Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual

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International Spring Seminar on Plato's Sophist

2009, May 26 -- May 31

B. Bossi (U. Complutense Madrid)
T.M. Robinson (U. Toronto)

Why is it time to revisit the Sophist, Plato’s most intense study in metaphysics?

Why is defining the sophist thought to be a philosophical problem at all? One possible answer could be: because the expert in deception is still at large, and still attempting to conceal himself in the House of Relativism, now conspicuous in every field of human endeavor. What is the difference between the pretender to wisdom and the genuine lover of truth? Plato suggests that the nature of the philosopher might well emerge in the course of the enquiry into the nature of the sophist. Why does he say this? And is there anything left for a man, apart from making appearances?

What does this pioneer have to teach us, as he makes his way through terra incognita and, by studying the relations among concepts, establishes rules for the governance of language? Sophistry entails falsehood, which in turn entails not-being. But this seems self-contradictory. Plato’s solution to the problem is the doctrine of the limited intercommunion of Forms, of not-being as otherness. Sameness, it turns out, is founded on otherness.

In earlier dialogues Plato had appealed to Forms as objects of intuition that ground ethics and metaphysics. Now, in the Sophist, he seems to focus on the need for fixed entities to guarantee also the meaningfulness of speech. But in so doing is he still appealing to Forms? Or is he in fact replacing them with fixed concepts, and the meaning of general terms which ensures the significance of speech?

What, moreover, is the purpose of the Stranger’s request that Theaetetus not think of him as a parricide, when he by no means is to commit such crime? We are also encouraged to expect a devastating refutation of Parmenides, but his theory of absolute not-being is not even questioned.

These problems and others will be the object of our discussions. The atmosphere will be one of amicable disputation, in which a variety of approaches to the dialogue will be featured, and classicists and philosophers will each make their own special contributions.

We kindly request participants to read carefully one of the papers and make a short commentary on its main strengths and weaknesses to open the debate. Each participant should get a commentary from the author of the paper he has considered. The proposal is as follows:

Cordero-Narcy (and Narcy-Cordero)
Dorter- Robinson
Bernabé-Solana Dueso
Pajón Leyra-Román
De Garay-Ledesma

Language Policy at the International Spring Seminar on Plato’s Sophist

All participants in the conference are free to read their papers in English, Spanish, French or Italian. But we also need to be sure that every participant in the conference will be able to follow all papers, and for this we shall need handouts that everyone is likely to be able to understand. To this end we ask participants who plan to read their paper in Spanish, French or Italian to be sure to submit an English-language version of their paper as well by the May 15 deadline. This version will be made available to every participant on the web site, and also at the conference.

It should be added that it is also our objective to have a number of strong papers from the conference appear as a volume which will, we hope, be a major contribution to Plato studies. The fact that this volume will be in English is a further reason for requesting the submission of English language versions of papers at the outset, to ensure that, once the conference is over, the assessment and publication process can proceed without delay.

Click here for presenting titles: titles

Click here for uploading papers (Deadline 15 May): papers

Click here for downloading full papers (only authorized participants): download papers

Further Information.

This session has received financial support from the following institutions:

  • logo CSIC
  • Gobierno de Aragón
  • Ministerio de educación y ciencia
  • DPH
  • Universidad de Zaragoza
  • Ayuntamiento de Benasque


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