"They don't have syntax, so we can eat them." According to Richard Sorabji, this conclusion attributed to the Stoic philosophers was based on Aristotle's argument that animals lack reason. In his fascinating, deeply learned book, Sorabji traces the roots of our thinking about animals back to Aristotelian and Stoic beliefs. Charting a recurrent theme in ancient philosophy of mind, he shows that today's controversies about animal rights represent only the most recent chapter in millennia-old debates. Sorabji surveys a vast range (...) of Greek philosophical texts and considers how classical discussions of animals' capacities intersect with central questions, not only in ethics but in the definition of human rationality as well: the nature of concepts; how perceptions differ from beliefs; how memory, intention, and emotion relate to reason; and to what extent speech, skills, and inference can serve as proofs of reason. Focusing on the significance of ritual sacrifice and the eating of meat, he explores religious contexts of the treatment of animals in ancient Greece and in medieval Western Christendom. He also looks closely at the contemporary defenses of animal rights offered by Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Mary Midgley. Animal Minds and Human Morals sheds new light on traditional arguments surrounding the status of animals while pointing beyond them to current moral dilemmas. It will be crucial reading for scholars and students in the fields of ancient philosophy, ethics, history of philosophy, classics, and medieval studies, and for everyone seriously concerned about our relationship with other species. A Townsend Lecture Book. (shrink)
A discussion of Aristotle’s thought on determinism and culpability, Necessity, Cause, and Blame also reveals Richard Sorabji’s own philosophical commitments. He makes the original argument here that Aristotle separates the notions of necessity and cause, rejecting both the idea that all events are necessarily determined as well as the idea that a non-necessitated event must also be non-caused. In support of this argument, Sorabji engages in a wide-ranging discussion of explanation, time, free will, essence, and purpose in nature. He also (...) provides historical perspective, arguing that these problems remain intimately bound up with modern controversies. “ Necessity, Cause and Blame would be counted by all as one of Sorabji’s finest. The book is essential for philosophers—both specialists on the Greeks and modern thinkers about free will—and also compelling for non-specialists.”—Martha Nussbaum “Original and important . . . The book relates Aristotle’s discussions to both the contemporary debates on determinism and causation and the ancient ones. It is especially detailed on Stoic arguments about necessity . . . and on the social and legal background to Aristotle’s thought.”— Choice “It is difficult to convey the extraordinary richness of this book. . . . A Greekless philosopher could read it with pleasure . . . At the same time, its learning and scholarship are enormous.”—G. E. M. Anscombe, Times Literary Supplement. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a ground-breaking study of ancient Greek views of the emotions and their influence on subsequent theories and attitudes, Pagan and Christian. While the central focus of the book is the Stoics, Sorabji draws on a vast range of texts to give a rich historical survey of how Western thinking about this central aspect of human nature developed.
The nature of matter was as intriguing a question for ancient philosophers as it is for contemporary physicists, and Matter, Space, and Motion presents a fresh and illuminating account of the rich legacy of the physical theories of the Greeks from the fifth century B.C. to the late sixth century A.D.
Richard Sorabji here takes time as his central theme, exploring fundamental questions about its nature: Is it real or an aspect of consciousness? Did it begin along with the universe? Can anything escape from it? Does it come in atomic chunks? In addressing these and myriad other issues, Sorabji engages in an illuminating discussion of early thought about time, ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Islamic, Christian, and Jewish medieval thinkers. Sorabji argues that the thought of these often negelected philosophers (...) about the subject is, in many cases, more complete than that of their more recent counterparts. “Splendid. . . . The canvas is vast, the picture animated, the painter nonpareil. . . . Sorabji’s work will encourage more adventurers to follow him to this fascinating new-found land.”—Jonathan Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “One of the most important works in the history of metaphysics to appear in English for a considerable time. No one concerned with the problems with which it deals either as a historian of ideas or as a philosopher can afford to neglect it.”—Donald MacKinnon, Scottish Journal of Theology “Unusually readable for such scholarly content, the book provides in rich and cogent terms a lively and well-balanced discussion of matters of concern to a wide academic audience.”— Choice. (shrink)
Over the centuries, the idea of the self has both fascinated and confounded philosophers. From the ancient Greeks, who problematized issues of identity and self-awareness, to Locke and Hume, who popularized minimalist views of the self, to the efforts of postmodernists in our time to decenter the human subject altogether, the idea that there is something called a self has always been in steady decline. But for Richard Sorabji, one of our most celebrated living intellectuals, this negation of the self (...) is dispiriting. In Self , he sets out to recover the rich variety of positive accounts of the self from Antiquity right up to the present, while offering his own inspiring view of what precisely the self might be. Drawing on Eastern religion, classical antiquity, and Western philosophy, Sorabji proceeds to tackle a number of thematic debates that have preoccupied philosophers over the ages, including the concept of the self, its sameness and mutability, the idea of the resurrection of the body and spirit, and the fear of death. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. It is also neither a linguistic creation nor a psychological fiction, but something that owns both a consciousness and a body. Ultimately, Sorabji argues, the demise of a positive idea of the self stems from much older and more pervasive problems of identity than we realize. Through an astute reading of this tradition, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a brilliant exploration of the history of our understanding of the self, which has remained elusive and mysterious throughout the spectacular development of human knowledge of the outside world. He ranges from ancient to contemporary thought, Western and Eastern, to reveal and assess the insights of a remarkable variety of thinkers. On this basis he rejects the common idea that the self is an illusion, and develops his own original conception of the self as essential to our (...) ownership of our experience and our apprehension of the world. (shrink)
Interpretations of Aristotle's account of the relation between body and soul have been widely divergent. At one extreme, Thomas Slakey has said that in the De Anima ‘Aristotle tries to explain perception simply as an event in the sense-organs’. Wallace Matson has generalized the point. Of the Greeks in general he says, ‘Mind–body identity was taken for granted.… Indeed, in the whole classical corpus there exists no denial of the view that sensing is a bodily process throughout’. At the opposite (...) extreme, Friedrich Solmsen has said of Aristotle's theory, ‘it is doubtful whether the movement or the actualization occurring when the eye sees or the ear hears has any physical or physiological aspect.’ Similarly, Jonathan Barnes has described Aristotle as leaning hesitantly towards the view that desire and thought are wholly non-physical. But on the emotions and sense-perception, Barnes takes an intermediate position. Aristotle treats these, he says, as including physical and non-physical components. Other writers too have sought a position somewhere in the middle. Thus G. R. T. Ross concedes that we find in Aristotle ‘what looks like the crudest materialism’. It appears that objects produce changes in an organism, ‘and the reception of these changes in the sense organ is perception’. But, he maintains, this gives us only half the picture. The complete theory ‘may in a way be designated as a doctrine of psychophysical parallelism’. W. D. Ross also seeks a middle position. He thinks that Aristotle sometimes brings out ‘the distinctively mental, non-corporeal nature of the act [of sensation].… But Aristotle cannot be said to hold successfully to the notion of sensation as a purely mental activity having nothing in common with anything physical. He is still under the influence of earlier materialism’. (shrink)
Interpretations of Aristotle's account of the relation between body and soul have been widely divergent. At one extreme, Thomas Slakey has said that in theDe Anima‘Aristotle tries to explain perception simply as an event in the sense-organs’. Wallace Matson has generalized the point. Of the Greeks in general he says, ‘Mind–body identity was taken for granted.… Indeed, in the whole classical corpus there exists no denial of the view that sensing is a bodily process throughout’. At the opposite extreme, Friedrich (...) Solmsen has said of Aristotle's theory, ‘it is doubtful whether the movement or the actualization occurring when the eye sees or the ear hears has any physical or physiological aspect.’ Similarly, Jonathan Barnes has described Aristotle as leaning hesitantly towards the view that desire and thought are wholly non-physical. But on the emotions and sense-perception, Barnes takes an intermediate position. Aristotle treats these, he says, as including physical and non-physical components. Other writers too have sought a position somewhere in the middle. Thus G. R. T. Ross concedes that we find in Aristotle ‘what looks like the crudest materialism’. It appears that objects produce changes in an organism, ‘and the reception of these changes in the sense organisperception’. But, he maintains, this gives us only half the picture. The complete theory ‘may in a way be designated as a doctrine of psychophysical parallelism’. W. D. Ross also seeks a middle position. He thinks that Aristotle sometimes brings out ‘the distinctively mental, non-corporeal nature of the act [of sensation].… But Aristotle cannot be said to hold successfully to the notion of sensation as a purely mental activity having nothing in common with anything physical. He is still under the influence of earlier materialism’. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a unique exploration of the development of moral conscience over 2500 years, from the playwrights of classical Greece to the present. His virtuoso study of the development of pagan, Christian, and secular conceptions of conscience culminates in a consideration of the nature, value, and role of conscience today.
I have argued elsewhere that in past history, freedom of speech, whether granted to few or many, was granted as bestowing some important benefit. John Stuart Mill, for example, in On Liberty, saw it as enabling us to learn from each other through discussion. By the test of benefit, I here argue that social media that are funded through trade in our personal data with advertisers, including propagandists, cannot claim to be supporting free speech. We lose our freedoms, if the (...) personal data we entrust to online social media are used to target us with information, or disinformation, tailored as persuasive to different personalities, in order to maximize revenue from advertisers or propagandists. Among the serious consequences described, particularly dangerous because of its effect on democracy, is the use of such targeted advertisements to swing voting campaigns. Control is needed both of the social media and of any political parties that pay social media for differential targeting of voters based on personality. Using UK government documents, I recommend legislation for reform and enforcement. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a unique discussion of the development of moral conscience over a period of 2500 years, from the playwrights of the fifth century BCE to the present. He addresses key topics including the original meaning and continuing nature of conscience, the ideas of freedom of religion and conscience with climaxes in the early Christian centuries and the seventeenth, the disputes on absolution or 'terrorisation' of conscience, dilemmas of conscience, and moral double-bind, the reliability of conscience if it is (...) shaped by local custom, and modern opposition to the idea of conscience and its role in legislation. (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.
Aristotle says in the De Sensu that other colours are produced through the mixture of black bodies with white . The obvious mixture for him to be referring to is the mixture of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water, which he describes at such length in the De Generatione et Corruptione. All compound bodies are produced ultimately through the mixture of these elements. The way in which the elements mix is described in i. 10 and 2. 7. They (...) mix in such a way as to produce an entirely new substance, in which the characteristics of the original earth, air, fire, and water survive only in modified form. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a ground-breaking study of ancient Greek views of the emotions and their influence on subsequent theories and attitudes, pagan and Christian. The central focus of the book is the Stoics, but Sorabji draws on a vast range of texts to give a rich historical survey of how Western thinking about this central aspect of human nature developed.Stoicism is not, Sorabji makes clear, about gritting your teeth. It can successfully banish stress by showing you how to assess your (...) situation differently. But there were rival views, that emotional stress depends on irrational forces in the mind, or, as modern brain research explains, physical forces in the body, so that changing your assessment is only sometimes effective. The debate also concerns the different roles of philosophy, music, and the arts in calming stress.Orthodox Stoics marginalized as mere side-effects the initial agitations which they could not treat. In Christianity we see how one culture can transform another. Sorabji shows how the Christians turned the Stoic theory of initial agitations into a theory of initial temptations and devised new techniques to combat what came to be called the seven cardinal sins.Emotion and Peace of Mind is a magisterial work of scholarship which will be fascinating for anyone with an interest in the emotions from a historical or contemporary perspective. (shrink)
Richard Sorabji presents a fascinating study of Gandhi's philosophy in comparison with Christian and Stoic thought. He shows that Gandhi was a true philosopher, who not only aimed to give a consistent self-critical rationale for his views, but also thought himself obliged to live by what he taught.
Richard Sorabji, a noted philosopher in his own right, here offers a new edition of his 1972 translation of _De Memoria_ here with commentary, summaries, and three essays comparing Aristotle’s accounts of memory and recollection. For this edition, Sorabji has also provided a substantial new introduction taking into account scholarly debates over the intervening thirty years, particularly those over the role of mental images in the imagination. “Sorabji has produced a first-class book on an important topic. All Aristotelians, and anyone (...) with an interest in any aspect of memory, will be in his debt.”—Jonathan Barnes, _Isis _“Anyone concerned with Aristotle’s psychology, theory of mind, or rhetoric, anyone interested in mnemonic systems, and anyone trying to work out for himself a theory of memory, should read Aristotle’s treatise _On Memory_, with the comments by Richard Sorabji.”—_International Studies in Philosophy_ “Sorabji’s book is a sample of care, intelligence, and subtlety that the Anglo-Saxon philosophers do not hesitate to invest in such enterprises.... The notes seem to leave no detail, no textual difficulty unilluminated.”—_Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale _. (shrink)