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Workshop Ancient Philosophy

Thursday 18 May 2017
Past events 2017
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden

Workshop Ancient Philosophy with Richard McKirahan, Voula Tsouna and Bert van den Berg

The Institute for Philosophy is pleased to host a workshop with Richard McKirahan (Pomona College Claremont), Voula Tsouna (University of California Santa Barbara), and Bert van den Berg (Leiden University).


15:30 - Richard McKirahan, Concept Formation in Aristotle

16:20 - Voula Tsouna, The Argument from Benefit in Plato's Charmides 170a - 175a

17:10 - Bert van den Berg, Phaedo’s Tears:  Neoplatonists on the paradox of Platonic drama

Richard McKirahan, Concept Formation in Aristotle

The paper focuses on the accounts of how we come to have knowledge of scientific principles in Metaphysics A1 and Posterior Analytics 2.19. The crucial step here is how we move from awareness of particulars to knowledge of universals, which are closely related to concepts. I have a new approach to this traditional problem that is based in some recent work in cognitive psychology.

Voula Tsouna, The Argument from Benefit in Plato's Charmides 170a - 175a

It is widely believed that, in the Charmides, Plato uses the character 
Critias as a vehicle in order to criticize and reject Socrates' use of 
the so-called techne analogy, which roughly consists in treating the 
virtues as analogous to various sorts of first-order technical or 
scientific knowledge.  Indeed, while Socrates argues in the Charmides 
that temperance qua a form of knowledge must have an object distinct 
from itself, as all the other technai or epistemai do, Critias 
maintains that, in fact, it is unlike the other technai or epistemai 
in that respect:  temperance is a science of science or the sciences, 
but it is not science of any specific object different from itself.
I believe that the view that, in the Charmides, Plato rejects the 
techne analogy is mistaken.  Notably, Socrates relies, precisely, on 
intuitions underlying the techne analogy in order to show, first, that 
the science of science may be an incoherent concept and, second, in 
order to suggest that, even if it were coherent, it could yield no 
benefit.  In my talk, I shall focus on this latter argument, which I 
call the Argument from Benefit.  I shall argue that this argument 
decisively refutes Critias' conception of temperance as the science of 
science, precisely, by implicitly reintroducing the techne-analogy and 
by relying on the intuition that temperance, like other forms of 
technical knowledge, can be beneficial (indeed, greatly beneficial) 
only if it is oriented towards a specific object distinct from 
temperance itself, namely, human happiness.

Bert van den Berg, Phaedo’s Tears: Neoplatonists on the paradox of Platonic drama

Plato is both a philosophical and literary genius. Very few readers will manage to read the final scene of the Phaedo in which Socrates drinks the hemlock, for example, without being moved. Such was clearly the intention of Plato the literary author. But how can we square this Plato with Plato the philosopher, who in the Republic strongly condemns dramatic literature precisely because it evokes strong emotions? In my talk I shall look to Neoplatonic theories of literature for guidance in an attempt to solve this paradox. More in particular, I shall argue that, unlike ordinary drama, Platonic drama is intended to make Plato’s readers apply his ethical theories to their own lives. 

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