The Philosophical Life

The Philosophical Life

Arthur P. Urbano
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophical Life
    Book Description:

    Ancient biographies were more than accounts of the deeds of past heroes and guides for moral living. They were also arenas for debating pressing philosophical questions and establishing intellectual credentials, as Arthur P. Urbano argues in this study of biographies composed in Late Antiquity

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2163-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Biography as Arena of Philosophical Competition
    (pp. 1-31)

    We who live and work in academia know that the exchange and debate of ideas does not occur divorced from various contexts—intellectual, cultural, political, and social. Our participation in the production of knowledge occurs in various arenas of activity, including classrooms, departments, educational institutions, and, of course, academic fields, each defined by distinctive, yet interacting, rules of engagement. In many ways, the profession of ancient philosopher was characterized by similar realities. Many of these ancient philosophers understood their role as a comprehensive one that integrated philosophical inquiry, a way of life, and the education of individuals, along with a...

  7. CHAPTER ONE The Roots That Remain
    (pp. 32-79)

    These words from the alleged correspondence between the Greek orator Libanius of Antioch (ca. 314–93) and the Cappadocian Basil of Caesarea (330–79) splendidly express the nature of the cultural habitus of the educated Christian.¹ In ep. 339 Basil protests that on choosing to devote himself to the writings of Moses and the prophets—“in substance true, though in style unlearned”—time has caused him to forget what he has learned in Libanius’s school.² In response his teacher retorts that paideia has so deeply inscribed itself in Basil’s person that even neglect could not root it out.

    Christian assessments...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Moses and Pythagoras: Reading the Bios as Philosophical History
    (pp. 80-124)

    I have argued that biographical literature served as a type of social charter that crafted a series of relationships among subjects, authors, and audiences. In the field of ancient philosophy bioi also located communities of teachers and disciples within lineages of descent and narratives of the origins of philosophy. Greek and Christian intellectuals of the second century, such as Numenius of Apamea and Justin Martyr, lamented the state of the philosophical schools and called for a return to origins, where pure, uncorrupted wisdom could be found. For Numenius, this required a rediscovery of Pythagoras. Justin, however, turned to the books...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Plotinus and Origen: Biography and the Renewal of Philosophy
    (pp. 125-162)

    Numenius of Apamea had charged Plato’s Academic successors with abandoning the original (Pythagorean) Plato, thus driving philosophy into a state of decline. He called for a reform that would strip away the hermeneutical traditions of the Hellenistic schools in order to establish a Neopythagorean Platonism. Both Greek and Christian intellectuals seized on the spirit, if not the letter, of Numenius’s revisionist program in a competitive struggle to reform the philosophical field.¹ Both parties agreed that the Academic tradition and the proliferation of philosophical schools signaled a decline in the state of Greek philosophical thought. Of particular interest to both sides...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Constantine and Julian: The Politics of Philosophy
    (pp. 163-204)

    Eusebius lived to witness dramatic political, social, and religious upheavals in the fourth century. His writings have contributed to the construction of the historical memory of that period. The biographical sketch of Origen in book 6 of the Ecclesiastical History situates the hero within a context of oppression and violence, as he and other Christians struggled to survive the Roman persecutions. The drama shifts and adopts a triumphal tone with the appearance of Constantine, whose rise to power Eusebius recounts in book 10. Constantine brings resolution to Eusebius’s grand narrative. With his defeat of the tyrants and the death of...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Cell and the School: Geographical and Social Distance in the Competition for Philosophy
    (pp. 205-244)

    The bioi examined in the preceding two chapters spanned a tumultuous period of political and cultural upheaval. From Diocletian (284–305), who initiated a long and systematic persecution of Christians, to Theodosius I (379–95), who proclaimed Nicene orthodoxy the religion of the Roman Empire, the dynamics of political and social power were erratic and their relation to religion and philosophy in constant flux. The persecuting party became the persecuted. Dominated segments of the educated elite became dominant; and the dominant became dominated. Yet even the newly dominant segment of Christian intellectuals fractured within itself, as various parties vied against...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Macrina and Sosipatra: Beyond Their Nature
    (pp. 245-272)

    Education and philosophy were male enterprises in antiquity. The aim of paideia was to produce “Greeks,” men of culture, virtue, prestige, and power. All aspects of elementary, literary, and rhetorical training—from its organization to its curricula to its intended outcomes—were ordered toward the molding of good male citizens, who would pursue a public career in politics or oratory. Literacy and composition, argumentation and rhetoric, were necessary skills for public life. Paideia also impressed on young men proper behavior. According to Plutarch, paideia tamed the emotions of the young man’s irrational soul through a cultivation of reason and the...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Syrian Monks and Proclus: Athens at the Periphery and Center of Philosophy in the Fifth Century
    (pp. 273-314)

    By the fifth century, the Greek segment of the educated elite was losing its grasp on official institutions of education. Christians had transferred the locus of pedagogical authority away from the philosophers and communities of the Greeks, and dislocated philosophical expertise from Greek identity. The Greeks no longer enjoyed the prestige, privileges, and authority of their predecessors and were deprived of the empowering and legitimating resources of imperial patronage. Philosophy, Christians had argued, was not the exclusive domain of Greek-speaking, educated aristocrats who worshipped the Greek gods. In fact, the worship of these gods was deemed an impediment to true...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 315-322)

    In an article entitled “The Last Days of the Academy at Athens” Alan Cameron wrote, “Even those who know nothing else of Justinian know that he closed the Academy at Athens in A. D. 529.”¹ Many consider this an event that marked the final blow to Neoplatonist philosophy in antiquity. However, like the idea of the “fall of Rome,” the events surrounding the “closure” of the “Academy” are much less clear than the romantic history woven by the historians of previous eras. To say that the “Academy” was closed is to presume that the institution founded by Plato continued to...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 323-344)
  16. Index
    (pp. 345-354)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-355)