List of Abstracts

2018 Abstracts
(Alphabetical by Author First Name)

Aditi Chaturvedi

The good, the beautiful, and the harmonious in Plato’s Philebus

My goal in this paper is to consider the role of harmonia in Plato’s ethics and aesthetics. In order to do so, I will focus primarily on the Philebus, but I will also draw on material from earlier dialogues such as the Republic and the Symposium and later dialogues such as the Timaeus. It has long been recognized that “to kalon” applies to the sphere of morality as well as aesthetics; however, the precise connection between those spheres still remains somewhat opaque. I intend to use the notion of harmonia to explain that connection in the works of Plato. Most work on Plato’s ethics and aesthetics commits the error of assimilating “harmonia” to ‘Pythagorean’ sphere-harmony or, even worse, reading “harmonia” as some kind of vague musical metaphor for unity. I argue, instead, that harmonia has a precise technical sense that owes much to pre-Platonic sources, from Homer to Philolaus. Harmonia did not, originally, have anything to do with music and Plato’s usage of it shows how music is just one of the domains to which it can be applied. Further, the unity of harmonia is a particular kind of unity – it combines in a fitting manner without homogenizing. Plato takes an idea that was extremely important for many pre-Platonic figures and transforms it within his metaphysical system. For him, harmonia functions as a principle that belongs to the intelligible realm, along with mathematical entities and Forms, and various entities are said to be harmonious inasmuch as they participate in harmonia. Both moral goodness and aesthetic beauty can be explained in terms of harmonia. The Philebus (64d ff.) aligns the proportional (symmetron) with the beautiful (kalon) and the good (agathon). In this paper, I appeal to my account of Platonic harmonia to explain the connection between these three.


Alexander Zistakis

To Kallon – a case of strife between ancients and moderns

The main question to be addressed in this paper is the following: Can beauty be admired without the desire to possess it? In the course of its discussion, however, the question of beauty (to kallon) actually comes down to this: Can admiration as such be thought/conceived as detached from the desire? This particular form of questioning follows what seems to be the rift between the ancient and the modern understanding and conceiving of beauty (to kallon). More precisely, ever since Gorgias and Plato, to kallon (i.e. beauty and the beautiful, beautiful things and images as well as the very idea of beauty) was considered in combination with desire and the wish to possess it. Thus Plato in the Symposium, and thus Gorgias in his Eulogy for Helen. In other words, something or someone was considered beautiful when s/he or it incites the desire to possess it in those who behold it. This continued well into the Medieval times, the Renaissance and early Modernity. The first real break with this tradition came with Kant’s famous definition of beauty as the kind of admiration that does NOT cause the desire to possess its object, i.e. the object of beauty. In this paper we shall, therefore, review and expose the two concepts/conceptions of to kallon and attempt a discussion of their relationship


Andrew Hull

Aristotle’s Conception of Civic Beauty

While the kalon figures heavily in discussing Aristotle’s ethics, his remarks on it in the Politics have received relatively scant attention. Yet Aristotle appeals to beauty regularly in his discussion of politics, particularly in the ideal polis: Beauty is realized in number and magnitude, and the state which combines magnitude with good order must necessarily be the most beautiful,(Politics VII.4 1326a33-34). Aristotle provides a number of specific recommendations related to the configuration and location of the ideal polis. Some of these suggestions are pragmatic in nature such as whether the polis should be near the sea. Many of his suggestions for constructing a stable polis correlate with the constitution of any given polis, but he provides the ideal polis with an intriguing layout: irregular, densely packed residences on the periphery with grid-like boulevards in the civic center. It is with this design that security and beauty will be combined,” as Aristotle describe it. While the other constitutions receive recommendations primarily related to their military or commercial success, the ideal polis is constructed with an eye to beauty as well. I will argue that his “political aesthetics” makes interesting connections with Aristotle’s more theoretical work, particularly his remarks on mathematical beauty in the Metaphysics (XIII.3 1078a6-36), that sheds light on the virtuous life Aristotle envisions for the citizens of the ideal polis.


Antonio Pedro Mesquita

Which Came First?  A Dilemma at the Core of Cyrenaic Philosophy

The Cyrenaic School is a philosophical school of Antiquity, founded by Aristippus of Cyrene, a disciple of Socrates, whose best-known tenets are a sensualist and egoistic hedonist ethics and a subjectivist and quasi-sceptical epistemology. The former has always been acknowledged as a central creed of Cyrenaic philosophy and has served to identify it as such all along the history of philosophy. The latter, although well documented in Ancient doxography as well as in philosophical texts of Antiquity, fell progressively into relative oblivion until the interest on it was revived in recent times by a remarkable overall study by Voula Tsouna. There is however a great deal of uncertainty on whether the Cyrenaics were subjectivists and quasi-scepticals on account of, or in order to ensure, their egoistic hedonist ethics, or, on the contrary, whether they upheld such an ethical doctrine because they endorsed this type of epistemological view in the first place. Accordingly, there has been a considerable amount of disagreement on this topic, although modern commentary has been, for the most part, inclined to advocate the first perspective and defend, with all kinds of nuances and grades, that Cyrenaic epistemology, interesting as it may be from a philosophical standpoint, is, from the point of view of the School itself, but a means to an end, namely Cyrenaic hedonism. In this paper, I will challenge this view and argue for the opposite one. I propose therefore to review and assess the available evidence on this issue in order to show that this evidence is best understood if we adopt the second perspective described above. More concretely, my aim will be to maintain that the Cyrenaics were induced into developing an egoistic hedonist ethics by virtue of their peculiar subjectivist epistemology and that their ethical thinking is rooted in and founded on this epistemology.


Audrey Anton

The Harmony of kalon and the Dissonance of kakon in Aristotle’s Ethics

For Aristotle, virtue (arete) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for happiness (eudaimonia). Virtuous people equipped with certain external goods flourish. The virtuous love the fine (kalon) and, in both knowing and loving the fine, they enjoy a certain kind of harmony of the soul. Even the virtuous who are not so fortunate still fare better than others when faced with misfortune, presumably because of this internal harmony. However, if this is the case for the virtuous, why not for the vicious? Like the virtuous agent, the vicious person has an idea of the good, believes that she is pursuing it, and receives pleasure from achieving her goals. Supposing that internal harmony helps the virtuous deal with misfortune, why wouldn’t a similar harmony do the same for the wicked? Aristotle is clear that, while the vicious man’s beliefs, desires, and actions may be in accordance with one another, his soul experiences the worst kind of disharmony, and he is miserable. In this paper, I consider the following explanations for Aristotle’s claims: 1) subjective harmony is not true harmony since it is in discord with actuality 2) subjective harmony is not true harmony when “the notes,” so-to-speak, are subject to sudden and radical key changes and 3) even when the wicked person gets what she thinks she wants, the pleasure that follows is short-lived. I argue that there is a way in which all three are correct for different reasons when we take into account Aristotle’s observation that while there is only one mean (correct behavior) there are infinitely many ways to miss the mark.


Aura Piccioni

Τὸ αἰσχρὸν καὶ τὸ καλὸν:

“Beauty and the Beast”, and the Domestic Cults in Western Greece.

According to Plato (in Plot., Ennead. 1.6), Beauty was an Idea, following which existed, as consequence, the things that the men call “beautiful”. Beauty was, in the sight of the philosopher, also strictly connected to the ideas of “love” and “desire”. In contraposition to this concept appears all that remains outside of Reason and Idea, the “Absolute Ugly”. Greek art is famous for its “beauty-expressions”, but one should not forget that Beauty is “Beauty” also because contrasted with Ugly, which appears the Greek art, too. This “Ugly” is in most of cases expressed by irrational, wild concepts and figures, and even by monsters. In a certain sense, Beauty could not exist if Ugly did not.  It is interesting that the cults that found place inside some Western Greek houses of the Hellenistic times testify the connection between Beauty and Ugliness. A concrete example for it comes from a farmhouse in the chora of Metapontum, the fattoria Sant’Angelo Vecchio, dating back to the 4th cent. BC. Here the excavations bought to light, among the other evidence, a small terracotta plaque depicting a silenos caught in the act – usual for one of these supernatural beings – of trying to “seduce” a beautiful maenad. Briefly reminding that the cult of Dionysos, to which this plaque seems to be connected, was widely spread in the chora of the Achaian city, as I also demonstrated in my PhD thesis describing the domestic cults of the Archaic times, in this paper I will concentrate on the connection between aiskhron and kalon which seems of fundamental importance for the development of this domestic cult, in the terms of apotropaic and fertility.


Bettina Springer-Ferazin

The Motya Youth – the Epitome of Beauty and Virtue

A profound consideration of the various meanings of to kalon in Western Greece may not relinquish one of Sicily’s most popular statuary finds, the so-called Motya Youth. The Severe Style statue was found in 1979 in the Phoenician settlement of Motya in Western Sicily and has ever since been highly discussed. The singular iconography as well as the high quality of its carving have led to different interpretations concerning the statue’s dating, provenance, authorship, context of installation, reason for display and the exact reading of the youth’ exceptional garment. Parallels for the high-belted, long and flowy dress combined with an unidentified headgear have been looked for in Greek and Phoenician iconography, but pose difficulties. The sleeveless gown with a frontal seam and the broad belt with semicircular ends, which is crossed-over in the back, have no equivalents in Greek fashion. Little is left of the Phoenician imagery and the alternative comparisons of the youth’ garment with dresses in Hittite, Achaemenid, Assyrian and Babylonian culture, though convincing, face local and temporal insufficiencies. Therefore, the true identity of the Motya Youth and his profession – a Greek charioteer? a Phoenician archer? – can only be suspected. Whatever the case, the Motya Youth is the product of Greek artistry dating around 490/80 B. C. and although it’s uncertain whether the statue was put up in Motya originally or must be declared as war booty, it most probably was on display in Sicily. The depicted is characterized by his physique as an ideal Greek man and the epitome of beauty and virtue: Young, beardless, short hair, reflective expression, athletic body. Together with other archaeological material found in Sicily and dating in the 1st half of the 5th century, for example the so-called warrior of Agrigento and the Agrigento Youth, the Motya Youth will be interpreted as evidence for the high appreciation of traditional Greek values (e.g. kalos kagathos) in Western Greece, connecting the colonies with their metropoleis.


Caitlin Gilson

The Fifth Element:  Is it Kαλόν?

In the Seventh Letter written to the Syracusan friends of Plato’s disciple Dion, he spoke of the fifth element at the heart of the being of all things, but famously notes its linguistic inexpressibility. This longest of his epistles written closer to the end of his life offers, beyond dialogue, what a young Socrates in the Greater Hippias could not address—a setting for the silent but blazing wisdom of Beauty. This is the source of existence, “that wondrous vision which is the very soul of the very beauty he has toiled so long for,” and it is the crowning unity of knowledge that “in a flash, understanding of each blazes up, and the mind as it exerts all its powers to the limit of human capacity is flooded with light.” My paper will consider the possibility that this mysterious fifth element is Beauty itself and that the unresolved questions in the Greater Hippias find themselves redeemed in and through it. A careful discussion of Plato’s philosophical, indeed mystical dedication to Beauty as the inner essence of Being, will reveal it to be both metaphysically unavoidable and yet literally un-speakable; that to declare it “unto all men were a thing impossible.”


Charlotte Witt

Habituated Virtue and To Kalon in Aristotle’s Ethics

As is well known Aristotle chose Meno’s second option for the moral virtues.  Although the intellectual virtues originate in instruction and teaching, Aristotle thinks that we become just by doing just actions in the same way we become musicians by practicing, by playing the flute or by playing scales on the piano.  In fact, he thinks that without the formation of proper habits via practice we cannot become or be morally virtuous. Aristotle’s terminology differs interestingly from Plato’s.  Plato’s term asketos means simply acquired by practice and it connotes craft production.  Aristotle’s terminology differs slightly but significantly.  Aristotle’s  ethismos  = inculcaton of ethe  = habits, customs, mores, accepted ways of behavior, usages points our attention toward the social world and its normative structure. In this paper I develop two ideas.  First, the process of habituation into virtue is intrinsic to what Aristotelian virtue is rather than a detachable theory of moral development.   Second, the process of habituation/enculturation operates at two levels.  Habituation both makes detailed, contextual social norms inherently pleasurable to enact, and inculcates an abstract notion of “ought-to-do-ness”, an orientation towards the noble (to kalon) and away from the merely pleasurable.   Borrowing an idea from Halvard Fossheim, I explain how the notion of imitation (mimesis) helps bridge the gap between acting in relation to pleasurable (or painful) consequences, and acting with an appreciation that the act itself is noble or kalon.


Christos Evangeliou

An Excellent Portrait of Plotinus: Beyond the Symmetry Theory of Beauty

In the history of western philosophy and in scholarly discussions on aesthetics and art criticism, Plotinus is known for his critique of the symmetry theory of beauty, which prevailed in in the Hellenic, Hellenistic, and Greco-Roman times. The present study will address critically the following two related questions: Did Plotinus reject the traditional theory of beauty as symmetry completely or with important qualifications and limitations in accordance with his philosophical program of reviving genuine Platonism? How, in his eyes and his mind, does the artistic beauty relate to other kinds of beauties, such as the beauty of natural and living beings, the beauty of purified souls and cultivated minds, and the beauty of philosophically perfected persons by proper Socratic erotic care, not to mention the greater beauties of the visible cosmos as a whole, which is the living eicon of Kosmos Noetos, as the second Hypostasis emanated from the One? It will become clear from our discussion that Plotinus’s views on art and beauty are an integral part of his well-thought-out philosophy which comprises the traditional disciplines of ontology, ousiology, henology, noology, epistemology, cosmology, psychology, anthropology, with special Platonic emphasis on excellence and Socratic care of the human soul aiming at the unification of the Ancient Hellenic trinity of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful with-in.


David M. Spitzer

Ruin on the Bright Arc of a Single Day: Diasporic Trauma and the Parmenidean Poem

Out of light into dark, from eastern to western rim, the turbulence of sea-voyage over many years—the song of Parmenides chants a cycle of movements and dispersals, of divisions and strife, a diaspora. How does the song not merely invoke, but cycle inextricably within the wheel of Phokaian refugee migration of the mid-sixth century BCE? What new horizons open through attention to the poem’s triad of emplacements: diaspora (Phokaia, modern Turkey, eastern Aegean Sea), wandering (Mediterranean Sea), settlement (Hyele|Elea, southwestern Italy)? This paper reads the Parmenidean poem alongside the narrative of Phokaian diaspora in Herodotos (Hdt. 1.163-167). Embedded in the poem’s images, particularly those in the so-called proem, tremor the traumatic memories of tumultuous flight and dispersal beneath the Persian advances on Phokaia in the middle sixth century BCE. However, under the transformative power of art this trauma becomes a vision of τὸ καλόν in its complexities: its beauties and its agonies. After a brief articulation of the ways in which diaspora can be meaningfully applied to the historical specificities of the movement of the Phokaian population, the paper voices the resonance of that event in several of the poem’s images. Chief among these are the chariot journey (DK B1), the Heliades (DK B1.5-10), the gates of the paths of Day and Night (DK B.1.11), and the goddess’ welcome (DK B1.22-32). At the paper’s end, this interpretative aperture opens onto the image of the two paths (DK B2) and that of mortal wandering (DK B6.4-9). Such an interpretation is an attempt to locate thought in a circle of reciprocity with the cultural and social conditions in which it takes shape and which it, in turn, shapes. It is also an opportunity to witness the transformation of diasporic trauma into a vision of τὸ καλόν.


Deborah DeChiara-Quenzer

Aristotle, Achilles, Courage, and Moral Failure

On the battlefield Achilles has no equal.  Even the great Hektor famously flees when confronted by him.  Then why does Aristotle view this greatest of fighters as lacking the virtue of courage?  This paper uses Aristotle’s subtle distinctions on ethical states from the Nicomachean Ethics to evaluate Achilles on courage as he is portrayed in Homer’s Iliad.  For Aristotle, courageous actions occur on the battlefield and involve performing appropriate actions with appropriate feelings of fear and confidence.  Despite Achilles’ courageous actions, Aristotle would deny that Achilles has courage.  For courageous actions alone do not constitute a courageous state.  Much more is involved including aiming at the noble end (τὸ καλόν), and performing the action from the moving cause of choice (προαίρεσις).  In Achilles, the passion of anger and the end of revenge dominate his soul. Achilles removes himself from the fighting because of his rage against Agamemnon; he returns to the fighting because of his rage towards Hektor; he fights valiantly on the battlefield, but from passion and for the sake of revenge.  Of the five pseudo states of courage that Aristotle discusses, Achilles turns out to be the paradigm for passionate courage – a person who performs courageous actions but fails to have the virtue of courage because he lacks choice and does not seek the noble.  Thus Achilles, who is the greatest of fighters and engages in courageous actions, does not possess the virtue of courage.


Drew Griffith

Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos and its Model, or the Beauty of the Toad

It was said that the sculptor Praxiteles took as the model for his most famous work, the Aphrodite of Knidos a hetaera called Phryne.  His human inspiration had the power of attracting many admirers, one of whom was smitten to such an extent that he even hurt himself trying to unite carnally with her.  When she was indicted on a charge of impiety, Phryne was acquitted thanks to a clever move on the part of her lawyer, Hyperides, who bared her chest.  The judges were unable to resist the sympathy (among other emotions) this provoked.  My paper will concentrate on this geisha’s name.  Notwithstanding that she was really named Mnesarete, she chose as nom de combat the nickname, quite common among Athenian hetaeras, of Phryne, which means “toad”.  To explain a name seemingly so inappropriate, ancient scholars pointed to her complexion, which they supposed to have been dark (indeed, like English “bear”, “bruin” or “beaver”, phryne means etymologically “brown animal”). Such an explanation must surely be rejected.  Among the marks of feminine beauty for Greeks was whiteness of the skin:  Homer baptized Hera “white-armed”, various heroines of myth are called Tyro (“cheese”) and Galatea (“milky”), and many women of the Classical period whitened their skin with the potentially lethal ploy of powdering their faces with lead.  This problem can be solved by calling into evidence the folkloric tradition of stone-age Europe, in which the toad was one of the most important symbols of femininity.

La Venere cnidia di Prassitele e la sua modella, o della bellezza del rospo

Si diceva all’epoca che il scultore greco Prassitele ha preso come modella per la sua conosciutissima opera, la Venere cnidia, un’etera di nome Frine.  La sua ispirazione umana aveva il potere di attirare molti ammiratori, uno dei quali ne era rimasto a tal punto colpito da essersi addirittura ferito nel tentativo di unirsi carnalmente con lei.  Quando fu processata per empietà, Frine venne assolta grazie a un significativo gesto del suo avvocato Iperide, che scoprì il suo seno.  I giudici non poterano resistere alla commozione così provocata.  La mia conferenza concentrerà sul nome di questa geisha.  Nonostante si chiamasse in realtà Mnesarete, lei ha scelto come nom de combat il soprannome, diffuso assai tra le cortegiane ateniensi, di Frine, che vuol dire “rospo”.  Per spiegare un nome in apparenza così inadatto, gli studiosi antichi hanno pensato alla sua carnagione, che hanno supposto scura (infatti come inglese bear, bruin beaver, “frine” significa etimologicamente “animale di colore bruno”).  Una tale spiegazione è sicuramente da rifiutare.  Fra i segni più evidenti della bellezza per i Greci c’era il candore della pelle:  Omero battezza Giunone “delle braccia bianche”, diverse eroine della mitologia si chiamano Tiro (“formaggio”) e Galatea (“come il latte”), e molte donne del periodo classico hanno reso la loro pelle più biancha con il gesto potenzialmente mortale di impolverarsi il viso con il piombo.  Questo problema si può risolvere mettendo in evidenza la tradizione folcloristica dell’Europa dell’età della pietra, durante la quale il rospo era uno tra i simboli più usati per indicare la femminilità.


Emily Austin

Aristotle on Dying ‘for the Sake of the Fine’

In Nichomachean Ethics IX 8, Aristotle claims that the virtuous person will choose to die nobly in battle for her friends in order to avail herself of the ‘greater good’, namely ‘the fine’ (1169a18ff). In Book III, he argues (1) that the paradigm of courage is ‘standing firm for the sake of the fine’ in battle at the risk of death (1115a29-31) and (2) that a battlefield death is more unfortunate for the virtuous person than anyone else, since her superior life leaves her with more to lose by dying (1117a29ff). Taken together, these claims present three related problems. First, it is unclear how death can benefit a virtuous person (or any person) at all, since the proposed beneficiary will no longer exist, as Aristotle himself admits in his discussion of courage (1115a26-27). Second, it seems on its surface odd to say that a person benefits more from losing more, at least without differentiating at least two senses of harm and benefit. Finally, if Aristotle thinks that the friend chooses the greatest benefit for herself, it is unclear whether this supports or undercuts Aristotle’s endorsement of other-regarding sacrifice, since it seems that the virtuous person chooses the fine death for her own benefit. Aristotle’s conception of the benefits of death for the sake of the fine, then, risks making a mess of his conception of posthumous harms, the value of lives, and the possibility of genuinely other-regarding sacrifice. In this paper, I offer a mitigated defense of Aristotle on the first two fronts, chiefly by showing that ‘the fine’ cannot be a posthumous benefit— it is possessed during life or not at all. I concede, though, that choosing to die for the fine while alive might undercut the idea that death is a sacrifice on behalf of others


Enrico Postiglione

The Conception of the καλόν From Magna Graecia to Aristotle

Apparently, Aristotle did not dedicate a specific work to the καλόν; yet, the term constantly appears alongside his work, accounting to something more than just ‘beauty’. Indeed, καλόν refers to something beautiful but it is also strictly connected with the τέλος of a virtuous action and with the idea of τὸ εὖ (wellness) and εὐδαιμονία (happiness), as a fulfilment of the living things’ soul. The term καλόν, as he conceived of it, is then coherent with Aristotle’s naturalistic framework. However, even if, within Aristotle’s work, the multiple undertones of the term are somewhat peculiar (as they show its coherence with the hylomorphic view), the origins of this complex and sophisticated meaning should be located within Magna Graecia (VI-IV century). In this paper I argue that, regardless of the place ascribed to the καλόν in his framework, Aristotle (as well as Plato did, before him, for different purposes) took over the meaning of the term as it had been developed by philosophers in southern Italy. A brief history of the evolution of ‘καλόν’ shows how, in this concern, the heritage of Magna Graecia persisted in successive (and sometimes contemporary) debates in aesthetics or, as in the case of Aristotle, even beyond them.


Esther Kariuki

The necessity of the transcendentals when educating in beauty

Plato held highly the opinion that there is a need to educate in kalon. Though extreme in his thought on how this education should be carried out. His thoughts still hold water. Educating the youth on appreciation of beauty should be done carefully because of its impact on the young.  His thoughts are related with the metaphysical connection of transcendentals i.e beauty (pulchrum), goodness (bonum) and truth (verum). The concept of beauty as used in this paper picks its meaning from the metaphysics transcendetals. When we separate these three aspects we end up with ugliness which affects culture and morality in a negative way. This loss of beauty leads to disenchantment and ugliness and modern man loss of faith in beauty. Plato’s ideals for the education of the young in the arts is in ensuring that only the right nurturing reaches them rather than those that morally corrupt the youth.


Francesco Moles

E καλὸν τὸ δυστυχές: la bellezza della ʻnuovaʼ Elena da Stesicoro a Euripide

Nasce probabilmente nelle colonie greche d’Occidente la Palinodia di Stesicoro, una delle opere più controverse della letteratura greca arcaica per una narrazione ʻalternativaʼ del celebre episodio del ratto di Elena. L’esiguità dei frammenti pervenutici non ci consente di affermare nulla di certo su quale fosse il ruolo dell’antonomastica bellezza della donna nel poema stesicoreo, che, tuttavia, fornì certamente le basi per la magistrale rielaborazione di Euripide nell’Elena. E καλὸν τὸ δυστυχές: quando Elena nel prologo, v. 27, pronuncia queste lapidarie parole, ha inizio una sconvolgente rivisitazione di un personaggio mitico che la tradizione letteraria, nonché la stessa tragedia euripidea, aveva canonizzato come origine di tutti i mali. Attraverso un’analisi lessicale e tematica dei molteplici riferimenti alla bellezza nell’Elena, questo lavoro si propone di evidenziare la portata della rivoluzione euripidea, per cui il τὸ καλόν non è più mero aspetto esteriore, ma assume un significato filosofico in quanto causa di scissione tra essere e apparire, tra fama e realtà. Malgrado l’evidente intertestualità, dunque, proprio nel ruolo affidato al τὸ καλόν si esprime il forte iato culturale che distanzia il poema di Stesicoro e la tragedia di Euripide, il primo originato dalle esigenze dell’uditorio con tutta probabilità locrese o crotoniate del poeta, la seconda ben inserita nel clima storico-culturale di fine V secolo e nello sperimentalismo artistico dell’ultimo Euripide.

E καλὸν τὸ δυστυχές: the ʻnewʼ Helen’s beauty from Stesichorus to Euripides

It is probably born in Western Greece the Palinode by Stesichorus, one of the most controversial works of the archaic Greek literature because of an ʻalternativeʼ narration of the Helen’s abduction famous episode. The meagreness of surviving fragments does not allow us to say anything sure about the role of the woman’s celebrated beauty in the poem, which, however, certainly provided the basis for Euripides’ masterful revision in the Helen. E καλὸν τὸ δυστυχές: when in the prologue, line 27, Helen says these lapidary words, it is the beginning of a shocking rework of a mythical character whom the literary the tradition, as well as Euripides’ tragedy itself, had canonized as the ἀρχὴ κακῶν. By means of a lexical and thematic analysis of the several references to beauty in the Helen, this paper has the purpose to highlight the significance of the euripidean revolution, whereby τὸ καλόν is not just the exterior aspect anymore, but it acquires a philosophical meaning as the reason of scission between being and appearing, between fame and reality. So, despite the clear intertextuality, exactly the role entrusted to τὸ καλόν expresses the remarkable gap separating Stesichorus’ poem and Euripides’ tragedy, the first one originated by the the requirements of the poet’s likely Locrian or Crotonian audience, the second one well integrated in the historical and cultural season of the 5th century end and in the ultimate Euripides’ artistic experimentalism.


Giulia Corrente

Τὸ καλόν and nature: a suggestive meaning of «beautiful» within Western Greek culture

Among the different meanings of the concept of “beautiful” which lie at the core of ancient Greek mind-set and art, especially of Western Greece, the one related to the relationship with nature is particularly suggestive. Western Greek land had specific features that were partly different from those of the mother country (fertility of soil, abundance of water, variety of vegetation, mildness of climate…) which are revealed not only in visual arts but also in poetry. A distinctive feature of Western Greece is not only the idea of “grandeur” – which will give birth to the expression Μεγάλη ‘Ελλάς – but also that of “beauty”, which in turn and with a more enduring and extensive irradiation  will give rise to the concept of «bel paese». Maybe the oldest record of this concept is to be found in a fragment of Archilocus, in which the poet compares Taso, portrayed in a bleak short glimpse, to the fertile coast of Magna Graecia, perceived as a καλὸς χῶρος, ἐφίμερος ἐρατός, a «beautiful, desirable and lovable country». Western Greece is seen and perceived, therefore, as a land of beauty and desire: «I would like to go to the land of Etna… bathed by the shining river Crathis which dyes the waters red gold and makes the men of that place strong and happy» (Euripides, The Trojan Women, first stasimon).

Through the voice of poets who appreciated and came in touch with the beauty of Western Greek landscape (Stesichorus, Ibycus, Pindar, Theocritus…) and through some particularly evocative references to the visual arts, different aspects of the relationship between beautiful and nature will be highlighted, eliciting some considerations not only merely aesthetic. It is true that the Greeks lacked the notion of landscape – which, within the context of the European culture, will emerge only with the Renaissance – yet, in their artistic expressions, it is possible to grasp the beginning of a sensibility which we can easily regard as deeply connected to landscape.

Τὸ καλόν e la natura: la Grecia d’Occidente in una suggestiva declinazione del ‘bello’

Tra le molteplici declinazioni del concetto di ‘bello’ che si possono trovare nel pensiero e nell’arte della Grecia antica, in particolare della Grecia d’Occidente, quella relativa al rapporto con la natura   si rivela particolarmente suggestiva. La terra greca d’Occidente aveva caratteristiche in parte differenti da quelle della madrepatria e peculiari (fertilità del terreno, ricchezza delle acque, varietà della vegetazione, dolcezza del clima…), che si riflettono non soltanto in alcuni tratti dell’arte figurativa ma anche nell’arte poetica. Tratto distintivo della Grecia d’Occidente non è solo la ‘grandezza’, che darà luogo all’espressione Μεγάλη ‘Ελλάς, ma anche la bellezza, che a sua volta e con un’irradiazione più duratura ed estensiva, darà luogo al concetto di ‘bel paese’. E forse la testimonianza più antica di questo concetto la ritroviamo in un frammento di Archiloco, nel quale il poeta contrappone Taso, ritratta in un rapido scorcio desolante, alla fertile costa della Magna Grecia vista come un καλὸς χῶρος, ἐφίμερος ἐρατός, un ‘bel paese, desiderabile, amabile’.  La Grecia d’Occidente è vista e descritta, dunque, come terra della bellezza e del desiderio: “Vorrei andare alla terra dell’Etna…bagnata dal fiume bellissimo, il Crati, che tinge le acque di un biondo dorato e rende fecondo e felice quel popoloso paese” (Euripide, Troiane, primo stasimo). Attraverso le voci di poeti che conobbero e apprezzarono la bellezza del paesaggio della Grecia occidentale (Stesicoro, Ibico, Pindaro, Teocrito…) e attraverso riferimenti all’arte figurativa particolarmente significativi, saranno evidenziati diversi aspetti del rapporto tra bello e natura, sollecitando una riflessione non solo di ordine estetico. E se è vero che i Greci non disponevano ancora di una nozione di paesaggio, che nel contesto della cultura europea emerge solo con il Rinascimento, tuttavia nelle loro espressioni artistiche è possibile cogliere l’inizio dello sviluppo di una sensibilità che si può senz’altro definire paesaggistica.


Gregory Burgin

Beauty as Polemos: Ordered Actuality and Disordered Possibility

This paper considers the classical Greek understanding of beauty (kalon) from the perspective offered by the philosophical thinking of Martin Heidegger. While a controversial figure, Heidegger offers a keen insight into the notion of beauty that goes beyond the modern aesthetic association of it with that which is merely pleasing and returns us to a more classical sense of beauty. In An Introduction to Metaphysics (1959) Heidegger writes, “The conflict of the opposites is a gathering, rooted in togetherness, it is logos…What the Greeks meant by ‘beauty’ was restraint…For the Greeks on and kalon meant the same thing (presence was pure radiance)” (131-132). It is this perspective of beauty as a form of “restraint” or a holding together of opposition that this paper hinges on and leads to an account of how Heraclitus’s Logos and Anaximander’s dike (δίκη) are at work in Heidegger’s understanding of beauty, and how beauty is not just the presence of a pleasing order or harmony, but is equally comprised of disorder adikia (αδικία) or opposition. The larger implication posited here is that an expression of beauty requires our concern for truth (a-lētheia) as freedom wherein our letting-be of what-is-in-totality (das Seiende im Ganzen) leads to the radiant ordering/disordering jointure (der Fug) of what-is in an ontological-aesthetic experience of the beauty of be-ing.


Guilherme Motta

What beauty is Socrates seeking by chasing after handsome boys?

In Plato’s dialogues Socrates is sometimes portrayed as men who likes to be around handsome young boys and is even referred to as someone who chases after them. There is no doubt that Plato’s Socrates is a character who is depicted as having a very strong connection with eros, but to understand what that really means one must recognize two dimensions of this character: firstly, he is someone who has experienced a strong conversion which has turned him into a lover of the highest form of knowledge; secondly, he is a man who, by this very conversion, became someone like the “fruitful in the soul” depicted in the Symposium, i.e., someone who feels the urgent need to communicate his knowledge once he has found the appropriate receptacle to it. “Fruitful in the soul” could be equated with the erastes who, in the largest part of the Symposium, is a man who is able to lead young men to the acquisition of civic virtue by engaging in pederastic relationships with them. Being drawn by the beauty of young men, Socrates too establishes pederastic relations with them, but pederastic relations of a very special kind. To begin with, Socrates is “pregnant” with “epistemic virtue” and feels the urgent need to pass it on. Moreover, he is not really interested in the body of these young men, nor he expects sexual favours in return for his intellectual guidance. A coherent interpretation of Socrates’ character throughout the dialogues requires one to construe the “beauty” Socrates feel attracted to in these young boys in a very singular way.


Jessica Elbert Decker

The Most Beautiful Thing on the Black Earth: Aphrodite in the Songs of Sappho

In our surviving fragments, Sappho’s “Hymn to Aphrodite” addresses the goddess in a startlingly intimate voice, asking Aphrodite to be her summachos, her ally, or more literally, her comrade-in-arms. Aphrodite is Sappho’s patroness because she destabilizes the patriarchal order and challenges the militaristic values of men, employing different weapons: seduction, ambiguous words, secret whispers and wiles. Aphrodite’s method is charm and laughter, and Sappho adopts this device in her songs, especially in fragments 1 and 16. Using subtle devices and ironic posturing, Sappho mocks the glory of warfare and battle, at the same time implying its erotic homosexual undertones. In fragment 1, Aphrodite doesn’t arrive in a war chariot borne by horses, but by quick sparrows. Sappho’s fragment 16, invoking the Trojan War, substitutes a different set of values for the military glory that men love. Rather than the armies of soldiers or fleets of warships, Sappho says that the “most beautiful thing on the black earth” is “what you love,” later in the poem conjuring up the lovely image—full of precise detail and beauty—of a woman called Anaktoria, who is absent. Sappho, in the context of the poetic tradition that precedes her, uses memory as a kind of magical device: she can make the past present through her words, which is, after all, the function of the Muses in the Homeric tradition.  Reading the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite alongside Sappho’s songs, I will argue that the hymn does not, as commonly argued, tell of the humiliation of the goddess at the hands of Zeus; instead, it is consistent with all the other Homeric Hymns in expressing a demonstration of the goddess’ powers: the hymn praises Aphrodite and her works. I will demonstrate that Aphrodite—and the values she represents: beauty, eros, ambiguous words and whispers—is a highly subversive feminist threat to Zeus’ patriarchal order and a force that Sappho slyly wields in her songs of love between women.


Jonathan Fine, Nickolas Pappas and Giovanni Ferrari

Panel: Plato’s Many Kala

The kalon remains one of the most obscure of Platonic concepts, yet it is central to Plato’s philosophical thinking. While the kalon plays pivotal roles in his aesthetics, ethics, and metaphysics, readers continue to wonder how to bring together the aesthetic, ethical, and metaphysical dimensions of the concept. The very nature and unity of the kalon is uncertain: it is perplexing, for example, whether Plato understands the kalon along the lines of beauty, or whether such notions as the fine, noble, or admirable illuminate the idea better. To make matters more complicated, the kalon occurs in disparate roles that are somehow connected for Plato. It relates to erotic love in the Symposium and Phaedrus, to aesthetic and ethical education in the Republic and Laws, to shame and honor in the Gorgias, all while serving Plato as the principal object of philosophical attention in pursuit of a good human life. This panel addresses various aspects and philosophical functions of this complex concept in Plato. By attending to the kalon in its many guises, we may come to understand not only its specific features but also how they fit together, if they do. The proposed panel comprises the following three presentations:

“The Multifarious Kalon will discuss the diversity of the kalon and why Plato should choose to emphasize that diversity. It is striking that, whenever the kalon becomes the main topic of discussion in the dialogues, its multifariousness is brought to the fore. Think, for example, of the “many kala” in the closing argument of Republic Book 5, or of the great “sea” of diverse beauties considered by Diotima in the Symposium. Whereas in common discourse, as we find among Socrates’ conversation-partners, virtue or the good is readily addressed in and of itself, rather than case-by-case, the kalon is commonly addressed in terms of its instantiations, not as such. This multifarious quality of the kalon is reflected also in modern aesthetics, in which judgments of beauty are considered to be non-generalizable, and in this respect stand in contrast to judgments of the good.  Plato is responsive to this quality of the kalon. Ultimately, however, when speaking of the Form of the kalon, he grants it the same metaphysical status as he does the Forms of the virtues. This raises interesting questions about the theory of Forms:  might it profitably be thought of as a kind of aesthetics?

“Toward and from Philosophy”: Probably no Platonic or near-Platonic document speaks as directly as the Seventh Letter does to the question: How does a non-philosopher begin to move toward philosophical knowledge? The question would have carried special force in Dionysius’s Syracuse, if the events reported in the Letter are true. Do the phenomena that inspire philosophical thinking carry the inquirer steadily toward knowledge; or are there elements in perception that while instigating philosophical inquiry also come back to obstruct its completion? The dialogues present the kalon as an impetus to philosophy. What the eye sees as beautiful the soul may come to know as beautiful in itself. And yet the eye’s fondness for the visible also works as philosophy’s impediment. Two remarkable passages bring together both sides of Plato’s ambivalence: the Phaedrus’s palinode and the Republic’s proposal for coeducational exercise. In these passages vision works as both metaphor for knowledge and metonym for the wayward senses. Which assessment will cover the place of the kalon in philosophy?

“Good Taste: the Kalon and Pleasure” will address the relation between the kalon and pleasure. While the experience of the kalon is intensely pleasurable, not all pleasures are kalon. Indeed, a common anxiety for Plato is that pleasure in the kalon can quickly lapse into behavior that is not kalon or is aischron, ugly and thus shameful. Several dialogues show the need for shame to monitor the boundary marked by the concept of the kalon between pleasures that belong to a “respectable” life and those that do not. But if the pleasures to which one is enthralled shape what one considers a respectable life to be, how can one learn to take proper pleasure and shame in what is genuinely kalon? Plato confronts this problem by using the concept of the kalon pragmatically, to reconfigure as shameful pleasures to which his interlocutors are attached. An exemplary case is the way in which Socrates disparages the pleasures of Sicilian delicacies as he reforms what it is to be kalon in the Republic.


Konstantinos Gkaleas

Ἔρως and γυμναστική in the platonic corpus: The quest for the Form of Κάλλος.

It has been sufficiently demonstrated by J.-P. Vernant that many divinities belonging to the Greek pantheon were named after psychological functions, mental attitudes, intellectual qualities and, above all, passions or sentiments. In this context, the presence of Ἔρως in this specific category of the Greek divine entities should come as no surprise. Despite the fact we could examine a plethora of interesting forms, figures and roles of Ἔρως in ancient Greek literary tradition, in this paper we would like to focus on the concept of Ἔρως in the platonic corpus and its relation to the τέχνη of γυμναστική. In any case, Ἔρως seems always to be present in his philosophical work, influencing his thought, if, indeed, Phaedrus follows chronologically the Republic, a work that, probably, precedes the Symposium. By all means, the two dialogues that associate extensively to this particular notion are the Symposium and Phaedrus. In the Symposium, Plato lays the foundations for his theory of Beauty and the Form of Κάλλος, developing – amongst others – the notion of how the real philosopher can access the Idea of Κάλλος following a particular process. Diotima describes thoroughly this process, explaining that the first two steps towards Κάλλος are associated with the physical beauty of the human body. Plato never claims that without these two steps the philosopher can’t comprehend the nature of Κάλλος itself, nonetheless, they do tend to contribute to the process of recollection (or ἀνάμνησις ) of the Form of Beauty. We can’t suggest that the physical beauty is the only way that the philosopher can use in order to envisage the Idea of Κάλλος, but we can’t deny its importance. If that’s the case, we can easily understand that γυμναστική becomes automatically significant, since it is strongly related to the concept of physical beauty in the platonic corpus, a notion heavily influenced by the Doric Ideal and the concept of καλοκἀγαθία.


Lee Coulson

τὸ εὖ καὶ τὸ καλῶς: the pure beauty of good

This paper argues that Plato’s affirmation of authentic εὐήθεια (εὖ+ἦθος) advances our understanding of τὸ καλόν. In Plato, καλόν can variously depict persons, acts or things as beautiful, excellent, honorable, noble and fine (cf. R. 493e). It is often linked with good (ἀγαθός), as at Plato’s Athens where the soubriquet καλὸς καγαθός honoured a person as noble and good. Thus, καλόν can signify nobility of character. This morally honourable sense of καλός is also evident in the description of εὐήθεια at Republic 400e: “τὴν ὡς ἀληθῶς εὖ τε καὶ καλῶς τὸ ἦθος κατεσκευασμένην διάνοιαν (the truly good and fair disposition of the character and the mind).” However, εὐήθεια (εὖ+ἦθος) and the relationship of εὖ to τὸ καλόν has engendered little scholarship. In considering that affiliation I note Plato’s use of εὖ as he begins to endorse authentic εὐήθεια: “εὐλογία ἄρα καὶ εὐαρμοστία καὶ εὐσχημοσύνη καὶ εὐρυθμία εὐηθείᾳ ἀκολουθεῖ (good speech, then, good accord, and good grace, and good rhythm wait upon good disposition, R. 400de). These goods are thus guided by, follow and are subsequent to (ἀκολουθέω) the truly εὖ τε καὶ καλῶς disposition of character and mind.  Socrates concludes the passage by asking: “Must not our youth pursue these [goods attendant to εὐήθεια] everywhere if they are to do what it is truly theirs to do” (400e)? For Shorey, this is unquestionably an instruction to youth “that their special task is to cultivate true εὐήθεια in their souls”, which entails cultivating τὸ καλόν in order to foster the fair and harmonious disposition of the soul (400d). A practice Plato endorses in other dialogues (cf. Lg. 728ab: Symp. 209b). I acknowledge the extensive scholarship on τὸ καλόν in the development of good character. Nonetheless, my paper concludes that learning the correct and useful relationship of goodness and nobleness, τὸ εὖ καὶ τὸ καλῶς (Lg. 667c) is notable as a necessary condition for the cultivation of authentic εὐήθεια, and that that informs how participation in τὸ εὖ καὶ τὸ καλῶς can guide good speech, accord, grace and rhythm.


Luca Pitteloud

Beauty in the Timaeus

The aim of my paper is to show that, in the Timaeus, Plato defends the following view on beauty: for any object x, x is beautiful if and only if it is the optimal realization of a function. This functionalist reading is based on an analysis of the nature of the model  (30c3-31a1) identified with the ideal Living Creature and described as the most beautiful thing. In the Timaeus, the paradigm of creation requires that a demiurge fashions the universe looking at an intelligible model. Now Plato assures that such a process involves goodness and beauty for the cosmos as the whole.  I want to show that, in the Timaeus, the model should not be understood as a perfect concrete exemplar (a sort of Super Animal) but rather as the optimal realization of a function. In the case of the universe, the ideal Living Creature should be taken as the functionality of being a living species.  This vision of the model is compatible with the developments about the Form of Bed in the Book X of the Republic (596a-597e) in the sense that, for Plato, a model is an optimal functionality that particulars aim to reach. The closest they get from this ideal realization, the more beautiful they are. In this way, there is a close link between beauty and optimal realization of a functionality.


Luca Torrente

The Beautiful Action for Aristotle

My paper aims to analyze the meaning of beautiful action in Aristotle’s ethics books. In fact Aristotle treats the concept of to kalòn in different contexts of his work. In relation to the beauty of the physical and biological world, to the movement of the stars and the perfection of the unmoved mover and to the order of mathematical entities. We can say that in the physics, mathematics and metaphysics the beautiful is always present and in any case represents what is wonderful for the contemplation of man. But in the ethical discussion, how does Aristotle considers the beautiful? For the philosopher of Stagira, the beautiful actions are those that have no usefulness and are so uninterested (Nicomachean Ethics IX, 8). The action that has an end in itself is indeed the most beautiful and the noblest. It’s clear that for Aristotle then the beautiful and the good are not the same, they are not two overlapping concepts (Metaphysics XIII, 3). But since the simple terms “kalon” and “agathon” are used in various senses (pollakos legetai), it is necessary to analyze in what ways a good action is also beautiful and if it is always practicable. The passages contained in the books of ethics will help us in the task of delineating the characteristics of the beautiful actions. The relationship with virtuous actions is also fundamental for the understanding of to kalòn in ethics, as Aristotle says: virtuous actions are beautiful and tend to the beautiful (Nicomachean Ethics IV, 2).


Makoto Sekimura

Purification and Forms of Beauty in Plotinus

Plotinus, as a successor to Plato, establishes his thought on the ontological difference between sensible and intelligible beings. In his theory on beauty, he attempts to use two different levels of form, sensible and intelligible, to clarify how the external form in body agrees with the internal form prior to body. As the faculty of human soul operates in both sensible and intelligible domains, the function of sense-perception is integrated in Plotinus’ metaphysical thought. He introduces the soul’s power, which enables a close collaboration between the passive function of receiving appearances and the active function of judging the form of beauty.  However, the sense-perception of beauty does not always lead us to the intuition of intelligible beauty. Based on Plato’s theory, Plotinus considers that purification constitutes a condition for the metaphysical operation started from sensitive perception. He admits that a purified soul, detached from corporeal elements, possesses a ‘pure perception’ to contemplate intelligible beauty. It seems that this purified perception plays a decisive role in the action of the ‘escape’ from the bodily level to advance to contemplate the intelligible beauty. Purification contributes, in human life, to make more acute this function of the internal sense which adjusts and fits the perceived form to the intelligible form in the soul.  By questioning the operations of the sensory faculty which incites us to the exercise of the soul’s intelligible function, Plotinus tries to disclose the signification of perception of beauty in this sensible world. So, we can say that he does not abandon the sense-perception for the contemplation of the true beauty, but on the contrary, he admits its value by using it as a starting point to strive toward the super-sensible beauty.

Marina Marren

Ascent to the Αὐτὸ τὸ  Καλόν in Plato’s Symposium 209e – 212d

I propose to examine the dialogical ascent to the “sea of the beautiful” (210d) in Plato’s Symposium (209e – 212d). My interpretation explains that the ascending character of the passage can only be affirmed on the basis of a peremptory reading. I adopt an approach that seeks not so much to undermine the canonical views, as to offer a new vantage point from which we can reassess the meaning of Plato’s treatment of the relationship between beauty, eros, and the soul. My argument proceeds from an observation of a discrepancy between Socrates’ first (209e6 – 210e1) and second (211b7 – 211d3) recitation of Diotima’s teaching about the ascent to the beautiful itself (211d3). In the first version, the ascent leads up to the practice of philosophy (210d5). The summary account of the highest point in which Diotima’s erotic teaching terminates (211b7 – 211d3) omits two decisive elements—philosophy and the soul. What marks the difference between soulless or debased and ensoueld or an elevated love of the beautiful? In response to this question, I argue that the ascending elements must be contextualized with an eye on Plato’s use of the dialogical frames. Diotima’s speech is not a direct report given by Socrates to his interlocutors, but a recitation of a recollected conversation (172a – 174a). The nestling of the dialogical frames qualifies Socrates’ speech and leaves untenable a straightforward understanding of his recitation of Diotima’s account as some performable ascent to the beautiful itself. My explanation of Diotima’s erotic teaching stresses the importance of the beautiful and attentive seeing. This seeing is attuned to the role that dialogical omissions, discrepancies, and disruptions—in short, the actions of the speech—play in our understanding of the Symposium.


Mark Ralkowski

Where is Alcibiades on Diotima’s Heavenly Ladder?

Alcibiades saw a transformative beauty in Socrates’ character and arguments, which suggests he has begun Diotima’s philosophical ascent to the Beautiful. This interpretation of Alcibiades’ speech is by no means a universally held view. Many scholars think Alcibiades didn’t understand Socrates at all. The case they make against Alcibiades typically rests on the fact that he tried to seduce and take advantage of Socrates. On this view, Alcibiades’ attempts to trade sex for Socratic wisdom show that he lacked a true appreciation for the philosophical life. Blundell (1992:123), for example, accuses Alcibiades of engaging in a “hopelessly ill-conceived attempt to prostitute himself in exchange for Socrates’ wisdom,” and she suggests this proves he was completely unfit for Platonic eros—at best, he confused “Socrates with the Form as the ultimate object of desire” (Blondell 2006:158). Ferrari (1992:262) similarly argues that Alcibiades’ mistake was to love the wisdom-lover instead of wisdom itself, while Reeve (2006:141) suggests that instead of treating Socratic virtue as a “resource that can lead to the forms of the good or the beautiful,” Alcibiades experiences Socrates’ rejection as “a genuine loss, recoupable only by gaining possession … of Socrates himself, and the agalmata-based wisdom he is imagined to contain.” In this paper, I will argue that “the case against Alcibiades” rests on a misguided view about Alcibiades’ progress up Diotima’s heavenly ladder. (i) It ignores or downplays the significance of his insights into the beauty of Socrates’ character and arguments; (ii) it misinterprets his attempts to seduce Socrates, and (iii) it misunderstands the eros that he feels for Socrates and for philosophy itself. These issues are worth looking at more closely because so much hangs in the balance. If Plato’s Alcibiades was a failed philosopher (if he genuinely had potential that he squandered), and if the city corrupted him, that affects our understanding of Alcibiades’ speech and the Symposium as a whole, as well as Plato’s defense of Socrates and condemnation of Athens. Since Schleiermacher, we have been accustomed to thinking of the Gorgias as Plato’s “second apology of Socrates.” On my reading of Alcibiades’ speech, the Symposium can be thought of as his third.


Mateo Duque

Diotima’s To Kalon as a Reorientation of Imperialistic Erōs

Pericles, in the funeral oration recorded in Thucydides, exhorts each of his fellow citizens to love and gaze upon Athens as a beloved (suggestive of an erastēs/erōmenos relationship) (II.43.1). Pericles mobilizes an eroticism, which is exclusively individual, while directing it to a shared love-object, Athens. This admixture of patriotic eroticism is dangerous; it can be hubristic and lead to ruin. After Pericles’ death, Alcibiades inflames the populace with a competitive desire for conquering Sicily (VI.16-18) over Nicias’ objections. Thucydides diagnoses Athens’ imperialistic passions for Sicily as erōs (VI.24). I read Diotima’s speech in the Symposium—which gives us an image of an ascent to The Beautiful in itself (210e-212b)—as a response to the tyranny of this imperialistic erōs that afflicts Athens. Diotima gives us an alternative to the political love offered by Pericles and Alcibiades. She redirects and reorients erōs towards to kalon. Beyond loving a beautiful boy or beautiful laws and customs (tellingly, not of ‘a city’), one ought to love the eternal, unchanging, and everlasting Beautiful itself. Her love is the mirror-image of Pericles’. Whereas Pericles urged citizens to love a collective object, Athens, individualistically, Diotima enjoins the lover to love the Beautiful itself, a seemingly individual object, collectively and publicly. (One wouldn’t want to share a beloved, but an Idea can be held in common.) Although the Beautiful is a single form, the way of expressing one’s love of this ultimate love-object is to see its universality as openly embracing all beautiful things—like a great sea (pelagos) of Beauty. Pericles’ love is egocentric, it is a patriotism that appeals to the selfishness of private passions. Diotima’s love is spiritual and transcending, it spurs the lover to keep seeking that which is larger than one’s self, and even larger than one’s own space and time.


Nicola Galgano

Logoi kaloi, the method of philosophy (Smp. 210a-212b)

In Smp. 210a, Diotima, decides to teach Socrates about the highest mysteries of love, for she thinks that maybe he will not be able to learn them by himself. Therefore, she starts a speech that is one of the most beautiful passage of the whole Platonic work. She teaches him how to reach, step by step, the Beauty itself, i.e. how to enter in the world of ideas and contemplate the pure idea of Beauty. In this “stairway to heaven”, he must proceed by degrees, first loving a single body, then many bodies, then one soul, then souls and so on to the top. The description has the general character of an increasing desire for everything. However, since the first step, the love of a single body, Plato advices us of one task that must accompany the process: “he should love one body and beget beautiful words there.” (ἑνὸς αὐτὸν σώματος ἐρᾶν καὶ ἐνταῦθα γεννᾶν λόγους καλούς). What are these logoi kaloi? The aim of this paper is to present some reflections about them. First, the fact that in matter of eros just the humankind is able to generate beautiful discourses; to say beautiful words is a part of our life and should also govern it. Then, as we know from other passages of Plato’s work (for example, Gorg 523 a 1), kalos logos means that kind of speech ruled by an internal order, i.e. the order of reason, for which a speech becomes a reasoning. This meaning links love to reason, very different from our usual understanding, which links love to irrational. Finally, there is a line linking love, reason and knowledge of the world, because the process ‘love for one body (and gradually for all things)’–‘beautiful words’ is the method that leads to the highest knowledge of everything.


Paola Gagliardi

Καλόν e αἰσχρόν in Teocrito e in Virgilio (Καλόν e αἰσχρόν in Theocritus and Virgil)

Nella produzione bucolica di Teocrito l’equilibrio tra idealizzazione e realismo nella rappresentazione della vita dei pastori è ottenuto con una sapiente alternanza tra momenti di delicata poesia e scene di volgare crudezza o di banale ingenuità. Quando Virgilio riprende in latino il genere bucolico, assecondando il gusto del suo tempo, ormai alieno dalla concretezza dei poeti ellenistici e neoterici, evita di riprodurre gli aspetti più rozzi e realistici della poesia teocritea o li addolcisce nei toni e nel linguaggio. Talvolta però, come nell’ecl. 8, preferisce rimanere al di sotto del modello teocriteo.

In the bucolic production of Theocritus the balance between idealization and realism in the representation of pastoral life is obtained with a learned alternation between pieces of refined poetry and scenes of vulgar obscenity or trivial naivety. When Virgil introduces in Latin poetry the bucolic genre, in accordance with the taste of his time, reluctant to the concreteness of Hellenistic and neoteric poets, avoids reproducing the most crude and realistic aspects of Theocritean poetry, or softens them in spirit and language. Sometimes, however, as in ecl. 8, he chooses to remain below his Theocritean model.


Paula Gottlieb

Aristotle, to kalon and music

Aristotle claims that the good person, who acts and feels correctly, aims at to kalon. There is a major debate in Aristotelian scholarship about whether to kalon has an aesthetic aspect in Aristotle’s ethics. Discussion ranges over the use of “to kalon” in Aristotle’s metaphysical and biological works as well as in his ethical works.  I argue that there is an important musical aspect to to kalon, Not only does Aristotle use musical terminology to show that the good person who has the correct emotions on the appropriate occasions is like a well-tuned instrument ready to sound the correct notes, Aristotle also compares ethical comprehension (sunesis) with musical appreciation, and the pleasure of acting virtuously with the musician’s enjoyment of music.  Furthermore, aesthetic pleasure in general and ethical pleasure are similar in that one can enjoy a Greek tragedy even though one may have pains of fear and sympathy, just as in real life  one can enjoy doing the ethically apt action even if the situation brings fear and sympathy. Aristotle says that in the temperate person, the appetitive part of the psyche chimes with the thinking part, both aiming at to kalon.  Here too music is significant  It provides the best metaphor for describing the integration of the good person’s thought and feelings.


Robert Zaborowski

Some remarks on kalon in Plato’s Charmides 154b9-d5.

In the opening of the Charmides, we meet several kinds of the beautiful (kalon). These arebeautiful persons (154b9: τοὺς καλούς and b10: καλοὶ φαίνονται), beautiful face of a person (d1:εὐπρόσωπος), beautiful aspect of a person (d5: τὸ εἶδος πάγκαλός and 155d5: ἐπὶ καλοῦ λέγων παιδός), her beauty while related to a good character (e4: πάνυ καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός ἐστιν καὶ ταῦταand 155a3: τὸ καλὸν ὑπάρχει).  These qualifications refer to the external and the internal on the one hand, and to the part and to the whole on the other. There is also a distinction between what is beautiful and what seems beautiful. These categories were subsequently applied and/or confirmed in Plato’s Symp. and, then, by Plotinus in Enn. I, 6. The paper will deal with the distinction of kinds of the beautiful in view of a hierarchical approach to the reality.



Erotic Love, Marriage, and τὸ καλόν in Euripides’ Andromache

Euripides’ Andromache has been criticized by scholars in the past due to its supposed lack of dramatic unity. Consequently, many scholars have endeavoured to identify its single, unifying theme in order to respond to these negative assessments. For instance, it has been argued that Andromache is: 1) political propaganda against Sparta (Kitto 1950), 2) a drama that explores the disastrous effects of the Trojan war (Stevens 1971), 3) a play whose dominant interest lies in the exploration of the nomos/physis dichotomy (Lee 1975), 4) a tragedy that is not concerned with individuals, but with different groups of people and elements (Conacher 1967; Kovacs 1980), and 5) a play that explores the idea of the disrupted oikos (Storey 1989), familial bonds (Phillippo 1995; Kyriakou 1997) and marriage (Papadimitropoulos 2006). However, little attention has been paid thus far to the fact that almost all the dramatic characters are preoccupied with the notion of sex as being actualized in the marital bed. An examination of these recurring references reveals that the majority of them are time and again negative. Nonetheless, it is not sexual pleasure in and of itself that is being criticized as such by the dramatis personae. Rather, it is the excessiveness and lack of prudence regarding sex within marriage, which is depicted as problematic. In this presentation, I will contribute to the above-mentioned discourse of Storey, Philippo, Kyriakou and Papadimitropoulos on marriage, by also bringing into focus the frequent allusions to sex and its less favorable actualization within the bounds of the marriages portrayed in this drama. I shall argue that sex and its negative actualization within marriage is an important thematic motif that is either discussed or alluded to throughout Andromache and can help us understand better the ancient perception on sexuality and its relation to marriage.


Stephen Hailey

The kalon in early Academic debate

Two of the three ancient catalogues of Aristotle’s works that survive record a lost one-volume treatise On Beauty (a peri kalou or peri kallous).  The placement of these corresponding titles in the “dialectical” sections of their respective lists has been thought to suggest that this work was originally a systematic compilation of protaseis (“propositions”) or endoxa (“reputable opinions”) relevant to the kalon which was intended for use as an aide memoire in formal disputations; traces of its contents may be found in the Topics and the Rhetoric.  In this paper I shall attempt to substantiate the suggestion that the kalon was an important topic of philosophical debate in the fourth century.  I shall begin with some Aristotelian passages from the Eudemian Ethics and the Metaphysics that show his interest in the topic.  I shall show that Speusippus, Plato’s nephew and his first successor as head of the Academy, must have strongly influenced Aristotle’s thoughts on the kalon.  I shall then consider Speusippus’ reasons for rejecting what appears to have been Plato’s view that goodness is the supreme principle of reality, but stands in the closest alliance with beauty, in favor of the heterodox proposition that goodness and beauty are hysterogenê, “latter-born,” not principles of things at all, and that in fact beauty may in any case be prior to goodness: a position which, if Speusippan, would require us sharply to revise the standard histories of the concept of beauty, and of the place of the Greek notion of the kalon within them


William Wians

Violence and the Origins of to kalon

The nymph Arethusa knew the threat of violence. While bathing in a river in her home province of Arcadia in the central Peloponnese, she attracted the attention of the river god Alpheus, who was determined to rape her.  Praying to her patron goddess Artemis, she was given first the cover of a cloud and then an underground and underwater passage to Sicily, where she emerged metamorphosed as a fountain.  As told by Virgil and Ovid (and much later by Shelley), the myth records how a thing of beauty literally springs from an act of violence. In Book 12 of the Metaphysics, Aristotle criticizes his pre-Socratic predecessors for making to kalon an unintended consequence of an original cosmic disorder.  But there is a deeper significance in the sequence of violence leading to to kalon that the literally minded Stagirite seems not to have appreciated.  His criticism invites us to look at the larger cultural context against which Aristotle often reacts.  In this paper, I will concentrate on three such contexts (along with brief references to several others) , each tied to the Greeks in Sicily: the cycle of Love and Strife in Empedocles, the struggle between Prometheus and Zeus in the Prometheus Bound, and the disillusioned and exculpatory Seventh Letter attributed to Plato. Each will reveal, though of course in different ways, a faith in the triumph of nomos and to kalon over tyrannical power—or to put it differently, that kratos is always subject to a higher and more just power, even if raw power triumphs in a given political situation.  If so, then the emergence of to kalon is a teleological process of a sort that Aristotle, in some cases at least, should have celebrated.