Beginning with the premise that the attack must be taken seriously, Eric Havelock shows that Plato’s hostility is explained by the continued domination of the. PREFACE TO PLATO science and to morality: the major Greek poets from. Homer to Euripides must be excluded from the educational system of Greece. Preface to Plato has ratings and 7 reviews. Tim said: For those billions of you loosing sleep each night trying to figure out why Plato was so hostil.
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He was a professor at the University of Toronto and was active in the Canadian socialist movement during the s. In the s and s, he served as chair of the classics departments at both Harvard and Yale.
Although he was trained in the turn-of-theth-century Oxbridge tradition of classical studies, which saw Greek intellectual history as an unbroken chain of related ideas, Havelock broke radically with his havwlock teachers and proposed an entirely new model for understanding the classical world, based on a sharp division between literature of the 6th and 5th centuries BC on the one hand, and that of the 4th on the other.
Much of Havelock’s work was devoted to addressing a single thesis: The idea has been very controversial in classical studies, and has been rejected outright both by many of Havelock’s contemporaries and modern classicists.
Havelock and his ideas have nonetheless had far-reaching influence, ahvelock in classical studies and other academic areas. He and Walter J. Ong who was himself strongly influenced by Havelock essentially founded the field that studies transitions from orality to literacy, and Havelock has been one of the most frequently cited ericc in that field; as an account of communication, his work profoundly affected the media theories of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.
Havelock’s influence has spread beyond the study of the classical world to that of analogous transitions in other times and places. He studied there with W. Balgarniea classicist to whom Havelock gives considerable credit.
While studying under F. Cornford at Cambridge, Havelock began to question the received wisdom about the nature of pre-Socratic philosophy and, in particular, about preeface relationship with Socratic thought.
In The Literate Revolution in Greecehis penultimate book, Havelock recalls being struck by a discrepancy hwvelock the language used by the philosophers he was studying and the heavily Platonic idiom with which it was interpreted in the standard texts. However, he did not publicly break from Cornford until many years later.
: Preface to Plato (History of the Greek Mind) (): Eric A. Havelock: Books
Havelock’s scholarly work during this period focused on Latin poetryparticularly Catullusfar from the early Greek philosophy he had worked on at Cambridge. While in Canada Havelock became increasingly involved in politics. With his fellow academics Frank Underhill and Eugene ForseyHavelock was a cofounder of the League for Social Reconstructionan organisation of politically active socialist intellectuals.
Havelock’s political engagement deepened rapidly. Inafter Toronto police had blocked a public meeting by an organisation the police claimed was associated with communists, he and Underhill wrote a public letter of protest, calling the action “short-sighted, inexpedient, and intolerable. All of the major newspapers in Toronto, along with a number of prominent business leaders, denounced the professors as radical leftists and their behaviour as unbecoming of academics.
Though the League for Social Reconstruction began as more of a discussion group than a political party, it became a force in Canadian politics by the mids. After Havelock joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federationalong with several other members of the League, he was pressured by his superiors at the University to curtail his political activity.
He found himself in trouble again in after criticising both the government’s and industry’s handling of an automotive workers’ strike. Despite calls from Ontario officials for his ouster, he was able to remain at Victoria College, but his public reputation was badly damaged.
While at Toronto, Havelock began formulating his prevace of orality and literacy, establishing the context of a later movement at the University interested in the critical study of communication, which Donald F.
Theall has called the “Toronto School of Communications. The work Havelock and Innis began in the s was the preliminary basis for the influential theories of communication developed by Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Snow Carpenter in the s. During World War IIHavelock moved away from the socialist organisations he had been associated with, and in was eroc founding president of the Ontario Classical Association.
One of the association’s first activities was organising a relief effort for Greecewhich had just been liberated from Nazi control. At the same time that he was becoming increasingly vocal and visible in politics, Havelock’s scholarly work was moving toward the concerns that would occupy him for the bulk of platp career.
The first questions he raised about the relationship between literacy and orality in Greece concerned the nature of the historical Socrateswhich was a long-debated issue. Havelock’s position, drawn from analyses of Xenophon and Aristophanes as well as Plato himself, was that Plato’s presentation of his reic was largely a fiction, and intended to be a transparent one, whose purpose was to represent indirectly Plato’s own ideas.
Havelock’s argument drew on evidence for a historical change in Greek philosophy; Plato, he argued, was fundamentally writing about the ideas of his present, not of the past. Havelock’s contention that Socrates and Plato belonged to different philosophical eras was the first instance of one that would become central to his work: InHavelock moved to Cambridge, Massachusettsto take a position at Harvard Universitywhere he remained until He was active in a number of aspects of the University and of the department, of which he became chair; he undertook a translation of and commentary on Aeschylus ‘ Egic Bound for the benefit of his students.
He published this translation, with an extended commentary on Prometheus and the myth’s implications for history, under the title The Crucifixion of Intellectual Man and then changed it back to Prometheus when the book was republished in the s, saying that the earlier title had “come to seem a bit pretentious” . During this time he began his first major attempt to argue for a division between Platonic or Aristotelian philosophy and what came before.
His focus was on political philosophy and, in particular, the beginnings of Greek liberalism as introduced by Democritus. In his book The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics poato, he argued that for Democritus and the liberals, political theory was based on an understanding of “the behaviour of man in a cosmic and historical setting”: Plato and Aristotle were interested in the nature of humanity and, in particular, the idea that human actions might be rooted in inherent qualities rather than consisting of individual choices.
In arguing for a basic heuristic split between Plato and the contemporaries of Democritus, Havelock was directly contradicting a very long tradition in philosophy that had painstakingly assembled innumerable connections between Plato and the pre-Socratics, to reinforce the position that Plato, as his own dialogues imply, was primarily informed by his teacher Socrates, and that Socrates in turn was a willing participant in a philosophical conversation already several hundred years old again, with a seeming endorsement from Plato, who shows a t Socrates conversing with and learning from the pre-Socratics Parmenides and Zeno in his dialogue the Parmenides —a historical plat that might represent figuratively an intellectual rather than direct conversation.
The Liberal Temper makes the argument for the division between Plato and early Greek philosophy without a fully realised account of Havelock’s theory of Greek literacy, which he was still developing throughout this period. He was interested principally in Plato’s much debated rejection of poetry in the Republicin which his fictionalised Socrates argues that poetic mimesis —the representation of life in art—is bad for the soul.
Havelock’s claim was that the Republic can be used to understand the position of poetry in the “history of the Greek mind.
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hzvelock Instead of concentrating on erric philosophical definitions of key terms, as he had in his book on Democritus, Havelock turned to the Greek language itself, arguing that the meaning of words changed after the full development of written literature to admit a self-reflective subject; even pronounshe said, had different functions. The result was a universal shift in what the Greek mind could imagine:. We confront here hzvelock change in the Greek language and in the syntax of linguistic usage and in the overtones of certain key words which is part of a larger intellectual revolution, which affected the whole range of the Greek cultural experience Our present business is to connect this discovery with that crisis in Greek culture which saw the replacement of an orally memorised tradition by a quite different system of instruction and education, and which therefore saw the Homeric state of mind give way to the Platonic.
For Haveloxk, Plato’s rejection of poetry was merely the realisation of a cultural shift in which he was a participant. Two distinct phenomena are covered by the shift he observed in Greek culture at the end of the 5th century: In Homer, Havelock argues, the order of ideas is associative and temporal.
The epic’s “units of meaning Havelock points out that Plato’s syntaxwhich he shares with other 4th-century writers, reflects that organisation, making smaller ideas subordinate to bigger ideas. Thus, the Platonic theory of forms in itself, Havelock claims, derives from a shift in the organisation prefacr the Greek language, and ultimately comes down to a different function for and conception of the noun.
Preface to Plato by Eric Alfred Havelock
Preface to Plato had a profound impact almost immediately after publication, but an impact that was complex and inconsistent. Among classicists the response ranged from indifference to derision, with the majority simply questioning the details of Havelock’s history of literacy, pointing both to earlier instances of writing than Havelock thinks possible or to later instances of oral influence.
However, the book was embraced by literary theorists, students of the transition to literacy, and others in fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology. There have been affirmations and criticism of Havelock’s methods. The “Parry-Lord thesis” was introduced by Rosalind Thomas, to clarify the import of this approach. What he asserts as a definitive use of language can never be conclusively demonstrated not to be an accident of “metrical convenience.
He is the most cited writer in Walter J. Ong’s influential Orality and Literacy other than Ong himself. Increasingly central to Havelock’s account of Greek culture in general was his conception of the Greek alphabet as a unique entity. He wrote in The invention of the Greek alphabet, as opposed to all previous systems, including the Phoenicianconstituted an event in the history of human culture, the importance of which has not as yet been fully grasped.
Its appearance divides all pre-Greek civilisations from those that are post-Greek. But his philological concerns now were only a small part of a much larger project to make sense of the nature of the Greek culture itself. His work in this period shows a theoretical sophistication far beyond his earlier efforts, extending his theory of literacy toward a theory of culture itself. He said of the Dipylon inscriptiona poetic line scratched into a vase and the earliest Greek writing known at the time, “Here in this casual act by an unknown hand there is announced a revolution which was destined to change the nature of human culture.
Ongfor example, in assessing the significance of non-oral communication in an oral culture, cites Havelock’s observation that scientific categories, which are necessary not only for the natural sciences but also for historical and philosophical analysis, depend on writing.
In the latter part of his career, Havelock’s relentless pursuit of his unvarying thesis led to a lack of interest in addressing opposing viewpoints. In a review of Havelock’s The Greek Concept of Justicea book that attempts to ascribe the most significant ideas in Greek philosophy to his linguistic research, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre accuses Havelock of a “brusque refusal to recognize the substance of the case he has to defeat.
In his last public lecture, which was published posthumously, Havelock addressed the political implications of his own scholarly work. Delivered at Harvard on 16 Marchless havelovk three weeks before his death, the lecture is framed principally in opposition to the University of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss. Strauss died 14 years later inthe same year in which Havelock retired. Havelock’s lecture claims to contain a systematic account of Plato’s politics; Havelock argues that Plato’s idealism applies a mathematical strictness to politics, countering his old teacher Cornford’s assertion that Platonic arguments that morality must be analyzable in arithmetical terms cannot be serious.
From Wikipedia, the palto encyclopedia. As a young boy, he lived in Scotland, attending Greenock Academy prefacw he was introduced to Greek at age twelve. Russell and Russell,i. Princeton University Press], University of Toronto Press, University of Toronto Press, James Lorimer, Archived from the original on 27 September Retrieved 6 November Archived from the original on 18 September Retrieved 6 August University of Toronto Press,xxviii.
University of Washington Press, ], 6. The Conversion of the Soul Princeton: Princeton University Press,28— Literacy and Orality in Ancient Greece. Literacy and Paideia in Ancient Greece. Language and Thought in Early Greek Philosophy. The Monist Library of Philosophy. The Collected Papers of Milman Parry. Hoerber complains in a review of the book of Havelock’s “rapid dismissal” of the evidence of earlier writing, and feels that “the present work will meet with even less acceptance than the author’s previous volume” Classical Philology