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Re: [neoplatonism] Cornford's Pythagoreanism

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  • John Dillon
    ... Dennis ­ this is a most interesting query of yours, once again! There is indeed an intriguing tension within Pythagoreanism between monism (an indefinite
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 27 5:19 AM
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      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Here's something perhaps to start a discussion. Lately I have been
      > concentrating on the Pythagoreans, both early and late, all the way to
      > passages in the late commentators on Aristotle that of course are not always
      > clear as to the provenance, Pythagorean, Platonic or Neopythagorean or some
      > mix. Along the way I picked up this important artilce by Cornford, "Mysticism
      > and Science in the Pythagorean Tradition",Classical Quarterly, Vol. 16, No.
      > 3/4, (Jul. - Oct., 1922), pp. 137-150, and just was most struck by his
      > arguments in this passage following:
      >
      > "Thus, while God becomes one in the inclusive sense of monotheism-in religious
      > terms, the Father,' not of this household, clan, or city, but of all mankind
      > and of all living things-and his children become, on their side, one
      > all-inclusive group, conversely the soul acquires a unity in the exclusive
      > sense. The individual becomes a unit, an isolated atom, with a personal sense
      > of sin and a need of personal salvation, compensated, however, by a new
      > consciousness of the soul's dignity and value, expressed in the doctrine that
      > by origin and nature it is divine. From God it came, and to God it will
      > return. But only on condition of becoming pure. So long as it is imprisoned in
      > the bodily tomb, it is impure, tainted by the evil substance of the body.
      > Psychologically-in terms of actual experience-this means that the soul is
      > profoundly conscious of an internal conflict of good and evil, the war in the
      > members. This conflict dominates religious experience. In philosophical
      > expression, it gives rise to the axiom of Dualism: In the world, as in the
      > soul, there is a real conflict of two opposite powers-good and evil, light and
      > darkness.
      >
      > Both the axiom of Monism and the axiom of Dualism are implicit in the doctrine
      > of transmigration, which was certainly taught by Pythagoras. All souls come
      > from one divine source and circulate in a continuous series of all the forms
      > of life. Each soul, involved in the conflict of good and evil, seeks escape
      > from the purgatorial round of lives and deaths into a better world of unity
      > and rest. Any philosophy that arises from a religion of this type is
      > threatened with internal inconsistency. On the one hand, it will set the
      > highest value on the idea of unity, and, at this stage and long afterwards,
      > the notions of value and of reality coincide. Unity is good; reality must be
      > one. On the other hand, Nature will be construed in terms of the inward
      > conflict of good and evil, appearing in the external world as light and
      > darkness. Light is the medium of truth and knowledge; it reveals the knowable
      > aspect of Nature -the forms, surfaces, limits of objects that are confounded
      > in the unlimited darkness of night. But it is hard to deny reality to the
      > antagonistic power of darkness and evil. Hence the tendency to Dualism-to
      > recognize, not the One only, but two opposite principles. Now, if we bring
      > this preliminary inference to the test of the Eleatic criticism, it seems to
      > be confirmed. The gist of Parmenides' doctrine is that we must choose between
      > Monism and Dualism. If we assert that the real is one, we cannot logically
      > maintain a dualistic system of Nature. And the particular form of Dualism he
      > attacks is the doctrine that in Nature there are two opposite 'forms'-light
      > and darkness-equally real. So far, then, it appears (i) that the religious
      > experience which underlies the doctrine of trans-migration would naturally
      > give rise to a philosophy combining a monistic tendency with a dualistic; and
      > (2) that the latent conflict of these two tendencies is the radical fault
      > found by Parmenides in the Pythagoreanism of his time." (pp. 141-42)
      >
      > 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.
      >
      > But my main interest in posting this is his argument, "Both the axiom of
      > Monism and the axiom of Dualism are implicit in the doctrine of
      > transmigration, which was certainly taught by Pythagoras. All souls come from
      > one divine source and circulate in a continuous series of all the forms of
      > life." I have to say this really struck me, and I haven't really thought it
      > through in any depth yet, but it does make sense. So pitifully little can be
      > said with any assurance about the early doctrines of Pythagoras and the early
      > Pythagoreans, especially anything originating directly from him, that of
      > course it's easier just not to attribute any idea such as this notion Cornford
      > is inferring here.
      >
      > Any reactions? I need to look back in Burkert's and Kahn's main studies to see
      > what if anything they have to say about this. I believe I recall in general
      > that Kahn goes a bit further in trying to extend back at least the notion of
      > the limited and unlimited and even-odd/One to early Pythagoreanism than
      > Burkert would, but any reaction of his to this particular notion of Cornford's
      > I don't remember reading - in general Kahn's book on Pythagoreanism is of
      > course excellent - I haven't read it in several years, however, and need to
      > revisit it.
      >
      > Dennis Clark
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >

      Dennis ­ this is a most interesting query of yours, once again! There is
      indeed an intriguing tension within Pythagoreanism between monism (an
      indefinite dyad arising from some action by a One), and dualism (an original
      pair of Monad and Dyad), and this is inherited by Plato. There is a very
      interesting fragment of Speusippus (apud Proclus, In Parmenidem) relating to
      this, which you will readily find in my chapter on Speusippus in the Heirs
      of Plato. John


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • dgallagher@aol.com
      In a message dated 2/26/2010 7:01:18 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, vaeringjar@yahoo.com writes: Here s something perhaps to start a discussion. Lately I have
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 27 8:37 AM
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        In a message dated 2/26/2010 7:01:18 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
        vaeringjar@... writes:


        Here's something perhaps to start a discussion. Lately I have been
        concentrating on the Pythagoreans, both early and late, all the way to passages in
        the late commentators on Aristotle that of course are not always clear as
        to the provenance, Pythagorean, Platonic or Neopythagorean or some mix.
        Along the way I picked up this important artilce by Cornford... and just was
        most struck by his arguments....

        Provocative topic and hoping lively discussion ensues. I'm not a
        philosopher by profession, so not remotely well read in the general literature,
        either secondary and original sources, as most of you are here. My interest
        is more focused on understanding myself, what constitutes "its" experience
        and the world. In that life-long, 70-year, process, Plotinus has come to
        make the most sense to me in terms of offering a universally coherent
        explanation; in this context especially noting I.8. From the quote, I think
        Cornford understood the core problem. It remains so for me. Plotinus provides a
        significant measure of solace, although inescapably requiring a deep
        reverence for thauma.

        Was it Proclus who referred to the dyad as "the door"? If so, I'd
        appreciate a pointer to the source citation.

        Thanks in advance for any light you all might shed.

        With eager interest,

        David Gallagher
        Trumansburg, NY


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • nahuelfk
        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.
        Message 3 of 7 , Feb 27 3:41 PM
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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.

          Nahuel
        • vaeringjar
          ... Personally I can t say about Proclus calling the Dyad a door - I would have to research that. Certainly the Pythagoreans liked to use imagery like that,
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 2, 2010
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            >
            > Provocative topic and hoping lively discussion ensues. I'm not a
            > philosopher by profession, so not remotely well read in the general literature,
            > either secondary and original sources, as most of you are here. My interest
            > is more focused on understanding myself, what constitutes "its" experience
            > and the world. In that life-long, 70-year, process, Plotinus has come to
            > make the most sense to me in terms of offering a universally coherent
            > explanation; in this context especially noting I.8. From the quote, I think
            > Cornford understood the core problem. It remains so for me. Plotinus provides a
            > significant measure of solace, although inescapably requiring a deep
            > reverence for thauma.
            >
            > Was it Proclus who referred to the dyad as "the door"? If so, I'd
            > appreciate a pointer to the source citation.
            >
            > Thanks in advance for any light you all might shed.
            >
            > With eager interest,
            >
            > David Gallagher
            > Trumansburg, NY
            >
            >

            Personally I can't say about Proclus' calling the "Dyad" a door - I would have to research that. Certainly the Pythagoreans liked to use imagery like that, but that one specifically I don't recall encountering. If he did, he might have gotten it from some Pythagorean source. Sounds like the sort of thing that might be found in the intro to his commentary on Euclid or in the vastness of the Timaeus commentary...

            As to your other point, I do think Neoplatonism appeals more and more to me as I grow older. Not sure why, and I wish for my own sake I had been more involved at a younger age, such as when I was still in graduate school.

            Dennis Clark
          • vaeringjar
            ... And often it s difficult to know exactly which One is being referred to in any given source, particularly when the Greek used is monas . I tend myself
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 2, 2010
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              >
              > Dennis ­ this is a most interesting query of yours, once again! There is
              > indeed an intriguing tension within Pythagoreanism between monism (an
              > indefinite dyad arising from some action by a One), and dualism (an original
              > pair of Monad and Dyad), and this is inherited by Plato. There is a very
              > interesting fragment of Speusippus (apud Proclus, In Parmenidem) relating to
              > this, which you will readily find in my chapter on Speusippus in the Heirs
              > of Plato. John
              >
              >

              And often it's difficult to know exactly which "One" is being referred to in any given source, particularly when the Greek used is "monas". I tend myself to think of the two as "One" versus "one of two" but that's just my own shorthand.

              The scholarship on these Pythagorean issues I am finding is quite deep - Thesleff's introduction to his collection has a nice summary of the earlier work, starting in the 19th century, and there certainly is a good deal that was done in the earlier 20th, including all the work of Delatte, some of which is still in print, by the way. I don't really know how anyone can master all this - if you consider the two quite extensive books that Carl Huffman wrote just on Philolaus and Archytas, how complex the arguments can get on just two Pythagoreans. Burkert's Lore and Science is itself really quite dense with references on all the controversial issues, and then recently I have been looking also at the doxographical tradition, particularly some of what Jaap Mansfeld describes in his book on Hippolytus, and it's very complex too for the Pythagoreans. Many of the same ideas get repeated in these different sources, with variations here and there, but trying to get a grasp of any fairly clean lines of development of any one notion with a set chronology...Mansfeld is by the way against seeing Eudorus as a Pythagorean, making the point that he could easily report a Pythagorean doctrine without actually advocating it! An interesting idea, one I hadn't considered, that we may be too hastly to attribute concepts extant only in brief, doxographical sources.

              As if it weren't already complicated enough.

              Did Mansfeld and David Runia finish their study of Aetius? I know there is one volume from Brill. Is that a good place to start a more in depth study of the doxographical tradition? Til now I never really had much to deal with it, and I suppose it's the sort of thing most grad students pick up somehow along the way, but not being in philosophy proper I never really did.

              Dennis Clark
            • dgallagher@aol.com
              In a message dated 3/2/2010 2:23:37 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, ... literature, ... interest ... experience ... think ... provides a ... Personally I can t
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 2, 2010
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                In a message dated 3/2/2010 2:23:37 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                vaeringjar@... writes:

                >
                > Provocative topic and hoping lively discussion ensues. I'm not a
                > philosopher by profession, so not remotely well read in the general
                literature,
                > either secondary and original sources, as most of you are here. My
                interest
                > is more focused on understanding myself, what constitutes "its"
                experience
                > and the world. In that life-long, 70-year, process, Plotinus has come to
                > make the most sense to me in terms of offering a universally coherent
                > explanation; in this context especially noting I.8. From the quote, I
                think
                > Cornford understood the core problem. It remains so for me. Plotinus
                provides a
                > significant measure of solace, although inescapably requiring a deep
                > reverence for thauma.
                >
                > Was it Proclus who referred to the dyad as "the door"? If so, I'd
                > appreciate a pointer to the source citation.
                >
                > Thanks in advance for any light you all might shed.
                >
                > With eager interest,
                >
                > David Gallagher
                > Trumansburg, NY
                >
                >

                Personally I can't say about Proclus' calling the "Dyad" a door - I would
                have to research that. Certainly the Pythagoreans liked to use imagery like
                that, but that one specifically I don't recall encountering. If he did, he
                might have gotten it from some Pythagorean source. Sounds like the sort of
                thing that might be found in the intro to his commentary on Euclid or in
                the vastness of the Timaeus commentary..P
                Precisely what I requested; a pointer. Will pursue. Many thanks.

                As to your other point, I do think Neoplatonism appeals more and more to
                me as I grow older. Not sure why, and I wish for my own sake I had been more
                involved at a younger age, such as when I was still in graduate school.
                Ditto here, although ancient history was not one of my doctoral fields
                (American & British). Back then I was taken with de Chardin for "casual"
                reading. But, seems to me, "Christian" ideas/writers are deeply rooted in the
                Greeks, consciously or not. Didn't recognize that at the time.

                Across cultures, wisdom is generally perceived as a state or quality that
                accrues with age and life experience. Perhaps the "appeal" is something
                that grows within one in a natural infolding process as more and more
                experience is accumulated to reflect upon? I feel periods of personal suffering
                contain potentials in that regard; preparing the person (ego?) for growth,
                with no guarantee of actualization. Enneads VI.2.20 offers an interesting
                perspective

                David Gallagher


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • vaeringjar
                ... I was curious about this but didn t have the time last night to look up the chapter in the Theologoumena Arithmeticae to see if door was one of the
                Message 7 of 7 , Mar 3, 2010
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                  --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, dgallagher@... wrote:
                  >
                  > In a message dated 3/2/2010 2:23:37 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                  > vaeringjar@... writes:
                  >
                  > >
                  > > Provocative topic and hoping lively discussion ensues. I'm not a
                  > > philosopher by profession, so not remotely well read in the general
                  > literature,
                  > > either secondary and original sources, as most of you are here. My
                  > interest
                  > > is more focused on understanding myself, what constitutes "its"
                  > experience
                  > > and the world. In that life-long, 70-year, process, Plotinus has come to
                  > > make the most sense to me in terms of offering a universally coherent
                  > > explanation; in this context especially noting I.8. From the quote, I
                  > think
                  > > Cornford understood the core problem. It remains so for me. Plotinus
                  > provides a
                  > > significant measure of solace, although inescapably requiring a deep
                  > > reverence for thauma.
                  > >
                  > > Was it Proclus who referred to the dyad as "the door"? If so, I'd
                  > > appreciate a pointer to the source citation.
                  > >
                  > > Thanks in advance for any light you all might shed.
                  > >
                  > > With eager interest,
                  > >
                  > > David Gallagher
                  > > Trumansburg, NY
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                  > Personally I can't say about Proclus' calling the "Dyad" a door - I would
                  > have to research that. Certainly the Pythagoreans liked to use imagery like
                  > that, but that one specifically I don't recall encountering. If he did, he
                  > might have gotten it from some Pythagorean source. Sounds like the sort of
                  > thing that might be found in the intro to his commentary on Euclid or in
                  > the vastness of the Timaeus commentary..P
                  > Precisely what I requested; a pointer. Will pursue. Many thanks.
                  >

                  I was curious about this but didn't have the time last night to look up the chapter in the Theologoumena Arithmeticae to see if "door" was one of the symbolic associations with the Dyad. I just looked online at Robin Waterfield's translation - I guess no one has scanned in De Falco's edition online yet - and I cannot find mention of it there. Another source to look at would be Photius' summary of Nicomachus' theology of numbers, I would think, but still it could be also somewhere in the vastness of Proclus.

                  My favorite of these for the Dyad is "tolma/daring", like the great step into the (scary) world of sensible reality (this bit in the Theologoumena actually from Anatolius' de Decade). "Door" actually makes sense, since a door can swing out into the world, or it can swing both ways, representing nicely the fact brought out so well by Porphyry in his commentary on the Philebus that the infinite Dyad goes both doubling upward in quantity as well as the other direction, halfing to infinity.

                  I recall there was some discussion about Rhea lately here - the Theologoumena has her associated with the Dyad, and mentions the old association of the Monad with Zeus, which as I recall at least goes back to Xenocrates. I find this however a bit odd, that the mother of Zeus would be associated with the Dyad, since it normally would be thought of as coming from the One and not the other way around.

                  One reason given there for her association with the Dyad is the notion of "flowing, flux" from "rhein".

                  Dennis Clark
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