some Greek philosophy

--various funnies brought to you by The Hellenistic Philosophers

21S Lucretius 4.622-32
"When the bodies of the diffusing flavour are smooth, they give pleasure by touching and stimulating all the moist and oozing regions in the tongue's vicinity. But by contrast, the more each of the bodies is furnished with roughness, they prick the sense and tear it in their encounter. Next comes pleasure from the flavour at the boundary of the palate. But when it has plunged right down through the throat, there is no pleasure while it is all spreading into the limbs. And it makes no difference at all what diet nourishes the body, provided that you can digest what you take and spread it out in the limbs and keep a moist tenor in the stomach" (p.118-119).

48E Plutarch, On common conceptions 1078B-D
"If blending occurs in the way they [the Stoics] insist, the constituents must come to be in one another, and the same thing must both be enveloped by being in the other and by accomodating it envelop it. But on the other hand neither of these is possible, since the blending forces both things to pervade each other and no part to lack any part but every part to be filled with all. This is the point presumably at which the leg made famous in Arcesilaus' lectures arrives stamping with derision on their absurdities [snide remarks not unfamiliar to Plutarch's texts]. For if blendings are through and through, what prevents not only the armada of Antigonus, as Arcesilaus said, from sailing through the leg that has been severed, putrefied, thrown into the sea and dissolved, but the 1,200 triremes of Xerxes along with the 300 of the Greeks from having a battle within the leg?"

54O, Plutarch On Stoic self-contradictions 1044D
"...Chrysippus says that bed-bugs are useful for waking us, that mice encourage us not to be untidy, and that it is only to be expected that nature should love beauty and delight in variety. He then adds, in these very words, 'The best evidence of this would be supplied by the peacock's tail. For it shows that in this case the animal has been created for the sake of the tail, and not vice versa. That is how the peacock came to be created, with the peahen as concomitant."


Stoic Epistemology:

1) "Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, illustrated sensation by the outstretched hand, assent by the curled fingers, apprehension by the closed fist and knowledge by the grasping of one hand by the other (Cicero, Academica Priora 2.145 = LS 41 A); for knowledge for the Stoics is part of a whole system, and while individual statements can be true (or false), truth, as opposed to just 'what is true', is a property of the system as a whole."

2) "The problem is, of course, that while we receive many impressions of which we can be reasonably sure that they represent their sourecs accurately, it is less easy to find examples of individual impressions which simply could not be in any way distorted or misleading...A man can normally recognise hsi own wife without ther ebeing any doubt about the matter; but this was not so for Admetus in Euripides' play when his wife Alcestis had returned from the dead."

3) "The second important Stoic contribution to 'logic', in their own broad sense of the term, was their theory of the lekton or 'that which is said'. Consider Cato walking, and some who says out loud in Latin, with Cato in view but without pointing to him, 'Cato ambulat'. A person who does not know Latin will see the walking Cato - who is a physical object - and will hear the sounds the speaker utters, which are also physical objects (modifications of the air). But he or she will not connect the sounds with the physical object Cato behaving in a certain way, and has thus failed to apprehend a third, incorporeal thing, the lekton or what the words are actually saying." (this anticipates the modern distinction between sense and reference)

(Sharples, R.W. Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. London: Routledge, 1996.)


On Aristotle's Physics, introduction by R. Glen Coughlin

(Coughlin, Glen. Aristotle Physics or Natural Hearing. South Bend: St. Augustine Press, 2005.)

1) a quote from Werner Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy:

" of the most important features of the development and the analysis of modern physics is the experience that the concepts of natural language, vaguely defined as they are, seem to be more stable in the expansion of knowledge than the preceise terms of scientific language, derived as an idealization from only limited groups of phenomena. this fact is not surprising since the concepts of natural language are formed by the immediate connection with reality; they represent reality...On the other hand, the scientific concepts are idealizations; they are derived from experience obtained by refined experimental tools, and are precisely defined through axioms and definitions... But through this process of idealization and precise definition the immediate connection with reality is lost." (xvi)

2) "Thus the Physics, the first of Aristotle's works of natural philosophy, treats just those common notions mentioned above. Since the particular includes the universal in its notion, e.g., the falling of heavy bodies is a sort of motion and cannot be conceived apart from motion, we are compelled to start with the universal. In this way, the present work naturally and necessarily gives us the first part of the study of nature. Besides, we are more certain of the universal than of the particular..." (xi)
Written on October 28, 2007