert (Erlangen) Platos Phaedo as Protreptic ......................................................... R.K. Sprague (South Carolina) An Absurd Question: Plato, Symposium 199D ............................ J.C.G. Strachan (Edinburgh) 97</p> <p>113</p> <p>125</p> <p>135</p> <p>vi</p> <p>contents 153</p> <p>Tumescence and Spiritual Seed in the Phaedrus ........................ J.-F. Pradeau (Paris XNanterre &amp; Institut Universitaire de France) Plato against Parmenides: Sophist 236D242B ........................... N. Notomi (Keio) Dialectic by Negation in Three Late Dialogues ........................ K.M. Sayre (Notre Dame) A Detailed Bibliography of Denis OBriens Works .................. Subject Index .............................................................................. Index of Names ..........................................................................</p> <p>167</p> <p>189</p> <p>213 221 223</p> <p>PREFACE</p> <p>Why do historians of philosophy do what they do? The truth of the matter, which they might not readily own up to, is that they nd past philosophical texts captivating and worth studying for their own sake. To ascribe intrinsic value to something, however, as Aristotle noted,1 is no bar to ascribing an instrumental value to it as well. So, what is the study of past philosophical texts good for? What is its instrumental value? If pressed, most historians of philosophy would probably answer that their discipline serves a philosophical purpose, however widely and variously conceived. Those who allow themselves to be pressed further mostly describe such purpose in broadly pedagogic terms. Not without a touch of complacency, they claim to provide their non-historical colleagues with an extended array of arguments and viewpoints with which to tackle philosophical problems as currently formulated, or with an enhanced understanding of these problems themselves, if not of the very nature of philosophy, or with paradigms to follow or indeed to avoid. Other historians of philosophy nd such instrumental interpretation of their role demeaning. Their function, so they would contend, should not be conceived as a mere breathing of (old) life into (newly) reformulated philosophical problems. Philosophy, they would claim, is by its very nature historical. Not only do philosophers inherit their central problems from past practitioners in the eld, but their very modus operandi is critical and dialectical, consisting as it does of a critical engagement with the views of other philosophers, past or present. Without a degree of historical awareness and readiness to learn from the past, the philosophic enterprise, so conceived, could not fruitfully be carried out. To philosophize is, at least in part, to reect on the models and methods that one has inherited from the past, to test them for their continued adequacy, to adjust them whenever possible or to replace them if necessary. If the discipline is to remain in good order, they might conclude, past philosophical works, whether canonical or not, must be interpreted from within their context and in terms of the issues that they were written to address.</p> <p>1</p> <p>Nicomachean Ethics, I 7, 1097a30b5.</p> <p>viii</p> <p>preface</p> <p>Denis OBrien, the honorand of the present two volumes, accepts neither of these two conceptions of the history of philosophy, as minimally summarised above. He holds his subject to constitute a separate and autonomous discipline, whose relationship to philosophy has to be carefully delineated. We have been fortunate in persuading him to spell out his views on the matter for the rst time, in an essay which will be published separately in a companion volume. His methodological credo, which bears the mark of his characteristic vigour and is informed by forty-ve years at the forefront of historical debates, constitutes a tting companion to the present two volumes. From the manner in which historians of philosophy conceive their relation to philosophy stem their methodological decisions. Are they to study past works in the original language, or is it sufcient to do so in a translation accredited by those competent to judge its quality? How deeply should they delve into the past for the philosophical roots of the work or the ideas which they seek to explain? How directly relevant, for instance, is Augustines doctrine of divine illumination to the epistemology of the Meditations? And if the student of Descartes ignores the De Trinitate to his peril, can he similarly afford to neglect the theory of anamnsis in the Meno? How widely should historians of philosophy cast their net for information about the broader context of their philosophers life and works? If it is undoubtedly signicant, from a philosophical point of view, that Spinoza was excommunicated in 1656 from the Synagogue of Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam for wrong opinions and behaviour, does it also matter to philosophers that he earned his living by grinding lenses? Must historians focus exclusively on the arguments of the philosophers, as set out in their philosophical works, or must they also take account of their non-philosophicalor less obviously philosophicalwritings? To what extent, if at all, does Berkeleys 1744 Letter on Tar-Water, for instance, shed light on any aspect of his system? The dominance of the analytical school in twentieth-century AngloAmerican philosophy has had a marked impact on the manner in which historians of philosophy who work within its orbit conceive their role. Some have adapted their approach and methods to t in with the ahistorical (or anti-historical) bias of their professional milieu. Accepting the sparse view of the domain of philosophy adopted by those around them, they eschew the jargon of textual exegesis, they mostly ignore the cultural and literary context of the past works that they study, and they focus exclusively on the formal features of the arguments featured in</p> <p>preface</p> <p>ix</p> <p>them. They believe themselves to be doing a favour to their author by treating him as an energetic collaborator or antagonist.2 They do not hesitate to make Parmenides and Heidegger into partners in discussions on the nature of being. They take pride in the fact that the students in their care should soon forget that Aristotle is an ancient philosopher. Anachronism is the price they pay for their treatment of the past. Although it is a price that such historians of philosophy appear to be willing to pay, there are others who would not be so willing. These other historians of philosophy, while endorsing the emphasis that the analytical school places on lucidity of exposition and cogency in argument, are nevertheless committed to expounding past philosophies in all their distinctness. These historians engage in all aspects of textual exegesis. They read past philosophical texts in their entirety and in the original. They do not abstract past philosophical concepts and notions from their historical and cultural contexts. Still less do they attempt to re-formulate them in idioms better adapted to the needs and interests of the present. They take anachronism to be an error, if not a sin. This latter conception of the history of philosophy, which may be seen as an outcome of a softening of the analytical movement, has had the unintentional but happy consequence of easing the dialogue between historians of philosophy working in Britain or the United States and their counterparts on the Continent of Europe. The dialogue between the two cultures has recently been further facilitated by the waning of the structuralist, post-structuralist and post-modernist movements, which had dominated historical writing on the Continent of Europe in the second half of last century. Continental European historians, many of whom owed allegiance to these movements, had long been suspicious of, if not hostile to, the a-historical stance of the analytical school. The fact that the feeling was heartily reciprocated made for infrequent and weary contacts between the two traditions. The present rapprochement is therefore much to be welcome. Of this rapprochement Denis OBrien has been a rare pioneer. After successive research fellowships had run their term, he left Cambridge in 1971 to join that most civilized of institutions, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientique in Paris. Before long, he came to feel thoroughly at home amongst his new colleagues, whose commitment to meticulous</p> <p>2 Bennett J., A Study of Spinozas Ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, p. 1.</p> <p>x</p> <p>preface</p> <p>textual exegesis had made impervious to the excesses of the postmodernist movement in all its guises. Liberated from all teaching duties, he soon fullled the rich promises contained in the book of his doctoral thesis, Empedocles Cosmic Cycle (1969). Meticulously researched and elaborately argued analyses of ancient texts began owing thick and fast from his pen. Forty years later, they are still owing. Remarkable for their methodological ingenuity, they are aimed at reconstructing the dynamics of ancient philosophizing. Past views and systems are studied, not as if they had stemmed, Athena-like, from their authors conscious reections, but are patiently reconstructed from evidence gleaned in later philosophers who expounded, or used for their own purposes, the views of their predecessors. By so working backwards Denis is often able to bring to light presuppositions and assumptions of which those who laboured under them were mostly unaware. To this endeavour he has brought an uncommon philological nimbleness; no one else, it seems, can draw so much philosophical mileage from so seemingly inconsequential philological points. In 1969, a minute analysis of a few lines in Enneads 6 and 51 backed his arguments for the coherence of Plotinus thinking on matter and the origin of evil. Very recently, the presence or absence of a single-letter word, in a subordinate clause, led to a series of three tightly packed articles on the second part of Platos Parmenides.3 Remarkable, too, is the range of Denis publications, covering as they do the whole span of ancient philosophy, from the Presocratics to Augustine. As the extensive bibliography reprinted at the end of each volume testies, there is virtually no ancient school of thought, with the possible exception of the Stoics, on which Denis has not shed some light. The present two volumes reect the range and depth of his scholarly accomplishments. They also bear witness to the vitality of the study of ancient philosophy in Europe and North America by exemplifying the different methodologies that go into the discovery of new ways of reading and seeing the past. These include the philological skills that enable scholars to read texts with rigour as well as the philosophical and literary tools that help them to uncover and to contextualize the</p> <p>3 The rst two shorter articles, entitled EINAI copulatif et existentiel dans le Parmnide de Platon (Parm. 137 A 7B 4) and Un problme de syntaxe dans le Parmnide de Platon (Parm. 137 A 7B 4), have been published in Revue des Etudes Grecques 118, 2005, pp. 229245, and 119, 2006, pp. 421435. They will be followed shortly in the same periodical by the main piece, Lhypothse de Parmnide (Platon, Parmnide 137 A 7B 4).</p> <p>preface</p> <p>xi</p> <p>meanings hidden in texts whose signicance had so far been taken for granted, misunderstood or overlooked. Lastly, these volumes explore aspects of the evolving development of the self as writer and reader, of the issues and qualities that favour that development (such as identity, self-knowledge and sincerity) and of the ways in which ancient writers saw themselves in relation to this world and to the divine, as they conceived it. The section on the Presocratics sets the tone for the two-volume collection as a whole with close examination or reconstruction of key texts, in each case providing new insight into well-known fragments, an insight that changes our understanding of the larger picture. Francesco Fronterotta examines the meanings and usages of noein in Parmenides, fragments 3, 6, 8, 4 DK, to decide between three different interpretations: noein as purely intellectual knowledge (following Plotinus, Aristotle, and Plato), noein as discursive, analytic reasoning (following G.E.L. Owen and others), and noein as a form of immediate perception that goes beyond the senses (following K. von Fritz). Fronterotta favours the third option as a way of getting closer to the pre-Platonic thinker he takes Parmenides to have been, rather than the later philosophical and historical construct we have come to accept from Plato, Plotinus or Heidegger. This introduces one of the major themes of the volumes: whose voice speaks to us in and through the text? Is it an original voiceor as close as we can get to i...</p>