What does the ‘work’ of philosophy look like…in Southern California?
‘Work’ of Philosophy in Southern California – Monte Ransome Johnson with SVF
Monte Ransome Johnson (UCSD) and I have been collaborating on an article-length translation, commentary, and critical essay on a fascinating but understudied document in the history of Pythagoreanism: the fragmentary treatise referred to as On Law and Justice (Περὶ νόμου καὶ δικαιοσύνης) and attributed to Archytas of Tarentum. We now believe that it should be considered a Hellenistic document, probably earlier than Cicero’s On Laws (50s BCE), but later than Chrysippus’ On Law (late 3rd Century BCE), the two works outside the Pseudo-Pythagorica with which it shows the greatest affinity. The author, who does not appear to be identifiable with the author/s of the other texts attributed to Pseudo-Archytas, was familiar with Aristotle’s works, especially Politics and Nicomachean Ethics, with which he takes issue (in his promotion of a ‘democratic’ mixed constitution). His strongest affinities appear to be with Stoicism – a point not often made with regard to the text – but he also exhibits quite a number of Platonist tendencies as well, like Philo of Alexandria.
(Yes, that’s Monte hanging outside on the veranda on a perfect sunny day; the author is not pictured, but is also enjoying the weather and a fab cup of coffee.)
An important post…and unsurprisingly, it’s not by me! Valentina di Lascio has developed a new philosophical blog series (in Italian) on the importance of practicing philosophy as a way of life.
Hayez’ Aristotle (1811), Galleria dell’Academia, Venice
In this inaugural post, di Lascio suggests that the best way of bringing philosophy to those beyond the closed walls of academia lies in the approach to philosophy – in this case, considering it not a set of esoteric exercises, but rather as a communal practice that requires dedication to serious contemplation of one’s personal life through conversation with friends. She takes her cue from Aristotle, who claimed that human beings by nature desire knowledge, and the way to understanding goes through the states of confusion that arise out of philosophical conversations, a deeply held conviction of Socrates.
Our departmental library has just been gifted with the book collection of Michael Stokes, formerly Professor of Greek at Durham (1974-1993), who passed away last May. Prof. Stokes was a world-leading scholar in ancient philosophy, especially known for his influential work on the Presocratics, Plato and Socrates (notably the early dialogues), and Sophocles. I recall borrowing books he had checked out from the Center for Hellenic Studies library collection when I was there and believing that grasping the book Stokes had also borrowed would lead to some transfer of wisdom through the filaments; now, with our new collection, I’m expecting a full-on flood. I’m sorry never to have met him in person, but it is easy to infer his generosity and the grandeur of his mind from the donation itself.
The Stokes Collection, waiting to be catalogued in the Department of Classics and Ancient History Library at Durham University