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3077Re: Cornford's Pythagoreanism

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  • nahuelfk
    Feb 27, 2010
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      I'm always afraid of replying here, because I'm only a simple student and I feel that I don't have the knowledge nor the authority to make comments here. However, I do have something to say on the relationship between pythagoreanism and orphism that may (or not) help a little.

      "The first point, that the sort of personal religion that Pythagoras appears to have established was a radical departure cutting across the old social lines of the bloo group and ties of philia, I have to admit I had not thought of before - I suppose the Orphic religion would also follow this pattern."

      It's a risk to posit a model from Orphism or Pythagoreanism on the Classical Age (I highly reccomend the model of Burkert, "Craft Versus Sect: The Problem of Orphics and Pythagoreans" although I may be a little more positive on the social rol of Orphism than is given here). However, their doctrines are not the same as it may seems from some texts I tend to read: Orphic-Pythagorean is an excuse to not dig in the issue, there is no such thing as that. All the early evidence clearly make a division of them (even that controversial passage from Herodotus), and when the Neoplatonists talks about them, we must understand it on the "gold chain" in which they understand orphism and pythagoreanism (this point is well made by Brisson on his article of the relationship between Orphism and Damascius).

      My vision on the early orphism's doctrine of the soul is that the divine Aer has the primordial role on this. As souls are divine but material. Some hellenistic sources confirm this, as Vettius Valens later do. I always have the Derveni Papyrus on mind, when the commentator says that Zeus is aer. The problem of the unity and multiplicity, is clearly stressed on the orphic theogonies, the Derveni theogony has this two times, first when Night becomes the generation of all the gods, and then when Zeus swallows the phallus (I don't think on protogonos) of Uranous and became pregnant of all the things. As Bernabé have said: The multiplicity becomes one to become a multiplicity again (but rationalized, as the verb mensato suggests).

      With this I have two impressions: First that we can see the philosophical implications of the theogonies, which are more evident than it seems. Second, that with the soul's doctrine something like this may had happens. I had done a work for my university on applying Husserl's trascendental ego to the Orphics, which allows me to draw some conclusions. First, the unique origin must be divine since the dualism is clearly explicit on all the early fragments (even the controversial gold plates), and the religious dualism is the first option to have in mind. Second, that the soul must be in itself dual: Trascendent and earthly. It must be divine, from an unique source, but also individualized. This comes clear when we think on the post-mortem existence: How a soul can be at the same time divine (which presupposes a non-earthly self) and not-divine (as it represent the last existence - if we accept transmigration - for example, in the gold plates, where the psychai are thirsty and they have some kind of "psychic body")?

      This may seems a little off-topic but as soon as we realize the philosophical implications of religious doctrines (which, by the way, is sometimes a modern division which faces no evidence on the texts) of the Orphics, we see why they're important for the development of Philosophy. It's a good model to suppose that Pythagoras (or the first pythagoreans) is somehow a reformist more than a creator. He had at hand some orphic doctrines and give them a new meaning. Here the problem of the One and the Dyad have some implications that may be interesting. Why there is a relationship (if it exists) between this metaphysical system and the doctrine of souls? Is interesting to see how Plato and Speusippus understood them. The "One" of the Dyad it's not a complete One, as it needs the Dyad to fullfil "creation", something like the gnostic or hermetic One didn't need. I can understand them separately, but I seems to have problems when unifying it in a single-coherent doctrine. Maybe my problem is that I suppose that there are a single and coherent doctrine, but it's seems logical to me: Why the problem of unity and multiplicity cannot be traced on the soul doctrine? The Orphics seems to had this pattern, from One to multiplicity (descent of the souls from divine aer), and from multiplicity to One (ascension or apotheosis).

      Now that I read it again, it's totally off-topic, as the problem is with the Pythagoreans and not Orphism... but I won't erase it =), it may be give a hint to rethink the problem. Although I tend to be more positive on Orphism than Pythagoreanism. As Burkert said, if we take a minimalist scope for pythagoreanism, Greece become poblated of Orpheotelestai. At least on this doctrines, I tends to be more on the Orphic Side.

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