22 December 2005

Degrees of Dubiety

Received today in my mailbox:

Based on your present knowledge and past life experiences our University administration
office has been trying to contact you. We feel you may qualify for one of our Univsersity
degrees in your area of expertise.

We have been qualifying people based on thier experiences in past and present jobs and
are offering qualified degrees with transcripts for those that qualify.

If you call our offices now we can confirm our information and send you either a Bachelors',
Masters', or Doctorate within 2 weeks.

I'm following this up and will let you know how it turns out. I'm looking for a degree in spelling or typing.

21 December 2005

Divers Reviewers Wanted

A request from that admirable journal, BMCR, which dovetails nicely with my post on open sourcing:

BMCR is passing its fifteenth birthday in these weeks and is settled in
its ways of doing business. It remains a mild irony that this, the
second-oldest electronic journal in the humanities, is devoted to
disseminating information about the print medium. More than an irony,
it is a puzzle to us that various efforts to bring digital resources
within the purview of reviewership have fallen flat. Occasionally we
succeed in placing a physical manifestation of a digital artifact with
a reviewer (usually a CD publication), but despite having gone so far
as to promote the establishment of BMERR (Bryn Mawr Electronic
Resources Review), we have not sustained a community of practice around
serious reviews of web-based publications.

This is a concern for the scholarly world as a whole in two regards.
First, there are more and more very high quality and quite serious
scholarly works that appear in digital form; second, many observers and
participants in the scholarly communication world argue strongly for
Open Access publication -- that is to say, publication whose costs are
defrayed in some way *other* than by user charges. A freely accessible
web publication done to appropriate technical standards is the ideal in
that regard, and we are pleased that BMCR has indeed followed that
model for the electronic version (some of you remember that there was
once also a print version) for all its history.

But if it is true that reviewers are so strongly enticed by the
prospect of a free book or a free CD that absent such an enticement
they are unwilling to come forward, then we will soon be at an impasse,
as more and more important material becomes available in a form
unsusceptible to the enticement of reviewers. Now the future of
reviewing itself is a subject of interest to us, not least because one
of us will be participating in a panel on that subject at the APA
meetings in Montreal, but we are for now convinced that the first and
most obvious way forward is to insure that serious scholarly work,
however published, gets serious scholarly reviews.

To that end, this message is designed to elicit our traditional BMCR
volunteers on the usual terms. Indicate to us your qualifications and
interest, and if we approve your request, we will assign you the review
-- this time, without a free book to take away at the end. The
following resources have been commended to us in recent weeks (and we
pass them along on the same terms with which we report Books Received,
not as special selection or commendation, but simply as report of
notice received by us). Given the scope of these particular works, we
would welcome proposals for collaborative reviews.

*Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity (http://www.insaph.kcl.ac.uk/ala2004/) ,
second edition, by Charlotte Roueche/.

*Vindolanda Tablets Online (http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/) , ed.
Alan Bowman et al.

*The editions of the D-Scholia and the Lexeis Homerikai
by H. Van Thiel, of Cyril's Glossary (one ms. version only) by U.

*J. Lundon's Scholia Minora in Homerum
(http://www.gltc.leidenuniv.nl/index.php3?m=52;c=238) .

This note is also notice that we welcome encouragement from authors,
publishers, or readers to pay attention to other good new work as well.
We also welcome suggestions for other ways to improve attention to
important work.

20 December 2005

Shackleton Bailey, R.I.P.

December 19, 2005


Gloria Negri, Globe Staff

Professor David Roy Shackleton Bailey, whose name in scholarly circles is closely associated with that of the Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, died Nov. 28 of Alzheimer's disease at Heartland Health Care Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 87. He had lived in Ann Arbor since retiring from Harvard in 1988.

"Shakleton Bailey was a prodigious scholar, a towering figure in textual criticism and the editing of Latin literature, and a brilliant student of Roman Republican history, prosopography and society," Richard F. Thomas, chairman of the Department of Classics at Harvard, said in a statement.

Prosopography is a study that identifies and draws relationships between characters or people within a specific historical, social, or literary context.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey, who did not hyphenate his surnames and was often called, "Shack," was also a well-known cat lover. In 1965, he dedicated Volume 1 of his edited "Cicero's Letters to Atticus" to his cat, Donum, which is Latin for gift. The dedication read, "Donum Donorum," or gift of gifts.

Sometimes, friends said, Dr. Shackleton Bailey got along better with cats than with people. But he was discriminating.

"As everywhere," Thomas said, "he applied judgment as he believed did the cats who particularly took to him."

Kristine Zvirbulis, Dr. Shackleton Bailey's wife, said Donum was among three of his favorite felines. After Donum came a cat named Max, his "evening cat," who sat on his lap and knew when to jump down at the professor's bedtime. His "day cat," who spent the time in his study with him, was Poppaea, named for Nero's wife.

"Shack was a kind of gentle curmudgeon with a wicked sense of humor," his wife said.

Thomas described him as, "quirky, difficult, cultured in profound and complex ways, endowed with a rare and keen sense of humor, now cutting, now playful, a critic of human foibles and a man whose dedication to logic, reason, judgment, and the primacy of intelligence made those in his presence careful of their thoughts and words."

However, social events were generally not Dr. Shackleton Bailey's forte. "He did love manhattans and martinis until the very end," his wife said. But he was adverse to small talk. "He once told me he went to a dinner party that was so boring he spent the time removing cat hairs from his suit."

Zeph Stewart, a retired Harvard classics professor, recalled a party that he and his wife hosted, partly for Dr. Shackleton Bailey when he arrived at Harvard. He "stared at his shoes" the whole evening and on the way out thanked a woman who was not the hostess. "My wife thought the party a disaster," Stewart said. "But the next day, a woman who had attended phoned and told her she had "never seen Shackleton so animated."

While Dr. Shackleton Bailey might have seemed the absent-minded professor on social occasions, he was far from that in his field. "Scholars, students, and the general educated reader will continue to be indebted to Shackleton Bailey, particularly for his work on Cicero's letters, our best evidence for the twilight years of the Roman Republic," Thomas said. He was "brilliant at representing the idiom" of Cicero. He edited or critiqued more than 50 volumes and wrote more than 200 articles and reviews.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey, who never used his first or middle names, was born in England. He attended Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where his father, a mathematician, was headmaster. He read classics at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, where he earned his bachelor's degree.

He lived through the Blitz in London during World War ll while working with military intelligence, either decoding or developing codes, according to Raymond Detter of Ann Arbor, a longtime friend. Once, when Detter asked Dr. Shackleton Bailey what it was like to live through the Blitz, he replied, "It was easier to get into the restaurants."

After the war, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was for 20 years Cambridge University Reader in Ancient Tibetan. Then, he returned to the classics as a fellow of Jesus College in Cambridge and later of Gonville and Caius College, where he was also bursar. In 1967, he married Hilary Amis, the former wife of author Kingsley Amis, and moved to Ann Arbor where he taught at the University of Michigan.

There, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was known not only for his scholarship but for his eccentricities, Detter said.

"He would stand on his head in the corner and sing the German song, `Horst Wessel.' "

He became professor of Latin at Harvard in 1975. He was a doctor of literature of Cambridge University and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Dublin.

When Dr. Shackleton Bailey retired and returned to Ann Arbor in 1988, he became an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan. In 1994, after his first marriage ended in divorce, he married Kristine Zvirbulis, who shared his love for cats.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey remained a legend even after retiring, Thomas said. After his illness was diagnosed, he continued to work on his editing through last summer, he said.

He never lost his distinguished English accent, nor his quirky habits, said Detter, who often dined with Dr. Shackleton Bailey.

"Shack was not the most gregarious person in the world," he said. "He was a bit of a miser, and when he was out walking, his head was always down looking for money. He would put what he found in jars at home. He would also steam off stamps that hadn't been postmarked and use them again."

He was an avid poker player, but never minded losing at the game.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey was a fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Philosophical Society, an honorary member of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, and a recipient of the British Academy's Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies.

In spite of all the honors bestowed for his scholarship, Detter said, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was "never pretentious."

A memorial service will be held in late February at his Ann Arbor home.

19 December 2005

Aristotelian Flatworlders

I've been consoled that, with grading and extra advising responsilities at the end of the semester, I've not had the time to post on this blog. Doesn't that mean that I blog only when I genuinely have spare time for doing it? That a blogger blogs usually, but not always, shows that blogging has the appropriate degree of importance for him.

Admittedly, these extra responsibilities haven't kept me from doing some reading on the side. Well, there is reading, and then there is reading. Looking at Thomas L. Friedman's bestseller, The World is Flat, hardly counts as reading in the sense of looking at, say, Crivelli on truth.

If you haven't read it: Friedman's book is about recent trends in globalization, which have the effect of removing inefficiencies and barriers to business, especially for India and China; hence the playing field of the world is increasingly becoming level and therefore, in Friedman's term, 'flat.'

My interest in the book is from the point of view of academia. How will universities change, how should they change, if at all, given trends in globalization? What new form might scholarship take? What will count as 'publication'? What role will major academic presses play in the future? Will their importance inevitably diminish? And also that of libraries? Etc.

I've been thinking of to what extend these new trends in globalization have analogous applications in scholarship. For instance, in software development, there is something called 'open sourcing'. This happens when some geek figures he can write a program that works better than an expensive version offered by Microsoft or Adobe; he makes a rough attempt and puts the program and its source code on a server for everyone to see; and various programmers around the world then work on parts of the program, as they wish, and improve them--until the program, the result of the combined efforts of this informal community, ends up being as good as the industry standard or better. For instance, Linux was developed in this way, as a free alternative to Microsoft operating systems.

What are possible analogues in scholarship? It seems to me that translations might be done in a similar way, through a kind of 'open sourcing'. Someone posts a rough translation of a commonly studied text, or the starting point is an outdated translation in the public domain (Jowett's Plato, Ross' Aristotle, etc.). Call this the 'Working Translation.' Then, when a scholar writes a translation of part of this text for a reading group, say, or because he is studying some passage, he is free to edit and improve the corresponding part of the Working Translation accordingly. Naturally, some working equivalents would have to be decided upon and followed, to insure consistency. And someone would need to check, to be sure that changes are truly improvements, or at least arguably so. So the project would need a General Editor. Yet conceivably in a year or so the latest version of the Working Translation, which would be free and freely available on the internet, would be superior to any translation available in print.

Suppose the corpora of Plato (Jowett) and Aristotle (old Oxford) were dealt with in this way. Could an excellent, free translation be arrived at for these works in the collaborative manner described above, and how long would this take?

07 December 2005

Guest Bloggers: My Students

While grading mountains of papers these last few days, I amused myself by seeing whether I might find within them thoughts or insights that might serve as interesting posts on a blog such as this (that is, on this blog, which is the only blog such as this--or, maybe not: J.L. Austin once insisted that one shouldn't say that "A duck is like a duck", and along the same lines perhaps it is misguided to say that This blog is the same sort of thing as this blog).

I culled out 8 such ideas, which I shall present as a series of posts. I attribute these to the students--de facto 'guest bloggers'--with their permission. (Yes, in some cases I clarify or sharpen the student's idea slightly; but the basic insight remains the student's.)

Half of the ideas are of students in a course I am presently teaching at Brown University, and half are from my students at Clark University.

03 December 2005

'being in the strictest sense true'

I've hesitated to continue on to the second text in the Metaphysics which, according to Crivelli, recognizes 'states of affairs', because the issues are much more complex than with the first. (And, besides, who is not busy this time of year?)

And if Δ 29 has been dealt with, couldn't we simply cite the philologist's law, "twice is always; once is never", and dismiss Θ 10 accordingly? (We might call that 'Hume's law' as well--uh, Hume's 'custom'.)

But perhaps all will work out if things are set out in order and without haste. As a start, then, here is Crivelli's translation of the most important Θ 10 text. Tomorrow I'll give his discussion of it.

T 2 Given that what 'is' and what 'is not' are spoken of, in some cases with reference to the figures of predication, in others with reference to the potentiality or the actuality of these or to their opposites, and in others by being in the strictest sense true or false, and this [sc. to be in the strictest sense true or false], in the case of objects, is to be combined and to be divided, so that he who thinks of what is divided that it is divided, and of what is combined that it is combined is right, while he who is in a state contrary to that of the objects is wrong, when is it that what is called true or false 'is' or 'is not'? For it must be investigated what it is that we call this. For it is not because we truly think that you are white that you are white, but it is because of your being white that we who say this are right. (1051a34-1051b9)
Note that 'objects' is pragmata, and 'is right' is aletheuei. Of the three uses of 'is' distinguished here, the first two are introduced in the same way ('with reference to', kata), and the crucial third use is introduced in a different way. There is a dispute as to whether 'in the strictest sense' (kuriotata) separately qualifies 'being' (on), in which case the phrase seems out of place, or both terms together qualify 'true or false' (as Crivelli construes it).

T 2 is the text as regards which, as I mentioned earlier, Crivelli says: "But the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 1 uses 'object' are probably states of affairs. It can then be plausibly inferred that the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 2 uses 'object' are also states of affairs."--so that his interpretation of this text depends, it seems, on his interpretation of Δ 29, which we have contested.

Here is the Greek from Perseus:

e)pei\ de\ to\ o)\n le/getai kai\ to\ mh\ o)\n to\ me\n kata\ ta\ sxh/mata tw=n kathgoriw=n, to\ de\ kata\ du/namin h)\ e)ne/rgeian tou/twn h)\ ta)nanti/a, to\ de\ kuriw/tata o)\n a)lhqe\j h)\ yeu=doj, tou=to d' e)pi\ tw=n pragma/twn e)sti\ tw=| sugkei=sqai h)\ dih|rh=sqai, w(/ste a)lhqeu/ei me\n o( to\ dih|rhme/non oi)o/menoj dih|rh=sqai kai\ to\ sugkei/menon sugkei=sqai, e)/yeustai de\ o( e)nanti/wj e)/xwn h)\ ta\ pra/gmata, po/t' e)/stin h)\ ou)k e)/sti to\ a)lhqe\j lego/menon h)\ yeu=doj; tou=to ga\r skepte/on ti/ le/gomen. ou) ga\r dia\ to\ h(ma=j oi)/esqai a)lhqw=j se leuko\n ei)=nai ei)= su\ leuko/j, a)lla\ dia\ to\ se\ ei)=nai leuko\n h(mei=j oi( fa/ntej tou=to a)lhqeu/omen.


Why did I start Dissoi Blogoi, and why do I keep with it, despite the occasional false turn along the way? I don't do this to procrastinate, or even to help others make good use of procrastination. Rather, I do this to declare, to criticize, to provoke, to prove.

1. To declare. The blog makes things better known, in a chance way, of course, and relative to me. ( This is not a notice board nor quite a 'publication'.) Things such as: what people are working on or maintaining; noteworthy remarks of others; common mistakes or misunderstandings (as I think); connections between ancient philosophy and other areas.

2. To criticize--and thereby, it is hoped, to raise common standards. To uncover shortcomings, deficiences, and flaws. Especially: to do so when the usual, standard, or conventional means have apparently failed. Good muckraking is good blogging.

3. To provoke. A blog conforms to an important genre of philosophizing: the recording, and expression, of cotidian thoughts. Why? To stir, to incite to thought.

4. To prove. Out of jealousy for my field. I want this blog in ancient philosophy to show, eventually, in the long run, the vitality and appeal of the philosophy of the ancients. The blog stakes out a place in the blogosphere for a certain group of interests and questions. And as it, or something like it, there flourishes--as I believe will happen--then something gets proved about the discipline.

And all this is to say nothing of the learning, culture, thoughtfulness and astuteness of the blog's commentators. These marks, I am sure, impress others as much as they impress me.

01 December 2005

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom

I find this a particularly interesting paper, since the problem it begins with is something that I've wondered about many times myself:

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom
Roslyn Weiss

In Book 4 of Plato's Republic, Socrates locates sophrosune not in the producer class of the polis and the appetitive part of the soul, but disperses it throughout the polis and soul. In light of the fact that this odd and unexpected move threatens the uniqueness of justice and, moreover, virtually assimilates justice to moderation, the question arises why Socrates defines sophrosune in this way. I suggest that Socrates wishes to make clear that not only do the lower parts of the city and soul dislike being ruled, but philosophers and reason dislike ruling. Since all parts of the city and soul are asked to do what they don't want to do, all must restrain themselves, curbing their desire to do what they would prefer to do. In other words, what they all must exhibit is sophrosune.
Fortunately I have been asked to comment on this paper, when Roslyn Weiss reads it at the upcoming Eastern APA. I can't of course post on it now but plan to do so after the event.

There are some curiosities on the program. For instance, I had never regarded Ayn Rand as a serious philosopher, and yet on Dec. 29:

GIX-2. Ayn Rand Society
1:30-4:30 p.m.

Topic: Ayn Rand as Aristotelian

Chair: John Cooper (Princeton University)

Speakers: James Lennox (University of Pittsburgh)
"Axioms and Their Validation"

Allan Gotthelf (University of Pittsburgh)
"Concepts and Essences"

Fred Miller, Jr. (Bowling Green State University)
"Values and Happiness"

Robert Mayhew (Seton Hall University)
"Literary Esthetics"

One could hardly find a more distinguished and competent panel.

The OC

Is it the case that a commitment to study philosophy implies a commitment to live in a certain way, or to pursue, or to reject the pursuit of, certain goals? It seems to me that there is a conception of philosophy according to which it does. I'll call this the Old Conception (or 'OC', which is very distant from Orange County!).

I have in mind the approach to philosophy through a protreptic. Here is how such a protreptic works. First, some short list of goals in life is presented: wealth, fame, power, honor, comfort (including 'physical pleasures'). It is claimed that just about everyone pursues one of these, or some combination of them, whatever he might take himself to be doing with his life. Second, it is pointed out that none of these goals stands up to rational scrutiny; none really makes sense as the goal of a human life. Third, it is pointed out that this reflection and self-knowledge, perhaps attained for the first time--that none of these goals makes sense as the goal of a human life--itself is an instance of a new goal that now shows itself, namely, understanding and knowledge. And this does seem to be the sort of thing that a human life might reasonably be directed toward. Finally, a 'life devoted to philosophy', then, is put forward simply as a life devoted to achieving understanding, beginning with and including this initial self-understanding.

This I call the OC.

Now this initial self-understanding includes, therefore, some sort of rejection of certain goals as ultimate goals; and the continued seeking of understanding implies some permanent setting aside of these goals. One can imagine different ways of setting these goals aside. One way would be to dismiss them with contempt--"It is beneath the dignity of a philosopher to care about such things as fame and power". Another way: to cultivate an indifference toward such things. Yet another: to take them as they come, but to seek them only in some obviously secondary way.

Now here are some further questions:

1. Is the life to which someone is committed, in committing himself to philosophy, according to the OC, different from the life to which any academic researcher or scientist should, in principle, be committed (again, according to the OC)? Is there something that is in this way distinctive or special about the pursuit of philosophical understanding?

2. According to the OC, can philosophy be a profession? Can it be something that one 'goes into', like law or business?

3. (A more particular question, but interesting, I think.) Is there some special incongruity, between being dedicated to philosophy according to the OC, and the development of ratings and rankings of philosophers or philosophy departments--and, if so, would this incongruity help to explain some of the discomfort some people feel about such rankings? The argument would be: such rankings can only be of influence (i.e. power), fame, or honor; yet even if the rankings were roughly correct in these terms, and such things did loosely, at least, accompany some kinds of achievement in philosophy, still, the rankings either turn, or threaten to turn, some implicitly rejected goals into goals once more.

4. Would it be the case, then, that the OC would effectively be excluded in academic philosophy, to the extent that the study of philosophy were guided by the outlook presupposed in rankings? That is, there would be a selection from the start, and students who might formerly have studied philosophy because they had been persuaded in the manner of an old protreptic, will not think of studying, as a consequence, professional philosophy, any more than they would think of law school or business school as, in the first instance, an appropriate path for a life well lived. (They might indeed opt eventually for law school or business school, but only on the grounds that if there is no way to pursue philosophy, then they might as well pursue wealth or power effectively.)

I don't know--perhaps this is a 'cranky' speculation. But how could someone read Plato for long without at least considering it?