A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Plato and Friends, and Aristotle

In this winter term, I am attending Jonathan Beere's lecture on Aristotle's Natural Philosophy. He just went through the second book of the Physics. I had some difficulties to cope with Aristotle against my Plato-background (the Timaeus and above all Laws X). But the initial awkwardness has given way to my admiration. And the more I understand the second book, the more I appreciate what but mostly how Aristotle learned from Plato.
The following is mere fiction, needless to say. My blog is the appropriate place also for sharing such "amazing" pleasure, which is "not to be repented of" (a playful combination of ἀμήχανος ἡδονή, PA I5, and ἀμεταμέλητος ἡδονή, Tim. 59d2):

A bunch of people, among them Plato and other friends, have been listening attentively to Aristotle's lecture. Plato had an aversion to partisans and had only friends instead. At the end, Plato addresses Aristotle with the following words:

It was lovely to follow your lecture. We did not want to interrupt you for many reasons. One of them was that it is only now, after you elucidated how necessity appears in nature, that we are able to say something. Your argument is complete. And how you have learnt from my writing! But now I have to distance myself from my admiration! You know how vehemently I could critisize you, had I intended to. I could just draw upon my tenth book of the Laws and characterize you a materialist: the simple bodies without soul?! But no, no, you know I want to receive your argument and understand you in your difference. You want to put the matter-form dualism to the fore whereas I highlight the body-soul dualism by the end of my career. Go for it! You know we are open-minded here. And how I can tell that the understanding of my philosophy will suffer because of your decisions and distinctions! But how could I blame you for this? To come to think of it, I even like improving my opponents. But what about you? I could turn you into an opponent only because of our most intimate agreement. But no, let me do it my own way. Let us start with a couple of basic agreements: We are both against reductionism, right? We are also both against disjunctions: Oh, how you have learnt from me!
You are my friend. But more than friendship I appreciate accuracy. D'accord, you are right, of course truth is even prior, but let us stick to accuracy for now. You recall that even my cave dwellers raise claim on truth and being. Dear me, we do not have to worry about this science-fiction scenario; for this chat accuracy is sufficient. You have always accused me of not expressing myself adequately, right? But I didn't take it personally. You even sometimes dared to call me "the Eternal Female" that is out of grasp for anyone. Admittedly I took this personally, dear fellow, but as long as we at least agree that I am not a Sceptic nor a sophist, I can live with that! Let me cut the long story short: I enjoyed your lecture but I have to confess, I am still at sea. Let me go to the gist. I would like to raise one single question: Where from does the distinction "proteron-husteron" come into nature if not from your anthropocentrism? At least we positioned soul into the center of the universe and not human beings. And do not tell me God is in the center and you have two kinds of final cause, which you always have up your sleeve. Do I recall rightly? Didn't you appeal to this distinction somewhere in your lecture? If you ask me, theocentricism is the other side of the coin, a single coin.

Well, I can easily foretell that you are going to provoke puzzlement but also serious philosophical aporia to generations of students and scholars. They will debate on your missing accuracy. But spell it out please. Put your cards on the table for me, and I promise not to pin your secrets down, nor to publish any notes on these Unwritten Doctrines of yours. You do not like secrets, which is another convergence. I brought you up in my Academy, remember? Now I shall remain silent and lend you my ears, my dearest fellow.

...Not to be continued.

PS: Just for the record: Second sunny day in a row in Berlin. A third one will persuade me that winter is calling it a day!
PPS: Last but not least, greetings Michael.