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The Arabic Hermes followup

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  • vaeringjar
    I just thought to see if this book is available at any level on Google Books, and so it is:
    Message 1 of 8 , Oct 15, 2009
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      I just thought to see if this book is available at any level on Google Books, and so it is:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=3HcTm9TUFjQC&pg=PP1&dq=The+Arabic+Hermes#v=onepage&q=&f=false

      The author addresses the question of Harran at some length, which I am taking a look at now. I can report already however that he does NOT agree with Tardieu and Ilsetraut Hadot, including in her recent major IJPT article. So this work is of relevance to Neoplatonic studies, at least in so far as the subject of Harran and its Platonic school is concerned.

      Dennis Clark
    • Curt Steinmetz
      Thanks for that link! A truly fascinating and useful book! The discussion on Harran is quite good - at least after a quick skimming by a non-specialist (moi).
      Message 2 of 8 , Oct 15, 2009
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        Thanks for that link! A truly fascinating and useful book! The
        discussion on Harran is quite good - at least after a quick skimming by
        a non-specialist (moi).
        Curt

        vaeringjar wrote:
        > I just thought to see if this book is available at any level on Google Books, and so it is:
        >
        > http://books.google.com/books?id=3HcTm9TUFjQC&pg=PP1&dq=The+Arabic+Hermes#v=onepage&q=&f=false
        >
        > The author addresses the question of Harran at some length, which I am taking a look at now. I can report already however that he does NOT agree with Tardieu and Ilsetraut Hadot, including in her recent major IJPT article. So this work is of relevance to Neoplatonic studies, at least in so far as the subject of Harran and its Platonic school is concerned.
        >
        > Dennis Clark
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • John Uebersax
        Thanks for this information, Dennis. For those who don t already know, the IJPT article of Ilsetraut Hadot is available online for free here:
        Message 3 of 8 , Oct 17, 2009
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          Thanks for this information, Dennis.

          For those who don't already know, the IJPT article of Ilsetraut Hadot is available online for free here:

          http://brill.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/jpt/2007/00000001/00000001/art00004

          It's written in French. An earlier presentation of her ideas (and extensive summary of Michel Tardieu's hypothesis) can be found in R. Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle transformed: the ancient commentators and their influence (1990), browsable online:

          http://books.google.com/books?id=N5Yo0IeeMHgC&pg=PA280

          John Uebersax
        • Iván
          First of all, thank you so much Mr. Clark!, Personally I ve been looking for Kevin van Bladel thesis Hermes Arabicus (2004) for some years, and curiously the
          Message 4 of 8 , Oct 17, 2009
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            First of all, thank you so much Mr. Clark!,

            Personally I've been looking for Kevin van Bladel' thesis Hermes Arabicus (2004) for some years, and curiously the editor of Azogue Journal told me just a day before to your post, that this great work had been recently published, thus thank you again.

            Best wishes,
            Iván Elvira.


            --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, "vaeringjar" <vaeringjar@...> wrote:
            >
            > I just thought to see if this book is available at any level on Google Books, and so it is:
            >
            > http://books.google.com/books?id=3HcTm9TUFjQC&pg=PP1&dq=The+Arabic+Hermes#v=onepage&q=&f=false
            >
            > The author addresses the question of Harran at some length, which I am taking a look at now. I can report already however that he does NOT agree with Tardieu and Ilsetraut Hadot, including in her recent major IJPT article. So this work is of relevance to Neoplatonic studies, at least in so far as the subject of Harran and its Platonic school is concerned.
            >
            > Dennis Clark
            >
          • vaeringjar
            You are all very welcome. I just now finished reading all that is available of the chapter on Harran at Google. It breaks off at page 92. That does at least
            Message 5 of 8 , Oct 21, 2009
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              You are all very welcome.

              I just now finished reading all that is available of the chapter on Harran at Google. It breaks off at page 92. That does at least include as far as I can tell all his discusson of Tardieu's theory of the later Platonic academy of some sort at Harran, and he is definitely extremely critical of that theory, and offers much detailed argument contra. He is admittedly all but unconcerned with the issue of the putative original settlement of the Neoplatonists at Harran in the 6th century, though despite his stated lack of interest he takes a swipe at one relevant point in that theory nonetheless, the point that Manichaeans could most likely be found in the 6th century only in Byzantium and Harran, which figures in the discussion of Simplicius and the Manichaeans.

              I am not really competent at all to counter most his arguments, even if I wanted to, especially since so much of it rests on an understanding of the Arabic sources and in some cases Arabic language issues involving those texts. Nonetheless even to a layman it does seem he has some cogent points against Tardieu's thesis about two different "schools" of paganism in 9th century Harran, and this again turns mostly on linguistic issues.

              But I am not convinced for all this that Tardieu and his followers such as Hadot are not still basically right. It seems to me he makes a bit more out of the weight of the two school issue than it may be worth - the fact would still remain there were pagans at Harran at that time, and he certainly concurs that they had access at least to some Hermetic texts. He is also hypercritical I think in devaluing the likely connection of the saying on the door to the pagan meeting place being a reference to the Alcibiades. He would for one slough this off with I think a too general remark that Platonic sayings were commonly found at that period and need not then have any specific relevance or offer proof of a specifically Platonic school or group. I would like to see more evidence of that commonality directly - he only cites another scholar on that point. Would however they be so common particularly in Harran? And that again is not in a vacuum - we know they revered the Hermetica, and even he admits that.

              So while he is absolutely quite correct I think to apply strong criticism of the sources and bring to bear all resources of relevant Arabic scholarship, I do wonder still if he isn't perhaps throwing out the baby with the bathwater a bit. With such admittedly tentative evidence, it's also always fairly easy to show weaknesses. Ultimately the whole theory, neat as it would be if it were true, rather sounds like a non licet to me, but still one needs to explain what on earth was going on in Harran. He makes much of the fact that there is no evidence of specific use of Neoplatonic or even Platonic texts in connection with Harran itself or the later knowh Harranian scholars in Baghdad. This is apparently true and important, but again, if they were continuing a late pagan tradition, would we expect a nest of, say, Epicureans or Stoics there, or more likely followers of the main philosophical tradition of Late Antiquity? He emphasizes the apparent fondness for study of Aristotelian texts instead, but look at Simplicius - what did he spend his time writing about, several centuries earlier and as a Hellene and Neoplatonist? These are rahter general arguments admittedly that I am throwing out here, and again I wouldn't dream of countering his arguments based especially on the Arabic textual issues. But most of those seem to be aimed at the two school issue and the definition of what sort of philosopher was to found in Harran was meant in one case, not against the main point of some pagan philosophical pursuits which had also to include some knowledge of Plato, it seems to me, from just the main extant evidence.

              It will be interesting to see if Ilsetraut Hadot answers at some point his several direct criticisms of her arguments from her 2007 article.

              Dennis Clark

              --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Iván <secquax@...> wrote:
              >
              > First of all, thank you so much Mr. Clark!,
              >
              > Personally I've been looking for Kevin van Bladel' thesis Hermes Arabicus (2004) for some years, and curiously the editor of Azogue Journal told me just a day before to your post, that this great work had been recently published, thus thank you again.
              >
              > Best wishes,
              > Iván Elvira.
              >
              >
              > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, "vaeringjar" <vaeringjar@> wrote:
              > >
              > > I just thought to see if this book is available at any level on Google Books, and so it is:
              > >
              > > http://books.google.com/books?id=3HcTm9TUFjQC&pg=PP1&dq=The+Arabic+Hermes#v=onepage&q=&f=false
              > >
              > > The author addresses the question of Harran at some length, which I am taking a look at now. I can report already however that he does NOT agree with Tardieu and Ilsetraut Hadot, including in her recent major IJPT article. So this work is of relevance to Neoplatonic studies, at least in so far as the subject of Harran and its Platonic school is concerned.
              > >
              > > Dennis Clark
              > >
              >
            • John Uebersax
              Thank you again, Dennis, for your careful reading and comments. Let me first express my appreciation of the excellent work of Tardieu and I. Hadot in
              Message 6 of 8 , Oct 21, 2009
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                Thank you again, Dennis, for your careful reading and comments.

                Let me first express my appreciation of the excellent work of Tardieu and I. Hadot in investigating this interesting and productive hypothesis. It's a good question to ask, because this is an important transitional period and it isn't studied enough.

                That said, it does seem like the argument is based more on plausibility than data. I can't fault van Bladel for questioning the door-knocker evidence. Even if the inscription, "He who knows his essence becomes divine" added "(Alc. 1.133c)" that still wouldn't mean it was the entrance to a Platonic school!

                By analogy, modern theosophists quote Plato too, but aren't Neopolatonists.

                John Uebersax
              • vaeringjar
                ... Yes, he may well be correct, but I just wish he had given more evidence for what he claims is a widespread general popularity of Platonic sayings in the
                Message 7 of 8 , Oct 22, 2009
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                  --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Thank you again, Dennis, for your careful reading and comments.
                  >
                  > Let me first express my appreciation of the excellent work of Tardieu and I. Hadot in investigating this interesting and productive hypothesis. It's a good question to ask, because this is an important transitional period and it isn't studied enough.
                  >
                  > That said, it does seem like the argument is based more on plausibility than data. I can't fault van Bladel for questioning the door-knocker evidence. Even if the inscription, "He who knows his essence becomes divine" added "(Alc. 1.133c)" that still wouldn't mean it was the entrance to a Platonic school!
                  >
                  > By analogy, modern theosophists quote Plato too, but aren't Neopolatonists.
                  >
                  > John Uebersax
                  >

                  Yes, he may well be correct, but I just wish he had given more evidence for what he claims is a widespread general popularity of Platonic sayings in the period, rather than just citing another article. Perhaps though if I were an Arabist this would just be intuitively obvious and so there really would no need to belabor the point.

                  I would say however that it specifically appeared on the door to their meeting place, and he does not dispute that. So there is still the likelihood that it had some direct connection with the activities going on within that meeting place, and so may not be just a casual occurence or coincidental choice. There is also the intentional ancient - and modern - practice of putting slogans such as those over the entrances to schools.

                  And hopefully I think we would say not with the same intent as the one Dante posted over the gates of Hell!

                  Dennis Clark
                • John Uebersax
                  ... There is also the intentional ancient - and modern - practice of putting slogans such as those over the entrances to schools. And hopefully I think we
                  Message 8 of 8 , Oct 22, 2009
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                    Dennis Clark wrote:

                    >>
                    There is also the intentional ancient - and modern - practice of putting slogans such as those over the entrances to schools.

                    And hopefully I think we would say not with the same intent as the one Dante posted over the gates of Hell!
                    >>

                    Perhaps a reminder that one shouldn't believe everything one reads. And also showing that Dante was no Origenist. Had he read Peri Archon, he might have been persuaded by the doctrine of universal salvation.

                    Over the administration building of the University of Texas, where I graduated, is written, "Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free."

                    Even then many or most students probably didn't know the source; the quote has passed, more or less, into common usage.

                    John Uebersax
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