Fw: BMCR 2006.06.31, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy XXVII
----- Original Message -----
To: <unlisted-recipients:>; <no To-header on input>
Sent: Saturday, June 24, 2006 10:55 AM
Subject: BMCR 2006.06.31, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy XXVII
> David Sedley (ed.), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy. Volume XXVII
> (Winter 2004). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 350. ISBN
> 0-19-927713-3. $35.00 (pb).
> Reviewed by John Dillon, Trinity College, Dublin (dillonj@...)
> Word count: 1388 words
> To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
> The present volume of this excellent series has the usual spread of
> stimulating articles by notable contributors. There are ten articles in
> all, one on Socrates, four on Plato, three on Aristotle, and two on
> post-Aristotelian philosophy (one on Pyrrho, one on Alexander of
> Aphrodisias). The titles are as follows (I shall comment individually
> later): William J. Prior, 'Socrates Metaphysician'; David Wolfsdorf,
> 'Interpreting Plato's Early Dialogues'; Gail Fine, 'Knowledge and True
> Belief in the Meno'; Hendrik Lorenz, 'Desire and Reason in Plato's
> Republic'; James Wilberding, 'Prisoners and Puppeteers in the Cave';
> David Bostock, 'An Aristotelian Theory of Predication?'; Scott Labarge,
> 'Aristotle on 'Simultaneous Learning' in Posterior Analytics 1.1';
> Lloyd P. Gerson, 'Platonism in Aristotle's Ethics'; Svavar Hrafn
> Svavarsson, 'Pyrrho's Undecidable Nature'' Inna Kupreeva, 'Alexander of
> Aphrodisias on Mixture and Growth.'
> The first three articles have something in common, as all concern the
> early Platonic dialogues. Prior joins the ranks of those taking on
> Gregory Vlastos for one or another aspect of his view of Socrates
> (particularly in Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher), by
> challenging his claim that the 'Socrates' of the early dialogues (or
> 'Socrates-sub-E' as this character is sometimes denoted) is exclusively
> a moral philosopher. Prior maintains that, just because a theory of
> separable Forms cannot be imputed to 'Socrates-sub-E', that does not
> mean that he did not have a metaphysical position, and that indeed he
> does hold to the existence of a set of objective realities, knowledge
> of which can be attained by the elenctic process. Prior argues his case
> well, and I think I agree with him.
> Wolfsdorf, secondly, has been concerning himself for some years now, in
> a series of articles, with the nature of Plato's procedure in the early
> dialogues, and here makes a number of interesting points about Plato's
> authorial stance, the audience at which he is aiming, and his use of
> Socrates as a character. I am not sure that I learned much that was
> new, but I think that his distinction between Socrates as 'mouthpiece'
> of Plato and Socrates as his 'favoured character' is a good one.
> Thirdly, Gail Fine returns yet again to the distinction between
> knowledge and true belief in the Meno. The issue revolves round what is
> that element, the aitias logismos (98A), that converts true belief into
> knowledge by 'tying it down'. It is always enlightening to read Fine's
> lucubrations on this, as on other subjects, but, were I the Editor, I
> would be tempted now to say, "this correspondence is now closed." On
> the contrary, Fine ends her article ominously by declaring that "much
> more remains to be said."
> Moving on, we find two stimulating articles on aspects of the Republic.
> In his critique of the doctrine of the tripartite soul, Hendrik Lorenz
> most effectively picks apart Plato's analysis of the desiderative
> element, with illuminating reference to the psychology of the various
> 'corrupt' forms of soul, such as the timocratic and oligarchic, in
> Books 8 and 9, but concludes that the desiderative part does not itself
> use reasoning in the Platonic sense, though it seems hard to deny some
> form of 'means-ends' reasoning to it. This is again a well-worn topic,
> but always worth going over.
> Likewise, one might say, with the issue of the Prisoners in the Cave,
> but here James Wilberding produces much that I found new and
> stimulating. It really does seem to make good sense to take the
> prisoners, not as members of the general public, even if they are
> described as "just like us," but rather as "political contenders
> occupied with the struggle for power in the polis" (p. 123), while the
> general public are the puppeteers, setting the agenda for the
> democratic politicians, who follow rather than lead.
> We come now to a series of three articles on aspects of Aristotle, the
> first two more narrowly logical in topic, the third a most interesting
> discussion of the essential Platonism of Aristotle's ethical position.
> David Bostock is concerned with Aristotle's views on predication, and
> the question whether they amount to a coherent and (reasonably) valid
> theory. He sets Aristotle most interestingly in the context of the
> modern logical theory of quantification, and shows that he comes out
> not too badly, even if his notion of a subject of predication is rather
> Scott Labarge turns to the interesting topic of Aristotle's views on
> the possibility of 'simultaneous learning', as a means of getting round
> the problem involved in the principle stated at the beginning of the
> Posterior Analytics, "All teaching and all intellectual learning arise
> from pre-existing cognition." If this is not to involve an infinite
> regress--or worse, in Aristotle's view, an admission of antenatal
> knowledge, as propounded by Plato--one needs some formula to explain
> how this can come about. The interpretation of An. Pr. 2. 21 is
> important here, a passage in which Aristotle is dealing with the
> problem of how, and in what sense, we can come to know and not to know
> the same thing, and in that connexion makes an interesting reference to
> the argument for learning as anamne^sis in the Meno, as well as using
> his own term epago^ge^ in an apparently odd way. Labarge's analysis of
> this, adopting but modifying the (rather attractive) position of Mark
> Gifford, I found most enlightening.
> Lloyd Gerson's assertion of Aristotle's basic Platonism in the area of
> ethics, and in particular of his position on the role of theôria in EN
> 10. 6-8, which is an elaboration of one part of his argument in his
> recent book Aristotle and Other Platonists (Ithaca/London, 2005), is
> most salutary, and will serve to reinforce our new (or rather, revived)
> consciousness of the essential Platonism of Aristotle. This does not
> involve trying to make Aristotle a faithful follower of Plato. As
> Gerson acutely remarks (p. 221), Platonism should be regarded, not, so
> to speak, as Catholicism (as opposed to Aristotle's Protestantism), but
> rather as representing the whole Christian tradition, within which many
> tendencies may flourish and compete.
> We move on now to Hellenistic and later philosophy -- though in fact
> Gerson, in his argument, made much use of Plotinus and other later
> Platonists, and Pyrrho himself is only a younger contemporary of
> Aristotle, whom Aristotle may even be criticising in Met. 4. Svavar
> Svavarsson contributes an excellent study of the sceptical argument
> that nothing is by nature good, set out by Sextus Empiricus in AM 11.
> 69-78, but arguably going back to Pyrrho himself, based on the 'natural
> invariability' thesis: that is to say, the principle that if anything
> has a certain characteristic by nature, it should be universal and
> invariable in its effect, like the heat of fire; and this is not the
> case with 'good'. Since the argument seems to move from the variability
> of our perceptions (subjective) to lack of a definite nature
> (objective), it has been judged invalid, but Svavarsson provides a very
> full and informative defence of it. My own impression of Pyrrho,
> however, is that he operated very much in the mode of a Zen master, in
> his effort to induce a state of 'tranquillity' in his disciples, so
> that subjecting his arguments to a strict logical examination may be
> hardly appropriate, but Svavarsson undoubtedly produces much of
> interest along the way.
> Lastly, Inna Kupreeva provides a fine account of the critique of
> Alexander of Aphrodisias, both in his surviving treatise On Mixture, in
> a number of his Quaestiones, and in various of his lost works,
> preserved in Philoponus and in Arabic sources, of Stoic theories of
> mixture and of growth. Lurking behind the scientific argumentation here
> is, of course, a dispute about metaphysics--specifically, the Stoic
> theory of the total interpenetration of the divine pneuma with the
> matter of the world, and Kupreeva deals with both these aspects of the
> subject most learnedly.
> All in all, this is a very fine collection of articles, but, having now
> worked my way through them, I am moved to wonder how many of us, unless
> particularly provoked to do so, ever read through a whole volume of
> such a journal as this. I may be wrong, but I suspect the answer is
> very few, if any. This reflection enhances my admiration for David
> Sedley, who as editor has plainly not simply read through all of these
> articles, but contributed useful comments on most of them as well.
> Better him than me!
> The BMCR website (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/) contains a complete
> and searchable archive of BMCR reviews since our first issue in 1990.
> It also contains information about subscribing and unsubscribing from
> the service.
> Please do not reply to this email as this is an unmonitored mailbox.
> You can contact us by sending e-mail to bmr@....