Saturday, November 5, 2016

Aristotle and Plato on Wonder and Philosophical Perplexity

Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies


Spyridon Rangos
University of Patras 
Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Research Fellow, Hellenic Studies

Respondent: Benjamin Morison, Philosophy

The lecture examines the role of wonder as the origin of philosophy in Aristotle’s surviving corpus. Special emphasis is given on the relevant passages of the Metaphysics (A.2, B.1) where Aristotle claims that philosophy springs from a particular kind of perplexity, i.e. the helpless puzzlement encountered when arguments pro and contra of a certain thesis counterbalance each other. To add perspective, Aristotle’s claim is seen against the background of (i) a very similar idea to be found in Plato’s Theaetetus, where Socrates suggests that the ability to experience profound perplexity is the defining feature of philosophical natures, (ii) Isocrates’ entirely different conception of philosophy, and (iii) Xenocrates’ opinion that philosophy springs from the recognition of the ineluctable vicissitudes of human life. Aristotle’s explicit view is that perplexity is overcome as soon as proper philosophical understanding is achieved. I shall argue, by contrast, against this claim to the effect that Aristotle’s and Plato’s metaphysical thinking carry unmistakable signs that wonder stands not only at the beginning but also at the end of philosophical speculation, especially when the philosopher is concerned with the principles of Being.

Spyridon Rangos is Associate Professor of Ancient Greek Literature and Philosophy at the University of Patras. He has been educated in the University of Athens, the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris), and the University of Cambridge where he received his Ph.D. Among his publications is a handbook on Hellenism and Christianity from the 1st to the 4th Centuries (Patras: Hellenic Open University 2000), a book (co-authored with Dimitris Kyrtatas) entitled Greek Antiquity: War – Politics – Culture (Thessaloniki: Institute of Modern Greek Studies 2010), and many papers on Greek literature, religion and philosophy. Recent titles include: “Empedocles on Divine Nature”, RMM 74 (2012); “Plato on the Nature of the Sudden Moment, and the Asymmetry of the Second Part of the Parmenides”, Dialogue 53 (2014); “First Philosophy, Truth, and the History of Being in Aristotle’s Metaphysics”, Claudia Baracchi (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle (Bloomsbury 2014). Spyridon Rangos’ current research project is “Truth and Activity in Aristotle’s Metaphysics”.

Friday, November 11, 2016
1:30 p.m.
Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103

Co-sponsored by the Classical Philosophy Program

Supported by The Christos G. and Rhoda Papaioannou Modern Greek Studies Fund

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