CJ Online Review McPherran, Plato’s Republic

posted with permission:

Plato’s Republic: A Critical Guide. Edited by Mark L. McPherran. Cambridge Critical Guides. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + 273. Hardcover, £53.00/$90.00. ISBN 978-0-521-49190-7.

Reviewed by David Schur, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York

As McPherran observes in his introduction, this collection of twelve essays is not for those just beginning to explore the Republic, but is most suited for scholars pursuing more advanced paths of academic study. Each of these essays is clearly written and well organized, and the book offers a fresh and thought-provoking body of inquiry. While accessible to all readers who have studied the Republic, this book will resonate best with philosophers drawn to the kinds of logical quandaries that arise when one looks for consistency in the arguments deployed by Socrates over the course of a Platonic dialogue; most of the essays revisit fairly specific cruxes that have been previously identified and pondered by modern scholars. (Zena Hitz on degenerate regimes and Malcolm Schofield on music are notable for addressing neglected topics.) Most of the papers here had their genesis in a colloquium on ancient philosophy held at the University of Arizona, Tucson; the resulting collection brings together distinguished philosophical perspectives on a full range of topics, including politics, moral psychology, education, mimesis, the divided line, and the structure of the dialogue.

In the present review, it will be possible only to indicate some trends and exceptions found in the volume. An installment in a series of guides to philosophical criticism, the book presents a fairly homogeneous picture of how contemporary scholars approach Plato’s dialogues. Issues of character, setting, and the like are largely ignored in favor of analytic literalism. The work here is dominated by the careful (sometimes superfine) teasing out of logical claims and arguments, arguments that Plato is understood to be endorsing, but which nonetheless require further explanation. Guided by the assumption that Plato must have meant to communicate a consistent, coherent, logical, and (more or less) linear series of arguments, the authors regularly address certain apparent inadequacies—unfortunate or infelicitous misunderstandings that stem from Plato’s indirectness as well as from our own limitations.

Accordingly, these scholars often set out to reconstruct Plato’s arguments, correcting mismatches between the author’s form of expression and our own powers of comprehension. In these readings, puzzling parts of the Republic present a challenge to the dialogue’s status as a logically coherent whole. So, for example, Rachana Kamtekar is concerned with rescuing Socrates’ defense of justice from being occluded by the apparently irrelevant but lengthily elaborated ideal city of the Republic; she does this by viewing the city as a primarily ethical (rather than political) part of the dialogue’s argumentation. Nicholas D. Smith answers the “happy philosopher problem” by suggesting that the return of (potential) philosophers to the cave can fit into the logic of the dialogue if we understand happiness in terms of Socrates’ explanation of psychological harmony. Christopher Shields, arguing that the soul in Socrates’ account may be understood as having aspectual rather than compositional parts, is able to reconcile the soul’s tripartition with its immortality. Shields thereby “saves Plato” (167), or our interpretation of his text, from a contradiction that would ultimately seem to undermine Socrates’ explanation of justice. And Malcolm Schofield reconciles two seemingly incompatible versions of mimesis presented in the Republic by directing our focus to the importance of music, using evidence from Plato’s Laws to support his striking claim that “the few pages on music in the Republic give us a keener insight into its theory of the shaping of the human soul than anything else in the dialogue” (246).

Some of the essays are less conclusive. McPherran observes multiple ways in which the Myth of Er seems to weaken “the Republic’s entire project of adumbrating a theory of justice” (135); unlike his fellow contributors, however, McPherran displays an unusual willingness to leave a puzzle standing, and he invites readers confronting Socrates’ account of the afterlife to “admire and commiserate with Plato on the size of the problem he raised but did not solve” (143). In an essay containing references to an amusing range of modern Atlantises, Julia Annas anchors the Atlantis story in the Republic’s emphasis on the intrinsic value of virtuous behavior; at the same time, Annas suggests that the story (like Socrates’ description of the cave, she might have added) may really have been too seductive for Plato’s purposes.

The contributions by G. R. F. Ferrari and Rachel Barney, which open the volume, are distinguished by broader and especially fertile topics. Ferrari confronts the underlying and pervasive problem of Socrates’ reluctant participation in the dialogue’s recorded conversation. Socrates’ role as an internal narrator, observes Ferrari, draws attention to Plato’s authorial control. And Barney takes the highly original approach of considering ring composition, typically associated with Homeric verse, as a philosophically significant aspect of Plato’s writing.

The essays in this book rely on various translations of the Republic and Plato’s other works, with transliterated Greek provided for key textual details. Each essay is accompanied by endnotes, while the back matter contains a bibliography of works cited, an index of passages, and an index of names and subjects. The book is handsome, well edited, and—given the range, density, and number of contributions—pleasingly slender.

Advertisements

Latest GRBS Full of Freebies

From  vol 53.1 (2012)… as far as I can tell, all these are freely downloadable … link at the end:

  • The Betrayal of Aeneas
    Giampiero Scafoglio
  • Dating the Homeric Hymn to Selene: Evidence and Implications
    Alexander E. W. Hall
  • A Citizen as a Slave of the State? Oligarchic Perceptions of Democracy in Xenophon PDF
    Melina Tamiolaki
  • The Discourse of Deception and Characterization in Attic Oratory
    Christos Kremmydas
  • Hyperides and Epopteia: A New Fragment of the Defense of Phryne
    Peter O’Connell
  • Evagrius and Gregory: Nazianzen or Nyssen? Cappadocian (and Origenian) Influence on Evagrius
    Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
  • Unexpected Evidence concerning Gold Mining in Early Byzantium
    Tatyana I. Afanas’eva, Sergey A. Ivanov
  • Another Link in the Golden Chain: Aeneas of Gaza and Zacharias Scholasticus on Plotinus Enn. 4.3
    Sarah Klitenic Wear
  • On the Founder of the Skripou Church: Literary Trends in the Milieu of Photius
    Oscar Prieto-Domínguez
  • Lamentation, History, and Female Authorship in Anna Komnene’s Alexiad
    Leonora Neville
  • Theodore Prodromos’ Bion Prasis: A Reappraisal
    Przemysław Marciniak
  • Reconsidering Renaissance Greek Grammars through the Case of Chrysoloras’ Erotemata
    Erika Nuti

Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies

d.m. Charles Babcock

From the Columbus Dispatch:

BABCOCK Charles Luther Babcock, age 88, died Friday, December 7, 2012 at the Wesley Glen Health Center. Son of Estelle Randolph and Robert L. Babcock he was born in Whittier, California May 26, 1924. He was a World War II veteran, having served in Europe where he was awarded the Bronze Star with V(alor) device. Upon return to the US he became an aide to General Jon B. Coulter. Returning to University of California, Berkeley after the war he received his BA (Phi Beta Kappa), MA, and PhD (1953). He was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He was a Fulbright Scholar and Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (1953-1955). Early academic positions were at Cornell University (1955-1957) and the University of Pennsylvania (1962-1966). In 1966 he came to The Ohio State University to be chair of the Department of Classics (1966-8 and 1980-1988). He was the first Dean of the newly created College of Humanities (1968-1970). Awards at OSU included the Alfred Wright Award (1968), Distinguished Teaching Award (1982), College of Humanities Exemplary Faculty Award (1989), and the Distinguished Service Award (1996). From the Classical Society of the Midwest and South, which he served as President in 1977-1978, he received the OVATIO Award of Merit (1982). Charles shared his great love of ancient Rome and the Latin language with many, not only through his teaching, but also through programs he directed in Rome: The Summer School at the American Academy (1966); Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (1974-1975); Mellon Professor in Charge, School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome (1988-1989). Survivors include Mary, his wife of 57 years; his children, Robert Sherburne Babcock of Hastings, Nebraska; Jennie Rownd Babcock of Columbus, OH; and Jonathan Taylor Babcock (Jennifer) of Salt Lake City, Utah; his grandchildren, Sara and Carl Babcock of Hastings and Eiseley Babcock of Salt Lake City. A date for a memorial service in the spring will be announced later. The family would appreciate contributions to the Charles L. Babcock Rome Scholarship (600239), which enables students to study in Italy. Contact the OSU Foundation on Lane Avenue, Columbus, OH. Online guestbook at http://www.cookandsonpallay.com

Alia:

d.m. Hector Catling

From the Telegraph:

Hector Catling, who has died aged 88, became director of the British School at Athens after playing a leading role in establishing a comprehensive archaeological field survey of the island of Cyprus.

In 1951 Catling, then a young Oxford student struggling to develop his career as an archaeologist, went out to Cyprus, as part of a two-year Goldsmith’s travelling scholarship, to assist Joan du Plat Taylor in her excavations of a Bronze Age shrine at Myrton-Pigadhes.

Over the next two years, with his wife and small daughter in tow, he criss-crossed the island to gather material for what would eventually be his magisterial Cypriot Bronzework in the Mycenaean World (1964), filing reports to AHS “Peter” Megaw, the first director of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, which was then under British administration. “I began to develop an eye,” Catling recalled, “and found a lot of new sites here and there.”

Cyprus is fascinating to archaeologists because, owing to its location at the economic, political and cultural crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean, it is a repository for a rich variety of objects. Returning to Oxford, Catling had the idea of carrying out a comprehensive field survey of the island.

Peter Megaw supported the project, found a source of funding, and the Catlings moved from Oxford to Nicosia, with a stop in Athens to learn about Roman pottery from the finds at the Athenian Agora. Under Catling’s leadership, the newly-created Archaeological Survey of Cyprus began its first season in June 1955. A second team was put into the field in 1957.

The Survey, and Catling’s other work on the island, which included the publication of an Early Byzantine pottery factory at Dhiorios, revealed a rich medieval landscape almost unparalleled in the eastern Mediterranean, helping to place Cyprus at the centre of debates about the mechanisms of cultural exchange and island archaeology.

Catling’s four-year contract with the colonial government of Cyprus came to an end in 1959, and the island’s move to independence and the later Turkish invasion led to something of a hiatus. None the less, the Cyprus survey provided a model for similar projects elsewhere.

Hector William Catling was born on June 26 1924 and educated at Bristol Grammar School and St John’s College, Oxford, where he remained to take a doctorate on the Cypriot Bronze Age.

After his time in Cyprus, he returned to Oxford, becoming an assistant keeper and later senior assistant keeper in the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum. He remained there until his appointment in 1971 as Director of the British School at Athens.

During his time in Athens, Catling undertook a major dig at Knossos, leading a massive excavation of its main Early Iron Age cemetery which led to the publication of a lucid joint study with Nicolas Coldstream, Knossos North Cemetery, in 1996. He also led digs at the Menelaion, an important Mycenaean site in Sparta, where he discovered inscriptions proving that Helen of Troy was worshipped there alongside her husband Menelaus, and at the sanctuary of Zeus Messapeus at Tsakona.

In the 1960s, with Anne Millet, Catling had carried out pioneering optical emission spectography analysis of stirrup jars excavated at Thebes in 1921, which showed them to be Cretan in origin. His research into the provenance of ceramics led to the foundation, in 1973, of the Athens School’s Fitch Laboratory for Science-based Archaeology, equipped with an atomic absorption spectrometer and a multitude of other hi-tech gadgets.

After his retirement in 1989 Catling founded the Friends of the British School at Athens, serving as its honorary secretary until 2011.

He was appointed OBE in 1980 and CBE in 1989.

Hector Catling married, in 1948, Elizabeth Salter, who predeceased him in 2000. Their daughter and two sons survive him.

Hector Catling, born June 26 1924, died February 15 2013