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The world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the "creationist" option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle's celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant members—the atomists—sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics.
Self-Knowledge and Cryptic Nature in the Platonic Dialogues
Since the appearance of Plato's Dialogues, philosophers have been preoccupied with the identity of Socrates and have maintained that successful interpretation of the work hinges upon a clear understanding of what thoughts and ideas can be attributed to him. In Descent of Socrates, Peter Warnek offers a new interpretation of Plato by considering the appearance of Socrates within Plato's work as a philosophical question. Warnek reads the Dialogues as an inquiry into the nature of Socrates and in doing so opens up the relationship between humankind and the natural world. Here, Socrates appears as a demonic and tragic figure whose obsession with the task of self-knowledge transforms the history of philosophy. In this uncompromising work, Warnek reveals the importance of the concept of nature in the Platonic Dialogues in light of Socratic practice and the Ancient ideas that inspire contemporary philosophy.
All over the world secular rationalist governments and judicial authorities have been challenged by increasingly forceful claims made on behalf of divine law. For those who believe that reason—not faith—should be the basis of politics and the law, proponents of divine law raise theoretical and practical concerns that must be addressed seriously and respectfully. As Mark J. Lutz makes plain in this illuminating book, they have an important ally in Plato, whose long neglected Laws provides an eye-opening analysis of the relation between political philosophy and religion and a powerful defense of political rationalism. Plato mounts his case, Lutz reveals, through a productive dialogue between his Athenian Stranger and various devout citizens that begins by exploring the common ground between them, but ultimately establishes the authority of rational political philosophy to guide the law. The result will fascinate not only political theorists but also scholars at all levels with an interest in the intersection of religion and politics or in the questions that surround ethics and civic education.
His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance
Epictetus (c. 50-c. 120 CE) was born a slave. His master, Epaphroditus, allowed him to attend the lectures of the Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus and later gave him his freedom. From numerous references in his Discourses it is clear that Epictetus valued freedom as a precious possession. He would have been on the side of the many people living now who, while not actually enslaved, are denied true freedom by the harsh circumstances of their lives. Epictetus's teachings about freedom and human dignity have echoed through the millennia-in the writings of Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few. He was much concerned with human behavior. His advice to not worry about what is not in our control is pointedly relevant to our busy modern society-which is often fraught with anxiety. Some people might argue that what Epictetus taught is not serious philosophy, more like self-help. But the range of topics addressed by the essays in this book clearly indicates that the teachings of Epictetus provide strong incentive to present day philosophical thinking.Epictetus: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance is the title of a conference on Epictetus held at Rochester Institute of Technology in April 2012, when many of the ideas in these essays were first presented.
His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance
The philosophy of Epicurus (c. 341-271 B. C. E.), has been a quietly pervasive influence for more than two millennia. At present, when many long revered ideologies are proven empty, Epicureanism is powerfully and refreshingly relevant, offering a straightforward way of dealing with the issues of life and death. The chapters in this book provide a kaleidoscope of contemporary opinions about Epicurus' teachings. They tell us also about the archeological discoveries that promise to augment the scant remains we have of Epicurus's own writing. the breadth of this new work will be welcomed by those who value Epicurean philosophy as a scholarly and personal resource for contemporary life. "Epicurus: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance," is the title of a 2002 conference on Epicurus held at Rochester Institute of Technology, when many of the ideas here were first presented.
On Plato's Symposium
Provocative reinterpretation of Plato's Symposium. An original analysis of one of Plato’s most well-known and pivotal dialogues, this study is based upon the effort to think together the most manifest themes of the Symposium (the nature of eros and the relation between poetry and philosophy) with its less obvious but no less essential themes (the character of the city and the nature and limitations of sophistic enlightenment). Author Steven Berg offers an interpretation of this dialogue wherein all the speakers at the banquet—with the exception of Socrates—not only offer their views on the nature of love, but represent Athens and the Athenian enlightenment. Accordingly, Socrates’ speech, taken in relation to the speeches that precede it, is shown to articulate the relation between Socrates and the Athenian enlightenment, to expose the limitations of that enlightenment, and therefore finally to bring to light the irresolvable tension between Socrates and his philosophy and the city of Athens even at her most enlightened.
Quaestiones in secundum librum sententiarum (Reportatio), Quaestiones 1-12
This commentary exists in two versions: The major version is contained in 17 manuscripts and the critical edition of it is being prepared by a team of specialists led by Prof. Tiziana Suarez-Nani of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. A minor version is found in one Vatican manuscript and is being edited by Prof. Em. Girard J. Etzkorn. The texts edited in this volume all deal with creation, and investigate such central philosophical and theological issues as action, production, and causality, being and nothingness, the nature of time, God’s relation to the world he created, and the distinction between God’s creation and God’s conservation of the world. Typical of this section of Sentences commentaries is a discussion of the eternity of the world (q. 12), in which Marchia defends the (counterfactual) possibility of the world’s eternality as well as the possibility of an actual infinite. Somewhat more unusual for this part of a medieval Sentences commentary is Marchia’s highly detailed discussion of the problem of universals and the validity of syllogistic argumentation, all of this part of Marchia’s attempt to determine whether creation can be demonstrated about God (q. 1). Throughout these twelve questions, Marchia challenges the ideas of some of the later Middle Ages’ best minds, including Peter Auriol, Durand of St. Pourçain, John Duns Scotus, Henry of Ghent, and Giles of Rome.
Was Plato a Platonist? While ancient disciples of Plato would have answered this question in the affirmative, modern scholars have generally denied that Plato’s own philosophy was in substantial agreement with that of the Platonists of succeeding centuries. In From Plato to Platonism, Lloyd P. Gerson argues that the ancients were correct in their assessment. He arrives at this conclusion in an especially ingenious manner, challenging fundamental assumptions about how Plato’s teachings have come to be understood. Through deft readings of the philosophical principles found in Plato's dialogues and in the Platonic tradition beginning with Aristotle, he shows that Platonism, broadly conceived, is the polar opposite of naturalism and that the history of philosophy from Plato until the seventeenth century was the history of various efforts to find the most consistent and complete version of “anti-naturalism."
Gerson contends that the philosophical position of Plato—Plato’s own Platonism, so to speak—was produced out of a matrix he calls “Ur-Platonism.” According to Gerson, Ur-Platonism is the conjunction of five “antis” that in total arrive at anti-naturalism: anti-nominalism, anti-mechanism, anti-materialism, anti-relativism, and anti-skepticism. Plato’s Platonism is an attempt to construct the most consistent and defensible positive system uniting the five “antis.” It is also the system that all later Platonists throughout Antiquity attributed to Plato when countering attacks from critics including Peripatetics, Stoics, and Sceptics. In conclusion, Gerson shows that Late Antique philosophers such as Proclus were right in regarding Plotinus as “the great exegete of the Platonic revelation."
In The Greek Concept of Nature, Gerard Naddaf utilizes historical, mythological, and linguistic perspectives to reconstruct the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of phusis. Usually translated as nature, phusis has been decisive both for the early history of philosophy and for its subsequent development. However, there is a considerable amount of controversy on what the earliest philosophers—Anaximander, Xenophanes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus—actually had in mind when they spoke of phusis or nature. Naddaf demonstrates that the fundamental and etymological meaning of the word refers to the whole process of birth to maturity. He argues that the use of phusis in the famous expression Peri phuseos or historia peri phuseos refers to the origin and the growth of the universe from beginning to end. Naddaf’s bold and original theory for the genesis of Greek philosophy demonstrates that archaic and mythological schemes were at the origin of the philosophical representations, but also that cosmogony, anthropogony, and politogony were never totally separated in early Greek philosophy.