Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hurray for CUP!

They are offering lots of interesting things in a print-on-demand series called the Cambridge Library Collection.  I've just got my copy of Diels' Doxographi for less than £40 (paperback)!  Bargain.  Lots of other things to buy too: Grote, Usener's Kleine Schriften, Madvig's De Finibus, Jowett's Plato...  All for not much more than it would cost to print out the pdf and get it bound in a reasonably sturdy way.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pleasant memories of past pains

I’ve been thinking about this comment by Aristotle:

τὰ μὲν οὖν μνημονευτὰ ἡδέα ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον ὅσα ἐν τῷ παρόντι, ὅτε παρῆν, ἡδέα ἦν, ἀλλ’ ἔνια καὶ οὐχ ἡδέα.

But things that are pleasant when remembered are not only those that were pleasant when they were present. But sometimes also things that were not pleasant [sc. when present are pleasant when remembered], provided that what comes after this was fine and good.
Rhetoric 1370a35–b3
What does he mean and is he right? I can imagine that a past painful experience might be a source of pleasure when I remember it because:

(a) I recognise that it is over. Thank goodness! (‘You’ve stopped punching me. Phew! What a relief!)

(b) I recognise now that although it seemed painful at the time, it was in fact not bad at all – perhaps not in comparison with my current state – and perhaps take pleasure in that thought. (‘I thought it was terrible when X dumped me when I was 18, but that seems like heaven compared with what I’m putting up with now.’)

(c) I recognise that various good things resulted from this painful experience. (‘It was awful that X broke up with me, but if she hadn’t done so I would not have met Y and fallen in love...’)

I think (b) and (c) are the most likely given the proviso: ἡδέα ἦν, ἀλλ’ ἔνια καὶ οὐχ ἡδέα, ‘...provided that what comes after this was fine and good.’ But (b) seems odd because it threatens to imply that the past experience wasn’t really painful after all;  and I don’t think Aristotle means to deny that the past experience was indeed painful. And (c) seems odd because just because something good came of the painful past experience does not really mean that I look back on that experience and now take pleasure from it.

Also, is it possible to imagine cases where we can recall with pleasure a past experience even though none of (a)—(c) holds? Can we take pleasure in recalling a past painful experience even if there was no subsequent/consequent good?

Monday, February 14, 2011

CUFC a Community Trust Club

This is an important move from Cambridge Fans United.

Cambridge Fans United has launched a plan to turn Cambridge United into a community football club. Responding to the recent announcement by the club's Board that they were seeking partners to invest in the future and the invitation from Chairman, Paul Barry, to be part of that, CFU has published a brochure entitled "The Future of Cambridge United FC".

In it, the fans organisation sets out a vision of how the club could become run by a community trust, using the support and skills of supporters, local businesses and with the involvement of local authorities, with the goal of having a secure, sustainable and ultimately successful football club.

Vice-Chairman of CFU, Robert Osbourn, said "This is an opportunity to se if we can set up and run the club in a new and more sustainable way. You only have to look around in football to see many examples of where the traditional style of a board which invests big chunks of cash on a regular basis to prop up an unsustainable business model has led to crisis upon crisis."

"Other clubs which have restructured as trusts, such as Exeter, Wimbledon and Telford are being successful and as Paul said at the General Meeting, this week, they are the clubs which we should seek to emulate. We have already been talking to local business people about the potential and there is a lot of genuine interest."

"We shall be handing copies of the brochure to fans at the home match with Rushden on Saturday and seeking their support for the plan to see if we can make it a reality. Obviously, if there is someone out there with some money and who might want to share in the vision, then we shall be pleased to hear from them."

The brochure can be found at:

Also see the Supporters Direct site for more information.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Rejection letters of the ancient philosophers

I’m afraid that I cannot recommend the submission ‘Euthyphro, or On piety’ for publication in the Athenian Journal of the Pursuit of Wisdom. I come to this view despite the fact that there are lots of things to like about the submission. For example, there is a neat point here about the possible difficulties in relating ‘what is pious’ to ‘what the gods love’. However, even here at its best the submission is ultimately disappointing. Having raised an interesting question we find only a short and inconclusive discussion before the author moves on to something else. And that is the most important failing of the piece in its current form: no conclusion or positive thesis is advanced at all. This is most infuriating and I imagine your subscribers will find it very frustrating. After all, any philosophical thought worth taking seriously requires the assertion of, preferably, a very striking and surprising positive thesis from a clear standpoint of dogmatic authority. The present submission, on the other hand, neither claims support from divine revelation nor asserts as we would expect  at the outset of the submission that every other discussion of this subject is woefully misguided. Indeed, the author makes no personal assertion whatsoever and seems perversely excited at the thought of hiding his (I assume it is a male author) own views.

Indeed, I can see no reason whatsoever for the  unnecessary self-indulgence involved in concocting a conversation, at least one of whose participants is a well-known and controversial figure. Such a confusion of real figures and disguised authorship cannot fail to generate all manner of interpretative difficulties for your readers that seem to me to serve no useful purpose whatsoever. If the author would agree to recast his submission in a more usual form (some hundreds of lines of nice direct hexameter poetry perhaps)  then he would at least remove some of this unfortunate confusion. But even then it is not clear to me whether the author has any positive view of his own to offer. And until he does he should leave aside this kind of modern literary indulgence.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What early Greek philosophy was not like...

Extract from The Asia Minor Journal of Rational Natural Philosophy  vol. 2 (580 B.C.)

‘On Nature’

(University of Miletus)

Accepted June 580 B.C.

In this article I argue against the hypothesis of Professor Thales [1] that all things are ‘from water’. I first demonstrate that Thales’ claim fails to disambiguate between different possible understanding of ‘from’ and then advance a much more compelling thesis concerning the identity of the ultimate principle of all things based on rigorous rational argumentative grounds.

“... Further, in addition to the lack of any empirical data to ground his proposal beyond the vague gestures towards the importance of ‘moistness’, Thales’ article fails to address the obvious objection that since it is evident that the four elements transform one into the other there is no more reason to think of any one rather than the other as the principle of things [2]. Hence, the principle of things must be something prior to and foundational to all these four...”

[1] ‘On nature’, Journal of Non-mythological Speculation 1 (590 B.C.): 1-3. I understand that Professor Thales’ former research student, Dr Anaximenes, intends to publish a revision of this thesis that proposes ‘air’ instead as the primary principle of all things. This thesis is also wildly mistaken and my refutation of Thales will hold also for Anaximenes (forthcoming).

[2] Cf. my application of this same principle in ‘The stability of the Earth: an a priori argument in reply to Professor Thales’, forthcoming in Proceedings of the Milesian Cosmological Society 3: 15-23.