Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I will unfortunately not be able to offer much on skepticism anytime soon. Cicero was a hit, and explains a lot that is good about Academic skepticism. Sadly, the book by Sextus Empiricus I ordered has been much delayed. In the meantime, I've been reading this. There is a certain unfortunate agenda about it, explicit from the introductory chapter - instead of accepting what is good in the traditional, if flawed, account of the Presocratics, the book must buck tradition wherever possible, even if not always desirable. More on that later. It's not exactly bad, but the very title of the work (A Cambridge Companion to Presocratic Philosophy would have made more sense) exudes this iconoclast viewpoint. It was nice to know, for once, that Pythagoras was really, really crazy, and was not actually a vegetarian. Apparently, what Pythagoras preached was abstention from certain meats (and other foods, including beans[!]) for purely mystical reasons. Only later was the idea of reincarnation linked to diet - you'd avoid eating meat because, after all, your uncle may have been reborn as a pig, and pork would be in rather bad taste. What little sense this makes, it at least makes some. Pythagoras makes and made none. The tradition of mystical mathematics that surrounds Pythagoras is also attributed to much later followers of his ideas, and not to him or his contemporaries.

I'm sure I'll have more on the entire thing later, as well as a general criticism of the project, but despite my complaints, I'm still glad to have the work. I'm learning quite a bit about the reliability of original sources, and a misunderstanding of Thales has already been washed from my mind (ask me how!).


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