05 June 2006

Pleasant Devoirs

What ailment is such that one can become quickly cured of it, so long as one never recovers from it?

Answer: Jetlag.

Thus I'm in good shape now, precisely because I continued suffering from it all last week. That, however, did little to diminish for me the excellence of the Mayweek Seminar, on Cicero De Officiis, book I, with sessions led by such luminaries as Chris Gill, Tony Long, Malcolm Schofield, David Sedley, and the editor of the Cambridge Text of that work, Miriam Griffin.

I was also instructed to hear presentations by Charles Brittain, with his impressive mastery of the texts; George Boys-Stone, speaking apte on decorum; and Robert Wardy, who offered a characteristically brilliant and witty recapitulation of the week's proceedings.

Renee Brouwer (Utrecht), Myles Burnyeat, Luca Castagnoli, Janet Coleman (LSE), Nick Denyer, Ingo Gildenhard (KCL), Myrto Hatzimichali, Geoffrey Lloyd, and Alex Long, among others, also participated.

Brad Inwood generously led a fascinating ad hoc session on assorted difficulties and texts.

The entire week was marked not simply by a devotion to learning, but also by the collegiality, graciousness, and spirit of friendship which, as is widely known, are notes of the Cambridge Faculty of Classics.

It might have seemed in advance that De Officiis I would be of interest for such reasons as would appeal more to a classicist than a philosopher: the project of delineating the extent and manner of Cicero's reliance on Panaetius; or discerning the significance of references to recent Roman history. (There were, surprisingly, few difficulties in the text itself, or in Cicero's language, which were worthy of common consideration.) And yet the book raised a variety of interesting philosophical questions, some of which I'll discuss in subequent posts.