Triangulating Towards Socrates: The Socratic Circle and Its Aftermath

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David Konstan

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New York University

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Prof. David Konstan's research focuses on ancient Greek and Latin literature, especially comedy and the novel, and classical philosophy. In recent years, he has investigated the emotions and value concepts of classical Greece and Rome, and has written books on friendship, pity, the emotions, forgiveness, and beauty. He has also written on ancient physics and atomic theory and on literary theory, and has translated Seneca’s two tragedies about Hercules into verse. He is currently working on a book on ancient vs. modern conceptions of loyalty, gratitude, love, and grief.

Read more about Professor Konstan here.

 

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chloi balla

Chloe Balla

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University of Crete
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Prof. Chloe Balla is Associate Professor and the Director of the Laboratory of Philosophical Research and Translation at the University of Crete. She is a Plato scholar with a special interest in Plato’s criticism of the sophists and his representation of Socrates, and is currently working on a monograph of Plato’s Phaedo (working title: Only reason left alive: Plato’s Phaedo as an exhortation to philosophy). 

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David Johnson

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Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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David Johnson is a leading expert in Xenophon's Socratic and non-Socratic writings. He is the author of numerous articles on central issues in this field, and is the co-editor with Gabriel Danzig and Donald Morrison of Plato and Xenophon: Comparative Studies. He is one of the chief instigators of the revival in the study of Xenophon's Socratic writings, and brings a vast knowledge of Xenophon and all the literature surrounding him, both in the fourth century and in modern scholarship.

 

 

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Olga Chernyakhovskaya

Olga Chernyakhovskaya

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Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg
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Dr. Olga Chernyakhovskaya is a recent PhD recipient and has already established a name for herself as a leading researcher of Socratic literature. Her book "Socrates bei Xenophon" offers a comprehensive philological and philosophical analysis of Xenophon's Socratic writings. In addition to the book, she has written numerous articles on various aspects of Socratic philosophy. She comes to Xenophon with a strong background in Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, which is a rarity among contemporary scholars.

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Alexander Kulik

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Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Professor Alexander Kulik's research interests encompass several fields in the humanities. Kulik is an expert on the transmission of texts and ideas from the ancient through the medieval period, with a special interest in the adaptation of Greek concepts in the Judeo-Christian tradition. His linguistic background and experience in tradition criticism, combined with his interest in ancient Judeo-Greek thought, will provide a valuable perspective to our discussion of the history of concepts.

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James Redfield

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University of Chicago
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Prof. James Redfield is the Emeritus Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago. James is best known for his seminal work on Homer, Nature and Culture in the Iliad, which offered an anthropological perspective on Homeric society and values, and on the role of poetry and literature within it. Together with his studies of society and values in the later Greek world, this research provides invaluable points of reference for philosophical theories, especially of the Socratic circle. For the past fifteen years, James has been focusing his research on the Greek philosophers in the Socratic circle, and has written several articles on the subject.

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Gabriel Danzig

Gabriel Danzig

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Bar-Ilan University
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Prof. Gabriel Danzig is Associate Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at Bar Ilan University. Gabriel has published on Plato and Aristotle's political and ethical thought, and numerous articles on different aspects of Xenophon's writing and thought. His recent articles have placed a special emphasis on the comparative study of Xenophon's ethical and political concepts. Together with Dave Johnson and Don Morrison, he edited a collection of essays from an international conference held in Israel, the first collection we know of on the comparative study of Plato and Xenophon. This project is a natural extension of his previous research.

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Triangulating Towards Socrates: The Socratic Circle and Its Aftermath

Socrates2

Triangulating Towards Socrates: The Socratic Circle and Its Aftermath

October 12, 2020 - February 11, 2021

Organizers:

Gabriel Danzig (Bar-Ilan University)
James Redfield (University of Chicago) 

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Research Group Assistant: Shlomit Kulik

The fourth century BCE saw a flourishing of philosophical speculation centered around the figure of Socrates. More than a hundred different Socratic compositions were produced between 394 and the middle of the fourth century. This unprecedented flourishing of philosophical literature in this period created not merely a new literary genre, but a new cultural phenomenon that eclipsed the previous intellectual traditions, both naturalistic and sophistic. It would influence the major philosophic traditions of the ancient world, not only the Platonic and Aristotelian schools, but also the Stoic, Skeptical and Cyrenaic schools; and it has had a huge influence on the modern world, including on the curricula of today's leading universities. This project aims to recover the unique features of the Socratic revolution by exploring the diversity of opinions within and around the Socratic circle. Our hypothesis is that the impact of Plato and Aristotle has effectively blocked out alternative views of the nature of virtue and the human good and reduced our appreciation of what is unique in Plato and Aristotle. In particular, we expect to challenge the Aristotelian conception of the virtues as fixed traits of character acquired through repetition and practiced with pleasure. This account of the virtues, which has become almost self-evident to scholars in all fields, does not fit well with the descriptions of virtues found in the full Socratic corpus. Xenophon, for example, believes that virtues are inherently unstable, require constant supervision and effort, and are not necessarily practiced with pleasure. This view requires the re-examination of the concept that virtues are ends in the themselves, so familiar from Platonic and Aristotelian thinking. We also find a much wider range of virtue terminology in the full Socratic corpus. Aristotle seems to restrict the virtues by schematizing them in relation to distinct emotions and behavioral challenges. By examining the other Socratic writers, we hope to be able to reconstruct an alternative account that can stand up to philosophical challenge.

In order to recover and test alternative views, we will make use of a variety of methods. Where complete literary texts remain (as in the case of Xenophon and the Platonic pseudepigrapha) we will attempt to reconstruct the author's views of the substantial issues connected with the virtues and the human good by standard literary and philosophical analysis. Work on this has been started by members of the group and others. In cases where we only have fragmentary remains we will focus on comparative semantic analysis of ethical and political terms and concepts, following principles of the history of concepts (Begriffsgeschichte) which pays careful attention to the historical and philological roots of philosophical concepts. While not a replacement for philosophical interpretation, this approach provides a necessary starting place and corrective to purely philosophical research. It will be supplemented by philosophical analysis and defense.

 

 

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