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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.
A Study of Plato's Metaphysics
The Dialectic of Essence offers a systematic new account of Plato's metaphysics. Allan Silverman argues that the best way to make sense of the metaphysics as a whole is to examine carefully what Plato says about ousia (essence) from the Meno through the middle period dialogues, the Phaedo and the Republic, and into several late dialogues including the Parmenides, the Sophist, the Philebus, and the Timaeus. This book focuses on three fundamental facets of the metaphysics: the theory of Forms; the nature of particulars; and Plato's understanding of the nature of metaphysical inquiry.
Silverman seeks to show how Plato conceives of "Being" as a unique way in which an essence is related to a Form. Conversely, partaking ("having") is the way in which a material particular is related to its properties: Particulars, thus, in an important sense lack essence. Additionally, the author closely analyzes Plato's idea that the relation between Forms and particulars is mediated by form-copies. Even when some late dialogues provide a richer account of particulars, Silverman maintains that particulars are still denied essence. Indeed, with the Timaeus's introduction of the receptacle, there are no particulars of the traditional variety. This book cogently demonstrates that when we understand that Plato's concern with essence lies at the root of his metaphysics, we are better equipped to find our way through the labyrinth of his dialogues and to better appreciate how they form a coherent theory.
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.
La dottrina dei minimi nell'Epicureismo
The first monograph entirely devoted to the Epicurean doctrine of minimal parts. The Epicurean doctrine of minimal parts (ta elachista) is a crucial aspect of Epicurus's philosophy and a genuine turning point compared to the ancient atomism of Leucippus and Democritus. This book consists of three chapters: a philological and theoretical analysis of the primary sources (Epicurus and Lucretius) of the doctrine, a reconstruction of its likely historical background (Xenocrates, Aristotle, Diodorus Cronus), and a close examination of the chiefly geometrical development of this theory within the philosophical school of Epicurus. The critical examination of ancient sources (including several Herculaneum Papyri), combined with a careful analysis of the secondary literature, reveals the very significant role played by minimal parts within the Epicurean science of nature. This is the first monograph entirely devoted to the study of this important doctrine in all its historical and theoretical breadth. Questo volume esamina la dottrina epicurea dei minimi (ta elachista) che rappresenta un nodo cruciale della filosofia di Epicuro e un autentico punto di svolta rispetto all'atomismo di Leucippo e Democrito. Il libro è organizzato in tre capitoli dedicati rispettivamente: (1) all'analisi filologica e teorica delle fonti primarie (Epicuro e Lucrezio), (2) alla ricostruzione del contesto storico-filosofico a cui la dottrina dei minimi verosimilmente fa riferimento (Senocrate, Aristotele e Diodoro Crono), e, infine, (3) all'approfondimento dello sviluppo della teoria dei minimi in ambito prevalentemente geometrico all'interno della scuola di Epicuro. L'esame critico delle fonti antiche (che riguardano anche alcuni Papiri Ercolanesi), anche attraverso l'attenta analisi della letteratura secondaria, conferma il ruolo decisivo giocato dai minimi nella scienza della natura epicurea. Si tratta della prima monografia interamente consacrata allo studio di questa significativa dottrina in tutta la sua ampiezza storica e teorica.
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.
The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy
Explaining the Cosmos is a major reinterpretation of Greek scientific thought before Socrates. Focusing on the scientific tradition of philosophy, Daniel Graham argues that Presocratic philosophy is not a mere patchwork of different schools and styles of thought. Rather, there is a discernible and unified Ionian tradition that dominates Presocratic debates. Graham rejects the common interpretation of the early Ionians as "material monists" and also the view of the later Ionians as desperately trying to save scientific philosophy from Parmenides' criticisms.
In Graham's view, Parmenides plays a constructive role in shaping the scientific debates of the fifth century BC. Accordingly, the history of Presocratic philosophy can be seen not as a series of dialectical failures, but rather as a series of theoretical advances that led to empirical discoveries. Indeed, the Ionian tradition can be seen as the origin of the scientific conception of the world that we still hold today.