Invited Talk - Monte Johnson

Event Date: 

Friday, December 1, 2017 - 4:00pm

Event Location: 

  • SH 5617
Title: Reconstructing Aristotle’s lost Protrepticus as a dialogue, and its significance for interpreting the dialectical sections of the Corpus Aristotelicum
Abstract: Monte Johnson will present the latest results of his collaborative project (with D. S. Hutchinson) to reconstruct Aristotle’s lost work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy) out of fragments contained in later sources, especially Iamblichus of Chalcis. Everyone in the audience will be given a copy of the experimental edition and translation, and Johnson will give a brief overview of the methods of authentication and reconstruction. Key passages will be highlighted showing the presence of adversarial voices in the evidence base which indicate that the work was originally similar to a Platonic dialogue, in which several characters disputed the value of philosophy in front of a group of assembled youths. But Aristotle innovated the dialogue genre in several important ways: (1) by introducing a proemium and explicit addressee of his work, (2) by depicting living authors defending their own views (namely, Isocrates of Athens and Heraclides of Pontus), and (3) by introducing himself as a character, who is given the leading role in refuting his literary rivals. Johnson argues that these innovations represent a crucial development in the genre of philosophical prose, one in which the author makes both his own contribution to the topic as well as his dialectical relationship to his predecessors and influences explicit. These innovations set the stage for the innovative philosophical method that can be observed in several works of the Corpus Aristotelicum in which Aristotle describes the positions of his predecessors and assesses them before proceeding to express his own views, which in turn are revised and refined by reconsideration of and expansion on the views of predecessors.