Cover of Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy
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1. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Kalliopi Nikolopoulou Parrhesia as Tragic Structure in Euripides’ Bacchae
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This paper considers Foucault’s remarks on Euripides and parrhesia in order to reflect on the deeper relation between tragic speech and truth-telling. It argues that: a) tragedy is a privileged mode of truth-telling, since the tragic fall always involves the hero’s passion for truth; and b) parrhesia is inherently tragic, insofar as it endangers its agent. By focusing on the Bacchae, which Foucault sidesteps, I maintain that this play exemplifies the tragic structure of parrhesiastic conduct, while staging the passage of parrhesia from the temple to the city, and thus also from religion to politics and philosophy.
2. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Mark J. Thomas The Playful and the Serious: A Reading of Xenophon’s Symposium
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In this paper I investigate the relationship between the serious and the playful elements in Socrates’ character as these unfold within the context of Xenophon’s Symposium. For the Greeks, the concept of value is attached to the meaning of seriousness, and this accounts for the natural preference for the serious over the playful. Despite the potential rivalry of the playful and philosophy, Socrates mixes the playful with the serious in such a way as to conceal their boundary. This mixing serves the purpose of education, by both attracting us to Socrates and placing us at a distance from the intended meaning of his words.
3. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Burt C. Hopkins The Unwritten Teachings in Plato’s Symposium: Socrates’ Initiation into the Ἀριϴμός of Ἔρως
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The paper argues that the ontology of Self behind Descartes’s paradigmatic modern account of passion is an obstacle to interpreting properly the account Socrates gives in the Symposium of the truth of Eros’s origin, nature, and gift to the philosophical initiate into his truth. The key to interpreting this account is located in the relation between Eros and the arithmos-structure of the community of kinds, which is disclosed in terms of the Symposium’s dramatic mimesis of the two Platonic sources of being, the One Itself and the indeterminate dyad. This interpretation’s focus is the vulgar and philosophical dimensions of the phallic pun at the beginning of the dialogue. Both dimensions of the dialogue’s opening joke manifest the appearance of Eros in the dialogue as a distorted imitation of the koinonia of the greatest kinds: Being, Rest, Motion, the Same, and the Other.
4. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Benjamin Frazer-Simser Whither and Whence We Go, Where We Stop Nobody Knows: Prophecy, Ἔρως, and Self-Knowledge in the Phaedrus
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Beginning the Phaedrus, Socrates greets Phaedrus saying, “Dear Phaedrus, whither and whence?” This essay will unfold the salutation, exposing its power to disclose the erotic phenomena portrayed in the dialogue. Moreover, the erotic soul’s incorporation of future and past, its implementation of memory and prophecy, its agency and passivity, and its relation to these ways of being reveals its ability to know itself. However, the temporality in which the soul reveals itself is neither chronological nor dialectical but ecstatic, characterized as prophetic, for “the soul is somehow prophetic” and Socrates is “a kind of prophet.” The essay delves into the prophetic nature of the soul and its significance in understanding Socratic erotic self-knowledge in the Phaedrus.
5. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Edward C. Halper Humor, Dialectic, and Human Nature in Plato
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Drawing principally on the Symposium, this paper argues that humor in Plato’s dialogues serves two serious purposes. First, Plato uses puns and other devices to disarm the reader’s defenses and thereby allow her to consider philosophical ideas that she would otherwise dismiss. Second, insofar as human beings can only be understood through unchanging forms that we fail to attain, our lives are discontinuous and only partly intelligible. Since, though, the discontinuity between expectation and actual occurrence is the basis for humor, Plato can use humor to express who we are as human beings.
6. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Catherine Zuckert Socrates and Timaeus: Two Platonic Paradigms of Philosophy
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Plato’s Timaeus is usually taken to be a sequel to the Republic which shows the cosmological basis of Plato’s politics. In this article I challenge the traditional understanding by arguing that neither Critias’s nor Timaeus’s speech performs the assigned function. The contrast between Timaeus’s monologue and the silently listening Socrates dramatizes the philosophical differences between investigations of “the human things,” like those conducted by Socrates, and attempts to demonstrate the intelligible, mathematically calculable order of the sensible natural world, like that of Timaeus.
7. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Christopher P. Long Crisis of Community: The Topology of Socratic Politics in the Protagoras
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In Plato’s Protagoras Alcibiades plays the role of Hermes, the ‘ambassador god,’ who helps lead Socrates’ conversation with Protagoras through a crisis of dialogue that threatens to destroy the community of education established by the dialogue itself. By tracing the moments when Alcibiades intervenes in the conversation, we are led to an understanding of Socratic politics as always concerned with the course of the life of an individual and the proper time in which it might be turned toward the question of justice and the good.
8. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Jeremy R. Bell Empeiria kai Tribē: Plato on the “Art” of Flattery in Rhetoric and Sophistry
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In this essay I trace the terms empeiria and tribē throughout the Platonic corpus in order to expose their central position within Plato’s critique of the sophists and rhetoricians. I find that these two terms—both of which indicate a knack or habitude that has been developed through experiential familiarity with certain causal tendencies—are regularly deployed in order to account for the effectiveness of these speakers even in the absence of a technē; for, what Plato identifies with these terms is the sophists’ and rhetoricians’ near masterful familiarity with and ability to manipulate the doxa and the dogma of the many, hoi poloi.
9. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Benjamin A. Rider Self-Care, Self-Knowledge, and Politics in the Alcibiades I
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In the Alcibiades I, Socrates argues for the importance of self-knowledge. Recent interpreters contend that the self-knowledge at issue here is knowledge of an impersonal and purely rational self. I argue against this interpretation and advance an alternative. First, the passages proponents of this interpretation cite—Socrates’ argument that the self is the soul, and his suggestion that Alcibiades seek self-knowledge by looking for his soul’s reflection in the soul of another—do not unambiguously support their reading. Moreover, other passages, particularly Socrates’ cross-examination of Alcibiades, suggest the contrary reading, that self-knowledge includes knowledge of qualities peculiar to the individual.
10. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Jeffrey D. Gower The King of the Cosmos: Potentiality, Actuality, and the Logic of Sovereignty in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Λ
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This paper offers a deconstructive reading of the pure actuality of the un­moved mover of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda. Aristotle describes this first, unmoved principle of movement as a divine sovereign—the king of the cosmos—and maintains that the good governance of the cosmos depends on its unmitigated unity and pure actuality. It is striking, then, when Giorgio Agamben claims that Aristotle bequeathed the paradigm of sovereignty to Western philosophy not through his arguments for the pure actuality of the unmoved mover but rather through his description of the essence of potentiality. An interpretation of Aristotle’s account of potentiality in Metaphysics Theta therefore prepares the way for a deconstruction of the unity and pure actuality of the divine sovereign. I argue that the repetition of nous in Aristotle’s description of the divine thinking of thinking betrays traces of division and difference at the heart of divine sovereignty. If this is the case, then actuality and potentiality become indis­cernible at the level of the absolute and the sovereign corresponds to the bifurcated site of this indiscernibility.
11. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Rebecca Steiner Goldner Touch and Flesh in Aristotle’s de Anima
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In this paper, I argue for the sense of touch as primary in Aristotle’s account of sensation. Touch, as the identifying and inaugurating distinction of sensate beings, is both of utmost importance to Aristotle as well as highly aporetic on his explanation. The issue of touch and the problematic of flesh, in particular, bring us to Merleau-Ponty’s account of flesh as the chiasmic fold and overlap of subject and object, of self and other, and to an incipient and veiled knowledge present in the body’s orientation to and within the world.
12. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Thomas Tuozzo How Dynamic Is Aristotle’s Efficient Cause?
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Aristotle says that arts such as medicine, the soul, and the heavenly Unmoved Movers are all efficient causes. Because the arts do not seem to fit the model of an efficient cause that does something, scholars have posited two classes of efficient cause, “energetic” and “non-energetic” ones, and have classified the arts, the soul, and the Unmoved Movers as non-energetic. I argue that, once the way an Aristotelian efficient cause produces motion is properly understand, this distinction is not needed: all efficient causes are energetic. I end by proposing a new understanding of the efficient causality of the Unmoved Mover.
13. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Walter Brogan Letter From the Editor
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14. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Daniel Mermet, Gabriel Rockhill No God, No Caesar, No Tribune! . . .: Cornelius Castoriadis Interviewed by Daniel Mermet
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In this interview, Cornelius Castoriadis explains and develops many of the central themes in his later writings on politics and social criticism. In particular, he poignantly articulates his critique of contemporary pseudo-democracy, while advocating a form of democracy founded on collective education and self-government. He also explores how the “insignificance” in the current political arena relates to insignificance in other areas, such as the arts and philosophy, to form the core feature of our Zeitgeist. Finally, he seeks to break through the ideological fog of liberalism and privatization in order to voice a radical appeal for an autonomous, self-limiting society.
15. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
John Kress Pleasure Unlimited: Philebus and the Drama of the Unlimited
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The Philebus is a difficult dialogue, often criticized for treating obscure ontological questions while neglecting the dramatic aspect characteristic of the Platonic dialogue. In this paper, I argue that, while subtle, the dramatic dimension is essential in understanding the ontological inquiries pursued and the dialogue as a whole. I argue that the Philebus should be read as an agon, a dramatic contest, between Socrates, the advocate of nous, and Philebus, the silent advocate of hēdonē. I show that this contest about the nature of the Good must be executed dramatically because, as Plato brings to light, hēdonē belongs to the Unlimited, and as such, always and necessarily resists reduction to logos, which, as dianoia, is necessarily connected with nous and Limit.
16. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Vijay Mascarenhas God and the Good in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
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By examining the systematic integration of theology, ethics, and teleology in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I address four key interpretational aporiai: the apparently illogicality of the opening lines, the apparent contradiction between practical virtue and contemplation being the highest good, the “dominant” v. “inclusivist” views of eudaimonia, and the immanence v. transcendence of God. I show how proper attention to the link between Aristotle’s conception of the Good as “that at which all things aim” and God as the prime unmoved mover, as well as an appreciation of the overall “aristocratic” context of Aristotelian philosophy, provides a new way of dealing with these aporiai that renders them less perplexing and problematic, while avoiding un-Aristotelian, anachronistic readings.
17. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
David Roochnik Ronna Burger’s Talmudic Reading of the Nicomachean Ethics
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Ronna Burger’s Aristotle’s Dialogue with Socrates argues that the Nicomachean Ethics is a unified whole. Her reading runs against the tide of most contemporary scholarship. In particular, Book X.7–8, Aristotle’s valorization and near apotheosis of the “contemplative life,” has been taken to be a Platonic intrusion in a work otherwise characterized by a resolute “anthropocentrism,” as Nussbaum puts it. To account for such an apparent fracture commentators have attributed both chronological development and later editorship to the corpus. Burger, by contrast, offers a “Talmudic reading.” She treats the Nicomachean Ethics as a work of integrity that dialectically culminates in, rather than is interrupted by, X.7–8. This essay situates her argument in a larger context that explores the nature of philosophical reading as such.
18. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Benjamin J. Grazzini Understanding the Big Cycles of Change in Aristotle’s Meteorology I.14
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This essay is a reading of Aristotle’s account in Meteorology I.14 of changes in local environmental conditions and its significance for Aristotle’s understanding of nature and change more generally. That account shows how local environments are complex bodies, and so change through habituation: the sedimentation of patterns of activity through repeated activity/change. In turn, this shows how the regularity of what is by nature is a matter of the relative stability of habits in the face of unceasing generation and destruction. Strikingly, Aristotle then turns to the consequences of that account for human beings’ ability to comprehend changes in the environmental conditions of their activities.
19. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Avery Goldman Kant, Heidegger, and the Circularity of Transcendental Inquiry
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While in Being and Time Heidegger criticizes Kant for presupposing the very objects that he then goes on to examine, in his 1935–1936 lecture course What Is a Thing? he argues that the differentiation of subject and object with which Kant begins enables him to point to the temporal nature of thought. In following Kant’s own description of his project, Heidegger deems the presupposition of the objects of experience not detrimental to the inquiry, but determinative of its circular method. In this paper I investigate whether such circularity offers an entrance to Heidegger’s own hermeneutic circle.
20. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Kristi Sweet Kant and the Culture of Discipline: Rethinking the Nature of Nature
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Kant’s notion of culture is typically treated in the context of his philosophy of history. In this paper, however, I explore the importance of culture for Kant’s doctrine of virtue, and argue that culture affords a new way—contra immortality—to think the possibility of attaining virtue. As I show, Kant identifies culture as a site of the self-effacement of nature in its influence on the will. Because of this, we see that for Kant the task of virtue encounters nature not only as obstacle, but also as something that serves, promotes, and advances virtue.