Thursday, April 29, 2010

Republic 475d-e

I'm still thinking on and off about Aristotle NE 10.4 and, more specifically, whether the simile offered at 1174b31–3 is a reference to beautiful young boys, the 'beloveds' of a homosexual couple or is simply a reference to the prime of life that a person might eventually achieve [1].

Here is the simile:

τελειοῖ δὲ τὴν ἐνέργειαν ἡ ἡδονὴ οὐχ ὡς ἡ ἕξις ἐνυπάρχουσα, ἀλλ' ὡς ἐπιγινόμενόν τι τέλος, οἷον τοῖς ἀκμαίοις ἡ ὥρα.

Christopher Rowe translates as follows:

Pleasure completes the activity, not in the way the disposition present in the subject completes it, but as a sort of supervenient end, like the bloom of manhood on those in their prime.

It seems to be that the crucial term here is ὥρα and, although there are Aristotelian texts where it seems not to carry an erotic charge, there are enough other texts to support the idea that here it does. I've gone on about this before more than once, but I've just found another text to throw on to the scales.

At Republic 475d-e Socrates insists that a ‘lover of boys’, a philopais, will love all of those who are ἐν ὥρᾳ (474d2, e4) whatever the various specific differences in their appearance. Whatever the precise age of the objects of attraction here, they are plausibly described both as being ‘in bloom’ and also being paides.

[1] As e.g. Hadreas, P. 1997. ‘Aristotle’s simile of pleasure at NE 1174b33’ Ancient Philosophy 17: 371–4.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Boulder dash

The landscaping of the Faculty is finished. Here is a snap of the new courtyard waiting now only for the installation of a bronze equestrian statue. The head of the figure will be replaced each term with a portrait of the holder of one of the Faculty's established chairs. 

On the birthday of the Faculty's chairman, the sun, as it rises, makes the mini megaliths cast a shadow in the shape of a capital Greek alpha.

Monday, April 26, 2010


People who work on the Presocratics, on Socrates and the Socratics, or Diogenes Laertius (and surely that must include more or less everyone...) will want to look at this new site.  It collects the fragments and testimonies in DK and SSR in a very easy-to-use format, and is likely to be expanded with other meta-information as time passes.  I think that access is free, so it will be very useful for people who can't get at the TLG.  Perhaps more interesting for now is the presentation of the text of DL paragraph-by-paragraph first with side-by-side comparison of Long's OCT, Hicks' Loeb, and Marcovich's Teubner, and then with facing Italian translation.  The first of these will be quite useful also once we have Dorandi's edition to add to the mix.

Here, for example, is a printout of DL 9.1-2.  (Click to enlarge.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cambridge United Youth Team

Funding for non-league clubs' youth development programmes is in jeopardy. Some people from Cambridge United are doing something about it by walking from Wrexham to Wembley via six other ex-football league clubs whose youth teams are in danger. You can read about it here.  (And there is a good article in the latest edition of When Saturday Comes.)

Or watch this video:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jacques Brunschwig

I heard the sad news yesterday of the death of Jacques Brunschwig.  Others, who knew him better than I did, will be able to say more.  But I count myself extremely fortunate that he kindly agreed to be the external examiner for my Cambridge PhD in 1999.  And he was -- and will remain -- for me a model of philosophical rigour and elegance.

Friday, April 16, 2010


On my last morning in Lyon, and on the recommendation of Emidio Spinelli , I headed to Le Palais des Thés.  Sara is now addicted, I think, to their 'thé des amants' (it is, I admit, very nice) so it's handy that they have a website that lets you order online; so far they don't seem to have a branch in the UK.  The website is nice: here it is.  Shipping is a bit pricey but S. has decided to buy a big consignment to last her for a while.

This is what they say about the 'thé des amants'
Rich and sensual, Thé des Amants is a voluptuous and fragrant blend of black tea, apple, almond, cinnamon and vanilla, spiced up with a hint of ginger.
It looks like this:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Plutarch and Colotes

The Adv. Col. conference last week was rather good.  The speakers had all spent some time thinking about their chunks and I learned a lot from reading through the whole thing again in this intensive way.  I've dipped in and out of the work before, as I think most people do, but never really thought about it in proper depth.  Anyway, one thing I am still not very sure about is what the overall purpose of the thing might be.  I suppose any account will have to deal also with its companion-piece, Non posse, but just why Plutarch should be bothering with a dusty Epicurean work -- however annoyed he might be by Colotes' method and purpose -- is still not very clear to me.  If there is something positive then I suppose it might be an indirect recommendation of Platonism as perhaps the only philosophy that it is possible to live by (and, along with Platonism, some of its more favoured antecedents might get a beta plus for effort along the way) but I still think that a pitched row with a long-dead Epicurean is an odd way to do it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


I turned on the telly in my room this morning (in the ENS, Lyon) and on ARTE there really were two philosophes in deep discussion of 'le temps'. 'Est-qu'il y a plusieurs temps dans un temps?'. And they really were wearing black polo necks. Formidable!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I am spending two hours at an airport. Thinking about airports and other things. They are, it strikes me, places from which people leave to go elsewhere. But they are also - and this is something not always remarked upon - places where people arrive. Departures and Arrivals.

They are secure places. Safe. And we are made to enter humbly, as if on a pilgrimage. We must wait in the ante chamber, remove our belts and shoes and enter disrobed and in stockinged feet. To 'the Gates'. Gates to where? Anywhere, it seems. (Except Antalya this morning. Because that was cancelled.)

And then, suitably purified, you can buy a Hugo Boss suit Tax Free, in this intermundial space where taxes do not apply. In transit. Are we not, in a very real sense, always in transit? No.