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Dr Gabriele Galluzzo (Exeter) Aristotle etc.: a rough guide to parts and wholes in ancient philosophy

A Department of Classics and Ancient History seminar
Date31 January 2018
PlaceAmory B106

With very few exceptions, ancient philosophy scholars have paid significantly little attention to the issue of the part-whole relationship in ancient philosophical texts. This is surprising, given the obvious interest of the topic from a philosophical viewpoint and the role it plays in a number of areas, including cosmology, metaphysics, linguistics and aesthetics. In this paper, I wish to sketch out some conceptual coordinates that might be of help in the study of parts and wholes in ancient philosophy. The paper breaks into two parts. (i) In the first, I explain why the part-whole relationship is a problem for ancient philosophers and outline three different ancient solutions, which can be described as Monism (Parmenides), Reductionism (the Atomists) and Hylomorphism (Aristotle), respectively. (ii) In the second part, I show how Aristotle’s solution allows for wide applications beyond metaphysics, and in particular to such areas as political theory, mathematics, linguistics and literary theory. I end the paper by advancing the suggestion that Aristotle’s treatment of tragedy in the Poetics, and more particularly his fetishism for the plot as the defining feature of tragedy, is driven by his metaphysical views on unity, wholeness and the part-whole relationship.

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