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THEOPHRASTUS, De sensibus: critical edition, english translation and commentary

English title THEOPHRASTUS, De sensibus: critical edition, english translation and commentary
Applicant Ierodiakonou Katerina
Number 197418
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.04.2021 - 31.03.2024
Approved amount 347'194.00
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Keywords (10)

Hermann Diels; Presocratics; De sensibus; sense objects; sense perception; Plato; Peripatetic philosophy; doxography; Theophrastus; Democritus

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Théophraste d’Erèse, De sensibus. Edition critique avec introduction générale, traduction anglaise et commentaire.
Lay summary

Presque toutes les œuvres de Théophraste d’Erèse, collaborateur puis successeur d’Aristote, ont été publiées dans de nouvelles éditions au cours des dernières 75 années. La seule exception est le De sensibus. Ce petit traité est connu depuis longtemps comme une des sources d’informations les plus importantes concernant les doctrines des philosophes Présocratiques (notamment Empédocle, Anaxagore et Démocrite) au sujet de la perception sensorielle et de ses objets. Plus récemment, le De sensibus a également suscité beaucoup d’intérêt pour la lumière qu’il peut jeter sur les méthodes de travail de Théophraste lui-même. En effet, ces derniers temps, le De sensibus s’est trouvé au cœur de discussions fondamentales sur la transmission des idées des Présocratiques. On a longtemps cru qu’il s’agissait du seul fragment substantiel restant d’un énorme catalogue de doctrines de philosophie naturelle, que l’on a nommé « la doxographie ». De nombreux savants ont cependant souligné que cela ne rend guère justice au caractère du traité de Théophraste. Ces savants ont souvent préféré inscrire le De sensibus dans un contexte dialectique, où il a pu servir à préparer le terrain pour les propres recherches philosophiques de Théophraste.

Le caractère et le contexte historique du traité seront discutés dans l’introduction à la nouvelle édition du De sensibus visée par ce projet. L’édition propre sera basée sur un réexamen de tous les témoins, et tiendra compte de tout le travail réalisé sur le texte dans sa totalité ou dans ses parties, depuis l’édition précédente de Hermann Diels (1879). Cette édition sera accompagnée d’une traduction anglaise ; suivra ensuite un commentaire perpétuel. Ce commentaire combinera des discussions sur les doctrines rapportées par Théophraste avec des discussions sur ses méthodes de résumé et de critique. De cette manière, les résultats du projet seront utiles à la fois pour des érudits travaillant sur les Présocratiques, pour les étudiants d’Aristote et de Théophraste, et surtout pour ceux qui s'intéressent à la tradition doxographique, qu’ils connaissent ou non le grec.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.10.2020

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Abstract

Several works on psychology are known to have been written by Theophrastus (372/69-288/85 BCE), Aristotle’s successor as head of the Lyceum. Most of them are only known through reports and quotations in later authors, notably in Priscian of Lydia’s paraphrase of Themistius’ De anima (early 6th century). These shorter fragments are all included in a new standard edition of the indirectly transmitted fragments of Theophrastus, edited with an English translation by a group of scholars under the direction of W. W. Fortenbaugh. However, this edition does not include a directly transmitted thirty-page text known as the De sensibus, in which Theophrastus reports and criticizes the views of eight earlier philosophers on sense perception and sense objects (Parmenides, Plato, Empedocles, Alcmaeon, Anaxagoras, Clidemus, Diogenes of Apollonia and Democritus). Instead, its current standard edition is still the one prepared by Hermann Diels in 1879 for his Doxographi Graeci.Diels considered the De sensibus to be a fragment of a work called Physikon doxai. This, he hypothesized, had been a thematically arranged inventory of earlier doctrines of natural philosophy in eighteen books, and the ultimate source of a whole tradition of handbooks by what he dubbed ‘doxographers’. Diels’ hypothesis has been extremely influential, but has also incurred a fair deal of criticism. It has been suggested, for instance, that the De sensibus may be a fragment not of the Physikon doxai but of the fourth or fifth book of the Physics, in which Theophrastus’ own views on sense perception and other psychological matters were expounded, or a self-contained work; the most recent sustained discussion, however, ends in a somewhat reluctant acceptance of Diels’ hypothesis. Further investigation has been called for.The De sensibus is a uniquely important source for our knowledge of several earlier theories of sense perception. It has been extensively drawn upon by scholars over the long last century. The criticism of Diels’ hypothesis, however, has been partly motivated by a new understanding of the nature and purpose of ancient doxographical literature. On this view, the De sensibus is not primarily an attempt to record faithfully the earlier philosophers’ views, but a ‘dialectical’ preparation for the exposition of Theophrastus’ own views, strongly geared towards this purpose and on that account not wholly reliable as a source. Recent scholarship has focused on the ‘dialectical’ aspect of the De sensibus.The De sensibus is, in fact, the only Theophrastean work not available in a post-1945 critical edition. This project proposes to fill this gap, and at the same time to deal comprehensively with the content of the text in such a way as to sum up previous scholarship and lay the groundwork for future research. The project consists of five subprojects: (1) General Introduction; (2) Critical Edition; (3) English Translation; (4) Commentary; (5) Bibliography and Indices. In the General Introduction, the controversy around Diels’ hypothesis will be revisited, and the implications for the study of the De sensibus will be evaluated. The Critical Edition aspires to supersede the edition by Diels. The English Translation will be the first in over a century. A detailed line-by-line Commentary on the entire De sensibus has never before been published. This Commentary will combine discussions of the views reported by Theophrastus with discussions of his methods of reporting and of criticizing. Each of the subprojects will be carried out as a collaborative effort by the two members of the research group, namely Dr. Börje Bydén and myself.
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