The insularity of Platonic studies: a postscript post

Andrea Capra

As my title suggests, this is a postscript to my last post, after three scholars (Danielle Allen, Barbara Graziosi, Stephen Halliwell) left a reply. My own reply to them is attached to that post, so let me just thank them warmly and point out the following. Halliwell registers a protest: a casual reader of my post – he says – might think he is unable or unwilling to cite work written in languages other than English. This is of course not the case, and although I disagree with some of his claims (as I explain in my reply), I did not mean to suggest anything like that. Yet my post – as I now see – lends itself to be read that way, so let me apologise by quoting a statement from Halliwell’s very recent book Between Ecstasy and Truth. Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus (OUP 2011):

In pursuing my own priorities, I have made a point of citing a wide range of modern scholarship in several languages, including much material which has appeared in just the last few years. Even when I disagree with those whose work I cite, I think it appropriate to acknowledge the existence of a strong culture of international scholarship in this area and to give readers information with which to consider alternatives to my own sometimes heterodox arguments. Those arguments are presented at times with deliberately vigorous advocacy. Productive academic debate calls for reasoning that is passionate as well as carefully weighed (p. vi).

No matter how difficult it is to strike a good balance between passion and care, I love this: καλὸς ὁ κίνδυνος, as Plato would have it. Besides, friendly dialogue is there to help us clarify what we think when passion momentarily gets the upper hand, which is why a blog like this has a “Platonic” potential and – as both Allen and Graziosi also suggest – can do its tiny bit to cure “insularity”.

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