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

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Philosopher Keeping me in Suspense (Μακρὸν τὸ προοίμιον): From Ryle to ... Ryle

I wanted to become more precise about Ryle and about my attitude toward Ryle before crossing the ocean. Plans may have altered, but this wish remained intact. For, it has never occurred to me to experience such a development with regard to a philosopher's writings. I had a very bad starter with Ryle. I started with his Plato book, and, in particular, his Statesman and Sophist chapters. The occasion was given by my seminar on Plato's Statesman. And there we get what I characterize not just an exaggerated perspective, but pretty bad hermeneutics: caricature of the method of division in the dialogue, whose standard is then compared to Aristotle's Prior Analytics, and we can guess the results: poor Plato, rich us. I presented this view to my students, besides Stenzel's view, who represents the other extreme: apotheosis of the method of division, which I admittedly found much more interesting as a false view than Ryle's. As we know, there are very interesting and fruitful mistakes: for instance, Cherniss' devastating criticism of Aristotle and Owen's assertion that the Timaeus is a dialogue of the middle Platonic period. Of course, we can debate on whether and in what way the stated contributions have been interesting, but they have definitely been influential. And after mentioning the two paradigms, namely, Ryle's and Stenzel's, we, my students and I, would delve into reading the texts, Plato beside Aristotle and detect and discuss what is happening in both contexts.

So this was the starter, definitely a bad starter, as far as the development of my philosophical relation to Ryle is concerned. But this was just the beginning. As I was working on Platonism at the office, I occasionally enjoyed some good breaks - sometimes from Platonism - and chats with Stephen Menn about different things. One day Stephen pointed out Ryle's review of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit, and I immediately started reading it, very interested as I was. I found amazing how the Oxford philosopher was appreciative of Sein und Zeit, and, at the same time, signalising the points after which he was not able to follow or understand Heidegger. This so rare moment of a respectful drawing of limits at the encounter of two different philosophies created a growing respect in me about Ryle, and so I was freed from the initial reservations and free for reading more of his stuff, starting with Plato's Logical Atomism, an interpretation of the last part of the Theaetetus, which was given as a lecture at Oxford and exerted a strong influence, even before its publication by Burnyeat. And then Ryle's paper on pleasure in the Aristotelian Society followed, a fine-grained piece indeed.

At my father's birthplace, which I visited for some days, my mind was not in the mood of doing philosophy as replacing category-habits by category-disciplines, but I was happy to re-read Ryle's Theaetetus piece, a very good introduction into analytic philosophy, by the way, which he does not project on Plato, though he draws analogies that people had not detected beforehand.

First conclusions to be further examined in the future: My philosophical relation to Ryle is still to develop after crossing the ocean. For sure, it is quite different from Terrence Malick's, who went from Heidegger to Ryle and back to Heidegger. For, I want to invite and have both Ryle and Heidegger in my "home". Though I am hospitable, in a very Greek, that is cherry-picking, manner, when it comes to very interesting oppositions in philosophy, the space at my place is not infinite, but rather limited. As a consequence, not all Ryleans or all Heideggerians will fit. A place filled with crowds would cease being a home, after all.

South Peloponnese, Greece: The Messinian Bay of my childhood, to which I returned after fifteen years.

"Childhood", the piece composed by Alexandre Desplat for Malick's wonderful film The Tree of Life, could have well accompanied me, though its tact is bit more shy and discreet than my encounter of my past rocks and seas. After skipping the ad, you can listen to it here: http://www.last.fm/music/Alexandre+Desplat/_/Childhood/+videos/+6-JAfBEW0TVAA