1. Plato and Aristotle
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Part I The Sources F6925.indb 9 F6925.indb 9 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM F6925.indb 10 F6925.indb 10 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM This page intentionally left blank 11 chapter one Plato and Aristotle I n the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, three authorities—of no little stature—were regularly invoked in connection with the idea that thought is a type of mental discourse or interior speech. These were none other than Augustine, the intellectual guide of all medieval theology; Boethius, the Latin translator of Aristotle’s logic and its appointed interpreter in the eyes of the Scholastics; and John Damascene, the seventh-century Syrian monk who, through the Latin translation of his exposition of orthodox faith—the celebrated De fide orthodoxa—would become the Middle Ages’ principal transmitter of the theology of the Greek fathers. Examined closely, each prompts, perpetuates , or reveals a distinct tradition—or at least a branch of a tradition—in each of which the theme of interior speech possesses a different range and even a different name. The logos endiathetos of John Damascene, the verbum in corde of Augustine, and the oratio animi of Boethius open to our investigation three original paths—to which we will devote chapters 2, 3, and 4 of this work, respectively . However, upstream of these lines are found, here as in other matters, the immense figures of Plato and Aristotle, and this first chapter turns initially toward these two figures in order to review, however briefly, how the theme that occupies us appears in their works. In the course of subsequent chapters we will see to what extent their small developments—at times, simple allusions— determined the course of our history. At the same time, they will accord us the opportunity to outline some of the principal philosophical motifs that will guide us throughout this study. The soul’s dialogue with itself The most ancient texts we have in which thought is identified as a sort of interior discourse are Plato’s. Apart from a short, rather enigmatic passage from the Timaeus —which had been partially translated into Latin by Calcidius in 1. Citations of Plato in English are from Plato, Complete Works, ed. J. M. Cooper (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997). The translators for cited works are: Donald J. Zeyl (Timaeus), M. J. Levett, rev. M. Burnyeat (Theaetetus), Nicholas P. White (Sophist), Dorothea Frede (Philebus), and C. D. C. Reeve (Cratylus). Alternative translations, as well as key Greek terms, are occasionally inserted between brackets. 2. Cf. Plato, Timaeus 37b: “when this contact gives rise to an account [logos] that is equally true whether it is about what is different or about what is the same, and is borne along without utterance or sound within the self-moved thing, then, whenever the account concerns anything that is perceptible, the circle of the Different goes F6925.indb 11 F6925.indb 11 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM 10/24/16 12:52:19 PM 12 The Sources the fourth century—these passages were unknown to the medievals. However, one may reasonably surmise that they were taken very seriously in most late Greek philosophy and consequently that, while unknown to the Latins, they had an indirect but crucial influence upon late-medieval thought, which warrants giving the principal passages some attention. Today, the most well-known text in this connection is Theaetetus 189e– 190a: Socrates: Now by “thinking” [dianoeisthai] do you mean the same as I do? Theaetetus: What do you mean by it? Socrates: A talk [logos] which the soul has with itself about the objects under its consideration. Of course, I’m only telling you my idea in all ignorance; but this is the kind of picture I have of it. It seems to me that the soul when it thinks is simply carrying on a discussion in which it asks itself questions and answers them itself, affirms and denies. And when it arrives at something definite, either by a gradual process or a sudden leap, when it affirms one thing consistently and without divided counsel, we call this its judgment [doxa]. So, in my view, to judge is to make a statement [legein], and a judgment is a statement [logos] which is not addressed to another person or spoken aloud, but silently addressed to oneself. The excerpt is indeed arresting, and yet, it must be admitted, not very revealing with...