Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [neoplatonism] Ps-Plat Def.

Expand Messages
  • Michael Chase
    Nice to get a response from one of the world s leading experts in the field. One thing, though : I was surprised not to see the names of Xenocrates and
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 6, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      Nice to get a response from one of the world's leading experts in the
      field. One thing, though : I was surprised not to see the names of
      Xenocrates and Speusippus among those who may have influenced the
      Definitions. Do these display no Old Academic influence whatsoever ?

      Best, Mike.


      -
      Michael Chase
      (goya@...)
      CNRS UPR 76/
      l'Annee Philologique
      Villejuif-Paris
      France


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Harold Tarrant
      Dear recipients, One great merit of the Plato: Complete works, edited by John Cooper with Doug Hutchinson is that it takes the spuria (Hutchinson s
      Message 2 of 3 , May 6, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        Dear recipients,

        One great merit of the Plato: Complete works, edited by John Cooper with Doug Hutchinson is that it takes the spuria (Hutchinson's responsibility) a bit more seriously than usual. There are introductions of about a page in length to all these works, including Definitions, which summarise much of what is known, or rather speculated, about them. If only we could feel more confident of contexts for some of them we might be able to plot the history of Platonism more securely. In this case Hutchinson inclines towards a fourth century date, while apparent influence of Aristotle and the Stoics point others towards the 'eclectic' age, perhaps around the first century BC. Recent work has shown that much of what we associate with such eclecticism probably went back to the fourth Head of the Academy, Polemo (late fourth, early third), influenced by Aristotle, but an influence on Zeno of Citium. Since the collection seems to have been added to (see Hutchinson), it is not impossible that it had gone on being added to, and subtracted from, for quite some time. These definitions seem to have been known to the writer Alcinous (2nd century AD), though they also seem to have no special authority for him. They are not even a tool for reading Plato, for some of the terms defined are not found elsewhere in the corpus, especially the authentic corpus. If others can be more definite (no pun intended) than I can be, I should not be averse to hearing.

        Best, Harold Tarrant



        Prof. Harold Tarrant,
        School of Liberal Arts,
        University of Newcastle,
        [Cricos provider number 00109J]
        NSW 2308 Australia
        Ph: (+61) 2 49215230/49215227
        Fax: (+61) 2 49216940
        *Eu Prattein*
      • vaeringjar
        Thanks very much, Prof. Tarrant, for this information - I find these rather curious for their form - somehow gnomic utterances drawn together like this in a
        Message 3 of 3 , May 22, 2004
        • 0 Attachment
          Thanks very much, Prof. Tarrant, for this information - I find these
          rather curious for their form - somehow gnomic utterances drawn
          together like this in a group do not seem very Platonic to me. They
          are more reminiscent I think of the Principal Doctrines and Vatican
          Sayings of Epicurus. Is this an argument for a 2nd-1st century
          provenance? I am not aware personally of any gnomic genre as a
          specific philosophical literary form. I guess we would though have
          to include the verses of Pythagoras - they are likely Hellenistic
          also, aren't they? (Porphyry's Sententiae and Proclus' Elements of
          Theology are hardly gnomic, I would think.)

          A little more about the particular Definition that was cited by
          Segonds in his translation of Porphyry's History of Philosophy (book
          4, 220F Smith, from Cyrillus contra Iulianum I) - it is 414e9:

          agathon to aition soterias tois ousin: to aition pantos tou pros
          hauto, aph'hou symbainei ha chre hairesthai.

          which I would (hopefully!) translate as "the Good is the cause of
          preservation for all things that are: the real cause of everything,
          from which things that must be grasped result." (did I get that
          right?)

          So we are at least discussing a truly Platonic concept in this
          definition, and obviously a very important one. Unlike most the
          others, I would add, which hardly sound all that Platonic to me in
          their content.

          One thing I found curious here was the use of "soteria" which I
          don't think is a particularly common early Platonic term (a quick
          look in the big Liddle & Scott as I recall showed it used by him in
          more of a politicial sense than ontological, as in "preservation of
          the state"). But a related term is used by Porphyry in this fragment
          and other Neoplatonists, Plotinus and Proclus. Here is the fragment:

          Porphyrios de phesin in biblioi tetartoi Philosophou historias
          doxasai te ton Platona kai men kai phrasai palin peri enos theou,
          onoma men autoi meden epharmottein mede gnosin anthropinen auton
          katalabein, tas de legomenas prosegorias apo ton husteron
          katachrestikos autou kategorein. <<ei de holos ek ton par'emin
          onomaton chre ti tolmesai legein peri autou, mallon ten tou henos
          prosegorian kai ten tagathou takteon ep'autou. To men gar emphainei
          ten peri auton haploteta kai dia touto autarkeian: chreizei gar
          oudenos, ou meron, ouk ousias, ou dynameon, ouk energeion, all'esti
          panton touton aitios. tagathon de paristesin, hoti ap'autou pan
          hotiper agathon estin, apomimoumenon kata to dynaton ton allon ten
          ekeinou, ei chre phanai, iditoteta kai di'autes soizomenon.>>

          Porphyry says in the fourth book of his History of Philosophy that
          Plato believed and specifically stated concerning the one god, that
          no name could be applied to him, nor that any human knowledge could
          grasp him, and those things called "denominations" from lesser
          beings apply to him in a way that falls short. [Porphyry's actual
          words now:] "if it is necessary at all to dare to speak of him in
          words of our everyday language, rather one should assign to him the
          denomination of the One, and [the denomination] of the Good. For the
          first denomination shows the simplicity concerning him and through
          this his self-sufficiency. For he needs nothing, no parts, no being,
          no potentialities, no actions, but is the cause of all of these. The
          Good suggests that all that is good is from it, since all other
          things mimic, as best they can, if we have to put it in words,
          the 'intrinsic property' of the Good, and through that 'property'
          are preserved."

          (I hope I didn't mangle this too much - I really was working from
          Porphyry himself, but of course Segonds' translation is
          indispensable. I kept thinking while working on this passage of that
          saying "words cannot name him, nor tongue soil..." or however it
          goes. Where is that from anyway?)

          A number of points here, drawn or prompted from Segonds' excellent
          notes and some in Smith: first, Segonds cites the Definition above
          in connection with the use of "soizomenon," "preserved" (as I
          translate it - "salvation" is not really appropriate, as Segonds
          points out). So I suppose it is possible that Porphyry was aware of
          the Definition. Plotinus and Proclus also use the same language -
          see Proclus Element of Theology 13, "ei gar to agathon esti sostikon
          ton onton apanton," "for if it belongs to the Good to preserve all
          that exists" (Dodds' translation).

          I personally find this satisfying, since I have always wondered
          exactly how the Good and the One were to be equated, and the answer
          I came up with on my own was that the Good was not to be interpreted
          morally, rather as a sort of highest desideratum, the highest that
          anything could aspire to, that which would draw and keep everything
          together. Rather like ontological glue, to be crude, that which
          keeps everything from falling apart. So I believe that is the sense
          of these passages.

          Other interesting points - I translated "prosegoria"
          as "denomination," working from Segonds' notes and despairing of any
          English word that may have been given to what he notes is a
          technical term, which curiously enough also appears in the
          Commentary on the Parmenides that Hadot attributed to Porphyry. I
          gather it had life later in a Christian context also. Also "idiotes"
          is of interest, and again a sort of technical term, that Hadot also
          discusses in his book on Porphyry and Victorinus ( vol 1 p374);
          again my translation is probably a counsel of despair, sincs I am
          not familiar with any proper English philosophical term for the
          Greek.

          There is a lot packed in this bit of Porphyry - the language verges
          on the apophatic; it seems clear that he is not really placing the
          One in the highest position, that the highest is in fact ineffable
          and can only be for the sake of human communicability called the One
          or the Good, drawing form the Parmenides and the Republic obviously.
          This is certainly consistent with the bits of the Parmenides
          Commentary attributed to Porphyry that I looked over, since they
          were referred to by Segonds (I assume this passage from the History
          of Philosophy provides Hadot some of his evidence for attributing
          the Commentary to Porphyry - I haven't actually read all his book).

          But I thought that Porphyry was supposed to be in agreement with
          Plotinus in placing the One as highest, and that Iamblichus reacted
          against both and insisted on an ineffable highest - ? This passage
          in the History seems to place Porphyry squarely with Iamblichus, not
          against. The Commentary is very clear on this as well, whoever wrote
          it, but even without that evidence, valid or not, this passage seems
          quite clear on its own in this regard. (Wallis in <Neoplatonism>
          p114 ff feels strongly the Commentary is at least by a follower of
          Porphyry, so that it may as well be his own.)

          Am I missing something?

          Dennis Clark
          San Francisco

          --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Harold Tarrant
          <Harold.Tarrant@n...> wrote:
          > Dear recipients,
          >
          > One great merit of the Plato: Complete works, edited by John
          Cooper with Doug Hutchinson is that it takes the spuria
          (Hutchinson's responsibility) a bit more seriously than usual. There
          are introductions of about a page in length to all these works,
          including Definitions, which summarise much of what is known, or
          rather speculated, about them. If only we could feel more confident
          of contexts for some of them we might be able to plot the history of
          Platonism more securely. In this case Hutchinson inclines towards a
          fourth century date, while apparent influence of Aristotle and the
          Stoics point others towards the 'eclectic' age, perhaps around the
          first century BC. Recent work has shown that much of what we
          associate with such eclecticism probably went back to the fourth
          Head of the Academy, Polemo (late fourth, early third), influenced
          by Aristotle, but an influence on Zeno of Citium. Since the
          collection seems to have been added to (see Hutchinson), it is not
          impossible that it had gone on being added to, and subtracted from,
          for quite some time. These definitions seem to have been known to
          the writer Alcinous (2nd century AD), though they also seem to have
          no special authority for him. They are not even a tool for reading
          Plato, for some of the terms defined are not found elsewhere in the
          corpus, especially the authentic corpus. If others can be more
          definite (no pun intended) than I can be, I should not be averse to
          hearing.
          >
          > Best, Harold Tarrant
          >
          >
          >
          > Prof. Harold Tarrant,
          > School of Liberal Arts,
          > University of Newcastle,
          > [Cricos provider number 00109J]
          > NSW 2308 Australia
          > Ph: (+61) 2 49215230/49215227
          > Fax: (+61) 2 49216940
          > *Eu Prattein*
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.