PHILOSOPHY

Classical Literature

ancient philosophy and literature 

This sub-section of my website lists some of the inter-relationships between ancient philosophy and literature and their relevance to our modern world. In Western philosophy, the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire marked the end of the dominance of Hellenistic/Greek philosophy. It ushered in the beginnings of Medieval philosophy.  In Eastern philosophy, the spread of Islam through the Arab Empire marked the end of Old Iranian philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of early Islamic philosophy.  In this part of my website I attempt to link classical philosophy and classical literature and the world we live in. Genuinely philosophical thought, depending upon original individual insights, arose in many cultures roughly contemporaneously. Karl Jaspers termed the intense period of philosophical development beginning around the 7th century. As a student and a teacher of these subjects over the years the relevance of these subjects to our time struck me time and time again. 


Some of the content of this vast subject field is found in the following outline. Readers who would like to know more about any item in the list below can easily do so with a little googling.

A. Presocratic philosophers

A.1 Milesian School

Thales (624 BC–ca. 546 BC)
Anaximander (610-546 BC)
Anaximenes of Miletus (c. 585-c. 525 BC)

A.2 Pythagoreans

Pythagoras (582-496 BC)
Philolaus (470-380 BC)
Alcmaeon of Croton
Archytas (428-347 BC)

A.3 Heraclitus (535-475 BC)

A.4 Eleatic School

Xenophanes (570-470 BC)
Parmenides (510-440 BC)
Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC)
Melissus of Samos (c 470 BC–unknown)

A.5 Pluralists

Empedocles (490-430 BC)
Anaxagoras (500-428 BC)

A.6 Atomists

Leucippus (first half of 5th century BC)
Democritus (460-370 BC)
Metrodorus of Chios (4th century BC)

A.7 Pherecydes of Syros (6th century BC)

A.8 Sophists

Protagoras (490-420 BC)
Gorgias (487-376 BC)
Antiphon (480-411 BC)
Prodicus (465/450-after 399 BC)
Hippias (middle of the 5th century BC)
Thrasymachus (459-400 BC)
Callicles
Critias
Lycophron

A.9 Diogenes of Apollonia (c. 460 BC-unknown)

B. Classical Greek philosophers

B.1 Socrates (469-399 BC)
B.2 Euclid of Megara (450-380 BC)
B.3 Antisthenes (445-360 BC)
B.4 Aristippus (435-356 BC)
B.5 Plato (428-347 BC)
B.6 Speusippus (407-339 BC)
B.7 Diogenes of Sinope (400-325 BC)
B.8 Xenocrates (396-314 BC)
B.9 Aristotle (384-322 BC)
B.10 Stilpo (380-300 BC)
B.11 Theophrastus (370-288 BC)
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C. Hellenistic philosophy

C.1 Pyrrho (365-275 BC)
C.2 Epicurus (341-270 BC), see: Epicureanism
C.3 Metrodorus of Lampsacus (the younger) (331–278 BC)
C.4 Zeno of Citium (333-263 BC)
C.5 Cleanthes (331-232 BC)
C.6 Timon (320-230 BC)
C.7 Arcesilaus (316-232 BC)
C.8 Menippus (3rd century BC)
C.9 Archimedes (c. 287-212 BC)
C.10 Chrysippus (280-207 BC)
C.11 Carneades (214-129 BC)
C.12 Clitomachus (187-109 BC)
C.13 Metrodorus of Stratonicea (late 2nd century BC)
C.14 Philo of Larissa (160-80 BC)
C.15 Posidonius (135-51 BC)
C.16 Antiochus of Ascalon (130-68 BC)
C.17 Aenesidemus (1st century BC)
C.18 Philo of Alexandria (30 BC–45 AD)
C.19 Agrippa (1st century AD)

D. Hellenistic schools of thought

D.1 Cynicism
D.2 Hedonism
D.3 Eclecticism
D.4 Neo-Platonism
D.5 Skepticism
D.6 Stoicism
D.7 Sophism
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For a continuing and comprehensive outline of classical philosophy go to the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_philosophy

THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE: THE BEGINNINGS

The history of literature begins with the history of writing, in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.  Writing proper develops out of proto-literate sign systems by the 30th century BC, although the oldest literary texts that have come down to us are several centuries younger, dating to the 27th or 26th century BC.  Literature of the Iron Age includes the earliest texts preserved in manuscript tradition, as opposed to archaeological preservation.  The Avestan Gathas in the Zoroastrian tradition, the Indian Vedas in the Vedic tradition, the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible in the Biblical tradition and the earliest literature from Ancient Greece are some of the oldest texts. Go to this link for more:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_literature and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_literature

Classical Antiquity is usually considered to begin with Homer in the 8th century BC and continues until the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. It is joined by Latin literature from the 3rd century BC. Besides the classics of the Western canon, this period also comprises the development of both classical Sanskrit literature and Sangam literature in India, as well as (i) the Chinese classics in China and (ii) the beginning of classical Syriac and Middle Persian literatures by Late Antiquity.  Historical literary works up to the 5th century AD, the conventional end of Classical Antiquity, is another vast field.  Literature of the 6th to 9th centuries is covered separately, at Early Medieval literature. This cut-off date is of course somewhat arbitrary.


The Hundred Schools of Thought

The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished in China from the 6th century to 221 BCE, an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion. Even though this period – known in its earlier part as the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period – in its latter part was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, it is also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. This period ended with the rise of the Qin Dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent. The Book of Han lists ten major schools, they are:

1. Confucianism which teaches that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi.

2. Legalism which maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity & martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.

3. Taoism, a philosophy which emphasizes the Three Jewels of the Tao:compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos; health andlongevity; and wu wei (action through inaction). Harmony with the Universe, or the source thereof (Tao), is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices.

4. Mohism, which advocated the idea of universal love: Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as primitive materialist empiricism; he believed that human cognition ought to be based on one's perceptions – one's sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on the human capacity for abstraction. Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as extravagant.

5. Naturalism, the School of Naturalists or the Yin-yang school, which synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements; Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school.

6. Agrarianism, or the School of Agrarianism, which advocated peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism. The Agrarians believed that Chinese society should be modeled around that of the early sage king Shen Nong, a folk hero which was portrayed in Chinese literature as "working in the fields, along with everyone else, and consulting with everyone else when any decision had to be reached."

7. The Logicians or the School of Names, which focused on definition and logic. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek sophists or dialecticians. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi.

8. The School of Diplomacy or School of Vertical and Horizontal Alliances, which focused on practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.

9. The Miscellaneous School, which integrated teachings from different schools; for instance, Lü Buwei found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lüshi Chunqiu cooperatively. This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws.

10.The School of "Minor-talks", which was not a unique school of thought, but a philosophy constructed of all the thoughts which were discussed by and originated from normal people on the street.

Another group is the School of the Military that studied strategy and the philosophy of war; Sunzi and Sun Bin were influential leaders. However, this school was not one of the "Ten Schools" defined by Hanshu. Fore more go to:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_philosophy

The History of Chinese Literature

Writing in China dates back to the hieroglyphs that were used in the Shang Dynasty of 1700 – 1050 BC. Chinese literature is a vast subject that spans thousands of years. One of the interesting things about Chinese literature is that much of the serious literature was composed using a formal written language that is called Classical Chinese. The best literature of the Yuan Dynasty era and the four novels that are considered the greatest classics are important exceptions. However, even during the Qing Dynasty of two hundred years ago, most writers composed in a literary stream that extended back about 2,400 years. They studied very ancient writings in more or less the original written language. This large breadth of time with so many writers living in the various eras and countries makes Chinese literature complex. Chinese literary works include fiction, philosophical and religious works, poetry, and scientific writings. The dynastic eras frame the history of Chinese literature and are examined one by one.

The grammar of the written Classical Language is different than the spoken languages of the past two thousand years. This written language was used by people of many different ethnic groups and countries during the Zhou, Qin and Han eras spanning 1050 BC to 220 AD. After the Han Dynasty, the written language evolved as the spoken languages changed, but most writers still based their compositions on Classical Chinese. However, this written language wasn’t the vernacular language even two thousand years ago. The empires and groups of kingdoms of all these eras were composed of people speaking many different native languages. If Europe had a literary history like China’s, it would be as if most European writers until the 20th century always tried to write in ancient Classical Greek that became a dead language more than two millennia ago. For more go to: http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/culture/history-of-chinese-literature.htm

INTRODUCTION: Roman Authors

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A. From 1989 to 1994 I taught ancient history, Greece one year(478 to 404 BC), and Rome(133 BC to 14 AD) the next. It was a matriculation subject producing for my use several volumes of notes in the study of ancient Greece and ancient Rome during the particular periods of time mentioned above. It was my first serious and extended exposure to classical civilization, although I did study the Roman Empire after 31 B.C. in my first year at university.  This serious exposure occurred at the time when the Mt. Carmel Project of the international Baha'i community was in full-swing.  This involved the construction of the international spiritual and administrative centre of the Baha'i Faith now considered, at least by some accounts, as one of the many wonders of the world, and certainly a wonder in Israel, that beleagured of countries.

In the 22 years since completing my teaching of these courses,  I have drawn on these notes and added to them from time to time.  I now have ten large files of notes.  This introduction is the introduction to the subject of Roman authors. The subject of classical civilization is of great interest to me particularly since there are obviously so many parallels & ideas that provide, at least for me, helpful perspectives for understanding our modern world, and especially the role of the Baha’i Faith, its history and future. Although I taught many subjects in the 32 years I was a teacher, and studied many subjects in the 18 years I was enrolled as a student, in that half-a-century, classical history, literature and philosophy did not occupy a central place. I had been a generalist during all those years and never a specialist in any one field, any one subject. But after my retirement in 1999 classical studies came to occupy an important, if not central, place in the many subjects that came to occupy my attention as the yeares of the 21st century passed by annalistically, incrementally. Since I was diagnosed with a terminal illness in mid-2015, my study in this area has diminished.

B. There is a core in my file on Roman authors to build on in the years ahead, and that is what I have been doing in the 22 years after the formal teaching of ancient history came to an end in November 1994. Except for the notes on the Roman authors Cicero and Sallust, virtually all the material in my Roman authors file has been added in the years 1995 to 2016. Roman literature, written in the Latin language, remains an enduring legacy of the culture of ancient Rome. Some of the earliest extant works are historical epics telling of the early military history of Rome followed, as the Republic expanded, by poetry, comedies, histories and tragedies.

Latin literature drew heavily on the traditions of other cultures, particularly the more matured literary tradition of Greece, and the strong influence of earlier Greek authors is readily apparent. Few works remain of Early and Old Latin, although a few of the plays of Plautus and Terence have come down to us. The “Golden Age of Roman Literature” is usually considered to cover the period from about the start of the 1st Century BCE up to the mid-1st Century CE. Catullus pioneered the naturalization of Greek lyric verse forms into Latin in his very personal (sometimes erotic, sometimes playful, and frequently abusive) poetry.

The Hellenizing tendencies of Golden Age Latin reached their apex in the epic poetry of Vergil, the odes and satires of Horace & the elegiac couplets of Ovid. The “Silver Age of Roman Literature” extends into the 2nd Century CE, a period during which the eloquent, sometimes bombastic, poetry of Seneca the Younger & Lucan gave way to the more restrained, classicized style of Pliny the Younger’s letters & the powerful satires of Juvenal. Brief mention should also be made here of a lesser known genre, that of the ancient novel or prose fiction. Two such Ancient Roman novels have come down to us, the "Satyricon" of Gaius Petronius (1st Century CE) and "The Golden Ass" (or "Metamorphoses") of Lucius Apuleius (2nd Century CE). Roman literature written after the mid-2nd Century CE is often disparaged and largely ignored, and Medieval Latin was usually dismissed as “Dog-Latin”. However, long after the Roman Empire had fallen, the Latin language continued to play a central role in Western European civilization. For more go to: http://www.ancient-literature.com/rome.html

Ron Price

17/7/'04 to 2/3/'16.

CELESTIAL HARMONY
A NEW ORPHEUS

Poetry was always meant to be an instrument of immense power with a scarcely foreseeable but wholly positive future. Is it due to this ‘scarcely foreseeable future’ of poetry that Sewell alludes to, that seems to limit the role of poetry in modern philosophy. Terpsichore was one of the nine muses of music, song and dance. In late classical times--when the Muses were assigned specific literary and artistic spheres--Terpsikhore was named Muse of choral song and dancing, and represented with a plectrum and lyre. -Elizabeth Sewell, The Orphic Voice: Poetry and Natural History, Yale UP, New Haven, 1960, p.51.

A new Orpheus has come with golden touch
to soften steel and find the mystic bone,
to tame the tiger, uncover mysterious stone,
create new leviathan, to dance on sand,
to draw all things to Him, especially man.

This new Orpheus Who sings for all
to science, philosophy and poetry,
He has come and issued His clear call,
having been raised up by some
Most Great Spirit descended,
personated by a Maiden and I
have heard this Orpheus’ call.

It is this call that makes me yearn
toward a philosophic song and
cherish those times when time is reborn,
when a certain luminosity, deep coolness,
takes me back to myself, turning the visible
into the invisible and some inner breath.

This wondrous Orpheus of this new age
urges a harmony of science and poetry.
Dear Wordsworth did in his The Prelude
strike this harmonic chord and describe
an organic growth, its unity, timelessness
and ours in the exquisite chamber,
the deep recesses of my heart,
the seat of the revelation of
the inner mysteries of Vision,
of God, of Mystery, Celestial
Harmony: it is here that we must
free ourselves of the shadowy and
ephemeral attachments to hear
the piercing sweetness of music
unloosed when we free ourselves
of love and hate, detach and renounce
and free our tongues from excess
or idle speech and imbue ourselves
with such a spirit of search that Orpheus,
like some Mystic Herald
from the City of God, will endow us
with a new heart , a new mind, a new eye
and a new ear and we will gaze
with the eye of God,yes, in that
Celestial Harmony, perchance
In Shelley’s Undiscovered Country.

Ron Price
24 September 1995
(revised 5/1/06)


OF PLATO AND LUCRETIUS

Plato argued in his Republic that 'there is no hope of a cessation of evils….except through a personal union between political power and philosophy….the philosophers must become kings.'(1) While it is obvious that those elected to administrative positions in the Baha'i polity are neither philosophers nor kings by study or inheritance, their decisions are informed by the Baha'i Writings, their actions aim at living the Baha'i life and they exercise varying measures of authority. In theory at least, it seems to me that the Baha'i world Order brings political power and philosophy together.

There exists in the Baha'i theophany that "hymn of praise to a saviour who has braved the direst terrors and dared the farthest flights in order to liberate his fellow man from the prison-house of superstition." This saviour's writings Lucretius compares to "the flowery pastures of the honey-bees" and "golden sayings" which "dissipate the terrors of the mind and push back the walls of the World."(1) -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Plato quoted in A Study of History, Vol.6, Toynbee, p.242; and (2) Lucretius, De Rerum Natura in Toynbee, p.244.

These are golden sayings,
found in flowering places
where honey-bees humm,
where sweet-scented streams
flow gently toward eternity,
where the fruits of life's tree
can be tasted and life leavened,
bringing that imperturability
where no love or hate may linger
and where my saviour, so precious,
did brave the direst terrors
to liberate me from prisons
of my own making, from when
young until years of old age,
so that I may enter that
Most Great Prison where mind,
the greatest pleasure,
can play its part in that new Republic
where philosophy and power
are united at last
and will slowly exercise
their unific influence.

Ron Price
2 May 2001


PLATO: WAS HE CHURLISH?

Was Plato ‘Churlish’? is an article by Christopher Moore with a reply by Joyce Carol Oates. It's in The New York Review of Books(8/10/'15). It was written in response to: "Inspiration and Obsession in Life and Literature" from the August 13, 2015 issue. Moore writes: "Joyce Carol Oates’s wide-ranging essay “Inspiration and Obsession in Life and Literature”(NYR, 13/8/'15) contains some powerful poetic interpretation, but begins with a long screed against the “essentialist” Plato, whose “churlish” view of poetry treats inspiration as irrational and demands that poets be “banished from the claustrophobic Republic.” The soundness of this view of Plato (who wrote dialogues, not treatises) is debatable; but Oates got wrong the statement in her closing parenthesis: “In one of the great ironies of history, it was to be Plato’s Socrates who was banished from the state.” She implies that Socrates was executed (in 399 BC) after Plato wrote the Republic, but that dialogue surely came some decades later. This is not of mere antiquarian interest; Plato, the most poetic of all ancient prose stylists, knew rather more than most the costs of utopian thinking." Moore continues"

"I should locate the irony rather in Oates’s use of the term “irony,” for she grants none to Socrates, even though this has always been his most famous attribute. She says that Socrates’ speech in the Ion is told “with the plodding quasi logic of a right-wing politician,” without recognizing that he is working to perplex his interlocutor, the rhapsode Ion, who boasts of tremendous abilities simply because he knows how to interpret poetry!" For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/oct/08/was-plato-churlish/

OUR SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY

"Instead of a reader who reads lovingly, with a kind of disinterest, we have tendentious reading, politicized reading," said the erudite, 64 year old literary critic Harold Bloom in an interview in The New York Times On The Web in 1994.  We have readers, he might have gone on to say, who spend their lives endlessly acting as apologists for some intellectual, social, spiritual and/or philosophical commitment/position they have espoused at some time or other in the past.

Bloom, a man of encyclopedic intellect, exuberant eccentricity and whose love of literature serves for some as a joyous intoxicant, is now 75. He despises people who read literature or, indeed, any printed matter, for its moral or political orientation, its support for a position that defines, in part at least, their cosmology, their world view. This "rabblement of lemmings" includes leftward leaning Marxist critics, feminists, people with all sorts of axes to grind, indeed, anyone who reads literature in any of its multifarious genres, as a social document, who mix politics with literature or in any way dilute the primacy of its aesthetic function. Bloom also scorns critics on the right who argue for a classical literary canon, a roll call of Great Books that defines the Western tradition, in the name of patriotism, moral values, or some general social ameliorism. He dismisses the whole bunch with an air of haughty authority. In his damning judgement he says:"To read in the service of any ideology is not to read at all." Bloom would like to see America, indeed the world, with a spiritual life that is not identified with or rooted in organized religion.

For Bloom, the astonishing mystery of creative genius, its originality, its strangeness and idiosyncracy, lies at the root, the centre, of any civilization, of anything worthy of that name, of any true religion or literature. For him that genius is found among a very few, the great creators of literature of the Western canon. The introspective consciousness, free to contemplate itself and its world, remains for Bloom in the empyrean of all Western images. Without it the canon is not possible and, to put it most bluntly, neither are we. There is no method except yourself and the introspective consciousness, writes Bloom, and it is this that is at the core of life, of culture, of our spiritual autobiography, an autobiography which we can find in the Western intellectual, and especially its literary, tradition.-Ron Price with thanks to Adam Begley, “Colossus Among Critics: Harold Bloom,” September 25th 1994, The New York Times On The Web, August 8th 2005.

I, too, have a spiritual autobiography
going back to the Romans, the Greeks
and the Hebrews and an introspective
consciousness free to contemplate
itself and its world, dear Harold.
I’ve put it down on a thousand pages
in an idiosyncratic, strange, original form
which should keep most people away
from whatever creative genius
I might claim to possess.

I do not possess your encyclopedic intellect,
exuberant eccentricity, your massive love
of literature, nor your impressive credentials.
Your joyous intoxicant that your love is, Harold,
over four decades is gargantuan.
I have been part of that rabblement of lemmings.

Harold, our world will forever be based
on its literary canon: spiritual and secular,
the rich legacy of our past, the foundation
of our past, our present and our future world.

But the canon, Harold, has multipied,
expanded in our lifetime into a baffling,
a bewildering chaos of multiplicity,
of a burgeoning, an incomprehensible,
an irrelevant, an abstruse and a most
stimulating concatenation of print
that the wisdom of the wise
and the learning of the learned
have all failed to comprehend,
to account for what they cannot attain.

But we all can recount the tokens
of this glorious handiwork, however
inaccessible, unsearchable it may be
in its totality, unapproachable, and
seemingly free from the description
of any human being on this Earth.

Ron Price
August 8th 2005

REFASHIONING THE PAST

The narrative imagination is what gives substance to our sense of nationality, religious commitment, family membership, indeed, most of the components of our identity. This subject is of great interest to me as I have been writing my own memoirs over the last 25 years. This narrative sensibility, if it is rich and resonant, subsumes our sense of the past, the present and the future, our view of who we are, with a voice that is genuine, coherent, engaged, sensitive to ambiguity, incompleteness and the continually shifting field of reference which is life. As far as possible, we should strive to make this narrative imagination true, honest, accurate, realistic, informed, knowledgeable.

What we are talking about here is our personal history, or what the historian R.G. Collingwood calls the re-effectuation of the past in the present.1 The traces of our past are, in fact, present things which stand for absent things, or things transformed from their past state, a world which no longer exists. Our ordinary experience of time, and the inherent acting and suffering which took place in that time, we refashion when it passes through ‘the grid of narrative’, as Paul Ricour calls the narrative imagination. -Ron Price with appreciation to Paul Ricour, “Narrative Time”, Philosophy Today, Winter 1985 and R.G. Collingwood who passed away 18 months before I was born.

There is a chain, a tissue
of life’s transmission, my
story, not just information,
an amplitude derived from
some inner resonance, traces
of meaning that one fills with
gold, diamonds and base metal.

This is what our values, beliefs
and attitudes are: something in
my mind, something which holds
it all together, some quasi-articulate
“it’s me”---behind and in the words,
words for it, for that, for so much,
much more of it than I ever had back
then in the midst of the boredom, the
chouder and the immense, staggering
complexity of all that is and was life.

My reality must be written about, a sort
of how do I know what I think until I see
what I’ve said? sort of thing.....And this
poetry is a form of love. It comes to me;
it begins in impulse, thought, as my Faith
comes to me in impulse, thought--making
up my story, who I am, my narrative-life.

Ron Price
16 November 1999
Updated for The Philosophers’ Zone, ABC Radio National on: 28/3/09



IMAGES ARE NOT JUST IMAGES

The survival of images from the classical tradition or, in the words of art historian Aby Warburg “das Nachleben der Antike,” is not something one reads about much these days at the start of this new millennium. When the concept does come into popular culture it usually has something to do with tourism. My concern here is not with tourism, but with memory and how the past lives in the present with the help of images.

Freud, much maligned in contemporary culture, underlined in his adolescence the following passage in his copy of Jacob Burckhardt’s Cicerone: “What the eye perceives in this and other Greek edifices are not mere stones, but living beings.”(1) This sense of the vitality of the past, an essential theme in Burckhardt’s book, depended on the relation of images to memory. This great historian of the Renaissance is but one of many of history’s thinkers who emphasized this notion of the living past. Henri Bergson was an important contemporary philosopher who felt the same way. Bergson stated in his Matter and Memory(1896): “My present is, then, sensorimotor. Of my past, that alone becomes image and consequently sensation, at least nascent, which can collaborate in that action . . . ; but, from the moment it becomes image, the past leaves the state of pure memory and coincides with a certain part of my present. Memory actualized in an image differs, then, profoundly from pure memory.”(2) -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Jacob Burckhardt, Ciceroni. These underlined words were found by Jack Spector in Freud’s copy of this book. Jack Spector was an Art Historian at Rutgers University; the book was in Freud’s London library; and (2)Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory(1896) in Selections from Bergson, Harold A. Larrabee, editor, Appleton-Century-Crofts, NY, 1949, pp. 54–55.

There’s an emotive force here,
a language, a passion, a fragment,
events and people long gone
whom I want to view, to seize,
turn it into joy-a world where
a single fundamental order structured
society and embodied divine justice
in an ancient formative age-a world
where the hero was not on the scene
but everyone bowed to it,1 especially
Homer who understood the infinite
resources of the written word
at the centre of creative imagination,
a shimmering marine and pastoral world,
with a depth and complexity part of that
bardic tradition underlying his great epic.

His was not a unity but independent fragments;
mine is both, has a depth, a shimmering global
world of tradition and originality balanced
in a vivid war of myth and a massive complexity.

1 “The Iliad is about might and everyone bows to it.”-Simone Weil.

Ron Price
June 1st 2005

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Some internet sites below where I post items on classical literature:

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread