This article addresses contemporary efforts to understand how the earliest practitioners of philosophy conceived of the philosophic life. It argues that, for Plato, the concept of bios was a central, animating, and structuring object of philosophic inquiry. Concentration on the imagery Plato employed to draw bios into the purview of philosophic contemplation and choice points to interpretative avenues that further the aim of treating the dialogues as complex, integrated wholes, and offers a new approach to the question of the status of image-making in them. The article concludes with thoughts on how an exploration of bios might extend beyond Plato to Aristotle, via an examination of his treatment of the range of human and animal bioi, suggesting that such an examination clarifies the relationship between his analysis of the polis-dwelling animal and his broader investigation of living beings as such.
Stephen A. Nimis
The novel flourished at a time when Greek identity was above all a matter of cultural affiliation. This article argues that the characters in the novels are fundamentally concerned with issues of gender, ethnicity, culture, and identity – and that their readers must have been too. However, the relationship between the world depicted in the novels and that in which they were written and read remains difficult to characterize: it is remarkable, for example, that Rome, the great imperial power of the time, is never so much as mentioned in the extant Greek novels.
This article discusses the ‘dialogue’ between postcolonial theory and Hellenistic studies. It highlights this by exploring the act of will and self-identification by which Greece is appropriated to a particular culture, made its history, and put to its service. One important point to which the discussion draws attention is the potentially universal significance that this gives Hellenic studies: just because the appropriation of ancient Greece is an act of will, it always remains available for counter-appropriation by other interests as well.
The fact that people keep intruding into their own investigations of antiquity can, depending on the questions one asks, appear to be a nuisance. But many approaches turn this into a virtue by making their own presence in the examination of the Hellenic world the immediate object of their study. Freudian psychoanalysis, as this article argues, is a programmatic example of the process because, while it is fundamentally introspective, it is articulated through a reading of the classics. To this extent, though, Freud is only applying to the individual what cultures as a whole have done through their appropriation of Greece for their own past. Moving beyond the Freudian Oedipus, classical scholars too could turn their twenty-first century attention to ways in which Greek literature may offer new insights into post-Freudian subjective predicaments.
The early pre-Socratics’ major speculative and critical initiatives—in particular Anaximander’s conceptions of the justice of the cosmos and of the apeiron as its archē and Xenophanes’s polemics against immorality and anthropomorphism in the depiction of the gods and against any claim to divine inspiration—appear to break with Hesiod’s form of thought. But the conceptual, critical, and ethical depth of Hesiod’s own rethinking of the lore that he inherited complicates this picture. Close examination of each of their major initiatives together with the relevant passages in Hesiod shows that even in the course of departing from his thought, Anaximander and Xenophanes also reappropriate and renew it. A postscript to this chapter poses some questions for future inquiry into Heraclitus’s and Parmenides’s receptions of Hesiod.