Olympiodorus: Commentary on Plato’s Gorgias

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For the common notions in earlier Neoplatonism see Saffrey and Westerink , pp. Olympiodorus did not do this, naturally enough, for, in addition to placing him in further danger, it would have impeded his mission as a Hellenist. Olympiodorus maintains opposition to Christian doctrine on a variety of issues, refusing, for example, to accept eternal punishment or arguing that suicide can sometimes be justified,4H but ultimately he must be reckoned as accommodating in general terms to the Christian outlook.

His position has been characterized as one of 'extreme pliability'. Olympiodorus lacked Socrates' profundity, but shared his predecessor's ability to rise above technical details of doctrine. He may ultimately have smoothed the transition to a fundamentally Christian Platonism at Alexandria. The Curriculum The Neoplatonist curriculum had been developing since the days when Iamblichus instituted a canon of Platonic dialogues.

By Olympiodorus' time, at least, it did not open with Platonic studies, but began by familiarising students with the elements of philosophy and the Organon of Aristotle. His master Ammonius established a programme for the Alexandrian school: beginning with Porphyry's Introduction to Aristotle's Categories, students embarked on Aristotelian logic, studied primarily through his Categories. They would read a life of Aristotle, discuss the various philosophical sects, the works of Aristotle, the basic requirements for the Aristotelian interpreter, and so on.

Commentary on Plato's Gorgias - Olympiodorus (the Younger, of Alexandria) - Google книги

Westerink , xvii-xvlll. The same pliability may be detected in Ammonius. As Verrycken a, says: 'This means that one can consider Aristotle's God, according to one's point of view, either as the Neoplatonic Good or as the Neoplatonic divine Intellect. Hadot , p. The initial words of Olympiodorus' Alcibiades-Commentary lead nicely away from the study of Aristotle towards that of Plato. Aristotle's remark that all men naturally desire knowledge is read as the claim that all naturally desire Plato's philosophy-they want to receive the goodness and inspiration which proceeds from that philosophy.

Inspiration enthousiasmos seems here to mean allowing some higher voice to operate through oneself, and four examples are given from Plato's work. The vita reinforces this impression by emphasizing the link between Plato and Apollo. Because Platonists were interested in symbolic meaning rather than concrete physical significance, there is no attempt to claim that Apollo was Plato's actual father, as there had been even in fourth century AthensJi3 The important message for the student is that Plato is a philosopher who is also a spokesman for the god.

Plato was not always held in such supreme regard in Neoplatonism, for the Platonism represented by philosophers such as Iamblichus saw itself as returning to the thought of Pythagoras rather than that of Plato,. O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived Oxford, For the Iamblichans Platonic education was not so much the goal of education as a step towards some more ancient goal. Aristotle was less of an ally, and was frequently criticized for deserting the true traditionas allegedly represented by such works as Archytas On the Categories or Timaeus Locrus On the World-Soul and on Nature.

For the Alexandrian school, however, Platonic education was a goal in itself, and Aristotle a consistent ally in the approach to that goal. The rehabilitation of Aristotle clearly owed much to Ammonius, who seems to have specialized in that area, although the increasing importance of Plato as against Pythagoras is already visible in Proclus, doyen of the Athenian school. These later Platonists nevertheless continued to follow the sequence of dialogues prescribed by Iamblichus with a view to reviving a Pythagorean vision of Platonism.

Of the Platonic works required for his educational programme, only the Theaetetus ends in the inconclusive way we associate with Plato's 'Socratic' works, and the Theaetetus is by no means a typical example. Iamblichus seems not to have been interested in Socrates' teaching methods, only in the doctrine which he or other Platonic characters expound. The first ten dialogues in the programme, with their supposed areas of relevance, were as follows: Oh Only three works in Iamblichus' teaching programme seem to offer much insight into Socratic methods, Ale.

Other versions of this classification could be given, and this should be regarded as indicative only. The classic discussion of the Platonic reading-order is that of Festugiere , but see also Westerink , Ixvii-Ixxiii. Phaedrus theology theological 9. Symposium theology theological Philebus the Good theological After this decad, an integral programme in itself, come two 'perfect' dialogues: Timaeus all reality via physics physical Parmenides all reality via metaphysics theological The Republic and the Laws remained outside the basic curriculum, but were the Republic at least extensively studied, as is demonstrated by Olympidorus' frequent references and Proclus' commentary.

Most of the works III Iamblichus' programme are easily imagined as having Pythagorean connexions: the Gorgias and Phaedo offered myths and the analogy of soul as a harmony; the Parmenides, Sophist and Politicus employ Eleatics, regarded as Pythagoreans, as main speakers; the Philebus with its considerable use of One and Many, Limit and Unlimited, was consistently regarded as a Pythagorizing work; the Timaeus employed a Pythagorean as chief speaker. These works do not constitute a representative sample of Plato's philosophy, but the Alexandrians continued to adhere to this Pythagorizing curriculum, although no longer seeing the same significance in Pythagoras.

Strangest of all, the Parmenides preserved its supreme position, even though its canonical use as a source for Platonist theology had virtually disappeared. The curriculum was now traditional, and was perhaps preserved for practical rather than theoretical reasons. Olympiodorus' school backed away from a technical style of theology such as the Parmenides could encourage towards a more. In Cat. Iamblichus' interpretation of Prm. Olympiodorus and his World Commentaries on Plato and Aristotle for the most part have significance for intellectual rather than for political and social history, but intellectual history overlaps in important ways with both.

During the Roman Empire prominent intellectuals often had great influence with the Emperor-Arius with Augustus, Thrasyllus with Tiberius, Seneca with Nero-and Marcus Aurelius or Julian could have been considered part of the intellectual scene in their own right. Under Justinian the interaction of Emperor and intellectuals was very different.

Already there had been numerous instances of severe, sometimes fatal, clashes between intellectuals and the authorities. The extent of the suppression of open teaching by Platonists in is easily exaggerated, but there is no doubt that for a time pagan intellectual activity was severely curbed. Yet the purge does not seem to have been deep-rooted, and certainly not permanent, at Alexandria. For bibliography see n. The division of the commentaries into a general discussion theoria and a reading lexis commenting on lemmata seems to presume a particular kind of classroom situation with a formal teacher-pupil division.

Damascius made it plain that he regarded Olympiodorus' teacher Ammonius as greedy V. The Athenian school seems to have been well-endowed, allowing its members greater freedom from teaching to earn their keep. What had become by the early sixth century of the municipal stipend that had once been paid is unclear. Olympiodorus suggests that the solution is for the statesman to redistribute from those with more than they deserve to those in need presumably including philosophers.

If this is other than hypothetical speculation, it sounds like a plea for public funding, suggesting that such a scheme had either ceased in Alexandria or been under threat. Olympiodorus also observes that a student who learns fairness could not should not? Alexandria had paid a salary to Hermeias, which continued to be paid to his widow Aedesia while her two sons were educated Damascius, V. Presumably it went to Ammonius when he started teaching there, and Damascius V.

It is highly doubtful, though, whether any salary could have been paid to a pagan teacher at Alexandria following the enactment of Justinian's 'reforms', which severely limited higher education Procopius, Secret History Olympiodorus' concern to justify a philosopher's interest in income resembles ways that the church and its ministers have found it necessary, over the ages, to express a need for money.

The situation confronting Olympiodorus required that he be politically aware but uninvolved. There is a sad ring to the passage in the Gorgias-commentary 4l.

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All the same he recognized that the philosopher could not avoid 'some peripheral involvement with the toils of his fellow-citizens' 4l. He may perhaps have been trying to influence the survival of his school's activities through the moral lessons which he taught to his students, and at very least he is aware that like Socrates he may be judged on the basis of the public deeds of his students Rhetoric is an important topic in the present commentary, because of the contemporary need for philosophy to adjust carefully its relationship with a discipline that could embrace both opponents and allies.

In some cases philosophers found themselves practising rhetoric for an income. Olympiodorus believes that the proper relationship between the political orator and the philosopher is portrayed by the relations of 67 In Ale. Plato and Socrates! Olympiodorus clearly expected some of his students who read the Gorgias to become orators themselves. To this end he attempts to salvage a reasonable image for rhetoric from Plato's hostile text by carefully distinguishing between grades of orator, and in particular by arguing that Plato recognized an intermediate kind such as Demosthenes, Pericles, and Themistocles between the abject flatterer and the true aristocrat 1.

Olympiodorus' more positive reading of rhetoric than the strict text of the Gorgias would encourage relies on Socrates' reference to the perfect orator Grg. It is a good example of the way a Platonist like Olympiodorus takes a unitarian approach to a text, feeling free to employ in the explication of one dialogue themes from another. The formal tripartition of rhetoric that Olympiodorus employs goes back at least to Syrianus.

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This will not do for Olympiodorus, who seeks a more positive image for them, and he claims that Plato is absolving them from charges of flattery even though they acceded to the people's basic desires, and that they are superior to the flatterer Olympiodorus' rehabilitation of Pericles is also reflected in his telling of the old story that Alcibiades induced Pericles to start the Peloponnesian War through the Megarian Decree, so that he would not have to account for the money spent on Phidias' statue of Athena, as he was in charge of it himself.

The philosopher can become involved in the state and thus descend to the level of statesman, whence he may take up oratory in order to give the best advice and become an orator of the best kind 71 In Ale. One should note that Aristophanes may well be mocking the. Aristophanes has been taken seriously by Diodorus As seen also in the scholia, the full story involved Pericles in trying not to render his accounts for the project. What Olympiodorus or his source has done is graft the tale on to another story in Plutarch, in the life of Alcibiades, of how Alcibiades, being told by Pericles that he was agonizing over how to present his accounts to the people, advised him that he should rather be worrying how not to present those accounts.

The effect of this composite story is to shift the blame for the war away from Pericles, of whom Olympiodorus is trying to paint an attractive picture, onto the admittedly unreliable Alcibiades. The inferiority of the four democratic orators to true statesmen is one of ends: they did not themselves possess the correct ends which the statesman has , but merely carried out the wishes of the citizens 2. They were like apothecaries who gave a patient drugs to achieve the effect which the patient desired, not which the doctor knew to be best.

A true orator does not necessarily know the reason for recommending a particular policy, but is subservient to the true statesman, who does know. Socrates famously depicts himself as nearly the only true statesman in fifth-century Athens Gorgias multitude of unlikely explanations of the War currently being offered, since he has given a conflicting and equally far-fetched one in the Aeharnians, again involving PericJes.

See G. Croix , pp. This passage might have suggested to In Ale. The term seems not to have been used elsewhere. Olympiodorus promoted the ideal of a training for public figures, who, if not philosophers themselves, would at least understand the need to consult philosophic opinion. True orators possess different speeches for various types of audience; they recommend the good without necessarily understanding it , and serve the aristocrats, those naturally fitted to govern 1. Olympiodorus also distinguishes three types of rhetoric along rather different lines: demagogic rhetoric manipulates ordinary people, instructive rhetoric is used by the sophists, and practical rhetoric employed in the law-courts He is familiar with Demosthenes and the rules of composition, and with the kind of rhetoric taught in the schools and the literature associated with such teaching.

This suggests he either taught rhetoric himself, or at least encouraged its proper teaching, an implication encouraged by the positive image of rhetoric which he tries to create in his Gorgias commentary. At any rate, the discussion of rhetoric is one of the commentary's most prominent and possibly original features. Pre-Neoplatonic Interpretation of the Gorgias The earliest known arrangement of Plato's dialogues, that of Aristophanes of Byzantium, did not include the Gorgias in its five trilogies, perhaps causing it to be less widely read than it deserved.

Cicero makes it clear, however, that under the guidance of Charmadas the Gorgias was read in the Academy around the turn of the first century BC, in close conjunction with the Phaedrus. Compare Westerink , p. De Or. In Cicero's philosophical works Grg. The tetralogical arrangement attributed by Diogenes Laertius to Thrasyllus couples the work with the Euthydemus, Protagoras, and Meno, indicating that it was seen as part of a series of works designed to tackle rival educators. The tetralogies stand in an unknown relation to a classification of dialogue character: together with the Euthydemus and the Hippias-dialogues, the Gorgias was regarded as 'anatreptic', concerned to overturn the position of Socrates' opponents.

It belonged to the genus of 'zetetic' dialogues, probably because it was thought to be aimed more at the refutation of falsehoods than at the establishment of the truth, and to the species known as 'agonistic', seemingly because Socrates seems to be in competition with the interlocutors. Al-Nadim appears to preserve the arrangement of Theon of Smyrna, which puts the work in similar company;77 while al-Farabi is following a Middle Platonist arrangement when he places the Gorgias among those dialogues which are supposed to illustrate the crafts that fail to provide the desired human happiness.

Despite its length and the power of its argument, the Gorgias was not especially influential with Plutarch of Chaeronia or Alcinous, although it was well enough known to them,79 but it was studied Albinus Prologus 3. Tarrant , pp. This group follows a seemingly protreptic group comprising most of the other zetetic dialogues.

The group consists of Euthph. The failings of Parmenides are of a lesser order. This seems to place the work behind Tim. Similar impressions are received from Helmbold and O'Neill who find some 33 references to Grg. Whittaker's edition of Alcinoos cites 13 passages of Grg. In Middle Platonic times there does not seem to have been disproportionate use of anyone passage of Grg. Of authors influenced by Middle Platonism, Maximus Tyrius makes use of a, cd, bc, c-e, e, b-c, a, dff. RO Olympiodorus knows of a primarily moral reading of the Gorgias, according to which 'the just would be happy and the unjust unlucky and wretched, and the more unjust somebody is, the more wretched he would be.

The more chronic his injustice, the more wretched still. And if it is immortal he is far more wretched' 0. The Prolegomena also refers to a moral interpretation, which makes the work's primary aim to determine whether it is better to commit injustice or to suffer it. This is indeed a natural way to understand it, and, while it is not easy to attribute such views to any interpreter in particular, one might well believe that it was Middle Platonic rather than Neoplatonic.

By the second century AD the Gorgias was also regularly studied by orators, and it must be said that one of them, Aelius Aristides, in a work whose impact is highly visible on Olympiodorus, was capable of making Plato look somewhat ungracious in his handling of the orators. HI The Gorgias was thus viewed primarily as a treatment of rhetoric, by Platonists and orators alike, and was cited in a number of routine products of the rhetorical schools, most often in relation to the picture of rhetoric painted by Socrates or Polus.

See too the collection of information on ancient Grg. Gellius seems to know a, ce, a, and b mostly at RI Notably in the speech For the Four, Olympiodorus' first-hand knowledge of this work is questioned by Behr , who assumes that he follows Ammonius, who follows Porphyry's attack on Aristides in the lost Against Aristides.

But it is clear that Aristides' criticisms have remained an important issue, and the vagueness of references to Aristides reflects Olympiodorus' usual practice shared by most of us of not looking up references in the lecture theatre when he believed that he remembered the overall thrust of what had been said.

Olympiodorus_Commentary on Plato's Gorgias (transl. by R. Jackson, K. Lycos, H. Tarrant).pdf

Rhetores Graeci 2. R3 Themistius: a, c ff, b, d, d, a, c, a, d, a, d, eff, e, a, ab, ab, a. Libanius: c, e, b, b-d, d, e, c, a, a, b, b, a, e, a, efLa. With the Iamblichan curriculum, which focused on a concentrated group of dialogues, the overall interpretation of the Gorgias changed, and its importance increased. The corpus no longer contained a group of polemical works, and the Gorgias must have been included for its positive teaching, either open or symbolic. It is probable that, like other early works in the curriculum, it was thought to concern the physical world, thus reflecting Iamblichus' preoccupation with salvation through learning about ourselves, about the world around us, and about the theological world.

Perhaps Iamblichus' idea was that all dialogues that are to be understood at the physical level-all, that is, except the Alcibiades, which is about what human beings really are-ultimately aim at promoting awareness of a higher power within the physical world. It seems that Iamblichus believed that each dialogue must have an aim skopos.

Though he later reverts to translating this 'central theme' , p. Though both alternatives are occasionally found in later Neoplatonism too, skopos is the standard post-Iamblichan term. While we have no fragments of an Iamblichan commentary on the Gorgias,H5 Olympiodorus refers to those who thought the skopos of the Gorgias was the demiurge 0. Iamblichus presumably saw the first seven dialogues of the curriculum as having physical rather than theological subject-matter, and all dialogues between the Gorgias and the Sophist-Politicus as as ultimately about demiurges. So, for example, Crat.

R5 See Dillon R6 In each case we should consider the possibility that the reference, while inexplicit, is to Iamblichus. H7 Iamblichus identified the sophist presumably the target of Plato's Sophist with the demiurge of the sublunary world; he defended this view elaborately with reference to the various definitions and descriptions of the sophist;RR identifying Plato's sophist with a demiurgic figure is clearly an esoteric move; this 'sophist' becomes not so much a theme of the Sophist as an ultimate object, a target aimed at skOpOS.

R9 Hence Iamblichus' term for a dialogue's subject, skopos, fits an esoteric hidden goal, in contrast with other terms. His interests and imagination would have enabled him to see the Gorgias too as a work which ultimately unveils a demiurgic power. At first sight interpretations which made either Sophist or Gorgias deal ultimately with a demiurge seem equally strange.

But the scholiast on the opening line of the Sophist not only identifies the 'sophist' with Iamblichus' demiurge of the sublunary world, but also speaks of his demiurgic triad and of his 'Father of Demiurges'. Ho The Aristotelian ring suggests that the latter description may be a less accurate description, influenced by the Platonic-Aristotelian syncretism of the Alexandrian school, but this is not certain. H7 See Jackson , It seems that Amelius, in discussing the scope of Plato's demiurge from the Timaeus, postulated a triple demiurge, three intellects or three kings, he who is, he who holds, and he who sees.

The second holds the first, and the third holds the second but merely sees the first Whether this could have some bearing on the self-seeing intellect in anon. If it concerns an intellect at all, then that intellect is most easily identified with Zeus in the myth, who certainly had Kronos before him who could be interpreted as an intellect by Neoplatonists, but some intellect above Kronos must then be supplied.

Moreover Proclus tells us that Tim. HH Westerink , xxxviii; cf. Proclus, Theol. The scholiast on the opening of Sph. Hence it can be seen as being about non-being as at Prol. H9 Cf. Presumably Iamblichus thought that the Sophist's companion dialogue, the Politicus, also unveiled some demiurgic entity: for if the target of the Sophist is ultimately a divine sophist, then the target of the Politicus will ultimately be a divine statesmanYo The Politicus certainly involves a power with a quasi-demiurgic role, for its myth employs a helmsman and controller of the heavenly motions, Kronos in a previous era and now perhaps Zeus in our own cb.

Kronos was the 'statesman' of a bygone era ea. The Gorgias is concerned with the statesman, like the Politicus. At face value it concerns the correct management of one's own and the state's constitution, perhaps also the world's constitution ea. But within a theory that sees the ultimate statesman as some kind of demiurgic power, then it is conceivable that this figure should be found in the Gorgias, and as the ultimate object of that dialogue's teaching. A reading of the Gorgias as demiurge-focussed would, like our supposed reading of the Politicus, rest largely on the interpretation of the dialogue's myth, and Iamblichus' celebrated preference for intuitive philosophical insights must have relied heavily on what the myths were supposed to reveal.

Indeed all of the dialogues in which the main character introduces a lengthy myth are included in the Iamblichan corpus: Gorgias, Phaedo, Poli ticus, 9 I Phaedrus, Symposium, Timaeus, Republic. In the present commentary Olympiodorus mentions Iamblichus by name only when interpreting the principal myth In the Gorgias-myth too Kronos could be seen as the statesman of a bygone era, Zeus of the present one. The connexion of the Gorgias-myth with a triad of demiurges and a pre-demiurgic force above them appears in Proclus, who comments upon the myth's division of the world between Zeus, 90 See also Dillon , p.

We think it unnecessary to commit ourselves here to their view that the statesman was identical with the heavenly demiurge. On the Nachleben of this work see Dillon , Schicker Dillon ventures to remark that from the fact that Iamblichus included the work in the canon 'one may conclude from that alone that he had views about the interpretation of the myth.

Posidon, and Hades a. Olympiodorus himself mentions only one demiurge, a reflection perhaps of Alexandrian metaphysical economy or a reluctance to engage in the overt forms of Neoplatonic polytheism. It may, however, signify that it is the whole demiurgic system that was meant to be unfolded in the myth, not some part of it. In his own comments on the Gorgias-myth, Olympiodorus detects a Kronos-figure and a triad of new-generation divinities, whom the Neoplatonists associate with the heavens, the sub-Iunary world of fire, air, and water, and the earthy world below: the triad Zeus-Poseidon-Hades The divinity who would most naturally be seen as the chief figure of the myth is Zeus, the power of the heavens and the power of judgment Olympiodorus assigns him no explicit demiurgic role, but the god's role as an organizer and an administrator of justice is clear.

Olympiodorus' interpretation of the myth concentrates on the figures of both Kronos a higher and well-thought-of power, identified with pure intellect and Zeus The identification of demiurge and Zeus is standard in late Neoplatonism. Zeus is in a sense a member of this demiurgic triad which Grg. In Tim. Y3 This is of major importance in linking Zeus to the subject matter of the entire work, for rhetoric the theme with which Grg.

Olympiodorus thus supplies the evidence of a Neoplatonist tendency to see the Gorgias myth as being about something other than the souls of the dead. Yet he himself defines a myth of this kind a nekuia as about souls It is of interest to note, therefore, that Iamblichus did not regard the Gorgias myth as a nekuia These powers are associated closely with Zeus, and it is the system of judgment instituted by Zeus which might very well be held to explain finally why the values of the orator, the power-seeker, and the hedonist are inadequate, thereby crowning the work as a whole.

Compare Proclus In Tim. As Proclus saw ibid. Here he stands for intermediate souls, because he applies himself at one moment to contemplation, but turns back at another moment to the organization of lower things. The influence of the Plato's picture of the Helmsman in the Politicus is clear, and one might believe that such a person performed a role analogous to that of Kronos there.

But the cyclical role of Kronos is not utilized by the later Neoplatonists, who, like Olympiodorus, prefer to interpret the temporal events of myth in a non-temporal fashion. And, like Olympiodorus, they take their cue from Plato's Cratylus b in regarding Kronos as a purely contemplative God, a pure intellect. As early as Numenius fr. The myth implies that Zeus has an equally cyclical existence of control and non-control, and the demiurge figure reflects much better the intermediate role of part contemplative, part practical life of 'politics'.

If one takes Proclus In Tim.

Plato's Gorgias: Socrates and Callicles Part 1

Or again he might be identifying that intellect with Kronos, who at But again we might prefer to see the phrase as an integral part of the original interpretation, in which case we may note two relevant items in the myth itself: the judges of the myth are able to see those judged directly because they are naked, and Zeus had realized the problem of unjust judgments before he was told by Pluto and the guardians of the Blessed Isles- that is to say that he has foreknowledge. Yet these features are about sight not about self-sight. They would suggest an 'intellect which sees' but not an 'intellect which sees itself.

Olympiodorus' commentary is evidence at once of the persistence of the Iamblichan approach and of the waning of its influence. After Iamblichus the Gorgias had continued to receive attention. The ancient scholia on the Gorgias, which are surprisingly full and closely related to the work of Olympiodorus, refer on two occasions to the views of Plutarch of Athens. Olympiodorus' Reading Olympiodorus' own interpretation is, in general character at least, what one might regard as the remaining alternative for one who god Met.

Even so it is still not easy to explain the myth's Zeus-figure as specially deserving of identification with the Amelian 'intellect which sees' see above, n. Of these passages the latter, on d, is interesting in that it anticipates Olympiodorus' interpretation focuses on the issues that surface in the arguments with Callicles, and on the competition between Socrates and Callicles over the happier life.

Questions of justice and injustice remain central, and the contribution of rhetoric to the happy life is gradually reintroduced. But these questions are now seen against a richer theoretical background, in the light of the discussion about what, in the final analysis, human life should be aiming at. Thus Olympiodorus not only sees the Gorgias as being about happiness, he sees it as being directed towards establishing the principles of happiness. In accordance with Neoplatonic doctrine, the ultimate aim of the Gorgias belongs to a higher theoretical plane than much of the content. It may seem strange that a work's aim is identified with the fundamentals of a theory rather than the conclusions that follow from it.

But the Neoplatonists believed that Plato was already working with a complete and perfect system of philosophy, and his problem was not how to solve problems himself but how to bring his students round to sharing his beliefs. The target of the work thus becomes the deeper theory which one wants to make one's students aware of, not the more specific conclusions about everyday life and everyday reality.

Thus it is the principles of happiness to which Olympiodorus thinks the work means to introduce us, and the discussions of rhetoric and of justice are designed to lead us to awareness of them. There is a further refinement in that Olympiodorus does not believe that 'happiness' is a simple matter. The human being can be seen as soul and body, as soul only, as irrational and rational soul, or as rational soul only. An important place is given to the Alcibiades and its view that the person is soul rather than body, and philosophic progress is linked with the soul's shedding its connexions with the body.

Here Olympiodorus is much influenced by the parallel between the individual's constitution and the state's constitution which is central to the Republic. Indeed he seems to believe that the aim of the Gorgias is as much to discern the origins of the individual's constitutional happiness as the state's, and he frequently develops the psychic as well as the political aspects of politeia. Similarly, in discussing the aim of the Republic Proclus had emphasized that there is no incompatibility between the view that it is about justice and the view that it is about an ideal constitution.

Whereas the virtue discussed in the Phaedo is 'purificatory' virtue, in as much as it is the virtue of a soul being cleansed of bodily influences, the virtues of the Gorgias are 'constitutional' because they are the virtues exhibited in the soul or state which is properly constituted. Politeia, political and psychic: 0.

Thereafter, perhaps in part due to a misunderstanding of Plotinus, the number of grades of virtue grows considerably, in ways no longer supported by Platonic texts. One should remember that Neoplatonists did not have recourse to the distinctions between 'early' and 'middle' Plato, or between 'Socratic' and 'mature' Plato, with which to explain the conflict between passages that claim that the virtues are a single thing, different things always found in the same individual, different and independent We therefore consider it least misleading to translate 'constitutional' virtue, and have regularly translated politeia as 'constitution' and politike as 'constitutional'.

This kind of distinction between virtues, lives, and happinesses is not just the result of Neoplatonic love of proliferating the subjects which can be discussed. It is based on a sensitive appreciation of very real differences between the way in which the soul and its virtues are represented at different levels in different works. It may be claimed that Neoplatonists introduce such distinctions too readilyon account of their ignorance of Platonic chronology.

They could retort that some are too ready to resort to chronological explanations without fully appreciating how differences of perspective from one work to another will inevitably create differences in exposition, without entailing changes of doctrine.

For Olympiodorus, then, the Gorgias aims to make us aware above all of the principles of constitutional virtue. His view should not be taken lightly. We do not intend to preempt the reader's response to Olympiodorus' words by trying to give too full an overview of his doctrine here. Much of what emerges in the commentary is of primarily ethical significance, and it emerges fairly directly.


Much of what Dillon can say of Plotinus' ethics would hold for Olympiodorus too. Though he is interpreting a work which is devoted to practical ethics, and is conscious of the need to give practical advice to the pupil, he cannot conceal the yearning to be free from the constraints of the real world. The constitutional virtues with which he repeatedly deals are still but a path forward to the higher purificatory virtues, and maybe beyond them. The aim for things. It is the Phaedo above all which seems to demand something more than the routine distinction between virtues proper and natural good qualities.

Olympiodorus is the eradication of the passions, not just their moderation, and hence a life which is essentially free from bodily desire. However, he is not a simple anti-hedonist, but believes in some divine higher pleasure which awaits the true devotee, and which is not an unworthy goal. With regard to metaphysical doctrine we shall see how closely Olympiodorus can be seen to adhere to the outline of Ammonian doctrine given by Verrycken a, : one might claim of Olympiodorus too that 'the henads disappear; the Demiurge seems to be simply identified with divine Intellect; there is not much left of Proclus' construction of innumerable triads; the articulation of the intelligible world at levels between the divine Intellect and the sensible world has been blurred.

We may affirm that 'the Intellect and the One are frequently taken together in the notion "God ho theos ". It is likewise evident that Kronos' role is different from that of Zeus, who plays the primary demiurgic role here 0.

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Soul, unfortunately, is not treated sufficiently hypostatically for us to confidently state whether in this commentary it 'is sometimes de coupled from the first two levels of reality and considered as "caused by God". Only their rational portion is immortal 2. Olympiodorus is drawn into talking more hypostatically about soul when allegorizing the ancient gods.

So that one suspects that Olympiodorus does not want to separate the true nature of soul very far from Intellect. If we. The commentary does not unequivocally affirm that Olympiodorus followed Ammonius lOfi in seeing the first principle as both a final and an efficient cause, though efficient causality of a type which bestows upon us our being seems to be implied at It is in relation to the science of constitutional well-being that he applies the Neoplatonic doctrine of six causes 0. If the city is meeting to discuss harbors or walls, it would surely rely on the advice of builders, rather than orators.

But Gorgias points to the examples of Themistocles and Pericles; the famous dockyards and Long Walls of the Athenians were in fact built through the advice of these two masters of oratory, not through the advice of craftsmen, and even the craftsmen themselves are appointed by the city through the influence of orators like them. Socrates remarks that Gorgias seems to attribute to oratory an almost magical power, and Gorgias launches into his big speech of the dialogue ac.

It is worth reading in full, but it falls into two basic parts. In the first part, Gorgias affirms the power of rhetoric, saying "it encompasses and subordinates to itself just about everything that can be accomplished" a. Rhetoric gives the power to be more persuasive than a craftsman even about the craftsman's own craft -- an orator can persuade people to take treatments better than a doctor, and if he wanted to, he could persuade others to appoint him doctor rather than a real doctor.

This leads to the second part, in which Gorgias argues that rhetoric should be used just like any other skill, justly, and that if students of rhetoric act unjustly, they should be blamed for it, not their teachers. Socrates suggests that Gorgias is being inconsistent here, but he raises the idea very tactfully, and Gorgias says he'd be interested, but they need to make sure that the audience isn't tired after Gorgias's long demonstration.

Chaerephon notes that the audience is very interested in hearing how the discussion will go, and there is nothing he himself would rather do. Callicles jumps in as well it is a small point, but significant for the later course of the dialogue and insists that as a matter of fact, he feels the same, and would be willing to listen to them "even if it's all day long" d.

The inconsistency Socrates identifies is this. Gorgias says that rhetoric persuades not by teaching but by providing conviction without knowledge, and he has said that the orator will be even more persuasive than the doctor. But an orator would not be more persuasive than a doctor among doctors, because they already understand the subject, so Gorgias must mean that the orator would be more persuasive than a doctor among people ignorant of medicine. And he has also said that rhetoric concerns matters of justice and injustice, or right and wrong.

So this means either that the students of rhetoric are taught to persuade others about right and wrong without knowing what it is, or the students of rhetoric know what right and wrong is. Gorgias replies that if anyone came to him who did not know what justice and injustice were, Gorgias would teach it to him. But someone who really knows what right or wrong, or justice and injustice, are is a just person.

So that would suggest that orators are necessarily just people. Gorgias, however, has already indicated that this is not so: oratory can be used unjustly. People have occasionally tried to get Gorgias out of this dilemma by arguing it is not a strict inconsistency, but I think it is important to grasp that in the context of the narrative it places Gorgias in a position where no possible answer is satisfactory.

Gorgias, selling his services as a teacher of rhetoric, has played up the power of rhetoric to persuade. But as a foreigner in Athens, he can't go around claiming that he is teaching the youth of Athens how to persuade others of what is right and wrong even if they have no idea what is really right and wrong; that would be a direct admission of corrupting the youth. At the same time, however, he cannot afford to take responsibility for the moral behavior of all his students.


So Socrates has shut down the great Gorgias. Socrates' mention that Chaerephon kept them out in the marketplace is almost certainly, given later points in the dialogue, an allusion to the famous story in which Chaerephon went to the Oracle of Delphi and asked whether Socrates was the wisest man in Greece. The Oracle replied that there was no man wiser in Greece. According Socrates in the Apology, he thought the god must have made a mistake, so he started asking experts questions in order to find someone wiser than himself; but over and over he found that these so-called experts did not actually know as much as they thought.

In other words, Socrates' entire career consisted of Chaerephon keeping them late in the marketplace. And, as we will see, one of the purposes of the dialogue is to give a general account of what Socratic philosophy, and the career of Socrates, really means. Given that Socrates will effectively argue in the rest of the dialogue that the Gorgian approach to education in the long run ruins moral character and destroys societies, it's worth comparing the Gorgian approach to education with our own. They are remarkably similar in many ways. An implicit theme throughout the work is the relation between rhetoric and democracy.

Editors: John J. Cleary and Gary Gurtler. This volume represents some of the activities of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy from the academic year It contains nine colloquia that were hosted by eight different colleges and universities in the greater Boston area. Discussions of the works of Plato dominate this volume, with six of the nine colloquia based on Platonic texts. Appropriately, the colloquia begin with an analysis of division in the ancient atomists. Later, a study of truth in Aristotle gives a counterpoint to the Platonic interplay of drama and pedagogy or logic and rhetoric examined in papers about the "Theaetetus" and "Symposium".

Finally, the remaining Platonic papers are in a way not about Plato at all, but about Socrates and Xanthippe, supplementing Platonic dialogues with Xenophon and others. Underneath these discussions of ancient texts current modes of philosophy run along, providing a score of alternative interpretative schemes.

This publication has also been published in paperback, please click here for details. The concept of time in late Neoplatonism Texts with translation, introduction and notes.

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