Anyone who has read Plato’s Republic knows it has a lot to say about mathematics. But why? I shall not be satisfied with the answer that the future rulers of the ideal city are to be educated in mathematics, so Plato is bound to give some space to the subject. I want to know why the rulers are to be educated in mathematics. More pointedly, why are they required to study so much mathematics, for so long?
These five essays began a debate about the nature and scope of ancient scepticism which has transformed our understanding of what scepticism originally was. Together they provide a vigorous and highly stimulating introduction to the thought of the original sceptics, and shed new light on its relation to sceptical arguments in modern philosophy.
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: 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, that this alteration stands to perceptual awareness as matter to form. Claim is wrong because the assimilation that perceiving is is not ordinary alteration. Claim 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 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)
This volume, including sixteen contributions, analyses ancient and medieval theories of intentionality in various contexts: perception, imagination, and intellectual thinking. It sheds new light on classical theories and examines neglected sources, both Greek and Latin.
The key phrase eikōs muthos is standardly translated ‘a likely tale’, suggesting an empiricist philosophy of science quite alien to Plato’s outlook. I argue for translating, in the first instance, ‘a reasonable myth’, and focus on the point that the reason involved in world-making is practical, not theoretical. This should make a significant differenceto how we assess the Demiurgic arguments reported to us in the dialogue.
The Seventh Platonic Letter describes Plato's attempts to turn the ruler of Sicily, Dionysius II, into a philosopher ruler along the lines of the Republic. It explains why Plato turned from politics to philosophy in his youth and how he then tried to apply his ideas to actual politics later on. It also sets out his views about language, writing and philosophy. But is it genuine? Scholars have debated the issue for centuries. The origin of this book was a seminar (...) given in Oxford in 2001 by Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede, two of the most eminent scholars of ancient philosophy in recent decades. They question the authenticity of the letter head-on by showing how its philosophical content conflicts with what we find in the Platonic dialogues. They also reflect on the question of why the Letter was written, whether as an attempt to exculpate Plato from the charge of meddling in politics, or as an attempt to portray, through literary means, the ways in which human weakness and emotions can lead to disasters in political life. (shrink)
Myles Burnyeat was a major figure in the study of ancient Greek philosophy during the last decades of the twentieth century and the first of this. After teaching positions in London and Cambridge, where he became Laurence Professor, in 1996 he took up a Senior Research Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, from which he retired in 2006. In 2012 he published two volumes collecting essays dating from before the move to Oxford. Two new posthumously published volumes bring together essays (...) from his years at All Souls and his retirement, some of which have hitherto been unpublished. Volume 3 introduces Plato's Republic and examines his subsequent interpretation, and shows how ancient philosophical thinking can be applied to contemporary questions about key philosophical and psychological topics. Volume 4 focuses on Plato's and Aristotle's handling of important concepts in epistemology, metaphysics and science, and introduces the early history of Greek optics. (shrink)
Myles Burnyeat was a major figure in the study of ancient Greek philosophy during the last decades of the twentieth century and the first of this. After teaching positions in London and Cambridge, where he became Laurence Professor, in 1996 he took up a Senior Research Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, from which he retired in 2006. In 2012 he published two volumes collecting essays dating from before the move to Oxford. Two new posthumously published volumes bring together essays (...) from his years at All Souls and his retirement. The main body of Volume 3 presents studies written for a wide readership, first on Plato's Republic and then on the reading and interpretation of Plato in subsequent periods, particularly in nineteenth-century Britain. The volume also includes hitherto unpublished lectures, 'The Archaeology of Feeling', on the ancient origins of some key modern philosophical and psychological concepts. (shrink)
Myles Burnyeat was a major figure in the study of ancient Greek philosophy during the last decades of the twentieth century and the first of this. After teaching positions in London and Cambridge, where he became Laurence Professor, in 1996 he took up a Senior Research Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, from which he retired in 2006. In 2012 he published two volumes collecting essays dating from before the move to Oxford. Two new posthumously published volumes bring together essays (...) from his years at All Souls and his retirement. The essays in Volume 4 are addressed principally to scholars engaging first with fundamental issues in Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology and in Aristotle's philosophical psychology. Then follow studies tackling problems in interpreting the approaches to physics and cosmology taken by Plato and Aristotle, and in assessing the evidence for early Greek exercises in optics. (shrink)
This is a collection of the late Heda Segvic's papers in ancient moral philosophy. At the time of her death at age forty-five in 2003, Segvic had already established herself as an important figure in ancient philosophy, making bold new arguments about the nature of Socratic intellectualism and the intellectual influences that shaped Aristotle's ideas. Segvic had been working for some time on a monograph on practical knowledge that would interpret Aristotle's ethical theory as a response to Protagoras. The essays (...) collected here are those on which her reputation rests, including some that were intended to form the backbone of her projected monograph. The papers range from a literary study of Homer's influence on Plato's Protagoras to analytic studies of Aristotle's metaphysics and his ideas about deliberation. Most of the papers reflect directly or indirectly Segvic's idea that both Socrates' and Aristotle's universalism and objectivism in ethics could be traced back to their opposition to Protagorean relativism. The book represents the considerable achievements of one of the most talented scholars of ancient philosophy of her generation. (shrink)
This is the companion volume to Gregory Vlastos' highly acclaimed work Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. Four ground-breaking papers which laid the basis for his understanding of Socrates are collected here, in revised form: they examine Socrates' elenctic method of investigative argument, his disavowal of knowledge, his concern for definition, and the complications of his relationship with the Athenian democracy. The fifth chapter is a new and provocative discussion of Socrates' arguments in the Protagoras and Laches. The epilogue 'Socrates and (...) Vietnam' suggests that Socrates was not, as Plato claimed, the most just man of his time. The papers have been prepared for publication by Professor Myles Burnyeat with the minimum of editorial intervention. (shrink)
La rencontre entre Socrate et le tribunal populaire d’Athènes est comparable à la rencontre entre le poète polythéiste Baal et le Prophète dans les Versets sataniques de Salman Rushdie : la piété des uns est l’impiété des autres. Dans l’Apologie, Socrate ne repousse à aucun moment l’accusation selon laquelle il ne croit pas aux dieux auxquels croit la cité, et le dieu dont il se dit le fidèle est très différent d’Apollon tel qu’on se le représente traditionnellement. En fait, une (...) grande partie de sa plaidoirie, et une grande partie de ce qu’il dit d’une façon plus théorique dans l’Euthyphron, est une offense à la religion traditionnelle. En ce sens il était bien coupable de ce dont on l’avait accusé. (shrink)