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Σ Χ Ο Λ Η
Ancient Philosophy and
the Classical Tradition
Iamblichus of Chalcis
A Journal of the Centre for Ancient Philosophy
and the Classical Tradition
Eugene V. Afonasin
José Molina (Mexico)
Anna S. Afonasina
Leonidas Bargeliotes (Athens–Ancient Olympia), Igor V. Berestov (Novosibirsk),
Vasily P. Goran (Novosibirsk), John Dillon (Dublin), Svetlana V. Mesyats (Moscow), Eugene V. Orlov (Novosibirsk), Vadim B. Prozorov (Moscow), Andrei I. Schetnikov (Novosibirsk), Alexey V. Tzyb (St. Petersburg), Marina N. Wolf (Novosibirsk)
Sergey S. Avanesov (Tomsk), Luc Brisson (Paris), Levan Gigineishvili
(Tbilisi), Vladimir S. Diev (Novosibirsk), Dominic O’Meara (Friburg), Sergey P. Shevtsov (Odessa), Teun Tieleman (Utrecht), Vitaly V. Tselitschev (Novosibirsk)
Novosibirsk State University
Institute of Philosophy and Law (Novosibirsk, Russia)
The journal is published twice a year since March 2007
Preparation of this volume is supported by
The “Open Society Institute” (Budapest)
СОДЕРЖАНИЕ / CONTENTS
Второй выпуск четвертого тома журнала состоит из двух разделов. Непосредственным поводом для подготовки первого раздела оказался двухдневный семинар, посвященный философу неоплатонику Ямвлиху Халкидскому и судьбе его наследия, который нам удалось провести в марте 2009 г. в Афинах при поддержке Ирландского центра эллинистических исследований (директор – всемирно известный антиковед проф. Джон Диллон). Программу семинара см. по следующему адресу: http://www.nsu.ru/classics/reset/Jamblichus-Athens-2009.pdf. В раздел включено четыре статьи, посвященные изучению наследия Ямвлиха в широком историческом контексте, а также небольшая заметка, которая дополняет перевод Писем сирийского неоплатоника, вошедший в предыдущий выпуск журнала (ΣΧΟΛΗ 4.1, 166–193). Статьи сопровождаются библиографией изданий и переводов сочинений Ямвлиха на основные европейские языки.
Во второй раздел вошло несколько статей, в основном по истории античной науки, а также перевод астрономического трактата Клеомеда, подготовленные специально для участников семинара по истории античной науки, который пройдет в Сибирском научном центре в начале мая 2011 г. при поддержке Института «Открытое общество». The second part contains a series of studies, mostly dedicated to Ancient science, and a translation of an astronomical treatise by Cleomedes. These texts are prepared for the participants of the international school “Τεχνη. Theoretical Foundations of Arts, Sciences and Technology in the Greco-Roman World” (May 2011, Siberian Scientific Centre) organized by the “Centre for Ancient philosophy and the classical tradition” and sponsored by the “Open Society” Institute (Budapest). Abstract. Seneca expounds a theory of therapy and teaching with the ultimate goal of self knowledge and wisdom. Some of his techniques are based on Pythagorean principles or derive ideas from them, among them the focused and constant ascesis of self control. Iamblichus in De Vita Pythagorica exhibits great interest on the fact that man’s inherent abilities along with the aid of proper education suffice for his attainment of wisdom. For both thinkers, knowledge through practice is considered to be one of the major philosophical demands in the perspective of an “ars vitae”. The human being has to canalize himself into the modeling of a new way of living, an “art of living” which will contribute decisively to the fulfillment of his teleology, to his perpetual eudaimonia (bene vivere). The admittance of individual differences in people’s ability to reform themselves only signifies the more intense effort of the teacher towards a purification of their intellect and greater engagement of the individuals’ volition but not their inability for correction. Thus knowledge is considered to be the first philosophical demand in the perspective of an “ars vitae”. And the alienation of man from his nature is the consequent axiomatic acceptance which this art is called to resolve. From that point on, a number of dissimilarities emerge along with a number of significant similarities. As Iamblichus holds in De Vita Pythagorica, the contribution of the gods is indispensable in man’s effort to reach perfection. Philosophy can be perceived only with their help because its beauty and grandeur exceed human measure. Consequently philosophy can be approached with gradual steps and only under the firm guidance of a willing god (VP I. 1). This means that “βούλησις” is for the god to exert. It is fundamentally by means of his will that man can overcome the insurmountable obstacles that philosophy would otherwise erect before him.5 In the case of his ideas and according to the detailed type of life that he described and materialized for the Pythagorean community, the ideal Pythagorean life consisted in the fine connection between the citizen and the Polis, the individual and his friends and the catholic ability of all living together harmoniously. Between the Pythagorean friends everything was common (κοινά τά φίλων). Gods were respected and so were those who were dead. Caring for each other, even for the animals, as well as education, continence, secrecy, temperance and all things analogous to them were of high esteem in the Pythagorean society (Iambl., VP VI. 32). What was of vital importance in this society according to inveterate Pythagorean principles was the negation of certain things such as: disease of the body, ignorance of the soul, luxury in the stomach, riot in the city, discord in the family and lack of medium, the Greek «μέτρον» (VII. 34). Certain emphasis is given by Iamblichus on the priority that the love for one’s parents should have. What parents command ought to be eagerly acceptable by the children (VIII. 40). In accordance with Pythagorean beliefs, benefits to the parents should be primarily compared with benefits to others. As a matter of fact, parents should be receiving benefits no less than the gods, because they are the ones who donate life (VIII. 38). Simultaneously, this expression of gratitude to parents and of good behaviour is generalised unconstrainedly and becomes the foundation for an ecumenical and ample humanitarian approach in this teaching. In view of that, people ought to behave to others by means of the same gnomon: friends should never be made enemies and enemies should become friends as soon as possible. The level of humanitarianism that this approach entails is as deep and overwhelming as the one included in the relationship between brothers (VIII. 40). On the other hand, education is of such importance that it is incorporated dynamically into the Pythagorean scheme. Pythagoras himself incited young people to remember how essential the intellect is. He claimed that it is not possible, on the one hand, to consider “dianoia” the best of things and according to it to make all decisions, but, on the other, not to dispose of any time or effort for focused ascesis that would consolidate it. Paideia of the intellect is the only thing that remains intact in life, the only indisputable parameter (VIII. 42). Furthermore, it is clarified that education consists in pieces of knowledge that people have gathered progressively. Therefore, as a collective construction, knowledge can be handed over from one person to another but still the one who gives does not lose any of it, while the other who receives gains (VIII. 43). Education is so important and critical due to the fact that it depends on man’s proairesis, on his free will. Thus it is rendered the only factor that distinguishes man from beast, and the free from those who are enslaved (VIII. 44).
Iamblichus records the Pythagorean recognition of individual differences as regards the path of men to wisdom. There are people who cannot be corrected easily, also people who are by nature better than others. Thus Pythagoras ends up making a selection among people. He chooses people according to physiognomy, and then he has them observed inside the School before making them familiar with the nucleus of his theory (VP X. 51; see also XVII. 71–72). In his hypothesis what is important at this first stage is the «ἀφανή ἤθη», the character that cannot be seen, actually the real and original make of the person. Furthermore, it is essential to discern the stability and the love for knowledge that the candidate may have. As a consequence, Pythagoras reaches a stage of austere segregation: those who fail have a grave opened in the school of the Pythagoreans as if they were no longer alive and they are also considered as imperfect and spiritually sterile (XVII. 73 and XVIII. 80). The sage from the island of Samos suggests though that it should be desirable to those who are not very capable of learning, to be benefited by what they see him do and by following his example in an undeviating observation of his deeds and words. Thus they can be transferred on the right way of living, simply by pursuing this paradigm (XV. 66). Taking the above into consideration, he remarks that, due to individual differences, the archetypes and the divine knowledge must be exhibited through diverse methods or spectres. By means of a metaphor he explains that it is like desiring to show the sun to someone who cannot look at it directly with bare eyes and as a consequence the only thing that can be used is the reflection on water or on tar, as a kind of speculum. In this way its brightness does not blind the one who looks at it and he certainly can acquire some knowledge of it. It becomes apparent that Pythagoras pensively employs a number of assorted dynamics in order to engage people in learning and to have them integrated in a novel “ars vitae” (XV. 67). In order to have this new way of living it is necessary to achieve the purification or catharsis of the intellect and the soul. When catharsis is successful the person has supreme self control, he has subdued himself to what is better. For Seneca, similarly, on a first level, philosophy is all that the human being has in his possession in order to alleviate the pain and anguish of his inauthentic life. This notion is based primarily on his acceptance that philosophy is both an art (ars) and a science (scientia).8 As an art, philosophy teaches us how to live well, what the Roman Stoic calls “bene vivere”. Contrary to Iamblichus’s theory, Seneca considers philosophy to be a moral and rational art.9 According to the Stoic doctrine, which Seneca – despite the frequent accusations of eclecticism – is carefully guarding, the knowledge of the Good, or “Honestum”, is the inevitable parameter for virtue and virtue, in its turn, is rendered an art; to be more specific, an art of living, an “ars vitae”.10 It is under this main prism that the Senecan theory is initiated and established. Unlike Iamblichus and the Pythagorean views which the Syrian philosopher records, Seneca is inclined to uphold that the answer is one with the question as regards the soteriological process of man to perfection. The Stoic sage, according to Seneca, is like an archer: his healing art must be intended to be successful and precise. Thus he chooses carefully those who can learn and gradually abandons those who cannot but not without having tried rigorously to provide them with a proper remedy.11 Teaching and therapy are incorporated into one art and thus together aid the formation of an art of living that will dispose of every negative trait. All the above contribute to the fact that whatever does not steer man towards his perfection is a superfluous and futile art. As a consequence, Seneca is led to almost reject all the liberal arts, calling them “deceits”,12 practically rejecting all education of the form that offers man the necessary skills for a life at work and ordinary avocations.13 As he upholds, it is a matter of self knowledge practically: where there has accumulated too much redundant knowledge there is no space for the knowledge of virtue, therefore no space for self knowledge. “Ars vitae”, as Seneca understands and proposes it, consists in a practical guide of living but not in the strict outline of the Pythagorean exhortations. Not diverging from the Stoic line of thought, the Roman philosopher accepts that right reason (recta ratio) is the sole rule and gnomon of man’s right actions, of man’s “actio recta”. Like Pythagoras, he affirms that knowledge and understanding need their time to come about and he believes that his doctrine has to permeate the soul in order to be realized completely. Again like Pythagoras, he suggests the company of good people who will act correctively and as exemplars to the new disciple. The knowledge that Seneca proposes consists in this main principle: that virtue is the only good; it is the immediate result of a solid and stable judgment and is located in the «ἠγεμονικόν», the part of reason inside the human being. Hence it is apprehended that awareness of the supreme good is an inherent characteristic. The Senecan art of life is not an advance at this point but a transition to the innate potentiality and capability. In this context, the Roman Stoic is unscrupulously in favor of friendship because even though friendship is not a good but merely a «προτιμητέον», it also becomes the basis for the circle of sages. In Seneca’s social prospective the art of friendship, that is an integral part of the art of life, is primarily a free art that does not enslave one to another, nor to anyone’s will. Hence the teacher is not the authoritative figure who seizes all knowledge. Philosophy makes all equal, despite rank, race or origin (XLIV. 1–2). The teacher may be similarly a man of passions – just like the student – but one who is better, meaning that he is already on the path to correction. To Seneca’s mind, the need for correction is so urgent that everyone is a potential participant in the process of healing, both as a patient and as a therapist. In the circle of sages they mostly resemble wrestlers of the arena who keep one another fit by means of constant practicing. Within the circle all virtues are practiced and one constantly presents another with a new idea about how to act according to virtue (CIX. 3). Furthermore, Seneca admits that everyone has the capability to become a perfect human being but of course there are certain individual differences, he adds without hesitation. Conclusively, we would focus on the following points. In the Senecan theory man is not orientated to a “political” conformity with everyday experience but to the urgent and dramatic recognition of the necessity for therapy. The therapy of desire, and of all inadequacy that the human being may suffer from, instantly places him in a frame of new existence, a genuine life experience or an art of living according to unwavering methodological principles. Man now turns to himself and becomes an internal being; in continuation he turns to the fellow human being in order to assist him in being treated and healed but his scope is not a political one. All value in Seneca is a moral value, and concentrates on the human parameter. That is exactly why man exceeds the divine and his behavior is not confined to complying with the role of the god associated creature. In Pythagorean thought, on the other hand, man cannot escape his connection with the gods. The Senecan sage can use it and can be based on it in order to act but he can overcome it up to a point, whereas this is not possible for the Pythagorean person who seeks virtue and eudaimonia. In De Vita Pythagorica Iamblichus maintains that passions must be cleared out and reason must be liberated from them. The method to do that is the method of science, the way of lessons which will be progressively established in the mind once reason is redeemed from those functional abnormalities (VP XVII. 78). At this point there is a profound similarity, perhaps the greatest one with Seneca’s thinking. In the thought of the Roman philosopher, the soul or “animus” must be depurated and all passions must be expelled. If this does not happen it is impossible for right reason to be able to function properly. The significance of this becomes even more evident when Seneca admits to Lucilius that life is darkened by the passions and the desire for external goods, and subsequently time and life become relevant values and lose their actual dynamic essence. Only if soul can ascend to its own individuality and release itself from passions will the person accomplish self knowledge and happiness (Epist. LXXX. 5).
Among the varied instructions, there is this encouragement in the Pythagorean School for men to resort to tranquil places where they can bring their souls to balance and stability before coming in contact with the people (Iambl., VP XXI. 96). In the Senecan theory, in an analogous manner, certain places are to be avoided by the man who is not yet a sage and therefore is still in danger of regressing to bad habits. On the other hand, the Stoic philosopher admits that the sage does not really have to be worried about the place where he might be found since he has a perfect and unaltered composure.16 Subsequently, he admits that rough places can provide the person with the opportunity and the appropriate conditions that will facilitate him having some further training and toughening on his character (Epist. LI. 10–11). There is also a number of other minor similarities and dissimilarities that may be found among the ideas of the two thinkers. What is important, nonetheless, is the contribution of both to the validation of the view that man has to turn back to primary sources in order to reach eudaimonia. As Iamblichus has made it clear, the primary source for the Pythagorean follower is that of the gods whereas in the case of Senecan stoicism the primary source lies within oneself. We won’t proceed to an axiological overview of the two theories, based on the conception of these two major discrepancies, but what we would like to stress out conclusively is the profound belief in both dogmas in the restoration of man. This conviction goes through the genesis of new notions about the origin and the nature of the soul which are not to be discussed in this paper. However, we will simply bring to attention the fact that despite the orientation to external authority ,17 as Pythagoreanism advises, and to the internal area, as it is sustained in the Senecan theory, life has to be brought to a completely novel measure and the human being has to canalize himself into the modelling of a new way of living, an “ars vitae” where all practice will contribute decisively to the fulfillment of his teleology, to his perpetual eudaimonia.
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