Fw: BMCR 2008.01.51,Proc. of the Boston Area Colloq. in Ancient Philosophy, XXII
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Subject: BMCR 2008.01.51,Proc. of the Boston Area Colloq. in Ancient
> John J. Cleary, Gary M. Gurtler S.J., Proceedings of the Boston Area
> Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, vol. xxii, 2006. Leiden: Brill,
> 2007. Pp. 263. ISBN 978-90-04-16048-4. $167.00.
> Reviewed by Daniel P. Maher, Ave Maria University
> Word count: 2251 words
> To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
> Volume 22 of The Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy (BACAP)
> continues the tradition of matching high-quality philosophical essays
> with critical commentaries. With one exception (more on this below),
> the seven colloquia were held in the 2005-2006 academic year at
> participating institutions near Boston. These seven essays, treating
> Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Plotinus, deserve the attention of
> graduate students and of those writing on the issues or texts
> addressed. Additionally, teachers of ancient philosophy will likely
> find these essays helpful for freshening their approach the next time
> they cover familiar texts. No single theme or topic unites the essays,
> which concentrate on exegesis of ancient texts, but also shed light on
> contemporary philosophical issues. While some essays range broadly
> (Edward Halper addresses the entire Aristotelian corpus) and others
> focus narrowly (Eric Brown deals primarily with only a few chapters of
> Nicomachean Ethics), each of the essays treats substantive
> philosophical issues and admirably devotes careful attention to texts.
> They reward consideration whether or not one finds the interpretations
> finally compelling. Volume 22 is an excellent addition to the series.
> The series aims in each volume to preserve the dialogical character of
> the colloquia by allowing each author to adjust the print versions of
> their remarks in light of comments made on the occasion of the
> colloquium and subsequently by reviewers. The proceedings, then, yield
> a polished presentation that more fruitfully rewards study. The authors
> have had time to tighten and clarify their arguments. The increased
> precision and sharpening of points of disagreement must elevate rather
> than diminish the dialogical dimension.
> In a departure from past practice in the series, each essay and
> commentary is preceded by an abstract. These abstracts collectively
> substitute for an editor's introduction. A bibliography is attached to
> each essay-commentary pair, which is helpful, although these
> bibliographies are not always complete (see note 10 on page 151).
> Two editorial difficulties deserve mention. First, several commentaries
> make various references to specific pages of the articles on which they
> comment. Unfortunately, the pagination the commentators rely upon is
> not the pagination of the printed text. E.g., Mark McPherran refers to
> 219-220 of C.D.C. Reeve's paper, but that paper ends on 209. Thus, the
> internal page references are almost useless. The second difficulty is
> the decision to print Eric Brown's paper without a commentary. The
> preface states that Brown's paper was given in 2004-2005 and published
> (2006) in volume 21 of this series. Nevertheless, due to an error,
> Brown's paper was printed without footnotes. It is reprinted in volume
> 22 with footnotes, but without Gary Gurtler's commentary, which may be
> found in volume 21. Thus, we have two incomplete publications of the
> Brown colloquium. Finally, I noted more than a dozen typographical
> errors, but none of these causes any confusion.
> First Colloquium: Eric Perl, "The Togetherness of Thought and Being: a
> Phenomenological Reading of Plotinus' Doctrine 'That the Intelligibles
> are Not Outside the Intellect'"
> Perl argues that Plotinus' doctrine concerning the fundamental
> togetherness of intellectual consciousness and intelligible being can
> "accurately be described as phenomenological, and indeed is closely
> paralleled by Husserl's overcoming of modern subject-object dualism"
> (1-2). He advances a realist interpretation of Husserl to show that
> "consciousness and being cannot be conceived as two spheres which are
> only extrinsically related. Rather, they are necessarily together, two
> inseparable moments of one reality" (6-7). "Plotinus, then, not only
> rejects subject-object dualism for the same reasons as Husserl, but
> reaches the same alternative position and expresses it in virtually the
> same terms" (14). Plotinus says, "every intellection is from something
> and is of something" (VI.7.40.6), which is, Perl says, "as pure a
> statement of intentionality as could be found in Husserl or any other
> phenomenologist" (16). In a brief concluding section, Perl explains the
> power of this phenomenological reading to illuminate many aspects of
> Plotinus' thought and to address the challenge of contemporary nihilism
> by recovering the togetherness of thought and being.
> Robert M. Berchman's commentary constitutes a kind of root-and-branch
> rejection. He argues that Perl's phenomenological reading operates with
> an essentially modern understanding of "self" or "consciousness." He
> argues that Plotinus is neither an idealist nor a phenomenologist, but
> a realist, which entails adherence to a mind-independent reality.
> Second Colloquium: Kevin L. Flannery, S.J., "Force and Compulsion in
> Aristotle's Ethics"
> Flannery offers an analysis of Aristotelian casuistry with respect to
> brute force, when the agent contributes nothing, and less strict forms
> of force, when the agent may still retain the ability to act. For
> example, when a ship is blown off course, the pilot retains some
> ability to direct the ship, but the force exonerates him for failing to
> arrive at the proper destination. Flannery offers close textual
> analysis and careful parsing of Aristotle's Greek to elucidate
> troublesome passages and to support his argument that these "forced
> acts" do not render the agent wholly passive and are not instances of
> "mixed acts" (such as throwing goods overboard during a storm). His
> thesis seems to be that in the presence of this non-debilitating "force
> that comes from human nature" (57) one is led to act for something good
> (e.g., putting into port). "Mixed acts," by contrast, involve choosing
> voluntarily something that is "per se not a good thing to do" (57). The
> difference between the good things and the not-good things is
> established by "a particular conception of human nature and what it
> puts forward as to be pursued and avoided" (57).
> Thornton C. Lockwood's commentary helpfully draws attention to the
> incompleteness of Flannery's treatment of the per se goods and the
> account of human nature he says Aristotle deploys. Lockwood questions
> whether Flannery's view is consistent with Aristotle's account of
> gentleness and of the voluntariness of "character states."
> Third Colloquium: Edward C. Halper, "Metaphysics I and the Difference
> It Makes"
> Halper's ambitious essay calls for a program of research that will
> refine, if not replace, "some of what is widely assumed to be firm
> Aristotelian doctrine," especially the understanding of genera (71).
> Drawing especially upon the biology and a difficult passage in
> Metaphysics Iota, Halper argues that the object of each science is a
> genus and that each genus is understood through a paradigm species that
> orders the multiplicity of the several species of the genus. "Aristotle
> practices a kind of paradigmatism" (69), which means that "features of
> imperfect species are intelligible in reference to the one species that
> serves as the qualitative unity of the genus" (82). The primary species
> in each genus is independently intelligible, but no other species in
> the genus is intelligible independently. Halper proceeds to consider
> examples from the corpus in which Aristotle's practice shows adherence
> to this view. Halper argues that paradigmatism enables us to reconcile
> certain contradictions in Aristotle's writing's (principally the
> contradiction between the doctrine of spontaneous generation and the
> denial that form is generated). He tries to set familiar Aristotelian
> doctrines, especially from the biology, but also from politics, within
> the context of paradigmatism (102).
> Arthur Madigan's comments question the relation of the paradigmatism
> thesis to other Aristotelian teachings. Madigan draws attention in a
> variety of ways to what is surely the greatest obstacle to the
> paradigmatism thesis: "the paradigmatic account of substances says that
> the paradigm species in each genus has a contrary, its privation, and
> that all the other species in the genus arise from various mixtures or
> combinations of these contraries" (107).
> Fourth Colloquium: Deborah K. W. Modrak, "Form and Function"
> Modrak presents a fresh look at familiar terrain in the Aristotelian
> literature: the relation between the Aristotle's ontology of substance
> and his account of knowledge and definition. Modrak helpfully displays
> the "shift" within Metaphysics Zeta from "essence as the object of
> definition to essence as the immanent cause of the nature of the
> perceptible substance" (115). She offers many interesting observations
> relating the account of substance as actuality in Metaphysics Theta 6
> to the accounts of actuality in Physics and De anima. She takes form to
> be logos; this "structural principle" may be expressed in matter as the
> "functional organization" of particular matter and may be expressed in
> thought to capture the functional organization characteristic of the
> species (119). Because logos or essence "is the same" whether
> individualized in matter or conceived alone by itself, she holds that
> form is not made particular when it actualizes matter (131). The name
> of the species ("human") is predicated in one way of matter and in
> another way of individual human beings. Only the latter, Modrak argues,
> is the sort of universal Aristotle means to exclude from the category
> of substance with his anti-Platonist arguments in Zeta 13.
> Mary Louise Gill presents a clear and strong criticism of Modrak,
> centered on the interpretation of Zeta 13 as justification for her own
> thesis that the whole of Zeta is aporetic. Several decades of extensive
> critical discussion have left the competing lines of interpretation so
> well-defined that it is unlikely anyone's view will be altered by this
> exchange. Nevertheless, the arguments are well-stated and Gill's
> commentary provides an illuminating contrast.
> Fifth Colloquium: Suzanne Stern-Gillet, "Consciousness and
> Introspection in Plotinus and Augustine"
> Stern-Gillet examines introspection as an exegetical category utilized
> by interpreters of Plotinus and Augustine. She argues that Plotinus
> makes use of a distinctively un-modern concept of consciousness (156)
> that is "inherently inimical to the practice of introspection" (146).
> She argues that Augustine's De Trinitate presents consciousness as
> self-transparent, such that introspection becomes unnecessary, while
> his Confessions permits us to distinguish "confessional " from
> "contemplative" introspection. The moral and spiritual obstacles to
> confessional introspection disclose the mind as an abyss (166-69).
> Confessional introspection prepares for contemplative introspection,
> which is the joyful contemplation of the inner presence of the divine
> (169-70). These explications are worth examining closely, but the
> larger strategy Stern-Gillet employs is less compelling and might be
> handled better in a separate essay. This larger strategy frames the
> investigations into Plotinus and Augustine by reference to various
> contemporary understandings of introspection. It is never quite clear
> whether she means to deliver Plotinus and Augustine from exegetical
> anachronisms or means to trace the development of introspection from
> Plotinus' anti-introspection to Augustine's proto-introspection (173)
> and then to various modern and contemporary transformations.
> John Peter Kenney's commentary helpfully expands the discussion by
> focusing on how Plotinus and Augustine account for the soul's
> "cursiveness," its capacity to locate itself morally and metaphysically
> at different levels. The difference between the pagan and the Christian
> appropriation of this theme is illuminating, and Kenney argues that
> Augustine's contemplative introspection precedes his confessional
> Sixth Colloquium: C. D. C. Reeve, "Goat-Stags, Philosopher-Kings, and
> Eudaimonism in the Republic"
> Reeve addresses the tension between happiness and justice for the
> philosophers obliged to rule in Kallipolis. Reeve takes the
> ship-of-state simile to show that the relation between philosophers and
> the city in Kallipolis differs from that relation in every other city.
> Reeve argues that the image presents not the political structure of
> Athens or democracy but the corrosive influence of public opinion on
> philosophical natures in any city (187, 193). The image resembles a
> goat-stag (488a2-7) because it combines features that do not cohere
> together. It depicts the experiences of different types of philosopher
> in relation to cities (189). Reeve also uses this interpretation, in
> conjunction with other evidence, to defend the claim that compelling
> philosophers to rule for the benefit of others is both just and
> compatible with their ruling voluntarily (i.e., in keeping with their
> own happiness). It is inevitable that an essay touching so many central
> issues in the Republic should present many facets one might find
> controversial. To mention just one, Reeve depends on the assumption
> that the aim of the Republic as a whole is "to show that justice as a
> state of the soul (psychic justice) pays higher eudaimonistic dividends
> than psychic injustice" (194). It seems reasonable to suppose, however,
> that this demand, made by Glaucon and Adeimantus on Socrates (see 185),
> may not exhaust Plato's aims in writing the book.
> Mark McPherran's commentary questions especially the identification of
> the ship owner with the immature philosophical nature, and he offers
> interesting, but also very questionable evidence in support.
> Additionally, and reasonably, McPherran raises significant difficulties
> for Reeve's harmonization of the compulsory and the voluntary
> dimensions of the rule of the philosopher-kings.
> Seventh Colloquium: Eric Brown, "Wishing for Fortune, Choosing
> Activity: Aristotle on External Goods and Happiness"
> Brown brings an innovative approach to a traditional dispute: the
> breadth or narrowness of Aristotle's account of happiness. Brown holds
> that happiness is identified properly with virtuous activity. He
> attends closely to the structural transitions in Nicomachean Ethics I,
> ch. 8-12, and devotes approximately half the essay to analysis of "the
> central argument" (1099a31-b8). He is eager to construe this argument
> to mean not that happiness includes external goods as constituents but
> that those goods are necessary for virtuous activity. In this view,
> Aristotle is accommodating the ordinary conception of happiness as
> "optimally fulfilled wishes" (249) to his narrow identification of
> happiness with virtuous activity (245-46). "When we fail to enjoy the
> objects of our wishes, our capacity for virtuous activity is
> diminished, by psychological and social mechanisms" (249). By wishing
> for (rather than choosing) certain external goods that are not virtue,
> the virtuous human being maintains the proper attitudes necessary for
> virtuous activity (251-52). One dissatisfying feature of this last
> portion of Brown's essay is the near total absence of explicit textual
> support for the view of wishes he imputes to Aristotle. That is a
> departure from the rest of his essay and from the character of the
> essays in this volume.
> The BMCR website (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/) contains a complete
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