31 December 2007

Washington Area Symposium in Ancient Philosophy

Some details are still to be determined, but the shape of the program is sufficiently set so that I can announce the spring meetings of the newly-formed, and quite informal, Washington Area Symposium in Ancient Philosophy for Spring 2008, organized by Pierre Destrée and myself.


February 8
Athanasios Samaras (George Washington University)
"The Household in Plato's Laws"
at the Catholic University of America, 2 pm, Leahy 100

February 29
Richard Bett (Johns Hopkins University)
"How Ethical can an Ancient Sceptic Be?"
at the Center for Hellenic Studies, 2 pm

April 18
Michael Pakaluk (The Catholic University of America)
"Necessitated Actions and Double Effect in NE III.1"
at the University of Maryland, 2 pm

April 25
Rachel Singpurwalla (Fellow, Center for Hellenic Studies)
“Truth and Freedom in Plato's Republic
at the Catholic University of America
Philosophy Library, Aquinas Hall, 2 pm

May 2
Pierre Destrée (University of Maryland)
"Catharsis in Aristotle’s Poetics"
at the Johns Hopkins University
Gilman 348, 4 pm

28 December 2007

Convention Going, Sat. Dec 29

Readers of Dissoi Blogoi are invited to stop in tomorrow at the Eastern Division APA in Baltimore and say hello (Grand Ballroom, Salon IV, Third Floor) for my session on "Ethical Ends", although I couldn't blame you if you preferred to attend the concurrent session on Aristotle:

VI-D. Colloquium: Aristotle
2:45-5:45 p.m.
Chair: Robin Smith (Texas A&M University)
2:45-3:45 p.m.
Speaker: John Bowin (University of California–Santa Cruz)
“Aristotle on the Order and Direction of Time”
Commentator: Denis Corish (Bowdoin College)
3:45-4:45 p.m.
Speaker: Julie Ponesse (University of Western Ontario)
“Aristotle on Luck and Chance”
Commentator: James Allen (University of Pittsburgh)
4:45-5:45 p.m.
Speaker: Errol Katayama (Ohio Northern University)
“Soul and Natural Sublunary Elemental Motion in Aristotle”
Commentator: Mary Louise Gill (Brown University)

VI-E. Colloquium: Ethical Ends
2:45-5:45 p.m.
Chair: Hilary Bok (Johns Hopkins University)
2:45-3:45 p.m.
Speaker: Danielle Bromwich (University of Toronto)
“A Dilemma for Korsgaard: The Internalism Requirement or the Universal Normativity of Moral Reasons?”
Commentator: Josh Gert (Florida State University)
3:45-4:45 p.m.
Speaker: Thornton Lockwood (Boston University)
“Aquinas on Judging Injustice: Justice in Aquinas’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics”
Commentator: Michael Pakaluk (Clark University)
4:45-5:45 p.m.
Speaker: Jonathan Garthoff (Northwestern University)
“Structuring Ends”
Commentator: Mane Hajdin (Santa Clara University)

20 December 2007

What counts as a 'dialogue' today


Someone who can teach ancient philosophy like this physics professor at MIT, whose lectures have sometimes been the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes. (Wouldn't Plato have done something like that?)

But a fair warning: he takes 25 hours to prepare each lecture.

16 December 2007

The Philosophers of the White Rose

I posed the question in my last post: Who is the only philosopher quoted in the six leaflets of the White Rose? (Well, there are perhaps two philosophers -- it all depend how one counts.)

The leaflets are extraordinary. I had known about them for a long time, but only recently, through the book I mentioned, did I become aware that they are extant. Consider for instance the following passage from the second leaflet:

The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this 'government' which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty.
Sophie Scholl was a dual major in biology and philosophy. The professor who assisted the students, as I said, was Kurt Huber, a philosophy professor, who was executed himself by guillotine on July 13, 1943. He continued to work on a book on Leibniz when in prison awaiting trial and execution. Huber wrote the sixth and final leaflet; he definitely counts as a philosopher of the White Rose.
But the only philosopher quoted in the pamphlets of the White Rose?

Lao-Tzu is also quoted.

So let us say that the only Western philosopher to be quoted is .... Aristotle. And here is the passage, from the third leaflet, taken from the Politics:
... and, further, it is part [of the nature of tyranny] to strive to see to it that nothing is kept hidden of that which any subject says or does, but that everywhere he will be spied upon, ... and further, to set man against man and friend against friend, and the common people against the privileged and the wealthy. Also it is part of these tyrannical measures, to keep the subjects poor, in order to pay the guards and soldiers, and so that they will be occupied with earning their livelihood and will have neither leisure nor opportunity to engage in conspiratorial acts ... Further, [to levy] such taxes on income as were imposed in Syracuse, for under Dionysius the citizens gladly paid out their whole fortunes in taxes within five years. Also, the tyrant is inclined constantly to foment wars.

14 December 2007

The White Rose

You may recall that C.R. Dodds in the introduction to his 1959 Clarendon Plato volume on the Gorgias, remarks that his experiences in the fight against Nazism in the Second World War convinced him of the timeliness and relevance of Plato's thought in that dialogue.

Recently I found striking confirmation that Dodds was correct, in my studies of the group, Die Wiesse Rose, "The White Rose". The White Rose, as you may know, consisted of students at the University of Munich, all in their early 20s, aided by a philosophy professor and specialist in Leibniz' theodicy, named Kurt Huber, who courageously wrote and distributed flyers in opposition to Nazism in 1942 and 1943.

The leaders of the White Rose were caught and arrested on February 18, 1943, and then were interrogated, hastily tried, and executed by guillotine four days later. These 'final days' are well captured in a 2005 film about one of these executed students, Sophie Scholl: Die letzen Tage ("The Final Days of Sophie Scholl").

After seeing the film and wanting to learn more, I came upon the book, The White Rose: Munich 1942-1943, which contains primary source documents, such as the actual flyers of the group, and a brief memoir by Inge Scholl, a surviving sister of Sophie.

In her memoir, Inge describes how her brother Hans (who was the original instigator and main leader of the group) formulated his idea of resisting through reflecting on Greek philosophy. Here is that passage which provides some confirmation of Dodds: "Hans was aware that beauty, esthetic pleasure in existence, and his passive growth to manhood were no longer enough, that these could no longer insulate him from the dangers of the times. He felt that there was at bottom an acute emptiness and that there were no answers to his difficult, profound, and disquieting questions; not in Rilke and not in Stefan George, not in Nietzsche nor in Hölderin. But he was sure that his honest search would lead him along the right path. Finally, by strange detours, he made the acquaintance of the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Socrates..."
And this was the beginning of his turn of thought.

As for the flyers of the White Rose, they make interesting reading. But only one philosopher is mentioned and quoted at length in one of them. Can you guess who?

I'll give you some help. It is neither Marx, nor Heidegger, nor Nietzsche, nor Carnap.

Sophie Scholl

12 December 2007

A Cause of Hope?

It is striking that the most influential instance of philosophizing today, or what is likely to be such, strongly promotes the study of Greek philosophy. This is good news, I think, for the field of ancient philosophy.

To give a baseline for a comparison: John Rawls' Theory of Justice is one of the most influential and widely-read philosophical texts in our time, with 300,000 copies sold since 1971. (Some more recent works may have a chance of being more popular, such as The Simpsons and Philosophy, 200,000 copies sold since 2001, or On Bullshit, 150,000 copies since 2005, yet these have a frivolous aspect and are unlikely to be deeply taken to heart by readers.)

However, in contrast, within 10 days after its release, already 1 million copies have been printed and distributed of Spe Salvi, the most recent encyclical of Pope Benedict, and doubtless tens of millions more copies have been either downloaded or read online. To compare: Theory of Justice's impressive numbers work out to 22 copies per day, or 220 for a similar ten-day period.

Spe Salvi
is pastoral and primarily theological, to be sure. Yet its tone and manner of presentation are philosophical in a broad sense. Indeed, it will surely serve for millions of readers as an example of how to be appropriately thoughtful about matters that are 'philosophical'.

What I wish to emphasize here is that readers who do regard it as an example will draw from it the lesson that classical philosophy and culture, especially ancient Greek philosophy and culture, provide the framework within which a thoughtful person should begin an investigation of deep questions of human life -- since this is the outlook that is presupposed in the encyclical.

To give only a few examples:

Benedict opens by citing a Latin inscription which captures, he thinks, the outlook with which he contrasts 'hope': In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus ("How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing"). The footnote, the very first of the encyclical, refers to Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI, no. 26003 -- and you can bet that thousands of readers (at least) will wish that they were in a position to consult and understand that source.

He then begins a discussion of a sentence in the Letter to the Hebrews and leaves the crucial Greek term untranslated:

In the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews (v. 1) we find a kind of definition of faith which closely links this virtue with hope. Ever since the Reformation there has been a dispute among exegetes over the central word of this phrase, but today a way towards a common interpretation seems to be opening up once more. For the time being I shall leave this central word untranslated. The sentence therefore reads as follows: “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen”.
This then leads to a discussion of how hypostasis should be translated, in which a comparison is drawn between hypostasis and hyparchonta (both left in transliterated Greek): "In order to understand more deeply this reflection on the two types of substance—hypostasis and hyparchonta—and on the two approaches to life expressed by these terms,..." etc. --Once again, there will very many readers who will say to themselves that it would be good if they could understand the significance of these words on their own.

The encyclical continues with other comments on Greek words ("The word hypostole, on the other hand, means shrinking back through lack of courage to speak openly and frankly a truth that may be dangerous. Hiding through a spirit of fear leads to “destruction” (Heb 10:39)"); an endorsement of the early Christian representation of Christ as a philosopher; and even, near the end of the encyclical, a lengthy quotation from Plato's Gorgias:
Here I would like to quote a passage from Plato which expresses a premonition of just judgement that in many respects remains true and salutary for Christians too. Albeit using mythological images, he expresses the truth with an unambiguous clarity, saying that in the end souls will stand naked before the judge. It no longer matters what they once were in history, but only what they are in truth: “Often, when it is the king or some other monarch or potentate that he (the judge) has to deal with, he finds that there is no soundness in the soul whatever; he finds it scourged and scarred by the various acts of perjury and wrong-doing ...; it is twisted and warped by lies and vanity, and nothing is straight because truth has had no part in its development. Power, luxury, pride, and debauchery have left it so full of disproportion and ugliness that when he has inspected it (he) sends it straight to prison, where on its arrival it will undergo the appropriate punishment ... Sometimes, though, the eye of the judge lights on a different soul which has lived in purity and truth ... then he is struck with admiration and sends him to the isles of the blessed”
Again, you can bet that thousands or even millions of readers will conclude from this that they should become acquainted with the Gorgias and other Platonic dialogues.

The encyclical even makes use J. L. Austin's notion of a "performative utterance" -- which we might claim for ancient philosophy also, on the grounds that Austin was trained as a classicist.

Take from this what you will. The observation I principally wish to make here is that, simply viewing the publication of this encyclical, as it were, sociologically, one should expect that it will have a widespread and long-lasting, positive influence in promoting the study of what you and I hold dear.

(Look: Do we think that the classics and ancient philosophy have as central a role in university education as they should have? But why do we suppose that things will remain that way perpetually, or get worse? This is exactly my point -- many readers of Spe Salvi, perhaps especially those who with a technical or scientific training, will implicitly draw a contrast and think that Pope Benedict is better educated -- in important respects-- than they.)

10 December 2007

Eu Prattein, John Ackrill

I promised some reflections on John Ackrill, and here are some chance, idiosyncratic thoughts.

Nearly everything I've ended up deeply committed to, I disliked upon a first encounter. This was true for me as regards Acrkill's Clarendon Aristotle commentary, on the Categories and De Int. My first study was when teaching it as a grad student in a tutorial at Harvard. I think I positively despised it at first, because it neglected almost entirely ancient and medieval commentaries, and it seemed that to me, as a direct result of this, Ackrill's commentary failed to go as deeply as it should. It seemed to adopt a false posture, as if the topics weren't already carefully and intelligently discussed many times, in a way that we needed to take into account. Too much of the spirit of Bertrand Russell, I thought. Yet gradually I came to acquire a different view -- that Ackrill's commentary, for its elegance and economy, and no lack of perceptiveness, may certainly stand on its own, and that others can take up the task of synthesis if they wish. (Certainly it met his own demand, brilliantly so: "If you are translating Greek into English, you must give something which reads on its own as English.")

Eventually Ackrill came to represent for me another tradition, less ancient but not less weighty-- the great Oxford tradition of Aristotelian scholarship of W.D. Ross and before him Cook Wilson, Bywater, and many others. I actually do not know, even now, whether Ackrill regarded himself as a transmitter of any sort of tradition along those lines. It probably does not matter-- inevitably he would do so, as that was the culture in which he studied and taught.

I therefore expected when I met him that he would be someone with a corresponding appearance -- tweed jacket and pipe, spectacles, a kind of amalgam of images in my mind of Gwil Owen and those scholars I mentioned. (But not Cook Wilson's beard!) In fact, when Lindsay Judson first introduced me to him, in an Oxford pub (which, I cannot now remember), he was wearing white tennis shoes, a pastel-colored sweatshirt, and a baseball cap. Oh, so that's the kind of intellectual he is, I thought, and immediately I re-categorized him, as falling in the class of 'boyish, youthful, and childlike' intellect, which I think proved to be correct.

It's an important point that all of us should appreciate, that many students look for greatness and not merely cleverness in a teacher. I had imagined that Ackrill was great in one way; my re-classifying him was the product of an imagination wishing to find him great in another way. And in my dealings with him he did not disappoint. This showed itself in details, which I could easily document, as I have a dozen audio tapes of his comments on Nic Eth VIII and IX -- he suffered from poor eyesight, from cataracts I think, and would prefer to dictate rather than write. I also have a typewritten letter from the same period, a humorous production, Ackrill's first foray into electronic machines, I gather, which for fun I reproduce below. ("And he's your editor?", a friend remarked in jest when I showed it to him.)

Ackrill once introduced me to a former student, who had risen in the academy to the rank of dean. I asked him what Ackrill was like as a teacher. "He was a tremendous teacher, incredibly alive intellectually and curious -- so you became like that also. You were thinking along with him. John was never really happy, I think, after he was promoted to professor. That wasn't what he liked. It took him away from philosophy as he thought one needed to do it."

I saw Ackrill for the last time in his house in 1997. We were deciding some production details of my own Clarendon Aristotle volume, in the series of which he of course was the General Editor along with Lindsay Judson. Almost his last words to me were, "I am very grateful to have gotten to know . . . " -- I thought he would say "you", but rather he said, speaking slowly, ". . . your mind." And in my (ever active) imagination I thought of the story that Plato used to call Aristotle "Nous", and I was pleased that there might be even the remotest analogy. Who knows if that was a standard Ackrillism; I regarded it as one of the most flattering things ever said to me. We exchanged pleasantries after that and then said goodbye.

07 December 2007

"should we not be silent about the need to be silent?"

In case you missed Dale Jacquette's marvelous review today in NDPR of a Festschrift for Cora Diamond, I offer these nuggets. They have little to do with ancient philosophy, but they're wonderful in any case, as the review is a minor masterpiece of effective philosophical rhetoric.

On the apparent self-undermining of 'resolute' readings of the Tractatus:

Pros and cons of resolute or non-chickening-out readings of the Tractatus notwithstanding, I am troubled by the fact that in 6.54 Wittgenstein does not merely say that his propositions up to 6.54 are literally nonsensical, but that his propositions (period, full stop) are such. To my way of thinking, this does not merely suggest but fully implies that it is literally nonsensical for Wittgenstein also to have written that his propositions are literally nonsensical. It is hard for me accordingly to understand how anyone could intelligibly adopt a resolute reading of 6.54. For the passage also pulls the rug out from under itself as equally unsinnig as the rest of the text. A resolute, non-chickening-out reading of 6.54 would have us be firm in treating the Tractatus as totally and thoroughly inexpressible, even non-showable, nonsense, on the basis of a Scheinsatz, a pseudo-proposition that Wittgenstein himself declares is nonsensical. Must not a resolutist, then, trying to be resolute in particular about the implications of passage 6.54, choose which propositions in the text not to chicken out about, while chickening out on the literal meaninglessness of the one key sentence that is supposed to justify their resoluteness? These are mysteries that the resolutists, at least in the present venue, do not venture to resolve.
On the apparent practical inconsistency of such interpreters:
I am amazed, finally, to discover that resolutists who want to be faithful to Wittgenstein's conclusions in Tractatus 6.54 and, especially, 7, seem to have spilled more ink in commentary, polemics, and in-fighting than all of what they consider to be the naïve irresolute writing on Wittgenstein's early philosophy put together and squared. It appears that in order to be resolute, to avoid chickening out in the effort to be consistently loyal to Wittgenstein's insight that 'Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent', a philosophical commentator must be inexhaustibly prolix. To understand Wittgenstein, one cannot practice what one preaches; the resolute interpreter of Wittgenstein cannot be a consistent committed Wittgensteinian by his or her own lights, but must enter the fray as an outsider, a non- or even anti-Wittgensteinian. If we are convinced that Wittgenstein advocates silence instead of meaningless prattle about philosophical problems, should we not be silent about the need to be silent? Is that not what Wittgenstein did when he abandoned philosophy for primary school teaching in the Alps? Should we not in all consistency then at least acknowledge that loyal Wittgensteinians trying to think and talk resolutely about Wittgenstein's counseling philosophers to be silent are equally engaging in pseudo-propositional nonsense?
On the relevance of the essays in the Festschrift to the understanding of Cora Diamond's work:
Originally written for another occasion, as the final endnote (n. 1, 351) reveals, a conference on literature and ethics at the University of Helsinki, _____'s essay typifies the inclusion of essays in the volume that have virtually nothing to say about Diamond. ______ writes, after a five page foray into a blow-by-blow narration of a novel she curiously enough characterizes as a work in which nothing happens, at the conclusion of her section I:

Thinking about Der Stechlin seems to me a good way to honor Cora Diamond. So often, like Fontane, she asked us all to question assumptions about structure, "plot," and sequence that hobble philosophy as surely as they hobble the novel, asking ourselves what revolutions in style and structure, as well as content, a due attention to life's complexities might require of us. Perhaps, too, Fontane's praise of conversation is an appropriate way of indicating how deeply I value our years of conversation about these and other topics. (331)

A tenuous connection, to say the least. Thereafter, Diamond's name does not appear even once again in the essay. If a classical analogy for this sort of paste-in tribute is appropriate, I am reminded of nothing so much as the statues of a later decadent antiquity, frugally made in two parts -- a full-length body in flowing tunic with an open socket at the neck to be completed by cementing-in any choice of interchangeable sculpted heads. One easily imagines hauling out the same philosophical paper and tacking on a different homage for an entirely different Festschrift, acknowledging the work of any almost any other philosopher, or, potentially, in this case, comparative literary critic.

06 December 2007

The Aristotelian Origins of Stoic Determinism--Today

What promises to be a fascinating lecture...

The Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy

Priscilla Sakezles
University of Akron

"The Aristotelian Origins of Stoic Determinism"
commentary by
Joel Martinez
Lewis and Clark College

7:30 pm
Grace Conference Room
Higgins University Center

The lecture will be preceded by a seminar
"Agency in Ancient Greek Thought"
4-6 pm
Seminar Room
Beck Philosophy House
Clark University

05 December 2007

τὰ πολύχροα τῶν ζῴων

For many observers it puts mimesis in an entirely new light.

An archer from the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, Aegina, 480-490 BC.

"The aesthetic ideal of the Greeks was mimesis: the imitation of life. And it was color that brought their statues to life." Thus Vinzenz Brinkmann, an archaeologist of the Liebieghaus museum in Frankfurt, who has assembled the show, Gods in Color, on display until January 20th at the Sackler Museum of Harvard University.

"Peplos" Kore, Two Reconstructions

According to the Sackler Museum's press release, the reconstructions, achieved with pigments matching that of the originals, were arrived at by the scientific study of the surfaces of the statues together with an analysis of the slight remains of pigments:
Research for Gods in Color included technical examination of the scarce traces of paint that remain on a number of ancient works of sculpture. Raking light--extreme side light--can reveal incised details as well as subtle patters caused by the uneven weathering of different paints on the stone surface. Similarly, ultraviolet light brings out slight surface differences--often all that has survived of the painted decoration. Analysis of pigment remains by various techniques, including polarized light microscopy, X-ray flourescence and defraction analysis, and infrared spectroscopy, provides information on the materials and colors used. The reconstructions were painted with authentic pigments by the archaeologist Dr. Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, with the help of Sylvia Kellner.
A philosopher might wish to see the exhibit in order to appreciate better such comments as Republic 420c:
Suppose that we were painting a statue, and some one came up to us and said, Why do you not put the most beautiful colours on the most beautiful parts of the body — the eyes ought to be purple, but you have made them black — to him we might fairly answer, Sir, you would not surely have us beautify the eyes to such a degree that they are no longer eyes; consider rather whether, by giving this and the other features their due proportion, we make the whole beautiful. And so I say to you, do not compel us to assign to the guardians a sort of happiness which will make them anything but guardians; for we too can clothe our husbandmen in royal apparel, and set crowns of gold on their heads, and bid them till the ground as much as they like, and no more.

04 December 2007

It Seems We Simply Can't Avoid Speaking Nonsense

"The late and superficial conversion of the Baltic lands to Christianity, after the fourteenth century, coupled with the fact that persecution drove pagan faiths temporarily underground instead of eliminating them altogether, allowed the ancient nature-worship to prevail in forms inoffensive to the clergy, as in the guise of outdoor walks. Thus people used to attend Sunday service — before heading out for their Sonntagsspaziergang."

"Typical penalties, next to physical punishment, were what would be called “guilt trips” today. In contrast to Catholicism (where sins are forgiven in confession), Protestant salvation depends on grace. The faithful cannot rely on a ritual for exoneration; non-Catholic Christians steadily collect sins. "

"We can conjecture that Kant, studying the Principia, would occasionally step outside and look up. He was reading about celestial mechanics — and then he would see it. Stargazing put the work in context. Kant's subsequent publications reveal his exuberance about the stars and the laws they display; just as they reveal his grasp of the planetary dance and his recognition of Newton's achievement. There was definitely no better place than the countryside to learn this."

"For creatures, the cosmic phoenix is a problem. Humans are just feathers on its wings. Humans grow only to burn to ashes; they are not exempt from the cosmic law (1:318.17-18). As the pulsing cosmic vector governs everything, beats emerge on all orders of magnitude, from the Bangs of the phoenix to the flares of life to the jiggles of the elements."
Sunday walks in Prussia as nature worship? Protestants accumulating sins without relief? The cosmic phoenix banging to the jiggles of the elements?

One never knows what strange things one will find on the internet. But would you have believed that these bizarre passages are excerpted from the distinguished Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy? (You can find them here if you really must check.)

Who is editing that??

03 December 2007

John Ackrill, R.I.P.

As I said goodbye today to a visiting scholar from Japan whom I had met for lunch, I lingered near the door and stood looking for a while at a picture which I have placed on the shelf in a large bookcase. The picture, which sits in one of those plexiglass boxes --I never took the time to get a proper frame--is of my first wife, Ruth, and John Ackrill, taken at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1997.

I don't know why I lingered, looking. The picture is there in my bookcase, always, and I hardly ever pay any attention to it. I think may have reproached myself for not looking at it more often. I did wonder if it was visible enough.

My friends know that Ruth died a year later of breast cancer. The picture was taken during a brief visit to England, for her to visit an old friend in Bury St. Edmunds.

I looked at John's image and wondered how he was doing. We hadn't been in touch for a long time. How was he?

Life I find is filled with little coincidences that seem to point to a larger meaning. Later that day a friend wrote to tell me that John Ackrill had died on November 30th, the Friday before.

I couldn't be sad, since his life was a rich and full one, and he was quite old. But words I had read earlier in the day echoed in my mind:

"In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death;
yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven.
We cannot stop reaching out for it,
and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for."

I promise tomorrow or the day after -- reflections and recollections.

Ruth V.K. Pakaluk and John Ackrill
Christ Church, Oxford
March 1997
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