From Protagoras to Aristotle

From Protagoras to Aristotle: Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy

Heda Segvic
Edited by Myles Burnyeat
With an Introduction by Charles Brittain
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    From Protagoras to Aristotle
    Book Description:

    This is a collection of the late Heda Segvic's papers in ancient moral philosophy. At the time of her death at age forty-five in 2003, Segvic had already established herself as an important figure in ancient philosophy, making bold new arguments about the nature of Socratic intellectualism and the intellectual influences that shaped Aristotle's ideas. Segvic had been working for some time on a monograph on practical knowledge that would interpret Aristotle's ethical theory as a response to Protagoras. The essays collected here are those on which her reputation rests, including some that were intended to form the backbone of her projected monograph. The papers range from a literary study of Homer's influence on Plato's Protagoras to analytic studies of Aristotle's metaphysics and his ideas about deliberation. Most of the papers reflect directly or indirectly Segvic's idea that both Socrates' and Aristotle's universalism and objectivism in ethics could be traced back to their opposition to Protagorean relativism. The book represents the considerable achievements of one of the most talented scholars of ancient philosophy of her generation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3555-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Charles Brittain

    Heda Segvic died on March 12, 2003, at the age of forty-five. Her unexpected death meant the loss of an intensely loyal friend for those who knew her, and the end of the passionate philosophical engagement her friendship implied. She had published little, because she saw her role as a historian of ancient philosophy as one that required more than precise reconstructions of historical arguments through careful scholarship: she wanted to achieve a real understanding of what she took to be a still urgent set of questions about practical reason. At the time of her death, she had made public...

  5. PART I
    • One Protagoras’ Political Art
      (pp. 3-27)

      In a number of Plato’s dialogues Socrates is shown eager to create the impression that he is not in the same business as the Sophists. Yet there are some striking overlaps. Socrates goes around Athens discussing the nature of virtue and the question of how best to live one’s life, while the Sophists—most notably, Protagoras—go all over Greece discussing, among other things, the same topics. In Plato’sProtagorasProtagoras makes a point of saying that he does not, like the other Sophists, burden his student with subjects such as arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, or music. He will teach Hippocrates...

    • Two Homer in Plato’s Protagoras
      (pp. 28-46)

      “In his dialogue theProtagoras,” says Wilamowitz, “the youthful Plato created a masterpiece. […] It took him a long time to reach again such a high literary level, and in a sense one can say that he attained something he would never accomplish again.”¹ Among the dialogue’s most memorable achievements is the opening sequence, where Socrates tells an unnamed friend the narrative of how he was woken before dawn by the young Athenian Hippocrates banging on the door of his house to demand an introduction to Protagoras (309a–314c), followed by the scene in the house of Callias when eventually...

    • Three No One Errs Willingly: The Meaning of Socratic Intellectualism
      (pp. 47-86)

      The Western philosophical tradition is deeply indebted to the figure of Socrates. The question ‘How should one live?’ has rightly been called ‘the Socratic question’. Socrates’ method of cross-examining his interlocutors has often been seen as a paradigmatic form of philosophical enquiry, and his own life as an epitome of the philosophical life. What philosophers and non-philosophers alike have often found disappointing in Socrates is his intellectualism. A prominent complaint about Socratic intellectualism has been memorably recorded by Alexander Nehamas: ‘And George Grote both expressed the consensus of the ages and set the stage for modern attitudes toward Socrates when...

  6. PART II
    • Four Aristotle on the Varieties of Goodness
      (pp. 89-110)

      In the course of arguing against Plato’s account of the good in theNicomachean Ethics, Aristotle observes that honour, wisdom (phronēsis) and pleasure have different and dissimilar accounts (heteroi kai diapherontes … logoi) precisely insofar as they are goods (tautē(i) hē(i) agatha), which shows that the good is not some common element answering to a single Form (ENI. 6 1096b 23–6).

      This remark is of considerable significance for understanding Aristotle’s ethical theory. He has just said that having intelligence or wisdom (to phronein),seeing, and certain pleasures and honours are uncontroversiallykath’ hautogoods, things that are good in...

    • Five Aristotle’s Metaphysics of Action
      (pp. 111-143)

      Human action has a point. It is the agent who supplies the point, by intervening in the world to realize a purpose of his own. Aristotle calls the agent’s purpose “that for the sake of which,” or more simply,telos. By relying on the concept of telos in his analysis of action, Aristotle, it is agreed, found a good tool with which to approach agency. In this paper I try to bring out what is distinctive in his approach. At several points I defend it against objections. I do this especially when it goes against assumptions common in current philosophy...

    • Six Deliberation and Choice in Aristotle
      (pp. 144-172)

      Our understanding of what deliberation (bouleusis) is for Aristotle should start from his remarks abouteuboulia, the virtue of deliberating well. For that is deliberation at its best.

      AtENVI. 7 1141b 12–14 he characterizes the unconditionally good deliberator,ho haplôs euboulos, as “the person who is capable of aiming (stochastikos) in accordance with calculation (kata ton logismon) at what is the best for a human being of things pursued in action.”¹ This characterization very nearly sums up Aristotle’s understanding of practical wisdom,phronêsis, the overarching virtue of practical intellect. He makes the point himself, by way of...

    • Seven Review of Roger Crisp, Translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2000)
      (pp. 175-180)
    • Eight Two or Three Things We Know about Socrates
      (pp. 181-186)

      Socrates is without doubt the most enigmatic and most influential intellectual figure in antiquity. He has been credited, by his admirers and detractors alike, with decisively shaping the Western intellectual outlook. My aim here is to give a brief outline of the enigma that attaches to the historical Socrates. I shall also mention some of the Socratic views that have cast such a long shadow on the Western intellectual tradition.

      Socrates was an object of intense fascination and controversy during his lifetime and upon his death. He provoked much ridicule, attack, and admiration. The ridicule came from fifth-century BC comic...

  8. Indices
    (pp. 187-196)