The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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In this account of an encounter with the surviving traces of the world of the Greek philosophers* and ray own discovery of their relevance to the ideas that originated and were tested there, I have three purposes in mind. The first Is to start a discussion of ancient thought in its context; such topics as "the world" are somewhat out of style, and yet our more specialized studies presuppose such a world and can go wrong if the general presuppositions are mistaken. % second purpose is to persuade our Society that it Is necessary for us to keep track of collateral information in other fields of research tangent to our own; my selection and classification of archeological items serves here as case-study. The effect of increased specialisation and precision has led to a decrease in the size of individual "items" considered important enough to publish separately; and this in turn has lead to an exponential increase in the amount of information one must somehow scan and appraise in order to keep track of material in other fields that is also relevant for us. The problem of storage of information, and access to it, is not limited to the natural sciences, where current attempts to use computers for this work are going on; perhaps it is time for the humanities, too, to give serious consideration to the technological devices we can tase, before the rising tide of information flow inundates us all. My third purpose is to report on my own experience during a year in Greece which began with assurance that Ï knew about Greek philosophy and that archaeology was irrelevant to it, and ended in a discovery that, on both these counts, I had been wrong. In the course of finding that there are al least four types of relevance between idea and artifact, I also found uy— self with an uneasy feeling that the sisa of my information was not adding up to an ancient world that matched any standard image of it— neither nineteenth century austerity, twentieth-century flamboyance, nor an eclectic conjunction of these which was my own.


Robert S. Brumbaugh presented “The World of the Greek Philosophers: A Reappraisal” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division in Washington DC in 1963. It has not been published otherwise, but it did influence the development of his 1982 The Philosophers of Greece, SUNY.

For information about the author see: