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Thumos in Aristotle and Later Greek Thought

Applicant Jorgenson Chad
Number 171465
Funding scheme Return CH Advanced Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.03.2018 - 31.08.2018
Approved amount 49'948.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Philosophy
Ancient history and Classical studies

Keywords (8)

Thumos; Stoicism; Plotinus; Aristotle; Character; Philosophy of Action; Ethics; Psychology

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Ce projet vise à donner une vue d'ensemble de la notion de thumos ou esprit chez Aristote. Bien qu'Aristote critique la psychologie tripartite de Platon, qui divise l'âme en trois formes de motivation, la raison, l'appétit et l'esprit, il s'approprie néanmoins du terme thumos. La question est de savoir à quel point le thumos aristotélicien représente une continuation du thumos platonicien. La seconde partie du projet analysera l'évolution antérieure du thumos chez les philosophes hellénistiques.
Lay summary

Bien qu'Aristote s'oppose fermement au modèle tripartite de l'âme élaboré par Platon, qui la divise en trois parties dotées de pouvoirs et de désirs différents, il mentionne à plusieurs reprises l'existence du thumos, la partie de l'âme la plus controversée chez Platon. Or, les références au thumos chez Aristote se trouvent dans de différents écrits et il n'est pas facile de savoir si Aristote nous présente une interprétation cohérente du thumos. Un autre problème est celui du statut d'une telle interprétation. Aristote aurait-il développé sa propre conception du thumos en réagissant contre Platon? Ou aurait-il commencé par défendre le thumos platonicien avant de se retourner contre Platon en établissant sa propre psychologie basée sur des facultés ou des puissances et non sur des parties. Or, pour répondre à de telles questions, il faut d'abord être clair sur ce que dit Platon à propos du thumos, ce qui n'est pas toujours le cas dans les articles actuels. Ainsi, sur la base d'une réévaluation du statut du thumos chez Platon entreprise dans le cadre d'un projet antérieur, ce projet proposera une reconstruction de la théorie aristotélicienne du thumos, qui prend en compte l'ensemble de ses écrits sur ce sujet et notamment les derniers livres des Politiques, qui sont souvent laissés de côté.

Sur la base de ces résultats, ce projet examinera dans un deuxième temps l'histoire du thumos après Aristote, notamment chez les Stoïciens et dans les écrits de Plotin.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.01.2017

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Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Platons Philosophie als Auseinandersetzung mit der Sophistik Talk given at a conference Plato and the Sophists on the Political Art 07.09.2018 Fribourg, Switzerland Jorgenson Chad;


Abstract

The aim of this project is to undertake a detailed analysis of the concept thumos in the period after Plato, particularly in the works of Aristotle, although with a view to later developments as well. Thumos, often translated “spiritedness”, is one of the three motivational principles in Platonic psychology, distinguished both from irrational bodily appetite (epithumia) and reason, the latter of which is not only capable of calculating, but is endowed with its own characteristic desire for knowledge and understanding. Among the non-rational forms of motivation, appetite is concerned with the purely physical dimension of our existence (i.e. the acquisition of material sustenance and sexual reproduction), while thumos appears to be closely connected to our existence as social beings, comprising competitiveness, pride, shame, anger, and fear. Hence thumos is, for Plato, closely bound up with politics, serving to determine our place within the social order and to mediate our relationships with others. Aristotle is notoriously critical of Plato’s psychology, including the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of the soul as a source of motion, and the notion of “soul parts” used to conceptualize the relationship between appetite, thumos, and reason. Within the framework of his clearly anti-Platonic psychology, however, he draws heavily on Plato’s work when it comes to articulate his own account of the motivational structures underlying human action, with regard to both his psychology and ethics and his account of the constitution of the city. It is unclear, however, to what extent Aristotle presents a coherent account of the role of thumos in his various writings. It is also unclear whether or not his understanding of thumos represents a substantial departure from Plato’s account. This part of the project, which is to be carried out at the School of Ancient Philosophy at the LMU in Munich, aims to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the role of thumos and its associated emotions throughout Aristotle’s work, with a view to establishing whether we can speak of a coherent doctrine of thumos that connects the various texts in which it is mentioned or whether it would be more appropriate to speak of a theoretical residue that fits poorly with the surrounding context. A second phase of the project, to be carried out in Fribourg, will examine the fate of thumos after Aristotle. Aristotle’s philosophical activity largely coincides with the decline of the autonomous Greek city-states and the rise of successive empires that dominated the Greek world. This period also marks the end of substantive political philosophy in the Greek world and the more or less complete disappearance of thumos from subsequent philosophical theories. Still, if thumos itself is largely absent, we do find points of contact with the Aristotelian and Platonic discussions in, for instance, the Stoic discussion of passions. This final part thus seeks to determine the lines of continuity and difference between the Platonic/Aristotelian theory of the thumos and Stoic and Neoplatonic discussions.
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