Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Essays in Ancient Philosophy

Essays in Ancient Philosophy

Michael Frede
Copyright Date: 1987
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Essays in Ancient Philosophy
    Book Description:

    To understand ancient philosophy “in its concrete, complex detail,” Michael Frede says, “one has also to look at all the other histories to which it is tied by an intricate web of casual connections which run both ways.” Frede’s distinctive approach to the history of ancient philosophy is closely tied to his specific interests within the field - the Hellenistic philosophers and those of late antiquity, who are the primary subjects of this book. Long ignored or even maligned, the Stoics and Skeptics, medical philosophers, and grammarians are extremely interesting once their actual views are reconstructed and it is possible to recognize their ties to earlier and later philosophical thought. Refusing to study them as paradigms of achievement, or to seek purely philosophical explanations for their views, Frede draws instead upon those “other histories” - of religion, social structure, law and politics - to illuminate their work and to show how it was interpreted and transformed by succeeding generations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5573-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Study of Ancient Philosophy
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    Ancient philosophy can be studied in many ways.¹ The thoughts of ancient philosophers are of great interest not just as philosophical thoughts. Many of them, in one way or another, are also of great historical importance. They help to explain a great many historical facts, not just in the history of philosophy, but in many other histories, e.g., the history of theology, the history of political theory, even the history of literature. Or they are reflections of some historical development we may be interested in; again, this may be a development in the history of philosophy or in some other...

  5. Plato

    • 1 Observations on Perception in Plato’s Later Dialogues
      (pp. 3-8)

      Ast, in hisLexicon Plantonicum,gives the following as the general meaning of the verb “aisthanesthai” in Plato: “to sense, to perceive by a sense, and hence generally to perceive by the senses.” This not only seems to me to be wrong, it also seems to be seriously misleading if one wants to arrive at an understanding of what Plato has to say about perception. For it suggests that in general when Plato uses the verb “aisthanesthai,” he is relying on a common notion of sense-perception, a notion which Plato just tries to clarify. This suggestion seems natural enough. Surely,...

  6. Aristotle

    • 2 The Title, Unity, and Authenticity of the Aristotelian Categories
      (pp. 11-28)

      TheCategories,ascribed to Aristotle, has played a unique role in our tradition. It is the only philosophical treatise that has been the object of scholarly and philosophical attention continuously since the first century B.C., when people first began writing commentaries on classical philosophical texts. From early late antiquity until the early modern period, one would begin the study of Aristotle and the study of philosophy quite generally with theCategoriesand Porphyry’sIsagoge.For several centuries, these two treaties, and theDe Interpretatione,formed the core of the philosophical corpus which was still being seriously studied. Thus, it is...

    • 3 Categories in Aristotle
      (pp. 29-48)

      There is a theory called the theory of categories which in a more or less developed form, with minor or major modifications, made its appearance first in a large number of Aristotelian writings and then, under the influence of these writings, came to be a standard part of traditional logic, a place it maintained with more or less success into the early part of this century, when it met the same fate as certain other parts of traditional logic.

      There are many questions one may ask about this theory. Presumably not the most interesting question, but certainly one for which...

    • 4 Individuals in Aristotle
      (pp. 49-71)

      By way of introduction, I offer a few remarks to give an overview of the subject of this paper. Aristotle assumes that, in addition toobjects,there arepropertiesof objects. This assumption is rather stronger than one might think, since it turns out that statements about properties are not just reducible to statements about objects; on the contrary, the truth of at least some statements about objects is to be explained by assuming that there are properties. For example, the truth of a statement like ‘Socrates is ill’ is to be explained by noting that there are not only...

    • 5 Substance in Aristotle’s Metaphysics
      (pp. 72-80)

      Aristotle’s ontology is very generous.¹ It contains objects like trees and lions. But it also contains qualities, like colors, and quantities, like sizes, and all the kinds of items Aristotle distinguishes according to his so-called categories. But, of course, Aristotle does not assume that objects, qualities, quantities, and the rest exist side by side, separately from each other. He thinks that qualities and quantities exist only as the qualities and quantities of objects, that there are qualities and quantities only insofar as there are objects that are thus qualified or quantified.

      In taking this view Aristotle is making some rather...

    • 6 The Unity of General and Special Metaphysics: Aristotle’s Conception of Metaphysics
      (pp. 81-96)

      If one tries to get clearer about Aristotle’s conception of metaphysics, one naturally turns to the treatise that by its very title promises to give us an account of Aristotle’s metaphysics. Unfortunately, the title itself does not provide us with any clue. “Metaphysics” is not an Aristotelian term. It only gains some currency in late antiquity. Thus, the commentary on Isaiah attributed to St. Basil (164) speaks of those things, higher than the objects of the theory of nature, “which some call metaphysical.” The earliest catalog of Aristotle’s writings, the one preserved in Diogenes Laertius, does not yet contain the...

  7. Stoics

    • 7 Stoic vs. Aristotelian Syllogistic
      (pp. 99-124)

      At least since Lukasiewicz’s paper “Zur Geschichte der Aussagenlogik”(Erkenntnis,5, 1935, pp. 11Iff.) historians of logic have usually contrasted Stoic and Aristotelian syllogistic as the ancient forms of prepositional logic and term-or class-logic respectively.¹ One may have serious misgivings about the way this is usually interpreted and argued for. In fact, one could argue that, to contrast the two systems in this way, we would have to introduce many qualifications and explanations; indeed, so many qualifications that one may wonder whether it was not misleading to say that the relation between the two systems was that between prepositional logic...

    • 8 The Original Notion of Cause
      (pp. 125-150)

      However muddled our notion of a cause may be it is clear that we would have difficulties in using the term ‘cause’ for the kinds of things Aristotle calls ‘causes’.¹ We might even find it misleading to talk of Aristotelian causes and wonder whether in translating the relevant passages in Aristotle we should not avoid the term ‘cause’ altogether. For an end, a form, or matter do not seem to be the right kinds of items to cause anything, let alone to be causes. It is much less clear what our difficulties are due to. We might think that causes...

    • 9 Stoics and Skeptics on Clear and Distinct Impressions
      (pp. 151-176)

      The history of Hellenistic philosophy is dominated by the rivalry between Stoics and skeptics, first Academic skeptics and later Pyrrhonian skeptics who tried to revive a more radical form of skepticism when in the second and first centuries B.C. Academic skeptics seemed to have softened their stand to a degree that made it difficult to distinguish them from their Stoic rivals. The debate between Stoics and skeptics primarily concerned the nature and possibility of knowledge. If the skeptics also tried to attack the Stoic position on all other questions, the point of this, at least originally, was in good part...

  8. Skeptics

    • 10 The Skeptic’s Beliefs
      (pp. 179-200)

      There are no views or beliefs that define Pyrrhonean Skepticism. Nor are there any specific doctrines or dogmas which a skeptic, rather than a member of one of the ‘dogmatic’ schools, would have. Even the phrase, “nothing is to be known,” is not accepted by the skeptical philosopher as expressing a skeptical doctrine (Sext. Emp. P. M. I 200). According to Photius (Bibl. cod. 212, 169b40ff.), Aenesidemus argued that the Academic skeptics really were dogmatists, since some of them did, in fact, claim that nothing is knowable (cf. S.E.P.H.12-3). There are no specifically Pyrrhonean doctrines, no views...

    • 11 The Skeptic’s Two Kinds of Assent and the Question of the Possibility of Knowledge
      (pp. 201-222)

      Traditionally one associates skepticism with the position that nothing is, or can be, known for certain. Hence it was only natural that for a long time one should have approached the ancient skeptics with the assumption that they were the first to try to establish or to defend the view that nothing is, or can be, known for certain, especially since there is abundant evidence which would have seemed to bear out the correctness of this approach. After all, extensive arguments to the effect that there is no certain knowledge or that things are unknowable play a central role in...

  9. Medicine

    • 12 Philosophy and Medicine in Antiquity
      (pp. 225-242)

      Throughout antiquity the relation between philosophy and medicine was very close. The author of “Decorum,” a treatise in the Hippocratic corpus, advised that philosophy be carried into medicine and medicine into philosophy (chap. 5). Obviously the advice was heeded by many doctors and philosophers. Burnet(Early Greek Philosophy,p. 201 n. 4) went so far as to claim that from the times of Empedocles onward “it is impossible to understand the history of philosophy . . . without keeping the history of medicine constantly in view.” And as far as medicine is concerned, it is generally agreed, and indeed obvious,...

    • 13 The Ancient Empiricists
      (pp. 243-260)

      It is well known that throughout antiquity the connection between philosophy and medicine was very close. Burnet (E. G.Ph.,p. 201n 4) went so far as to claim that from the times of Empedocles onward “it is impossible to understand the history of philosophy . . . without keeping the history of medicine constantly in view.” If this sounds like an exaggeration to us, this is partly because that given our very different conception of philosophy and our very different philosophical concerns we do not pay much attention to the surprisingly active interest ancient philosophers did take in physiology,...

    • 14 The Method of the So-Called Methodical School of Medicine
      (pp. 261-278)

      Later antiquity, as a rule, distinguishes three schools of medicine, the Rationalists, the Empiricists, and the Methodists (cf. Galen,De sect. ingr.,chs 1 and 6; ps.-Galen,De optima secta,I, 118ff. Kiihn; but also cf. ps.-Galen,Def. med.14-17, XIX 353 K).¹ What is at issue between these schools is the nature, origin, and scope of medical knowledge. Usually their views on this matter are based on views about human knowledge in general; Rationalists, Empiricists, and Methodists in medicine tend to be Rationalists, Empiricists, or Methodists concerning human knowledge and science quite generally (for the Methodists cf. Galen,De...

    • 15 On Galen’s Epistemology
      (pp. 279-298)

      There is a question about whether Galen should be regarded as a philosopher or merely as a learned physician with philosophical ambitions. And there seems to be a tendency to answer this question negatively.¹ It is not that anyone would doubt that Galen has rather detailed views on a vast number of philosophical subjects covering all traditional parts of philosophy: logic, physics, and ethics. For his medical writings abound in philosophical remarks, and Galen even wrote a great number of monographs on philosophical topics. But it is suggested that Galen’s philosophical knowledge is derivative, second-hand, that he does not have...

  10. Grammar

    • 16 Principles of Stoic Grammar
      (pp. 301-337)

      H. von Arnim did not make a systematic effort to include testimonies on matters of grammatical doctrine in hisStoicorum Veterum Fragmenta.¹So, for this part of Stoic doctrine one still has to rely on R. Schmidt’sStoicorum Grammaticawhich appeared in 1839. In this monograph Schmidt quotes and discusses many of the important texts. Since then, however, our general knowledge of ancient grammatical thought has grown considerably, and much has also been written on the Stoic contributions to the subject; one may mention here the work of Lersch, Steinthal, Pohlenz, Dahlmann, and, in particular, that of Barwick. Also most...

    • 17 The Origins of Traditional Grammar
      (pp. 338-360)

      By ‘traditional grammar’ I mean the kind of grammatical system set out in and presupposed by standard modern grammars of Greek and Latin like Kiihner-Gerth or Kuhner-Stegmann.¹ Since grammars of this kind traditionally have been followed quite closely by grammarians of other languages, one may speak of traditional grammar quite generally. Grammars of this type consist of three parts: a phonology, dealing among other things with the sounds of the language, a morphology, dealing with word-formation and -inflection, and finally a syntax in which we are told which combinations of words constitute a phrase or a sentence. Moreover, such grammars...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 363-372)
  12. Index of Ancient Authors
    (pp. 375-378)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 379-382)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-383)