Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More self-reflection

Two additional pieces, these mostly on the state of the discipline, one rather up-beat and the other less so.

J. Annas (2004) 'Ancient Philosophy for the Twentieth Century',  in B. Leiter (ed.) The Future for Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 25-43.

J. Barnes (2006) 'Bagpipe Music', Topoi 25: 17-20.

And a collection of appraisals of the recent history and state of the discipline around the world:

L. Rosetti (ed.) (2004) Greek Philosophy in the New Millennium: Studies in honour of Thomas M. Robinson, Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag

UPDATE: suggestions from 'Interlocutor'

Jonathan Barnes's review of Bernard Williams's The Sense of the Past, The Journal of Philosophy 104, 2007, 540–545. Modified version 'The History of Philosophy' in Method and Metaphysics.

Barnes also mentions Kevin Mulligan, 'Sur l'histoire de l'approche analytique de l'histoire de la philosophie: de Bolzano et Brentano a Bennet et Barnes' in J.-M Vienne (ed), Philosophie Analytique et Histoire de la Philosophie (Paris, 1997), pp. 61-103, the methodological discussions in the Introduction to the first volume of Anthony Kenny's New History of Western Philosophy, and the introduction to David Charles's Aristotle Philosophy of Action (p. ix has a definition of 'philosophical scholarship').

Monday, February 25, 2013


I'm putting together a brief bibliography of discussions of the nature and practice of the study of ancient philosophy.  This is what I have so far.  What have I missed?

Aubenque, P. (1992) ‘L’histoire de la philosophie, est–elle ou non philosophique?  Oui et non’, in B. Cassin (ed.) Nos grecs et leurs modernes, Paris: Seuil: 17–36
Burkert, W., Gemelli Marciano, L., Matelli, E. and Orelli, L. (eds.) (1998) Fragmentsammlungen philosophischer Texte der Antike / Le raccolte dei frammenti di filosofi antichi, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht
Barnes, J. (2002) ‘La philosophie entre guillemets’, in M. Canto and P. Pellegrin (eds.) Le style de la pensée: recueil de textes en hommage à J. Brunschwig Paris: Les Belles Lettres: 522–47; English version, ‘Philosophy within quotation marks?’, in J. Barnes (2011) Method and Metaphysics: Essays in Ancient Philosophy I, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 23–42
Brunschwig, J. (1992) ‘L’histoire de la philosophie, est–elle ou non philosophique?  Non et oui’, in B. Cassin (ed.) Nos grecs et leurs modernes, Paris: Seuil: 37–96
Frede, M. (1987) ‘Introduction: The study of ancient philosophy’, in M. Frede, Essays in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press: ix–xxvii
Frede, M. (1992) ‘Doxographie, historiographie philosophique et historiographie historique de la philosophie’, Revue de métaphysique et morale 97: 311–25
Makin, S. (1988) ‘How can we find out what ancient philosophers said?’ Phronesis 33: 121–32
Rée, J. (1978) ‘Philosophy and the history of philosophy’ in J. Rée, M. Ayers, and A. Westoky eds. (1978) Philosophy and its Past, New Jersey: Humanities Press: 3–39
Rorty, R. (1984) ‘The historiography of philosophy: four genres’ in R. Rorty, J. Schneewind, and Q. Skinner (eds.) Philosophy in History Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 49–75
Taylor, C. (1994) ‘Philosophy and its history’ in R. Rorty, J. Schneewind, and Q. Skinner (eds.) Philosophy in History Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 17–30

Thursday, February 21, 2013

False character and false pleasure

I am trying to understand the reports about Theophrastus' criticism of Plato's account of false pleasure in the Philebus. We know about these criticisms from a brief report in Damascius. So, I'm really thinking about Damascius on Theophrastus on Plato on false pleasure. (I should get out more.) It's all a bit complicated and expressed very concisely. This is Theophrastus' second argument.
 Ἔτι, φησὶν ὁ Θεόφραστος, τριχῶς τὸ ψεῦδος· ἢ γὰρ ὡς ἦθος ἐπίπλαστον ἢ ὡς λόγος ἢ ὡς πρᾶγμά τι ὄν. κατὰ τί οὖν, φησίν, ἡ ἡδονὴ ψευδής; οὔτε γὰρ ἦθος ἡ ἡδονὴ οὔτε λόγος οὔτε ὂν οὐκ ὄν· τοιοῦτον γὰρ τὸ πρᾶγμα τὸ ψευδές, ἐν τῷ μὴ εἶναι χαρακτηριζόμενον. ἢ ῥητέον ὅτι κατὰ τοὺς τρεῖς διορισμούς ἐστι ψευδὴς ἡ ἡδονή· καὶ γὰρ ἐπίπλαστος, ἡ τοῦ ἐπιπλάστου ἤθους, καὶ ἄλογος, ἡ ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀληθοῦς εἰς τὸ ψεῦδος ἀποπλανηθεῖσα δόξα καὶ τούτῳ ἐφηδομένη, καὶ μὴ οὖσα, ἡ κατὰ ἀπουσίαν τοῦ λυπηροῦ φανταζομένη ⟦ἡ⟧ ἡδονή, καὶ ταῦτα μὴ παρόντος ἡδέος. 
Damascius, Lectures on Plato’s Philebus §168 
Theophrastus argues as follows. There are three possible senses of ‘pseudos’ (falsehood): (a) an insincere or feigned (epiplaston) character; (b) a false statement (logos); (c) a ‘false’, i.e. non-existent, substance (ousia). But pleasure is neither a character, nor a statement, nor a substance and therefore a pleasure cannot be false. The argument relies on two things: the three-fold analysis must be exhaustive and it must be denied that pleasure fits in any of the three categories. Damascius attacks the second of these two things but his tactic is not straightforward.

He seems to argue that there can be false pleasures that arise from falsehood in each of the three senses that Theophrastus lists and accepts (ἢ ῥητέον ὅτι κατὰ τοὺς τρεῖς διορισμούς ἐστι ψευδὴς ἡ ἡδον). In that case, the pleasure must be said to be false in a derivative way since it is caused by or has as its object something that is false and fits into one of Theophrastus’ three categories.

I've only got as far as Damascius' reaction to (a). Damascius argues first that there is feigned pleasure (epiplastos hēdonē) that comes about because of feigned character (καὶ γὰρ ἐπίπλαστος, ἡ τοῦ ἐπιπλάστου ἤθους). I am not sure what he means. In particular, I am not sure whether the feigned character is the object of the pleasure or whether the pleasure is something being taken by someone who has a feigned character. To explain: perhaps Damascius means something like the following. I take pleasure in a colleague asking after the health of my children. But my colleague is merely feigning an interest in my children and in fact could not care less about their health. Perhaps the pleasure I feel might be false in the sense that it is caused by a feigned character. Alternatively, the situation might be as follows. Imagine I am feigning an interest in the health of my colleague’s children. (In fact, I couldn’t care less about them. I met them once at a party and they were very annoying.) I have heard they have been unwell and so, out of politeness, I ask how they are. My colleague replies that they are much better. I say how pleased I am to hear that, smile, and look to move the conversation on. In that case, the ‘pleasure’ that I experience might be said to belong to a feigned character.

Are these the interpretative options? If so, which is better?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Well, that's my job over

Harry Styles, of the haircut, has taken the advice of a philosophical friend and is teaching the world about philosophy. He's starting, as any good lecturer might, with Socrates.
So, colleagues, we are no longer needed. At the time I am writing, this piece of doxography has been retweeted more than 41000 times.  So, there we are, fellow academics.  We failed to reach out sufficiently to a wider world of people hungry for philosophical advice (since, of course, that really is what we are supposed to do) and now, inevitably, our role will be usurped by popstars and 'slebs. It's all our own fault, so there's no use moaning about it.

(Thanks to JB for alerting me to the end of my useful working life.)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Cambridge 1959

Interesting to compare this (from the excellent BFI archive on YouTube) with more recent recruitment films:

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Epicurean theology on TV

It's not often you get a reference to Epicurean theology in a Channel 4 comedy programme.  But here is just such a reference from an episode of Chelmsford 123 first shown in 1988.  (The Epicurean bit is here and you can watch the episode from the start here.)