Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy
Volume LIII, Winter 2017
Zeno of Elea challenged pluralism with a series of puzzles which included his small/large paradox and his place paradox. Evidence on how these two paradoxes were interpreted by the Peripatetic Eudemus of Rhodes points to Eudemus as the source or conduit of a heterodox tradition according to which Zeno, far from being either a pluralist or a Parmenidean monist, was in fact a nihilist. Working out how this interpretation was extracted, or corroborated, by a selective use of Zeno’s own text provides new clues to the precise content of that text, and thereby to Zeno’s own dialectical strategy.
Aristotle, Eudemus, infinity, monism, nihilism, paradox, Parmenides, place, pluralism, Simplicius, Zeno of Elea
The Coherence of Thrasymachus
This essay gives an interpretation of the character of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic. Contrary to what recent commentators have claimed, Plato presents Thrasymachus as a horrifying figure, with a dark but coherent view of human life. According to this view, the principal good in life is domination over others: so in every significant interaction, one party is the winner, while the other is the loser. Justice is the vice of foolishly losing out to the more powerful, while injustice is the virtue of winning through one’s power and skill. Thrasymachus defends this account as revealing the deep phenomenon behind the law, and behind rulers’ declarations about justice and injustice. The Republic as a whole is a response to Thrasymachus’ view of the intrinsic benefits of injustice and intrinsic disadvantages of justice. But Thrasymachus represents this view in its most horrifying form—foreshadowing the discussion of the tyrant in Book IX.
Plato, Republic, Thrasymachus, Justice, Virtue, Ruling, Desire
Plato on the grades of perception: Theaetetus 184-6 and the Phaedo
In a fascinating passage, Descartes distinguishes three grades of perception. The first is wholly and only physiological; the second and third essentially involve the mind or soul, but differ in that the first has non-conceptual content, whereas the third is conceptual and propositional. I ask at which if any of these three grades Plato places perception in Theaetetus 184-6 and in the Phaedo. I argue that the former passage places perception at Descartes’ second grade. I also argue that it is unclear what grade perception is at in the Phaedo. I suggest that, while Theaetetus 184-6 and the Phaedo don’t clearly conflict on the powers of perception, neither do they clearly agree; rather, they focus on different issues.
Plato, perception, Theaetetus, Phaedo, recollection, Descartes
Aristotle on Principles as Elements
In his discussion of the four causes, Aristotle claims that ‘the hypotheses are material causes of the conclusion’ (Physics 2. 3, Metaphysics Δ 2). This claim has puzzled commentators since antiquity. It is usually taken to mean that the premisses of any deduction are material causes of the conclusion. By contrast, I argue that the claim does not apply to deductions in general but only to scientific demonstrations. For Aristotle, the theorems of a given science are composites consisting of the indemonstrable premisses from which they are demonstrated. Accordingly, these premisses are elements, and hence material causes, of the theorems. In this way, Aristotle’s claim can be shown to be well-motivated and illuminating.
Aristotle, hypothesis, principle, element, material cause, deduction, demonstration, analysis, synthesis
Christopher C. Raymond
Shame and Virtue in Aristotle
In Nicomachean Ethics 4.9, Aristotle gives two arguments for why aidōs, or a sense of shame, is not a virtue. The chapter has puzzled readers: both arguments seem to conflict with things he says elsewhere in the NE, and neither is persuasive in its own right. This paper reconstructs Aristotle’s position on aidōs by drawing on the ancient commentary tradition, relevant passages from the Eudemian Ethics, and the analysis of ‘civic’ courage in NE 3.8. It is shown that Aristotle has stronger reasons for denying that aidōs is a virtue than it first appears, given his distinction between acting from the fear of disrepute and acting for the sake of the fine. The paper concludes by arguing that his view is nevertheless untenable, since it ignores the fact that even a virtuous person can be subject to disrepute. This criticism stems from Alexander of Aphrodisias’ commentary in Ethical Problems 21.
Aristotle, shame, aidôs, virtue, ethics, Alexander, pathos, honor, Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics
Plato Systematized: Doing Philosophy in the Imperial Schools. A Discussion of J.A. Stover (ed.), A New Work by Apuleius: The Lost Third Book of the De Platone
The paper is an examination of an anonymous Latin text, which has been tentatively attributed by its editor, Justin A. Stover, to Apuleius. This text contains the summaries of several of Plato’s dialogues, but its proper function seems to be the identification of the main doctrines that constitute his philosophical system. Clearly it is a typical school product, whose content belongs to Middle Platonism. But it also presents some interesting and distinctive features. Particularly noteworthy is the heavy presence of Stoic terms and doctrines and the emphasis on Plato’s political philosophy. These can be paralleled with what we read in Apuleius’ De Platone et eius dogmate. At the same time there are also some important differences which complicate the hypothesis of an Apuleian authorship.
Apuleius of Madaura; Middle Platonism; Stoicism; Assimilation to God; Plato’s Political Philosophy