Speusippus

Speusippus

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Speusippus was an ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 philosopher. Speusippus was Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's nephew by his sister Potone
Potone
Potone daughter of Ariston and Perictione, was Plato's older sister. Her mother was Perictione and she was born in Collytus, just outside of Athens. She married Eurymedon of Myrrhinus, by whom she bore Speusippus and a daughter....

. After Plato's death, Speusippus inherited the Academy
Platonic Academy
The Academy was founded by Plato in ca. 387 BC in Athens. Aristotle studied there for twenty years before founding his own school, the Lyceum. The Academy persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC...

 and remained its head for the next eight years. However, following a stroke, he passed the chair to Xenocrates
Xenocrates
Xenocrates of Chalcedon was a Greek philosopher, mathematician, and leader of the Platonic Academy from 339/8 to 314/3 BC. His teachings followed those of Plato, which he attempted to define more closely, often with mathematical elements...

. Although the successor to Plato in the Academy, he frequently diverged from Plato's teachings. He rejected Plato's Theory of Forms
Theory of Forms
Plato's theory of Forms or theory of Ideas asserts that non-material abstract forms , and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. When used in this sense, the word form is often capitalized...

, and whereas Plato had identified the Good with the ultimate principle, Speusippus maintained that the Good was merely secondary. He also argued that it is impossible to have satisfactory knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 of any thing without knowing all the differences by which it is separated from everything else.

Life


Speusippus was a native of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, and the son of Eurymedon
Eurymedon of Myrrhinus
Eurymedon of Myrrhinus married Plato's sister, Potone. He was the father of Speusippus.The "Eurymedon of Myrrhinus" whose property bordered that of Plato's, and is mentioned as an executor of Plato's will, was probably the grandson of the elder Eurymedon, and may have been the son of Speusippus....

 and Potone
Potone
Potone daughter of Ariston and Perictione, was Plato's older sister. Her mother was Perictione and she was born in Collytus, just outside of Athens. She married Eurymedon of Myrrhinus, by whom she bore Speusippus and a daughter....

, a sister of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

. The pseudonymous Thirteenth letter of Plato claims that Speusippus married his niece (his mother's granddaughter). We hear nothing of his life until the time when he accompanied his uncle Plato on his third journey to Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

, where he displayed considerable ability and prudence, especially in his amicable relations with Dion
Dion of Syracuse
Dion , tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily, was the son of Hipparinus, and brother-in-law of Dionysius I of Syracuse.-Family:Dion was the son of the Syracusan statesman Hipparinus, who had assisted the despot Dionysius I, in the Syracusan army. Hipparinus' other children were Megacles and Aristomache...

. His moral worth is recognised even by Timon
Timon (philosopher)
Timon of Phlius was a Greek skeptic philosopher, a pupil of Pyrrho, and a celebrated writer of satirical poems called Silloi . He was born in Phlius, moved to Megara, and then he returned home and married. He next went to Elis with his wife, and heard Pyrrho, whose tenets he adopted...

, though only that he may heap the more unsparing ridicule on his intellect.

The report about his sudden fits of anger, his greed, and his debauchery, are probably derived from a very impure source: Athenaeus
Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

 and Diogenes Laërtius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 can adduce as authority for them scarcely anything more than the abuse in some spurious letters of Dionysius the Younger, who was banished by Dion, with the cooperation of Speusippus. Having been selected by Plato as his successor as the leader (scholarch
Scholarch
A scholarch is the head of a school. The term was especially used for the heads of schools of philosophy in ancient Athens, such as the Platonic Academy, whose first scholarch was Plato himself...

) of the Academy
Platonic Academy
The Academy was founded by Plato in ca. 387 BC in Athens. Aristotle studied there for twenty years before founding his own school, the Lyceum. The Academy persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC...

, he was at the head of the school for only eight years (348/7–339/8 BC). He died, it appears, of a lingering paralytic illness, presumably a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

. He was succeeded as the head of the school by Xenocrates
Xenocrates
Xenocrates of Chalcedon was a Greek philosopher, mathematician, and leader of the Platonic Academy from 339/8 to 314/3 BC. His teachings followed those of Plato, which he attempted to define more closely, often with mathematical elements...

.

Philosophy



Diogenes Laërtius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 gives us a list of some of the titles of the many dialogues and commentaries of Speusippus, which is of little help in determining their contents, and the fragments provided by other writers provide us with only a little extra.

Epistemology


Speusippus was interested in bringing together those things which were similar in their philosophical treatment, and to the derivation, and laying down, of the ideas of genera
Genera
Genera is a commercial operating system and development environment for Lisp machines developed by Symbolics. It is essentially a fork of an earlier operating system originating on the MIT AI Lab's Lisp machines which Symbolics had used in common with LMI and Texas Instruments...

 and species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

: for he was interested in what the various sciences had in common, and how they might be connected. Thus he furthered the threefold division of philosophy into Dialectics, Ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and Physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, for which Plato had laid the foundation, without losing sight of the mutual connection of these three branches of philosophy. For he maintained that noone could arrive at a complete definition who did not know all the differences by which a thing which was to be defined was separated from the rest.

With Plato, moreover, he distinguished between that which is the object of thought
Thought
"Thought" generally refers to any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual's subjective consciousness. It can refer either to the act of thinking or the resulting ideas or arrangements of ideas. Similar concepts include cognition, sentience, consciousness, and imagination...

, and that which is the object of sensuous perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

, between the cognition of the reason and sensuous perception. He tried, however, to show how perception can be taken up and transformed into knowledge, by the assumption of a perception, which, by participation in rational truth, raises itself to the rank of knowledge. By this he seems to have understood an immediate, (in the first instance aesthetic), mode of conception; since he appealed, in support of this view, to the consideration that artistic skill has its foundation not in sensuous activity, but in an unerring power of distinguishing between its objects, that is, in a rational perception of them.

Metaphysics


Speusippus rejected Plato's Theory of Forms
Theory of Forms
Plato's theory of Forms or theory of Ideas asserts that non-material abstract forms , and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. When used in this sense, the word form is often capitalized...

; whereas Plato distinguished between ideal numbers (i.e. the Platonic Forms of numbers) and mathematical numbers, Speusippus rejected the ideal numbers, and consequently the idea
Idea
In the most narrow sense, an idea is just whatever is before the mind when one thinks. Very often, ideas are construed as representational images; i.e. images of some object. In other contexts, ideas are taken to be concepts, although abstract concepts do not necessarily appear as images...

s. He tried to determine the idea of substance
Substance theory
Substance theory, or substance attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood, positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears....

 more distinctly by separating its types, the difference between which he considered would result from the difference between the principles (archai) on which they are based. Thus he distinguished substances of number
Number
A number is a mathematical object used to count and measure. In mathematics, the definition of number has been extended over the years to include such numbers as zero, negative numbers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, and complex numbers....

, of size
Size
The word size may refer to how big something is. In particular:* Measurement, the process or the result of determining the magnitude of a quantity, such as length or mass, relative to a unit of measurement, such as a meter or a kilogram...

, of soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

, while Plato had referred them, as separate entities, to the ideal numbers.
Speusippus made still more kinds of substance, beginning with the One, and assuming principles for each kind of substance, one for numbers, another for spatial magnitudes, and then another for the soul; and by going on in this way he multiplies the kinds of substance.

Nevertheless Speusippus also must have recognised something common in those different kinds of substances, inasmuch as, firstly, he set out from the absolute One, and regarded it as a formal principle which they had in common, and, secondly, he appears to have assumed that multitude and multiformity was a common primary element in their composition. But it is only the difficulties which led him to make this and similar deviations from the Platonist doctrine, of which we can get any clear idea, not the way in which he thought he had avoided those difficulties by distinguishing different kinds of principles. The criticism of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, directed apparently against Speusippus, shows how little satisfied he was with the modification of the original Platonist doctrine.

With this deviation from Plato's doctrine is connected another which takes a wider range. As the ultimate principle, Speusippus would not, with Plato, recognise the Good, but, with others, (who doubtless were also Platonists), going back to the older Theologi, maintained that the principles of the universe were to be set down as causes of the good and perfect, but were not the good and perfect itself, which must rather be regarded as the result of generated existence, or development, just as the seeds of plants and animals are not the fully formed plants or animals themselves.
Speusippus [supposes] that supreme beauty and goodness are not present in the beginning, because the beginnings both of plants and of animals are causes, but beauty and completeness are in the effects of these.


The ultimate principle he designated, like Plato, as the absolute One, but it was not to be regarded as an existing entity, since all entities can only be the result of development. When, however, with the Pythagoreans, he reckoned the One in the series of good things, he probably conceived it only in its opposition to the Many, and wished to indicate that it was from the One and not from the Many, that the good and perfect is to be derived. Nevertheless Speusippus seems to have attributed vital activity to the primordial Unity, as inseparably belonging to it, probably in order to explain how it could grow, by a process of self-development, into the good, spirit, etc.; for spirit also he distinguished from the one, as well as from the good; and the good from pleasure and pain. Less worthy of notice is the attempt by Speusippus to find a more suitable expression for the material principle, the indefinite duality of Plato; and his Pythagorizing mode of treating the doctrine of numbers which we can see in the extracts of his treatise on the Pythagorean numbers.

Ethics


Diogenes Laertius' list of Speusippus' works includes titles on justice, friendship, pleasure, and wealth. Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

 (fr. 77 Tarán) reports that Speusippus considered happiness
Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

 to be "a state that is complete in those things that are in accordance with nature, a condition desired by all human beings, while the good aim at freedom from disturbance; and the virtues would be productive of happiness." This testimony suggests that Speusippus' ethics may have been an important background to ethical ideas of the Stoic
STOIC
STOIC was a variant of Forth.It started out at the MIT and Harvard Biomedical Engineering Centre in Boston, and was written in the mid 1970s by Jonathan Sachs...

s (the will's conformity with nature) and Epicureans (compare "freedom from disturbance," aochlēsia, with the notion of ataraxia
Ataraxia
Ataraxia is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a lucid state, characterized by freedom from worry or any other preoccupation.For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person...

).

Modern scholars have detected a polemic between Speusippus and Eudoxus of Cnidus
Eudoxus of Cnidus
Eudoxus of Cnidus was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, scholar and student of Plato. Since all his own works are lost, our knowledge of him is obtained from secondary sources, such as Aratus's poem on astronomy...

 concerning the good. Eudoxus also accepts that the good will be that at which all people aim, but identifies this as pleasure, as opposed to Speusippus' exclusive focus on moral goods. Texts of Aristotle and Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius , was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office...

 suggest that Speusippus insisted that pleasure was not a good, but that the good was "in between the opposites of pleasure and pain." It is possible that the dispute between Speusippus and Eudoxus influenced Plato's Philebus
Philebus
The Philebus , composed between 360 and 347 BC, is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Socrates is the primary speaker in Philebus, unlike in the other late dialogues...

(esp. 53c-55a).

Speusippus also seems to have developed further Plato's ideas of justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 and of the citizen, and the fundamental principles of legislation.

Editions

  • Paul Lang, De Speusippi academici scriptis. Accedunt fragmenta, diss. Bonn, 1911 (repr. Frankfurt 1964, Hildesheim 1965)
  • Elias Bickermann and Johannes Sykutris, Speusipps Brief an König Philipp: Text, Übersetzung, Untersuchungen, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig: Philologisch-historische Klasse 80:3 (1928)
  • Margherita Isnardi Parente, Speusippo: Frammenti. Edizione, traduzione e commento, Naples: Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 1980
  • Leonardo Tarán, Speusippus of Athens: A Critical Study with a Collection of the Related Texts and Commentary, Leiden: Brill, 1982
  • Anthony Francis Natoli, The Letter of Speusippus to Philip II: Introduction, Test, Translation, and Commentary (Historia Einzeschriften 176), Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2004

Literatur

  • John Dillon: The Heirs of Plato. A Study of the Old Academy (347–274 BC). Clarendon Press, Oxford 2003, ISBN 0-19-927946-2
  • Hans Krämer: Speusipp. In: Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, Die Philosophie der Antike, Bd. 3: Ältere Akademie – Aristoteles – Peripatos, hrsg. Hellmut Flashar. 2. Auflage. Schwabe, Basel 2004, ISBN 3-7965-1998-9, S. 13–31
  • Debra Nails: The People of Plato. A prosopography of Plato and other Socratics, Indianapolis 2002, ISBN 0-87220-564-9, S. 271f. (und Stammtafel S. 244)
  • Fabian Wilhelmi: Isokrates' Philippos und Speusippos' Brief an König Philipp II. als Bitte um königliches Patronat, Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 3640896130.

External links