Category Archives: Books

The Emerging Good in Plato’s Philebus

Plato’s Philebus presents a fascinating dialogue between the life of the mind and the life of pleasure. While Socrates decisively prioritizes the life of reason, he also shows that certain pleasures contribute to making the good life good. The Emerging Good in Plato’s “Philebus” argues that the Socratic pleasures of learning emphasize, above all, the importance of being open to change.

John V. Garner convincingly refines previous interpretations and uncovers a profound thesis in the Philebus: genuine learners find value not only in stable being but also in the process of becoming. Further, since genuine learning arises in pluralistic communities where people form and inform one another, those who are truly open to learning are precisely those who actively shape the betterment of humanity.

The Emerging Good in Plato’s “Philebus” thus connects the Philebus’s grand philosophical ideas about the order of values, on the one hand, to its intimate and personal account of the experience of learning, on the other. It shows that this dialogue, while agreeing broadly with themes in more widely studied works by Plato such as the Republic, Gorgias, and Phaedo, also develops a unique way of salvaging the whole of human life, including our ever-changing nature.

Perception in Aristotle’s Ethics

Perception in Aristotle’s Ethics seeks to demonstrate that living an ethical life requires a mode of perception that is best called ethical perception. Specifically, drawing primarily on Aristotle’s accounts of perception and ethics in De anima and Nicomachean Ethics, Eve Rabinoff argues that the faculty of perception (aisthesis), which is often thought to be an entirely physical phenomenon, is informed by intellect and has an ethical dimension insofar as it involves the perception of particulars in their ethical significance, as things that are good or bad in themselves and as occasions to act. Further, she contends, virtuous action requires this ethical perception, according to Aristotle, and ethical development consists in the achievement of the harmony of the intellectual and perceptual, rational and nonrational, parts of the soul.

Rabinoff’s project is philosophically motivated both by the details of Aristotle’s thought and more generally by an increasing philosophical awareness that the ethical agent is an embodied, situated individual, rather than primarily a disembodied, abstract rational will.

EVE RABINOFF is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

“Stimulating and insightful, this is a very important book on Aristotle’s claims about ethical life and its relation to embodiment, and issues of ethical life more generally. The book stands on its own as a major contribution to this literature.” –Drew A. Hyland, author of Questioning Platonism: Continental Interpreters of Plato and Plato and the Question of Beauty

Epicurus on the Self

Epicurus on the Self reconstructs a part of Epicurean ethics, which only survives on the fragmentary papyrus rolls excavated from an ancient library in Herculaneum, On Nature XXV. The aim of this book is to contribute to a deeper understanding of Epicurus’ moral psychology, ethics and of its robust epistemological framework and to show how the notion of the self emerges in Epicurus’ struggle to express the individual perspective of oneself in the process of one’s holistic self-reflection as an individual psychophysical being.

Attila Németh is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, currently looking for an academic position.

“Németh’s book is an original and valuable contribution to our understanding of Epicureanism, exploring Epicurus’ notion of the self in a comprehensive manner, throwing light on its many different aspects: physical, psychological, epistemic, moral, and spiritual. To my knowledge, this is the only published study to undertake and successfully accomplish such a broad task.”

– Voula Tsouna, University of California at Santa Barbara

“This monograph represents a very significant body of independent work, re-evaluating in a constructive and supportive spirit some central areas of Epicurean philosophy – notably self-cognition, agent autonomy and friendship – and displaying probable interconnections among those areas that have remained unnoticed or at least under-exploited in the existing scholarship. This is a considerable achievement. …Chapter 1’s bold reconstruction, from very fragmentary textual material that is rarely made accessible to readers, of an Epicurean theory of self-cognition breaks a good deal of new ground; and the novel approach to Epicurean friendship in chapter 5 is both philosophically and historically attractive. …What this monograph offers is a major new set of perspectives on current debates, able to reshape, challenge and enrich future discussions.”

– David Sedley, University of Cambridge

“The topic is a good one and Németh makes some interesting and important new claims, bringing together discussions of Epicurean moral psychology, ethical improvement and moral responsibility in a way that shows the integrated and holistic nature of the Epicurean system. …Németh makes good use of difficult evidence from Nat. XXV, perhaps for the first time showing what can be done with it beyond the well-worn topic of moral responsibility. …Németh also has interesting and often novel things to say about some other central questions in Epicureanism, such as the atomic swerve.”

– James Warren, University of Cambridge

Available in the Issues in Ancient Philosophy series, Routledge:

https://www.routledge.com/Epicurus-on-the-Self/Nemeth/p/book/9781138633858

Plotinus, Ennead II.9. Against the Gnostics. Translation, With an Introduction and Commentary

How was the universe created, and what is our place within it? These are the questions at the heart of Plotinus’ Against the Gnostics. For the Gnostics, the universe came into being as a result of the soul’s fall from intelligible reality—it is the evil outcome of a botched creation. Plotinus challenges this narrative and insists that the soul’s creation of the world is the necessary consequence of its contemplation of the ideal forms. While the Gnostics claim to despise the visible universe, Plotinus argues that such contempt displays their ignorance of the higher realities of which the cosmos is a beautiful image.

Against the Gnostics is a polemical text. It aims to show the superiority of Plotinus’ philosophy over that of his Gnostic rivals and poses unique challenges: Plotinus nowhere identifies his opponents by name, he does not set out their doctrines in any great detail, and his arguments are frequently elliptical. The detailed commentary provides a guide through these difficulties, making Plotinus’ meandering train of thought in this important treatise accessible to the reader.

An Aristotelian Feminism

This book articulates the theoretical outlines of a feminism developed from Aristotle’s metaphysics, making a new contribution to feminist theory. Readers will discover why Aristotle was not a feminist and how he might have become one, had he been truer to his best insights.

Sophistes Plato’s Dialogue and Heidegger’s Lectures in Marburg (1924-25)

Heidegger’s philosophy has an extraordinarily complex relationship to Plato. Heidegger sees Plato as the founder of that Western metaphysics which he claims should be overcome. However, his interpretation of Plato, upon which his reconstruction of the history of philosophy rests, is anything but incontestable from a philological point of view, and has generated much criticism. This criticism, however, has been hampered by the fact that the only example in Heidegger’s work of a detailed analysis of a Platonic dialogue, namely the Lectures on Plato’s Sophist held in Marburg in 1924–25, remained unpublished until 1992. Thus, only in the last twenty years have scholars been able to develop a more nuanced understanding of Heidegger’s interpretation of Plato. Even then, however, the focus has been primarily on the importance of the lectures for Heidegger’s own thought. The possible impact of Heidegger’s interpretation on the study of Platonic philosophy itself has been neglected. This volume, therefore, offers a critical re-evaluation of Heidegger as an interpreter of Plato.

Neoplatonism in the Middle Ages, I. New Commentaries on Liber de causis (ca. 1250-1350); II. New Commentaries on Liber de causis and Elementatio theologica (ca.1350-1500)

One of the most important texts in the history of medieval philosophy, the Book of Causes was composed in Baghdad in the 9th century mainly from the Arabic translations of Proclus’ Elements of Theology. In the 12th century, it was translated from Arabic into Latin, but its importance in the Latin tradition was not properly studied until now, because only 6 commentaries on it were known. Our exceptional discovery of over 70 unpublished Latin commentaries mainly on the Book of Causes, but also on the Elements of Theology, prove, for the first time, that the two texts were widely disseminated and commented on throughout many European universities (Paris, Oxford, Erfurt, Krakow, Prague), from the 13th to the 16th century. These two volumes provide 14 editions (partial or complete) of the newly discovered commentaries, and yield, through historical and philosophical analyses, new and essential insights into the influence of Greek and Islamic Neoplatonism in the Latin philosophical traditions.

Series: Studia Artistarum 42.1-2
2 vol., 983 p., 156 x 234 mm, 2016, PB, ISBN 978-2-503-55474-7, € 100

Table of Contents

D. Calma (ed.), Neoplatonism in the Middle Ages. I. New Commentaries on Liber de Causis (ca. 1250-1350)

D. Calma, Introduction

I. Székely and D. Calma, Le commentaire d’un maître parisien conservé à Erfurt
M. Maga, Remarques sur le commentaire au Liber de causis attribué à Pierre d’Auvergne
I. Costa, M. Borgo, The Questions of Radulphus Brito (?) on the Liber de causis
A. Baneu, D. Calma, Le commentaire sur le Liber de causis de Jean de Mallinges
D. Carron, A Theological Reading of the Liber de Causisat the Turn of the Fourteenth Century: The Example of William of Leus
A. Baneu, D. Calma, The Glose super Librum de Causis and the Exegetical Tradition

***

D. Calma (ed.), Neoplatonism in the Middle Ages. II. New Commentaries on Liber de Causis and Elementatio Theologica (ca. 1350-1450)

D. Calma, Introduction

D. Calma, A Medieval Companion to Aristotle. John Krosbein and his Paraphrase of Liber de Causis
F. Retucci, Sententia Procli alti philosophi. Notes on an Anonymous Commentary on Proclus’ Elementatio Theologica
M. Meliadò, Le Questiones super Librum de causis attribuite a Johannes Wenck. Concezione, fonti e tradizione manoscritta del commento
D. Calma, I. Szekely, Causality and Causation in Henry of Geismar’s Questio de quolibet
A. Baumgarten, Theologia philosophorum parcialis. Un commentaire sur le Liber de causis
L. Miolo, Liber de causis in librariam. Pour une mise en perspective du Liber de causis dans la bibliothèque du collège de Sorbonne

Dionysios von Alexandria. De natura (περὶ φύσεως)

Bischof Dionysios von Alexandria (etwa 190-265) war für die Geschichte der Kirche von überragender Bedeutung. Wie sein Lehrer Origenes fungierte auch er als Leiter der sogenannten Alexandriner Katechetenschule. Unter seinen literarischen Hinterlassenschaften, überwiegend Briefe, findet sich die aus mehreren Büchern bestehende Schrift περὶ φύσεως (de natura).

Dieses einzig bekannte philosophische Werk des Dionysios ist uns im Wesentlichen durch Auszüge aus dem ersten Buch bei Eusebius überliefert. Das Erhaltene stellt eine Polemik gegen die epikureische Physik dar. Dionysios verteidigt die Vorsehung, indem er Epikurs Atomismus anhand von Alltagsbeispielen, der Harmonie des Kosmos und des menschlichen Körpers zu destruieren sucht und die Defizite seiner Gottesvorstellung aufzeigt. Der Abhandlung gebührt ein besonderer Platz unter den Erzeugnissen der christlichen Literatur, insofern nur hier die physikalischen Grundlagen von Epikurs Philosophie unter Einbezug christlicher Elemente in einem größeren Rahmen widerlegt werden.

Ein neuer Kommentar zu περὶ φύσεως des Dionysios bildet die Grundlage für eine umfassende Würdigung und Einordnung, wobei insbesondere eine Neuentdeckung zur Repräsentativität des Erhaltenen die Frage nach dem Charakter der Gesamtschrift virulent werden lässt. Da die anti-epikureischen Einlassungen in περὶ φύσεως auf eine zu Dionysios‘ Zeit noch vorhandene Vitalität des Epikureismus in Alexandria hindeuten, wurde zur breiteren Kontextualisierung auch erstmalig eine profunde Gesamtdarstellung der `Geschichte des Epikureismus in Alexandria´ unternommen und einleitend vorangestellt.

Apuleius and the Metamorphoses of Platonism

Apuleius was a respected philosophus Platonicus in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Until the middle of last century, he attracted the attention of scholars as a so-called ‘Middle Platonist’ author. Then, with the rejection of the historical schema that he had been situated in (the so-called ‘school of Gaius’, which we will treat shortly), his ‘brother’ Alcinous was the object of studies and (even harsh) criticisms, while almost nothing more was written about Apuleius by anyone. Studies of Middle Platonism primarily accentuated the liberty of the philosophers of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who interpreted the doctrines of Plato without constituting a specific school. Due to this new vision of Middle Platonism, Apuleius’ role was difficult to define. It is not uncommon to find that Apuleius the philosopher is completely neglected . The literary character, and especially the ‘rhetorical’ nature of some of his works and of his personality have probably hurt his reputation in philosophy. These aspects of his personality have however been ever more accentuated in the last few decades within the development of studies on Second Sophistics.

Consequently not only have there been few scholars to show interest for Apuleius’ philosophical doctrines, but those few who have the opportunity to almost manage his philosophical doctrines usually disregard his literary works. In this way one cannot understand the most specific aspect of his philosophy, which consists in a sort of intermingling of philosophy and literature (a typical attitude of Greek and Latin culture of the 2nd century AD), and above all, of religion and Platonism. The dichotomy between philosophy and literature that was normal in the 19th and 20th centuries therefore still persists in the case of Apuleius. Claudio Moreschini attempted in some way to fill this gap in his 1978 study on Apuleio e il Platonismo. It was obviously in vain. Accordingly, in this book he would like to reflect on the possibility of a synthesis between these two aspects.

 

Grasp and dissent: Cicero and Epicurean Philosophy

The present study centers on the distinctive characteristics of Cicero’s philosophical training; for the first time in a volume, the Roman philosopher’s relationship with Epicurean philosophy is accurately recreated. Not only does Cicero exhibit his lofty philosophical proficiency anchored in the Academic school, but he also proves an excellent authority in Epicurus’s proposed philosophy.
At the conclusion of the research, Cicero will prove to be a fierce opponent of Epicureanism – an intelligent adversary, capable of ‘studiose dicere contra Epicurum’: understanding and criticizing, but also (and this is surely quite important for us today), reiterating the opposing party’s thought with great acumen.