Friday, December 19, 2014

Pleasures online

Well, I'm sure that are all sorts of interesting things you can find online.  But I've just spotted that the full text of my new book is available online if you or your institution has a subscription to the CUP 'Cambridge Books Online' site.  The direct link is here.  Of course, you should certainly buy a copy but this will no doubt be useful as a back-up...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Funded doctoral research positions in Munich

The Munich School of Ancient Philosophy (MUSAΦ) invites applications for funded doctoral positions. Dissertation proposals are welcome in all areas of ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, the medieval reception in Arabic and Latin, and textual criticism. See the flyer, available here:

MUSAΦ is a joint program of the Classics and Philosophy Departments at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU). It is directed by Professors Peter Adamson, Oliver Primavesi and Christof Rapp. In addition, it boasts a substantial number of junior faculty and postdocs. Graduate students and visiting fellows round out the exceptionally large and lively ancient philosophy community, which provides an ideal environment for graduate study.

Doctoral fellowships cover three years, the period of dissertation research and writing. Complementing their dissertation research, doctoral students in MUSAΦ participate in a wide array of advanced seminars, reading groups and workshops. Doctoral students may also avail themselves of the opportunity to teach if desired. Since the number of fellowships is limited, we encourage applicants to seek out external funding as well.

Although based in Germany, most of the advanced instruction takes place in English and there is no formal language requirement. Dissertations may be written in German or in English.We welcome applicants with a sufficient working knowledge of one of these languages and a willingness to attain basic skills in the other.

We strongly encourage interested students to apply by February 15th, 2015 for full consideration. We hope to make initial offers immediately afterwards. Applications will continue to be considered on a rolling basis as long as places remain.

Please visit our website ( for more information about the program and about how to apply. Inquiries about the program may be directed to: Students who are not yet prepared to begin dissertation research might be interested in the Masters Program in Ancient Philosophy at LMU.

Monday, December 08, 2014

CFP: War and strife in ancient philosophy

Our excellent graduates are organising another of their successful annual graduate conferences.  This year the theme is 'War and Strife in Ancient Philosophy', to be held in Cambridge on 27-28 March 2015 and you can find the website with details of how to submit abstracts, accommodation etc. here.

This is the fifth in a series of annual conferences, all completely organised by our graduate students.  They are always fun and intellectually stimulating occasions. 

Monday, December 01, 2014


1. This is the best online advent calendar.

2. There are lots of sentimental songs about being a parent.  I'm not sure this is very sentimental but I think it's lovely.

3.If you are looking for Xmas presents for the scientist/philosopher/academic in your life, you can do worse than browse what's available here.  The goodies include, for instance, a set of Rorschasch ink-blot test coasters.

4. Winter's evenings are good for ghost stories.  The BBC's Remember Me is unsettling but I'm not sure why. It's got Robert Baratheon out of off of GoT/Hercules out of off of Atlantis in it as a slightly rubbish police detective.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PGR rankings for Ancient Philosophy

As detailed here.  Any thoughts?

The schools are ranked in peer groups by their rounded mean score to .5 intervals; after a school's name appears the median and mode scores.  Where the median and mode scores are higher than the rounded mean that usually indicates that a minority of evaluators scored the program a bit more lowly than others.

Group 1 (1-2) (rounded mean of 4.5)
Oxford University (5, 5)
Princeton University (4.5, 4.5)
Group 2 (3-6) (rounded mean of 4.0)
Cambridge University (4, 3)
Stanford University (4, 4 & 4.5)
University of Toronto (4, 4)
Yale University (4, 4)
Group 3 (7-10) (rounded mean of 3.5)
Cornell University (4, 4)
University of Arizona (3.5, 4)
University of Chicago (3.5, 2.5)
University of Texas, Austin (3.5, 2.5 & 4)

Evaluators:  Rachel Barney, Jessica Berry, Tad Brennan, Christopher Bobonich, Victor Caston, Dan Devereux, David Ebrey, Gail Fine, Brad Inwood, Terence Irwin, Thomas Johansen, Mohan Matthen, David Sedley, Christopher Shields, Allan Silverman, Nicholas Smith, Katja Vogt, Jiyuan Yu.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keeling Scholarships in Ancient Philosophy (graduate) at UCL

UCL Philosophy is pleased to announce two Keeling scholarships for research in ancient philosophy for either the MPhil. Stud. or PhD, beginning in 2015. The Scholarships will fund tuition fees (UK/EU) and full AHRC-equivalent London maintenance for two years ( MPhil. Stud.), or for up to three years ( PhD).

MPhil Stud students awarded a Keeling Scholarship are required to specialise to some extent in ancient philosophy over the two year programme, by completing at least two half year modules in the area of ancient philosophy, and by writing their research thesis (30,000 words) on a topic in ancient philosophy. PhD students awarded a Keeling Scholarship will be pursuing a doctorate on a topic in ancient philosophy.

Those able to supervise graduate research in ancient philosophy at UCL include Fiona Leigh (Philosophy), M.M. McCabe (Philosophy), Mark Kalderon (Philosophy), Simona Aimar (Philosophy, from 2017), and, by arrangement, Jenny Bryan (Greek and Latin).

Details about our research programmes can be found here:

 London is a thriving centre for ancient philosophy. The Keeling Lecture and associated Graduate Masterclass is held annually at UCL, as is the biennial Keeling Colloquium. KCL and UCL co-convene a weekly ancient Greek reading group, and the Institute of Classical Studies hosts a fortnightly series of papers on a different theme each year, organised by academics from London working in ancient philosophy (UCL, KCL, Royal Holloway, Birkbeck, University of London).

Further information can be found here:

Only applicants to UCL Philosophy research programmes can be considered for a Keeling Scholarship. Applicants should indicate on their application form that they wish to be considered for the Keeling Scholarship by writing 'Keeling Scholarship' in section §29 'Funding'. The deadline for applications to these programmes is 5 January 2015.

Guidance on the UCL application process is here:

Enquiries in the first instance should be directed to Dr. Fiona Leigh:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just an inkling

I'm looking at Republic VII and trying to think through that argument about fingers and 'summoners of thought'.  I've got as far as this passage:

Ἀλλ' ἐκ τῶν προειρημένων, ἔφην, ἀναλογίζου. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἱκανῶς αὐτὸ καθ' αὑτὸ ὁρᾶται ἢ ἄλλῃ τινὶ αἰσθήσει λαμβάνεται τὸ ἕν, οὐκ ἂν ὁλκὸν εἴη ἐπὶ τὴν οὐσίαν, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τοῦ δακτύλου ἐλέγομεν· εἰ δ' ἀεί τι αὐτῷ ἅμα ὁρᾶται ἐναντίωμα, ὥστε μηδὲν μᾶλλον ἓν ἢ καὶ τοὐναντίον φαίνεσθαι, τοῦ ἐπικρινοῦντος δὴ δέοι ἂν ἤδη καὶ ἀναγκάζοιτ' ἂν ἐν αὐτῷ ψυχὴ ἀπορεῖν καὶ ζητεῖν, κινοῦσα ἐν ἑαυτῇ τὴν ἔννοιαν, καὶ ἀνερωτᾶν τί ποτέ ἐστιν αὐτὸ τὸ ἕν, καὶ οὕτω τῶν ἀγωγῶν ἂν εἴη καὶ μεταστρεπτικῶν ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ ὄντος θέαν ἡ περὶ τὸ ἓν μάθησις.
Here is the Grube translation:
Reason it out from what was said before. If the one is adequately seen itself by itself or is so perceived by any of the other senses, then, as we were saying in the case of fingers, it wouldn’t draw the soul towards being. But if something opposite to it is always seen at the same time, so that nothing is apparently any more one that the opposite of one, then something would be needed to judge the matter. The soul would then be puzzled, would look for an answer, would stir up its understanding (ennoia), and would ask what the one itself is. And so this would be among the subjects that led the soul and turn it around towards the study of that which is.
I'm puzzled about the phrase: κινοῦσα ἐν ἑαυτῇ τὴν ἔννοιαν at 524e5 (Slings).

As far as I can tell, it's the only use of the noun ἔννοια in the dialogue.  (The verb is quite common.  See e.g. 525c8.)  My first question is: is ἔννοια here a cognitive faculty or capacity?  Or is it some kind of cognitive content held in the soul?  If the former, then it is perhaps like the references to how various things summon dianoia or call upon and awaken noēsis (e.g. 523d8-9).  (This is how Griffith translates κινοῦσα ἐν ἑαυτῇ τὴν ἔννοιαν: 'It would arouse the capacity for reflection in itself...')  In effect, the point would be that the soul stirring up the ennoia in it just is the soul calling upon its intellectual abilities to puzzle over the question of what the one is.  If the latter, then perhaps the soul asking what the one is involves the soul stirring up from within itself its ennoia of just that; it involves the stirring up of some cognitive content that answers or will help to answer the question of what the one is.  Here the ennoia is the content of some kind of understanding and not the faculty by which we might hope to come to understand something.  Any help out there with this one?  I agree that the latter option would perhaps by the more surprising.  It might even be a hint of the idea of some kind of innate understanding in every human soul: not a particularly unPlatonic idea, of course, but not something much emphasised in the Republic. And for that reason the former option is probably right.  But it remains a little peculiar for Socrates to drop a new term in here when he has in the immediate context happily been using noēsis and sometimes logismos to do the same job.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The memories of Eumaeus

Here is a podcast of the lecture I gave last week at the Festival of Ideas.  I can't vouch for the sound quality (nor for the quality of the ideas) but it might be interesting to a few people.

And here is the accompanying Powerpoint with the slides so the presentation will make a little more sense. You'll have to guess when it's time to move on to the next slide... What fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A big week

Lots to do next week.  I have the usual lecturing and supervising (including one of the pair I am doing this year for the Classics Prelims people) but on Tuesday I'm also giving a talk for the university's Festival of Ideas before zooming over the Corn Exchange to see Johnny Marr (thanks, Sis, for the birthday present of the tickets).  Then I'm braving the bus to Oxford to give a paper and will be hoping to be back in time for the usual round of teaching on Friday afternoon.  Best part of the week will, of course, be the concert on Tuesday.  Here's Johnny:

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Look, term has just begun and I have no idea which way is up, let alone any interesting ideas about some bit of ancient philosophy.  Once the rush of meetings, arrangements, rearrangements of things that I thought had been arranged, last-minute changes of teaching or whatever, is over then we can get down to the proper business of teaching and thinking.  (And there's a lot of good stuff happening here in Cambridge this term.  I'm looking forward to working through PA 1 in the Thursday seminar, even though I have started to regret volunteering to introduce PA 1.3.  If I ever work out who the 'dichotomisers' are I'm pretty sure I'll want to dichotomise them.)  In the meantime, here's a shelfie:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Aristotle, civility, frankness

There has been some interesting and some helpful discussion recently about questions of civility and its proper place in academic life generally, and philosophy in particular.  Here MM McCabe rightly, it seems to me, objects to the thought that civility is somehow to be opposed to freedom of speech or perhaps frank speech generally.  (This goes both ways: an appeal to civility cannot by itself trump the free expression of someone's position and the fact that you are expressing your own position--in an academic matter or otherwise--does not all by itself excuse incivility.)  Anyway, reading MM reminded me of some Aristotle and, in particular, in his account of what are sometimes referred to as 'social virtues'.  Here he is (in Nicomachean Ethics 4.6) discussing how people should deal with one another both in what they say and what they do. (This is Ross' translation.)
In gatherings of men, in social life and the interchange of words and deeds, some men are thought to be obsequious, viz. those who to give pleasure praise everything and never oppose, but think it their duty 'to give no pain to the people they meet'; while those who, on the contrary, oppose everything and care not a whit about giving pain are called churlish and contentious. That the states we have named are culpable is plain enough, and that the middle state is laudable- that in virtue of which a man will put up with, and will resent, the right things and in the right way; but no name has been assigned to it, though it most resembles friendship. For the man who corresponds to this middle state is very much what, with affection added, we call a good friend. But the state in question differs from friendship in that it implies no passion or affection for one's associates; since it is not by reason of loving or hating that such a man takes everything in the right way, but by being a man of a certain kind. For he will behave so alike towards those he knows and those he does not know, towards intimates and those who are not so, except that in each of these cases he will behave as is befitting; for it is not proper to have the same care for intimates and for strangers, nor again is it the same conditions that make it right to give pain to them.
Now we have said generally that he will associate with people in the right way; but it is by reference to what is honourable and expedient that he will aim at not giving pain or at contributing pleasure. For he seems to be concerned with the pleasures and pains of social life; and wherever it is not honourable, or is harmful, for him to contribute pleasure, he will refuse, and will choose rather to give pain; also if his acquiescence in another's action would bring disgrace, and that in a high degree, or injury, on that other, while his opposition brings a little pain, he will not acquiesce but will decline. He will associate differently with people in high station and with ordinary people, with closer and more distant acquaintances, and so too with regard to all other differences, rendering to each class what is befitting, and while for its own sake he chooses to contribute pleasure, and avoids the giving of pain, he will be guided by the consequences, if these are greater, i.e. honour and expediency. For the sake of a great future pleasure, too, he will inflict small pains.

The man who attains the mean, then, is such as we have described, but has not received a name; of those who contribute pleasure, the man who aims at being pleasant with no ulterior object is obsequious, but the man who does so in order that he may get some advantage in the direction of money or the things that money buys is a flatterer; while the man who quarrels with everything is, as has been said, churlish and contentious. And the extremes seem to be contradictory to each other because the mean is without a name.
While in NE 4.6 (and 2.7) this particular virtue isn't given a name there are various categorisations in EE 2.3 and 3.7 that are clearly related.  The different texts divide things up in different ways.  Also, Magna Moralia 1.27-32 has a tidy (perhaps too tidy) set of related social virtues, including being correctly indignant (nemesis) and being appropriately witty (eutrapelia).  The most likely candidate for the name of what he is discussing in 4.6 is something like 'semnotēs'.

In any case, the surrounding discussion makes clear that in these social dealings Aristotle thinks that there are two important factors: one is a question of truthfulness and sincerity in what we say and do and another is the question of causing pleasure or pain to the recipient or recipients of the words or actions.  That seems right.

I think this contains some important and suggestive points.  It's important that what is being discussed here is not confused with being 'friendly' or 'polite'; what matters is not the form of words that is used but the intention and purpose of the agent who is using them in a given social setting with a particular interlocutor.  There are no set 'rules' that govern the way that a view can or should be expressed; what matters is why you are saying what you are saying, when, and to whom.  The virtue being discussed here concerns dealings with people who are not friends (or, we might add, dealing with people who are friends but not qua friends, and so also colleagues, fellow academics etc.)  Sometimes the right way to talk is to be critical and to cause offence but giving offence per se is not something worth aiming for.

Also important is something Aristotle mentions explicitly a little later in 4.8: that it is important not only to speak in the right way but also to listen in the right way too (1127b33-1128a2).

Monday, September 22, 2014


If you missed the Symposia and Inaugural address from the 88th Joint Session (or if you'd like to revisit them) then you can catch up here.  They include the one I chaired:

Amber Carpenter (York): Ethics of Substance

Aristotle bequeathed to us a powerful metaphysical picture, of substances in which properties inhere. The picture has turned out to be highly problematic in many ways; but it is nevertheless a picture not easy to dislodge. Less obvious are the normative tones implicit in the picture and the way these permeate our system of values, especially when thinking of ourselves and our ambitions, hopes and fears. These have proved, if anything, even harder to dislodge than the metaphysical picture which supports them. This paper first draws out the ethics suggested by a conception of being as individual substances, and finds both inner tensions among these values – expressed in divergent characteristics in the history of philosophy – and a neglect of a significant set of values. Substance metaphysics prefers freedom, independence and autonomy over relational and reciprocal values, which can even be regarded as existentially threatening. A prominent attempt to accommodate both sorts of values without eschewing substantialist metaphysics is briefly considered, before turning to examine an alternative metaphysics and the values it implies. A metaphysics which takes being as becoming, it is argued, supports an ethics centred on relational values, and their associated virtues of care.

Stephen Makin (Sheffield): Ethics, Fixity and Flux

This paper engages with the idea at the core of my co-symposiast’s paper ‘Ethics of Substance’: that the Aristotelian concept of substantial being has ethical implications, and an alternative understanding of existence in terms of affecting and being-affected will help us more easily to accommodate relational values, which are thought to sit uneasily within the Aristotelian framework. I focus on two questions. First, is there really is a tension between an Aristotelian metaphysics of substance and concern-for-others? The answer depends on how we understand the relation between my valuing something indeterminate but determinable (e.g. my having a child, or my living a life) and my valuing the particular way in which that determinable is contingently determined (e.g. my having a daughter or my living this life). I agree that Carpenter is correct in identifying the tension she does. Second, does the alternative Buddhist-influenced view of what it is to exist shift our attention from ethical values such as independence and autonomy onto interpersonal and relational values? I consider an example which reflects another aspect of Aristotle’s outlook: his account of the ontological status of the simple material elements. I suggest that once we abandon the idea that such elements exist in virtue of specific intrinsic structures, then questions about the their persistence through the changes by reference to which they are identified at the very least paper.

Career change

I just received this tweet.  They must know me really well.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Bone Clocks and early 90s Cambridge

I'm enjoying David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks but I've just got to the bit where the narrative switches to Cambridge in the early 90s and every so often something jars with me. ('You dont know, man.  You weren't there!' Sort of thing.  I was.  Proof: here and (from mid-90s, here).) Simple things that might have been checked quite easily. 

So far:

A band does a gig at the 'Cornmarket'. Wouldn't the Corn Exchange allow its name to be used?

A student says he is studying 'Economics and politics'. I don't think anyone would say that. It would have been Economics or SPS.

A student refers to a college's site as a 'campus'. Would anyone have done that?  Do they even now?

Of course, I could have mistaken these and they are in fact a carefully planted set of indications of an unreliable narrator/author or something.  And, sure, they don't stop me enjoying the book, but they did bother me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I'm reading Donald Davidson's Plato's Philebus, his Harvard PhD dissertation from 1949.  The Routledge reprint just presents the type-written original, complete with hand-written bits of Greek.  So it's all there, warts and all.  Some of those warts are rather nice.  On pp. 18-19, for example,  D. twice writes 'Protagoras' when he means 'Protarchus'.  I noticed because I've just spotted the same slip in something I wrote so it's good to be in good company, at least.  Damn those 'Prot-something' Greeks; nearly as bad as all those 'Anaxa/i-something' Presocratics...

And then there is this in the one-page preface to the 1990 edition: 

It doesn't mangle the sense, of course, and I quite like the word 'phlosophy' (something dentists might advise?) but I it did make me wince (not for the first time) at the price tag.  (And yes, I do realise that I've had a hand in various publications that are far from cheap and yes, they do have typos in them too...) 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Growing apart

Writing lectures for a new course on Aristotle’s ethical and political thought had me this morning reading again through NE 8 and 9. There are all sorts of interesting little observations and musings in there, a lot of them pretty sensible. Here’s Aristotle’s variant of the ‘It’s not you; it’s me’ line.
εἰ δ' ὃ μὲν διαμένοι ὃ δ' ἐπιεικέστερος γίνοιτο καὶ πολὺ διαλλάττοι τῇ ἀρετῇ, ἆρα χρηστέον φίλῳ; ἢ οὐκ ἐνδέχεται; ἐν μεγάλῃ δὲ διαστάσει μάλιστα δῆλον γίνεται, οἷον ἐν ταῖς παιδικαῖς φιλίαις· εἰ γὰρ ὃ μὲν διαμένοι τὴν διάνοιαν παῖς ὃ δ' ἀνὴρ εἴη οἷος κράτιστος, πῶς ἂν εἶεν φίλοι μήτ' ἀρεσκόμενοι τοῖς αὐτοῖς μήτε χαίροντες καὶ λυπούμενοι; οὐδὲ γὰρ περὶ ἀλλήλους ταῦθ' ὑπάρξει αὐτοῖς, ἄνευ δὲ τούτων οὐκ ἦν φίλους εἶναι· συμβιοῦν γὰρ οὐχ οἷόν τε. εἴρηται δὲ περὶ τούτων.
 But if one friend remained the same while the other became better and far outstripped him in virtue, should the latter treat the former as a friend? Surely he cannot. When the interval is great this becomes most plain, e.g. in the case of childish friendships; if one friend remained a child in intellect while the other became a fully developed man, how could they be friends when they neither approved of the same things nor delighted in and were pained by the same things? For not even with regard to each other will their tastes agree, and without this (as we saw) they cannot be friends; for they cannot live together. But we have discussed these matters. (Trans. W. D. Ross)

NE 9.3 1165b23–31
He has a point.  People do, after all, grow apart, although not often we might now think because one ends up outstripping the other in virtue.  He does, however, include a conciliatory note: if you’ve left a former friend or lover behind, as it were, then it’s still appropriate to have some kind of remembrance of the former closeness (μνεία τῆς γενομένης συνηθείας), even though it's not very clear just what that amounts to. 

Anyway, it reminded me of this: Julie Walters being brilliant in a brilliant film.  Because moving apart can be painful on both sides.  Both people lose something, whatever else one of them may have gained.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Diogenes of Oinoanda conference

I'm disappointed not to be able to go to this conference on Diogenes Oinoanda, to be held next month at the universities of Istanbul and Muğla, close to Oinoanda itself. There's a very good set of participants and Diogenes deserves this level of detailed attention. The website has links to abstracts of the papers.

      Université Galatasaray – ISTANBUL

Première Journée – 22. 09. 2014 Lundi
09.00 – 09.45 Accueil des participants
10.00 – 10.20 Ouverture du colloque
10.20 – 11.20 Francesca Masi (Università Ca’Foscari – Venezia) « Pleasure, Virtue and Cause. Diogenes of Oenoanda and the Stoics »[Abstract]
11.20 – 12.20 Voula Tsouna (University of California – Santa Barbara) « Diogenes of Oenoanda on the Cyrenaics and the Sceptics » [Abstract]

12.30 – 14.00 Déjeuner

14.00 – 15.00 Francesco Verde (Università Roma I – ‘La Sapienza’) « Plato’s Demiurge (NF 155) and Aristotle’s Flux (fr. 5 Smith): Diogenes of Oinoanda on the History of Philosophy » [Abstract]
15.00 – 16.00 Michael Erler (Julius–Maximilians – Universität Würzburg Institut für Klassische Philologie) « Diogenes against Plato. Diogenes’ Critique and the tradition of Epicurean Antiplatonism » [Abstract]

16.00 – 16.20 Pause

16.20 – 17.20 Jean-Baptiste Gourinat (CNRS UMR 8061, Centre Léon Robin) « La critique des stoïciens dans l’Inscription » [Résumé]

Deuxième Journée – 23.09.2014 Mardi 
10.00 – 11.00 Dirk Obbink (University of Oxford) « Diogenes of Oenoanda on the Gods » [Abstract]
11.00 – 12.00 Alain Gigandet (Paris) « Diogène d’Oenoanda fr. 9 – Lucrèce, IV, 973-86: un élément-clé de la théorie épicurienne de l’imaginaire »

12.00 – 13.30 Déjeuner

      Université de MUGLA

Troisième Journée – 24.09.2014 Mercredi
09.00 – 10.00 Accueil des participants

Inaugural speech by 
Fahri Işık (Burdur – Mehmet Akif Ersoy University) « The Anatolian Character of the Lycian Civilisation »

10.00 – 11.00 Martin Bachmann (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut – Istanbul) « Framework and Results of the Oinoanda Survey Project 2007-2012 » [Abstract]
11.00 – 12.00 Jürgen Hammerstaedt (Universität zu Köln) « The importance of the site of Oinoanda and its inscriptions for interdisciplinary research, the cultural heritage and the society of the 21st century »[Abstract]

12.00 – 12.30 Pause

12.30 – 13.30 Geert Roskam (KU Leuven – Catholic University of Leuven) « Diogenes’ Polemical Approach, or How to Refute a Philosophical Opponent in an Epigraphic Context » [Abstract]

13.30 – 14.30 Déjeuner

14.30 – 15.30 Pierre-Marie Morel (Université Paris 1 Panthéon – Sorbonne UMR 7219 – Institut Universitaire de France) « Diogène d’Œnoanda et la politique » [Résumé]
15.30 – 16.30 Giuliana Leone (Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II) « Diogène d’Oenoanda et la polémique sur les meteora » [Résumé]

16.30 – 16.45 Pause

16.45 – 17.45 Refik Güremen (Mimar Sinan University – Istanbul) « Diogenes of Oinoanda and the Epicurean Epistemology of Dreams »[Abstract]

Clôture du colloque

Comité d’organisation
Pierre-Marie Morel (Université Paris I Panthéon – Sorbonne)
Jürgen Hammerstaedt (Universität zu Köln)
Refik Güremen (Université Mimar Sinan – )
Ömer Orhan Aygün (Université Galatasaray)

Pour toute information :

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hooray for September

It feels like summer is coming to an end.  It's a bit chilly this evening.  It's not light outside after 8.30.  They are announcing the contestants for this year's Strictly Come Dancing.  (Andy Murray's Mum?  Oh dear.)

So what have I managed to do this summer?  Well, the proofs of the book are done, I hope, so I will receive at some point in November or so the first copies.  (Is it a bit sad to be really excited about that?  Well, I don't care.  I am.)  And I've been working on some new lectures for next term: a chance to get back into some of the nitty gritty of the Nicomachean Ethics.  And a lecture for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas in October.  There's the various bits of admin, refereeing, and examining too.  But not a tough summer by any means.

I think I tend to underestimate the time I have before term.   I think it's because the kids will be going back to school in a couple of weeks and it's hard not to feel as if that really is the beginning of term and the end of the vacation.  Anyone who's an academic in the UK and has kids will think of July and September as golden times: term has mostly finished by July and doesn't really get going until October so these are the two months when the children are back at school and the wrangles over childcare go away but the madness of the university term hasn't really hit.

This September, I'll be busy as part of a team arranging and then participating in a conference in Cambridge but it's still, despite Michaelmas looming, one of my favourite times of the year.

Monday, August 04, 2014

AuthorHub PR

I've just received a shiny brochure from CUP about publishing my new book.  It includes a guide to promoting the book and there are, I now discover, videos to help me.  Here is one about making a little film about the book in order to engage readers and attract new 'fans':

I'm off to scout locations. Iceland seems nice.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pleasure and temple-building II

A while ago I was wondering about the example Aristotle uses in NE 10.4 of the various different changes involved in the overall change of building a temple.  He seems to want to insist that although there are various processes that go to make up the building of a temple and although we might, say, complete the fluting of the columns before the whole temple is finished, nevertheless the idea that there can be parts of a change will not help to indentify pleasure with the change rather than the completion of the change.

There are some things I still find puzzling:

 a. There is no need to think that these changes that make up the overall business of making a temple have to happen in a sequence such that we cannot start making a triglyph until we’ve put down the base. True, we certainly can’t put the roof on until the columns are up. But if we think that constructing the Parthenon took a certain length of time to complete, it’s not true that making the base and carving the triglyph are distinct temporal parts in the sense that they are non-overlapping periods within the overall period of constructing the Parthenon. Indeed, it seems possible that the base was constructed and the triglyph was carved at the same time: these processes both took place over the very same duration and lasted exactly the same length of time. So perhaps this is just to say that I don’t find the temple-building case such a clear illustration of the general point he wants to make because I don’t think it is a prima facie analogue of a potential counter-example.

b. What is the motivation for this strange example? Here I wonder if there is just some metaphysical background we don’t have spelled out in full. Later in the chapter we are referred for more information to the Physics so perhaps that is the next place to look. Perhaps he thinks he might be under fire from some smart reader who thinks that if you chop a change up into smaller temporal parts we might say that some parts are complete when the whole is not.

c. What does Aristotle himself say about cases like the pleasures we experience in the process of quenching a thirst? Take a moment or period during the whole change: the whole change is not yet complete. But nevertheless it seems odd to maintain that we are not enjoying removing the thirst. In book 7 Aristotle takes the view that cases such as the pleasures involved in the process of being restored to health ought to be understood as due to the activity of the remaining healthy part. He claims that this sort of thing is pleasant per accidens because there is the ‘activity [energeia] of the underlying condition and nature’ (7.12 1152b33–1153a2; see also 1154b17–20). It's not entirely clear what he means by this but it is evident that he wants to locate an activity somewhere and attributes this to some part of aspect of the patient that is in the healthy state even as health is being restored [1].

Some people restoring a temple.  Note that the columns have been fluted...

What is different between this case and the construction of a temple? Can’t I say that in both there is an energeia of a complete state: in one case part of the person is hydrated and in a natural state and in the other case part of the temple has been completed? In both cases the amount of the person that is hydrated and healthy and the amount of a temple that is completed gradually increases? Is this different from the temple-building case because it is a return to a natural condition? So the analogue between the pleasure of restoring health would be the restoration of a temple (where there is always some of the complete temple present) rather than the construction of a new temple. But in that case, why should it matter whether, so to speak, this is a restoration or a new build?

[1]  J. Aufderheide 2013,‘Processes as pleasures in EN vii 11–14: a new approach’, Ancient Philosophy 33: 135–57  has some important remarks about how we should analyse occasions like the pleasures of being restored to health. When an animal heals or sustains itself, for example, the agent-activity involved is the activity of the residual natural state. (This is doing the job that is performed by the doctor in the case where a patient is entirely passive and is healed solely through the agency of someone else.) It is this activity, in fact, which is a pleasure. It is the activity of this healthy part which is responsible for the pleasure. The person’s undergoing the process is only incidentally pleasant.  See also Frede, D. (2009) ‘NE VII.11–12: Pleasure’, in C. Natali (ed.) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics VII. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 183–208 194-5.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Here is Johan Cruyff explaining his preferred ways of playing:

You don't get Adrian Chiles inviting anyone to do that. Last night's Argentina v. Netherlands game was tactically very sophisticated and interesting but the discussion was very flat: what a shame it wasn't another 7-1 drubbing.... There is some interesting discussion of the English culture of watching, commentating on and discussing football here.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Thomas Jefferson, a man of great discernment...

It's American Independence Day.  U! S! A! etc.

Here are some  of Thomas Jefferson's thoughts on ancient philosophy (borrowed from here):

Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, July 5, 1814:

…. I am just returned from one of my long absences, having been at my other home for five weeks past. Having more leisure there than here for reading, I amused myself with reading seriously Plato’s Republic. I am wrong, however, in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading through the whimsies, the puerilities, and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been, that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? How the soi-disant Christian world, indeed, should have done it, is a piece of historical curiosity. But how could the Roman good sense do it? And particularly, how could Cicero bestow such eulogies on Plato! Although Cicero did not wield the dense logic of Demosthenes, yet he was able, learned, laborious, practised in the business of the world, and honest. (continues...)

Thomas Jefferson to William Short, October 31, 1819

As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Epictetus indeed, has given us what was good of the stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace. Their great crime was in their calumnies of Epicurus and misrepresentations of his doctrines; in which we lament to see the candid character of Cicero engaging as an accomplice. Diffuse, vapid, rhetorical, but enchanting. His prototype Plato, eloquent as himself, dealing out mysticisms incomprehensible to the human mind, has been deified by certain sects usurping the name of Christians; because, in his foggy conceptions, they found a basis of impenetrable darkness whereon to rear fabrications as delirious, of their own invention... (continues...)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Pleasure and temple-building I

I was reading a piece by Christiana Olfert (‘Incomplete activities’) in the most recent Apeiron and it made me think again about a passage in NE 10.4 I have always found puzzling.

 It’s the passage where Aristotle tries to help us to understand the ways in which activities (energeiai) differ from changes (kinēseis) with an illustration from the business of temple building.

The principal point he wants to establish is:

1. Every kinēsis takes time, has a telos, and is complete only when that telos is achieved (1174a19–21).

The illustration here is the kinēsis: ‘housebuilding’. It is complete only when its telos, the building of a house, is reached.

The lines that I find puzzling come next1(174a21–3):

ἢ ἐν ἅπαντι δὴ τῷ χρόνῳ ἢ τούτῳ. ἐν δὲ τοῖς μέρεσι καὶ τῷ χρόνῳ πᾶσαι ἀτελεῖς, καὶ ἕτεραι τῷ εἴδει τῆς ὅλης καὶ ἀλλήλων.

Rowe’s translation: ‘So that will be either in the whole time, or in this. But if it is divided up into temporal parts, the resulting movements are all incomplete, and distinct in form both from the whole and from each other.’

I think that this is supposed to introduce a complication and provokes Aristotle to explain that 1. remains true even in these more complicated cases. The complicated cases have to do with being able to distinguish various parts (merē) of a kinēsis.

 In these cases:

2. All these kinēseis that are parts of a kinēsis (a) are also incomplete in time (b) differ from one another in kind and (c) also differ (sc. in kind?) from the whole.

In the next chapter Aristotle will also have things to say about how energeiai differ from one another in kind. So 2b is not something true of kinēseis but not of energeiai. The most important point therefore seems to be 2a: dividing up a change into various parts is not going to prevent us from saying that all kinēseis are ateleis.

The illustration seems to work as follows. Unlike the simple case of housebuilding now we have a more complicated (and, I presume, more costly and important and laborious and ethically and politically significant) case of building a temple. Building a temple is a change and it has various parts and stages and it takes a period of time. Some of the stages have to be done before others but the temple as a whole is not complete until all of the stages are completed.

Here is a picture of some people building a temple who have already finished various bits of it.  They have made the base of a column, for example, but they have not put on the roof:

Aristotle's illustration uses examples of some of the various different things that have to be done when you build a temple. It illustrates 1 and 2 in reverse order from the order in which they were introduced in a19–23).

3. Placing the stones together (hē tōn lithōn synthesis) is different from fluting a column [illustrates 2b] and both of these are distinct from the making of the temple [illustrates 2c]

Here is a picture of a satyr fluting a column:

4. The construction of the temple is complete (hē men tou naou [sc. poiēsis?] teleia) for it lacks nothing, while the making of the base or the triglyph is incomplete because each is a part.

This is then resumed at a27–9 where Aristotle says that he has shown that these changes differ in kind from one another and are complete, if at all, only in the whole.

 In 4, presumably the idea is that making a base and making a triglyph are parts of making the temple and that is why they are incomplete unless and until the temple is complete.

Perhaps we should think that these parts are to be understood as parts of a temple in the sense that the triglyph on Pheidias’ workbench is not a completed triglyph even if there is no more carving to do because it can be a triglyph proper only once it is in its place in the fully constructed Parthenon. This, I suppose, is how he thinks he can maintain 2a: we can’t identify component kinēseis of a larger whole kinēsis such that those component kinēseis are complete even when the larger kinēsis is not.

If that is what he wants to show then I suppose I get his point. But then I have some questions and puzzles about why he is bothered about this and whether this is a good case for him to use to show why 1 still holds.  Those are for next time, unless someone shows that what I have here is already confused.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Crumbs, DM!

I'll try to write something about ancient philosophy soon (BTW, you have until 30 June to apply for the post of temporary teaching associate in ancient philosophy in the Faculty of Classics...) but, to be honest, I've spent the last few weeks marking exams and MPhil work and my head is a bit frazzled.

In the meantime, some good news.  Danger Mouse is coming back to the telly in a new series.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tom's Diner

We have a Suzanne Vega CD on repeat in the car at the moment.  The girls like it a lot, so that's a good sign.  I'm not sure what their favourites are (perhaps this one or this one; and look at the brilliant hair cut she has in this one) but mine is still the DNA remix of 'Tom's Diner'.  (This one is a close second.)  I suppose it's the 1990 baseline that is just so Soul II Soul...  Anyhow, they didn't believe me that the original is entirely acapella...  Here's the DNA version (what a video!) and then a brilliant live version from a 1986 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Here is MM's valedictory lecture given at KCL on 19 May, 'Talking together, talking to ourselves: Socrates and the crisis of the universities'

And tomorrow at 5pm David Sedley will give his valedictory in Cambridge (room G.19 in the Faculty of Classics): 'Godlikeness'.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vacancy: Temporary Teaching Associate in Ancient Philosophy – maternity cover

The Faculty of Classics is seeking to appoint a Temporary Teaching Associate in Classics (Philosophy) from 01 October 2014 until 30 June 2015 or the return of the permanent postholder, whichever is the earlier. This post is open to those, at any stage in their career, with a primary research interest in ancient philosophy. The successful applicant will benefit from the world-class facilities offered by the University and the generous support of research and teaching provided by the Faculty.

More details on the Faculty's website here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I know I shouldn't but in moments of weakness my mouse wanders over to second-hand book websites and I type in various titles in hope.  And sometimes there's a result and I find myself buying something I hadn't planned for.  That's how this cam to arrive in my pigeon hole this morning.  There's a copy in the Faculty and, to be honest, there is not a great deal of competition for me if I want to consult it.  But I also have a peculiar feeling that it ought to belong with my other books and it is just a shame for it to be sitting in a storeroom somewhere....

Now I need to be careful during the exam-marking season because book browsing is too easy a displacement activity.  I just wonder what might turn up if I type in a search for the second edition of Arrighetti's Epicuro: opere ...

Monday, May 12, 2014

The retiring Mr Cole

Ashley Cole has retired from international football after being left out of England’s World Cup squad. Is this some peculiar kind of Frankfurt case? In the classic case, we are supposed to agree that an agent is responsible for some action even though it was not possible for that agent to do otherwise. In this case, it was not possible for Ashley to play international football but nevertheless we are asked to believe that he is responsible for his not playing for England because he has retired.

I suppose the chronology is important here. Ashley made himself available for selection but was not selected. After he was not selected he retired.

It certainly can’t be the case, therefore, that he is himself responsible for not playing for England at the 2014 World Cup. But, you might say, the retirement is mean differently: Ashley is saying that he now chooses not to play for England at any point in the future after the World Cup. Surely he can be responsible for that since it is not yet the case that Mr Roy (or whoever takes over) has prevented him from playing for England in, say, the 2016 European championships. So Ashley can be said to be responsible for not playing in the 2016 European championships even if it is a bit odd to say he is responsible for not playing in the 2014 World Cup.

True. But there is an a fortiori argument here. Since Ashley was not selected for the 2014 World Cup a fortiori he will not be selected for the 2016 European championships. (The World Cup is the competition for which Mr Roy will select his preferred squad; Ashley is at a stage of his career when he is now less likely to be selected for each subsequent tournament.)

True, it may be that all other younger left-backs will be injured just before the 2016 tournament and Mr Roy (more likely someone else) will come begging for Ashley (who will then be 35) to play. But no, Ashely will not play because he has chosen to retire. Perhaps. But very very unlikely. And I suspect Ashely knows it.

 So, let’s see this as a bit of face-saving on the part of a player who has played more than a hundred times for his country and has now come to the end of his international career. Whether he chose to end it or not.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The joy of indexing

It's always nice to finish a book and have a publisher say they think it's ready to be published.  But there is a sting in the tail -- the indexing.  For the last few days I have been working through a typescript doing, first of all, an index locorum -- noting references to ancient works.  This is what doing an index locorum (I reckon it's about day 4) looks like:

I have made a list of the references (e.g. Arist. NE 10.5 1175b34–6) and put these in order in a Word document.  Then I highlight all the references in the printout and assign to each of them a code.  Then I enter that code number next to the appropriate reference in the list.  (So: I write 'L287' on the page next to the highlighted bit and then type 'L287' next to the reference in my Word document.)  I've got up to nearly 800 references now; it's enough to discourage you from referring to the texts when you're writing the thing in the first place.

I can see the point of this procedure -- it allows hyperlinks between the index and the main text and, if the page layout is changed, the links will adapt.  But it's a bit of a pain.  And I haven't even started on the 'Subject' index.  (On the whole, I think that's probably the less useful.  At least, I'm more likely to look up what's said about a particular passage than about a particular theme or idea and since most of the themes and ideas worth looking up work their way through the whole book then I'm trying to avoid including them at all.  The contents page is a better guide for the reader.)

But, in the end, there will be something to show for it all...

There's more info on the CUP website here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Out and about

The Easter term has just started and so I am getting ready for the steady stream of 'practice exam answers' that I spend most of the next few weeks marking before I have to mark the real exam answers in late May/early June.  The term is mostly quite pleasant.  I've finished my lecturing already so the teaching is all supervisions (though there are still the usual Faculty meetings to endure).

And I've come back refreshed from a lovely but brief visit to Iceland.  I gave a seminar and a lecture (at the kind invitation of a colleague there) and we all then got to spend a few days looking around Reykjavik and the immediate area.  Here is one of those 'panorama' photos of the harbour.

It's a beautiful place.

For the rest, in no particular order in the next couple of week I have to:

... work out what I think about a bit of Ps. Aristotle MXG for our Mayweek seminar.  (It would help if the text were more stable and were not 75% composed of parts of the verb to be and assorted definite articles...)

... read R. Jay Wallace's The View from Here.  I've decided that 'regret' (metameleia) in ancient philosophy is something I want to think more about and, in particular, whether and why a fully virtuous person might ever come to regret some past action or some past decision.  I'm also interested in a more radical kind of regret: 'existential regret', thinking that it would have been better never to have been born.  This looks to be a great place to begin.

... think a bit about a possible research project I might be hatching with another colleague here in Cambridge.  We all have to have a project in the pipeline these days, and this idea is at least something that promises to be challenging and interesting.

... prepare a short lecture for the Oxford-Cambridge Classics Open Day for VI formers (2 May).  I think Plato's Protagoras is a set text for A level Greek at the moment but students only read a small chunk of it.  The plan is to try to say something that is both relevant to that bit they have to study and also broadens the focus into other parts of the dialogue and into interesting philosophical arguments.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

New books

It's great when our graduate students pass their PhD examinations.  It's better still when the thesis emerges as a book.  And in the last few weeks there have been two of those from our Cambridge ancient philosophy graduates.  Do read them.  Or buy them and read them.  (You could just buy them, but they are a bit pricey...)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Divided Lines II

Another entry for the list of those who make the smaller portion of the divided line correspond to the intelligible:

H. Dörrie and M. Baltes, Der Platonismus in der Antike. Bd. IV (Stuttgart, 1996), on pp. 332-3 and 342.

That also put me on to: Iamblichus Comm. math. sci. 8 32.8-37.19 Festa (see below) and his discussion of the views of Bro(n)tinus (Pseudo-Brontinus, even) in his Peri nou kai dianoias and Achytas (Pseudo-Archytas, even) in his Peri nou kai aisthēseōs.  But that, I think, would take me into some very odd territory, where I usually fear to tread.  So I might leave that path alone...

(Click on the tools at the bottom of the window to enlarge or turn the page.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Divided lines

The plan is for us to read some of Plutarch's Quaestiones platonicae at our Thursday seminar next term.  I've been looking at no. 3 (1001C-1002E), in which he wonders whether the smallest of the four segments of the 'divided line' in Republic 6 is supposed to stand for eikasia and its objects (as Proclus has it: In Rem Pub. Plat. or for noēsis and its objects (a view to which Plutarch is at least prepared to give some serious consideration: 1001D-1002B).

I've gone to my bookshelf to see what other people make of it.  Mostly they don't register that there is a decision to be made, though a notable exceptions are: Nicholas Denyer's 'The Sun and Line: the role of the good' in G. R. F. Ferrari (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic (Cambridge, 2007), at 292-4 (Nick turns this into a rather nice point about the nature of this as a diagrammatic representation of something intelligible), and J. Adam's 1902 commentary ad 509d6.  (Adam plumps for eikasia corresponding to the smallest section: see the diagram on p. 65 of vol.2.)

Otherwise, everything I can lay my hands on from where I sit has it that the smallest section stands for eikasia and its objects: 

R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley, Plato's Republic: a Philosophical Commentary (London, 1964) at 203-5 and 230.
I. A. Richards, Plato's Republic (Cambridge, 1966), at 119.
J. Annas, An Introduction to Plato's Republic (Oxford, 1981), at 247.
C. D. C. Reeve, Philosopher-Kings: the Argument of Plato's Republic (Indianapolis, 1988), diagram on Frontispiece.
S. Scolnicov, Plato's Metaphysics of Education (London, 1988), at 91.
T. Penner, 'The forms in the Republic' in G. Santas ed. The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic (Oxford, 2006), 234-62, at 235.

It's not hard to see why: Socrates says that the ratios track 'clarity and unclarity' (σαφηνείᾳ καὶ ἀσαφείᾳ 509d9) and 'truth and untruth' (ἀληθείᾳ τε καὶ μή 510a9) and so I suppose a natural inference is that this means: the larger the line, the greater the clarity.

But has anyone in recent scholarship gone for the un-Proclan view and assigned eikasia and its objects to the largest section?

UPDATE: On 'clarity' here see J. Lesher,  'The meaning of "saphēneia" in Plato's Divided Line', in M. L. McPherran, Plato's Republic: A Critical Guide (Cambridge, 2010), 171-87.

A Google image search for 'plato divided line' throws up some interesting variants.  Quite a few diagrams do not divide the line unequally.  And although the Proclan version is the most common, there are examples of the alternative.  For example:

I found that one at: (from the 'Eidisi Academy of Higher Learning'...)

Here's another from:

And a third from:

Plato as a poster-boy

This is fun.  A firm in the US, Litographs, produces coloured prints (or t-shirts or bags) of the text of classic works arranged as a poster.  There are lots to choose from, including Plato's Republic (the Jowett translation).  Heffers stocks some of them (though they are quite pricey in £ compared with the $ cost listed on the website).  Here's a quick idea of what they look like.  To get the whole text you have to buy the largest size (30 x 45 inches).


Full poster

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Death, humanism, Stephen Fry

Here is one of a series of little films made by the British Humanist Association. This one is about death.  It's pretty good, a bit dogmatic (perhaps polemical), but no more dogmatic than the position it's evidently designed to counter.  For the most part, it's a point of view I think is on the right lines, but this presentation of it cuts corners.  For example, it is true there is no strong evidence for post mortem disembodied survival.  But the observed phenomena don't rule it out.  It should also, I think, have recognised that agreeing that death is annihilation does not necessarily bring with it the idea that death is not harmful.  People can die too soon, lives can be cut short, and some people can die too late.  But there is plenty here that someone like Lucretius might have applauded (or asked to be credited for), including the rather nice argument that reading a book is nice, but reading a book that never ends would not be nice.  Finally, while I quite like Stephen Fry, his voice here does have ever so slight a note of smugness...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Taster Days at the Faculty of Classics

A generous donation enables us to invite you to be part of a new initiative addressed to Schools in the maintained sector. 

Click here to download the flyer.

If you're interested in visiting the Faculty with your school, please get in touch with Jennie Thornber to discuss individual needs. We are very happy to arrange a tour of the Faculty's Museum of Classical Archaeology, and to discuss the possibility of a talk with a Cambridge academic and a visit to one of the Colleges.

Please contact Jennie at or (01223) 767044. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conference, 21-22 March: Approaching Ancient Philosophy

The ancient philosophy graduates in the Faculty of Classics have organised a conference for March 21st and 22nd.  I think this is the third such event, which is entirely organised and run by the graduate students.  Here is a link to the conference website for more details.  Or click to enlarge the flyer below.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Williams on Parmenides

I've been dipping into the recently published collection of Bernard William's reviews, lectures and other essays: Essays and Reviews 1959-2002.  (Here's a review of the reviews by Mary Beard in the Guardian.)  There's some strident stuff in there and it's a very mixed bag in all sorts of ways.  But one of the things I like about his writing is that he writes well.  True, this might lend an air of slick superciliousness at times and at other times it's hard to know just what he wants to say because it is either very condensed or just plain suggestive rather than explicit.  ('Add water', you might be advised.)

Here's an example.  He is reviewing Nozick's Philosophical Explanations, which he dubs 'the Great American Novel of philosophy' (that is not an unadulterated compliment), and is wondering  whether any philosophical works have successfully been set out as deductions from a small number of axioms.
At the very beginning of Western philosophy, Parmenides' poem (or half of it) may have tried to do that, but it is hard to tell from its ruins - except that they seem more like the ruins of a temple than of a tower.
That's a marvellously suggestive claim and, typically, nothing more is said to explain just what Williams means by the temple/tower contrast.  I wouldn't let a student get away with writing that in an essay without scrawling a big question mark in the margin.  But it's a thought that lingers and might just turn into another longer and better thought later.  I like philosophical writing that does that.  Plain-speaking and relentless clarity and explicitness is all well and good but it's a chore to read and it leaves you dry-mouthed and gasping for water.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Judging a book

I'm about (at last) to submit my book to CUP.  I've spent the morning trying to chase the last loose ends (just one bit of bibliographica left to tie down) and then completing CUP's 'Marketing questionnaire'.  That asks me to detail any competitor publications on the market and note their strengths and weaknesses.  (Apparently 'I didn't write it' won't count as a good answer to either of these.)  It also asks me to list the major review journals and websites that might be bothered to include the book and their contact details.  I'm pretty sure CUP know how to contact The Classical Review so I left that bit blank.

This is the grim end of publishing, and I'm nowhere near yet the hell of XML indexing...

But all the same I've been cheered along by some of these:

If you're cleverer than I am then you could make them yourself.

The other big task is to try to find a cover.  I didn't have a picture on either of my first two books so I don't have much experience of this.  But I'm pretty sure I don't want just another marble bust of some beardy old philosopher or, perhaps worse, some picture from an ancient pot.  So, what else would do?  CUP might prefer a piccie that says 'ancient stuff' to someone browsing in a bookshop but they have relaxed that requirement before, so perhaps I have quite a free hand (provided the image can be used without exorbitant fees for rights etc.)

Here's something I like, Thinking Ahead by Yasuo Kuniyoshi.  It at least has something to do with what I've written about:

 Failing that, perhaps something very abstract would be best.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The UCU strike action coughed up an article that made it into Angry People in Local Newspapers. Do click on the link because it takes you to a page where you can view a beautifully edited video that conveys the desolate fury of the strikers. And they are wearing onesies.

UPDATE: to save your clicking-finger, here is the video:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Real fame

My kids were far more impressed to find out I had once supervised yesterday's 'Star in a reasonably priced car'...  (Watch here on YouTube...)

Stig (L) with former Classicist (R)

My amazing media career

I think I was on the wireless yesterday.  (Radio 3, so almost no one will have heard it.)  You can 'catch up' or even 'listen again' here, if you like.  There's also a blog by the person who made the documentary here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Épicurisme et scepticisme

I haven't seen a copy of this yet but I'm sure it's excellent...  (At least, I remember really enjoying the conference.)

Vient de paraître: Stéphane Marchand-Francesco Verde (éds.), Épicurisme et Scepticisme, Sapienza Università Editrice, Roma 2013, pp. 189, € 17.00

Table des matières

Préface: Pierre-Marie Morel, Emidio Spinelli

Introduction: Stéphane Marchand,  Francesco Verde


Tranquility: Democritus and Pyrrho: Svavar Svavarsson
Chain of Proof in Lucretius, Sextus, and Plato: Rhetorical Tradition and Philosophy: Michael Erler
Scepticisme et thérapeutique : le cas de conscience du dogmatisme épicurien: Julie Giovacchini
Le statut particulier de la philosophie épicurienne dans le néo-pyrrhonisme: Stéphane Marchand


Epicureans and Cyrenaics on Pleasure as a Pathos: James Warren
La critique du critère de vérité épicurien chez Sextus Empiricus: un scepticisme sur le monde extérieur ? Diego Machuca


Epicurean Attitudes toward Geometry: The Sceptical Account: Francesco Verde
Sextus Empiricus et le τέλoς épicurien : le plaisir est-il par nature digne d’être choisi?: Emidio Spinelli