Date: 30 October 2020

Time: 16:00-17:15

Location: Zoom

Stevin Seminar: Making Plato scientific. The late ancient practice of syllogising Plato’s dialogues

Speaker: Marije Martijn, Professor of Ancient and Patristic Philosophy Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Welcome and chair: Olga Lizzini (council member Stevin Centre)
Lecture by Marije Martijn

Plato’s dialogues are famous for many reasons, and not least for their literary style. As a consequence of that style, Plato is also notoriously hard to pin down in philosophical dogmas. At least, that is the current view. In late antiquity, however, the basic assumption about Plato’s dialogues was that they were presentations of philosophical or scientific facts. In that context, it was not uncommon to ‘syllogise’ Platonic dialogues: render their argument in syllogistic form.
What would the point and justification of such ‘syllogising’ be? Using examples from Neoplatonic philosophers such as Proclus, Olympiodorus, Damascius, and Simplicius, I will venture into an analysis of its role, as an exercise in logic or regimentation of thought, or as providing scientific certainty and analytic clarity, or as a rhetorical tool, emphasising certain passages over others, or filling holes in the Platonic text. I will also address the questions what is lost in syllogising, and how, from our perspective, this way of making Plato more scientific relates both to the many myths and images he uses, and to the actual discussions of Socrates and his friends.  

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