Plutarch Against Colotes: A Lesson in History of Philosophy

Plutarch Against Colotes: A Lesson in History of Philosophy

Hardback Oxford Classical Monographs

By (author) Eleni Kechagia

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 384 pages
  • Dimensions: 138mm x 220mm x 28mm | 581g
  • Publication date: 13 January 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199597235
  • ISBN 13: 9780199597239
  • Edition: Bilingual edition
  • Edition statement: Bilingual
  • Sales rank: 907,229

Product description

Plutarch of Chaeroneia's philosophical work remained largely in the shadow of his celebrated Lives, partly because it was often dubbed 'popular philosophy', and partly because it was thought to be lacking in originality. The tides are, fortunately, changing and current scholarship is showing a growing appreciation of Plutarch's philosophical work. This book contributes to the 'rehabilitation' of Plutarch as a philosopher by focusing on an important aspect of his philosophical self: his work as a teacher, interpreter, and, eventually, historian of philosophy. Eleni Kechagia offers a critical analysis of Plutarch's anti-Epicurean treatise Against Colotes - a unique text that is both rich in philosophical material and has been widely used as a source for ancient Greek philosophy, but which has yet to be studied in its own right. Combining a historical approach with structural analysis and close reading of selected sections of the text, this book demonstrates that Plutarch engaged with the philosophy of his past in a creative way. By refuting Colotes' Epicurean arguments against the main Greek philosophers up to the Hellenistic era, Plutarch gives an insightful critical assessment of the philosophy of his past and teaches his readers how to go about living and reading philosophy. The volume concludes that Plutarch emerges as a respected critic whose 'reviews' of the past philosophical theories are an essential companion when trying to piece together the puzzle of ancient Greek philosophy.

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Author information

Dr Eleni Kechagia studied Classics and Ancient Philosophy at the Universities of Thessaloniki (BA and Masters) and Oxford (DPhil). From 2006 to 2009 she was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford and a Research Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. She has written articles on Plutarch, Epicureanism, and ancient biography, and has taught Classics and Ancient Philosophy for many Oxford colleges.

Table of contents

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ; NOTE ON EDITIONS AND TRANSLATIONS ; INTRODUCTION ; PART I: PLUTARCH S TARGET ; 1. Why did Plutarch write against Colotes? Reading the prooemium of Against Colotes ; 1.1. Introduction ; 1.2. The prooemium under scrutiny ; 1.2.1. The dedication: Saturninus, lover of antiquity (1107D-E) ; 1.2.2. The circumstances: Platonic undertones and rhetorical disclaimers (1107E- 1108B) ; 1.2.3. The philosophical justification: pleasures of the belly and bad scholarship (1108B-E) ; 1.3. Conclusion: Colotes book as classroom material ; 2. Colotes of Lampsacus: the man and his philosophical background ; 2.1. Introduction: Colotes in context ; 2.2. Life and interactions with Epicurus ; 2.3. Overview of Colotes works ; 2.3.1. Against Plato s Lysis (P.Herc. 208) ; 2.3.2. Against Plato s Euthydemus (P.Herc. 1032) ; 2.3.3 Against Plato s Myths ; 2.3.4. Colotes, the Epicurean pamphleteer? ; 2.4. The tradition of Epicurean polemics and its significance ; 2.5. Colotes place in the history of the Epicurean school ; 3. Colotes polemic against the philosophers: a reconstruction ; 3.1. Introduction: methodological observations ; 3.2. Chronology, targets, and structure of Colotes book ; 3.2.1. The dedication to king Ptolemy and a possible dating ; 3.2.2. Colotes targets ; 3.2.3. Structure of Colotes book and Democritus centrality ; 3.3. Colotes main line of argument and underlying philosophical assumptions ; 3.3.1. Non-Epicurean philosophers make life impossible to live ; 3.3.2. Colotes method: catchy lines and arguments from everyday life ; 3.3.3. The underlying principle: philosophy as therapy ; 3.3.4. Epicurean physics and canonic in Colotes book ; 3.4. Colotes polemic as a protreptic ; PART II: METHOD AND ARGUMENT IN THE ADVERSUS COLOTEM ; 4. Structure of Plutarch s Adversus Colotem ; 4.1. The puzzle of the modified structure ; 4.2. In the quest of thematic coherence ; 4.2.1. The two reversals and Plutarch s explanation ; 4.2.2. Thematic groups in the Adversus Colotem ; 4.2.3. The epilogue, Epicurean ethics, and a schema emerging ; 4.3. Plutarch s omission of Melissus uncovered ; 4.4. A lesson in history of philosophy? ; 5. Plutarch s argumentative strategy ; 5.1. Methodological considerations ; 5.2. Plutarch s arguments in outline ; 5.2.1. Vindication arguments: setting the record straight ; 5.2.2. Overturning arguments: picking out inconsistencies ; 6. Plutarch against Colotes on Democritus' 'by convention'- thesis ; 6.1. Introduction ; 6.2. Colotes accusation against the 'by convention' - thesis (1110E-F) ; 6.3. Plutarch s overturning argument: disarmed? (1110F) ; 6.4. Plutarch s reading of Democritus 'by convention' - thesis (1110F-1111A) ; 6.5. The overturning argument revisited: sensible qualities and the Epicurean inconsistency (1111B-D) ; 6.6. Plutarch s criticism of Epicurean atomism (1111D-F) ; 6.7. Conclusion ; 7. Plutarch against Colotes on Platonic ontology ; 7.1. Introduction ; 7.2. Colotes against Platonic ontology (1115C-D) ; 7.3. Plutarch s vindication argument (1115C-1116C) ; 7.3.1. Plutarch on the true meaning of 'not-being' ; 7.3.2. Plutarch on the theory of Forms ; 7.4. The overturning argument: Epicurean atoms and Platonic Forms (1116C-D) ; 7.5. Where did Epicurus go wrong? (1116D-E) ; 7.6. Conclusion ; 8. Plutarch against Colotes on the Cyrenaic apprehension of (?) ; 8.1. Introduction ; 8.2. Colotes criticism of Cyrenaic epistemology (1120C-D) ; 8.3. Plutarch on Cyrenaic subjectivism (1120D-F) ; 8.4. Plutarch s overturning argument: Epicurean images and Cyrenaic affections ; 8.5. On the inconsistency of the Epicurean all sense impressions are true ; 8.6. Conclusion ; EPILOGUE: LESSONS FROM PLUTARCH ; APPENDIX I ; Colotes of Lampsacus: On the fact that according to the doctrines of the other philosophers it is impossible even to live ; APPENDIX II ; Colotes and scepticism ; APPENDIX III ; The Democritean 'no more', its variants, and Plutarch s reading ; BIBLIOGRAPHY ; INDEX