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Abstract

A crux of Plato’s Symposium is how beauty (to kalon) relates to the good. Diotima distinguishes beauty from the good, I show, to explain how erotic pursuits are characteristically ambivalent and opaque. Human beings pursue beauty without knowing why or thinking it good; yet they are rational, if aiming at happiness. Central to this reconstruction is a passage widely taken to show that beauty either coincides with the good or demands disinterested admiration. It shows rather that what one loves as beautiful does not appear good, a proposal with ramifications for ethical psychology.

In: Phronesis
In Plato's Timaeus and the Missing Fourth Guest, Donna M. Altimari Adler proposes a new Timaeus scale structure. She finds the harmonic cosmos, mathematically, at 35 A-36 D, regarding the text as a number generator. Plato's primary number sequence, she argues, yields a matrix defining a sophisticated harmony of the spheres. She stresses the Decad as the pattern governing both human perception and the generation of all things, in the Timaeus, including the World Soul and musical scale symbolizing it. She precisely identifies Plato's "fabric" and its locus of severance and solves other thorny problems of textual interpretation.

Abstract

Why do human beings, on Aristotle’s view, have an innate tendency to badness, that is, to developing desires that go beyond and against their natural needs? Given Aristotle’s teleological assumptions (including the thesis that nature does nothing in vain), such tendency should not be present. I argue that the culprit is to be found in the workings of rationality, in particular in the (necessary) presence of theoretical reason. As theoretical reason requires that human beings have unlimited non-rational desires for the fine (to kalon), it also gives rise to a tendency to form unlimited non-rational desires for other things.

In: Phronesis

Abstract

David Furley has suggested that we think of Callicles’ immoralism as attacking a thick concept. I take up this suggestion and apply it to the argument of Plato’s Gorgias more generally. I show that the discussion between Socrates, Gorgias and Polus, which prepares the ground for Callicles, is precisely addressing the thickness of the concept of justice: it reveals that this concept is both descriptive and evaluative and that formulating a revisionist position about justice is therefore extremely difficult. Callicles’ strategy is best read as a response to this difficulty, which sets the stage for Socrates’ revisionist account of justice.

In: Phronesis

Abstract

In a late treatise, That the Capacities of the Soul Follow the Mixtures of the Body (QAM), Galen of Pergamum infamously offered the view that the substance of the soul is identical with a bodily mixture. This thesis has been found radical and extreme in modern scholarship and is generally considered to be at odds with Galen’s ‘agnosticism’ on the substance of soul. In this paper I propose a close reading of QAM that allows us to make sense of it in terms of Galen’s other work, including his late work On My Own Opinions (De Propriis Placitis).

In: Phronesis

Abstract

This article focusses on the generality of the entities involved in a geometric proof of the kind found in ancient Greek treatises: it shows that the standard modern translation of Greek mathematical propositions falsifies crucial syntactical elements, and employs an incorrect conception of the denotative letters in a Greek geometric proof; epigraphic evidence is adduced to show that these denotative letters are ‘letter-labels’. On this basis, the article explores the consequences of seeing that a Greek mathematical proposition is fully general, and the ontological commitments underlying the stylistic practice.

In: Phronesis

Abstract

Aristotle takes practical wisdom and arts or crafts to be forms of knowledge which, we argue, can usefully be thought of as ‘empiricist’. This empiricism has two key features: knowledge does not rest on grasping unobservable natures or essences; and knowledge does not rest on grasping logical relations that hold among propositions. Instead, knowledge rests on observation, memory, experience and everyday uses of reason. While Aristotle’s conception of theoretical knowledge does require grasping unobservable essences and logical relations that hold among suitable propositions, his conception of practical and productive knowledge avoids such requirements and is consistent with empiricism.

In: Phronesis

Abstract

There is little agreement about Aristotle’s philosophy of geometry, partly due to the textual evidence and partly part to disagreement over what constitutes a plausible view. I keep separate the questions ‘What is Aristotle’s philosophy of geometry?’ and ‘Is Aristotle right?’, and consider the textual evidence in the context of Greek geometrical practice, and show that, for Aristotle, plane geometry is about properties of certain sensible objects—specifically, dimensional continuity—and certain properties possessed by actual and potential compass-and-straightedge drawings qua quantitative and continuous. For their part, the objects of stereometry are potential sensible three-dimensional figures qua quantitative and continuous.

In: Phronesis
In: Phronesis

Abstract

Plato in the Meno is standardly interpreted as committed to condition innatism: human beings are born with latent innate states of knowledge. Against this view, Gail Fine has argued for prenatalism: human souls possess knowledge in a disembodied state but lose it upon being embodied. We argue against both views and in favor of content innatism: human beings are born with innate cognitive contents that can be, but do not exist innately in the soul as, the contents of states of knowledge. Content innatism has strong textual support and constitutes a philosophically interesting theory.

In: Phronesis