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Authors of Greek and Roman philosophical protreptics imitate a kind of exhortation initially associated with Socrates, creating a thread of typically protreptic intertextuality that classifies protreptic as a genre of philosophical literature. Tracing this intertextuality from the Socratic authors to Boethius, the book shows how Greek and Roman protreptics define philosophy as a revisionary form of education, articulate the ultimate goals of this education, and associate their authors and audiences with philosophy as a new discursive practice and a new way of living. These texts constitute the first chapter in the history of educational revision and thus offer thoughts that continue to inform every debate on educational goals.

Abstract

Greek culture of the Imperial period is often described as “the Second Sophistic.” In this period philosophical authors traveled widely throughout the empire as public speakers. Musonius Rufus and Epictetus were active teachers of philosophy who imitated Socrates and promoted philosophical education to the Greek and Roman elites. They never wrote anything; the students who recorded their lectures were influenced by the model set by Xenophon. The situation and the content of Discourse 8, written in protreptic mode, in which Musonius addresses a Syrian king, resemble those of Aristotle’s Protreptic. The discourses of Epictetus are composed in a combination of protreptic, elenctic, and didactic modes; although interspersed throughout the work, the protreptic sections reflect the influence of Socrates as presented in the Platonic Clitophon. Dio of Prusa, today regarded as a sophist rather than a philosopher, sought to describe his career in terms of recognizable and established models, the most influential of whom was Socrates. In two protreptic sections of his Oration 13, Dio gives examples of the Socratic exhortations he delivered during his exile. Playing with philosophical protreptic in two satirical dialogues, Nigrinus and Parasite, Lucian of Samosata confirms its existence as a recognizable form. Galen’s Exhortation to Medicine and the Protreptic of Clement of Alexandria are not exhortations to philosophy, but they systematically use the arguments and formal features of philosophical protreptic for their respective rhetorical purposes. Unlike their models, they do not begin from the premise that the ultimate goal of life is happiness (εὐδαιµονία), and they do not end with the conclusion that in order to reach happiness one must philosophize (φιλοσοφητέον).

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

Three Socratic authors, Aeschines of Sphettos, Plato, and Xenophon, provide our first examples of protreptic discourse, mostly embedded in non-protreptic works. These authors stage Socratic protreptics to achieve various goals: to characterize their protagonist, Socrates, as a model philosopher and model educator; to raise questions about the nature and methods of Socratic education; and to associate their authorial personae with Socrates. The arguments used in Socratic protreptic remain remarkably consistent across the authors and their individual works. Socrates argues to his interlocutors and audiences that the ultimate purpose of education is to secure happiness or well-being, εὐδαιµονία, and that traditional education fails to achieve this goal; only philosophical education can provide happiness because it cultivates wisdom, a divine element in human nature. By staging this argument as a mini drama in which Socrates speaks to a young Athenian nobleman, such as Alcibiades or Clinias, or to the youth of Athens, Socratic authors put before the public an act of deliberation on the best possible kind of education. These literary dramas explore the relationship between the happiness of the individual and the happiness of the community; the kind of knowledge that leads to excellence, ἀρετή; the way in which this knowledge should be acquired and communicated; the object of education and its nature; the right type of teacher; and the approaches suitable for different types of students.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

The attested existence of the protreptics of the poet Ennius, the emperor Augustus, and the younger Seneca (we only have the titles of these works) corroborates the general narrative of the adaptation of Greek philosophical culture to the life of the Roman élite in the Republican and early Imperial period. Protreptic discourse continues to be used in non-protreptic work. In his poem On the Nature of Things Lucretius represents himself as a teacher addressing the Roman politician, orator, and poet Memmius; the protreptic sections of the poem describe the main benefit of philosophical education as personal stability and security. Cicero’s Hortensius, the most important protreptic work written in Latin, is preserved only in fragments (this account is based on the edition of L. Straume-Zimmermann). In this dialogue, Cicero defended the idea that philosophy is the only way to vita beata from the attack of his older friend Hortensius, re-staging the fourth-century BCE Athenian debate between the Academy and Isocrates regarding the best possible kind of education. Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, an exhortation to patriotic service to the state, was modeled on protreptics to philosophy; its exploitation of philosophical protreptic for other purposes foreshadows the period of the Second Sophistic. Seneca’s Exhortations do not survive, but his Letters to Lucilius contain a significant number of protreptic sections. In this collection, Seneca speaks in his personal voice to an historically identifiable internal addressee, Lucilius (although his presence often fades into a generic “you”), while the actual reader is given the role of spectator. Unlike his predecessors, Seneca adopts the authorial persona of a fellow-student on a life-long path of philosophical education. The authors discussed in this chapter seek to articulate the best paideia for the Roman nobility, who were traditionally engaged in politics. Their writings are in dialogue with the Greek sources; their arguments and their Latin equivalents for Greek terms (such as philosophandum est for φιλοσοφητέον, and vita beata for εὐδαιµονία) create clear intertextual connections with these sources.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

Philosophical protreptic in the Hellenistic period, though preserved only in fragments, was a flourishing genre. Its authors, mainly the heads of various philosophical schools, inherited from Plato and Aristotle the idea of philosophy as an art. They also inherited its eudaimonistic framework, but instead of addressing young noblemen or princes, they wrote exhortations to philosophy addressed to students of much more modest backgrounds. The protreptic beginning and ending of Epicurus’s Letter to Menoeceus (a possible epitome of his lost Protreptic) argue along broadly Aristotelian lines: “one must philosophize,” φιλοσοφητέον, regardless of whether one is young or old; this is how one achieves the main goal of human life, εὐδαιµονία; and this is how one leads a life worthy of the gods. Fragments from the protreptics of Cleanthes and Chrysippus also offer evidence of protreptic intertextuality, and in particular of their dialogue with Plato. In this period the concept of philosophy as an “art of living” generates a fixed philosophical curriculum. This development is obvious in Epicurus’s concern with memorization of his doctrines, in the types of philosophical discourse mentioned by Chrysippus and Posidonius (via Seneca), and in particular in the divisions of philosophy outlined by Philo of Larissa and Eudorus of Alexandria. These authors systematically reflect on the role of protreptic discourse in real-life philosophical instruction.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

The Protreptic of Aristotle, the most important early representative of an entirely protreptic work, is preserved only in fragments. The present account relies on the editorial work of I. Düring, D.S. Hutchinson and M.R. Johnson, G. Schneeweiss, and S. Van der Meeren. The typically Aristotelian formal features of the Protreptic are possibly the title, and certainly the first-person voice of the author. Aristotle’s main argument in this work remains the Socratic one: the ultimate goal of education is happiness, εὐδαιµονία; happiness depends on cultivating the mind, the divine element in our nature; therefore, only engagement in philosophy can help us reach the ultimate goal in life. Intertextual links between the Aristotelian and the Socratic protreptics include verbal echoes (e.g., φιλοσοφητέον, “one must philosophize”), arguments (e.g., arguments based on εὐδαιµονία, the dichotomy of the body and the soul, the distinction between the user and the used), and analogies (e.g., between sight and thinking, between the mind and God). Aristotle’s choice of addressee, the (otherwise unknown) Cyprian prince Themison, reflects the philosopher’s aspiration to promote philosophy as a new form of education throughout the Greek world; it also indicates his competition with Isocrates, who conceptualizes “philosophy” as rhetorical training. Aristotle’s work, however, is also written for an internal audience of philosophers, as shown by the anecdote from Zeno, preserved by Teles, which talks about the philosopher Crates reading Aristotle’s Protreptic to the Athenian shoemaker Philiscus. Aristotle’s vision of philosophical education, unlike Plato’s, does not promote dialectic as the highest science, but instead the observation of the results of research and the exercise of theoretical wisdom.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

In theory, philosophical protreptic can be seen as a kind of writing defined by its communicative purpose: exhortation to philosophy. As a matter of practice, it is a genre established by its own history. This history begins with the Socratic speech act, described in Socratic literature, where Socrates points out that while people take pains to acquire wealth and power, they do not take pains to make their souls the best possible; and while they take pains to leave money to their children, they do not to teach their children how to use the money, thus neglecting their proper education. This core argument, and the conclusion that only engagement in philosophy provides a proper education and a good life, were taken over by subsequent philosophically minded authors. Following the examples from Socratic literature, later philosophical protreptics deliberate on the aims and goals of the best possible education in various forms. The diverse material that constitutes our corpus of Greco-Roman protreptic can be arranged under three main headings: 1. protreptic discourse embedded in non-protreptic works; 2. entirely protreptic works (in most cases only attested as titles); and 3. works written in protreptic mode. As a kind of ethical deliberation staged in literary works, Greek and Roman philosophical protreptic retains a number of thematic, formal, and functional affinities with deliberative rhetoric. However, in order to be understood as a kind of literature, philosophical protreptic must be studied in a way that acknowledges its narratological complexity and presentational character.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

Both Iamblichus and Boethius were led by the idea of rediscovering philosophy through the study of classical philosophical texts. Their written works promote philosophy using Platonic and Aristotelian arguments and language. Iamblichus’s Protreptic is part of a comprehensive philosophical textbook written for the students of his school. The sequence of ten books and the next-to-initial position of the Protreptic within this sequence reflect the order established in Middle Platonist school instruction, where the protreptic dialogue Alcibiades I was the first work to be read. Both the arrangement and the selection of material in Iamblichus’s Protreptic provide a glimpse into the method and content of instruction in his school: the work is a cento composed from excerpts culled mostly from Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagorean writings, proceeding from general philosophical teachings to more specifically Pythagorean material. The text does not directly exhort the reader but harmonizes a chorus of philosophical voices into a new Pythagorean unity. On the other hand, Themistius’s Oration 24 is an epideictic speech composed in protreptic mode, in which the author advertises his school to the citizens of Nicomedia. Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, also a work written in protreptic mode, combines the conventions of Menippean satire, consolation, and philosophical exhortation. The author describes himself as the recipient of the protreptic arguments delivered by Lady Philosophy.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

All philosophical protreptics discussed in the preceding six chapters promote the paradigmatic protreptic argument that begins with the proposition that the ultimate end of human existence is happiness or well-being (εὐδαιµονία, εὖ πράττειν; beatitudo, vita beata) and end with the conclusion that, in order to reach this ultimate end, we must philosophize (φιλοσοφητέον, χρὴ φιλοσοφεῖν; philosophandum est, studendum est philosophiae). This argument not only conveys the general philosophical worldview in a characteristically concentrated, sustained, and compelling way, but also shows that ancient protreptics are not mere signposts on the path to the temple of philosophy; rather, they play a central role in articulating the goals of the discipline. They describe philosophy as a firm basis for individual and communal happiness, which is one and the same for all people; they define its main aim as cultivating the internal and divine power of reasoning, and they explain the overall structure of the world and man’s place in it; they describe its impact as a therapy, an initiation into the mysteries, and an assimilation of the self to God. Protreptic dialogues and speeches staged in philosophical writings invite their readers to consider, examine, and adopt new views through the process of analogical reasoning; in presenting the arguments for and against philosophy, they also demonstrate that to be considering the best possible education means that one is already engaged in philosophy. These works thus constitute the first body of ancient literature that systematically engages its readers in the issues of the philosophy of education.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic

Abstract

Greco-Roman philosophical protreptics articulated certain ideas that continue to influence modern debates about educational goals. Their authors argue that, in addition to the basic education offered to children, human beings need a lifelong education. Emphasizing the shared nature of human rationality, they promote the rational autonomy of the individual as the best foundation for a flourishing community. Unlike literary-rhetorical education, which effectively reproduced the existing ideological framework and social order, philosophical education sought to promote the core Socratic claim that happiness is up to us and that we can change our dispositions, shape our personalities, and construct our lives in a way that aligns them with the universal principles that govern the world. Although the teaching on these universal principles varied from school to school, by emphasizing the “view from above” as a necessary reference point for determining educational goals, all ancient philosophers aimed to transcend the narrow sociocentric and egocentric interests that underlie other pursuits and other forms of education.

In: Promoting a New Kind of Education: Greek and Roman Philosophical Protreptic