Krakow Platonic Summer Seminar

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GUEST LECTURE for 7th Platonic Summer Seminar: ἄγραφα δόγματα, Lanckorona (Krakow), Poland, June 25-July 2, 2023

7th Platonic Summer Seminar 25.06–1.07.2023 Lanckorona ἄγραφα δόγματα

idea schedule readings history organizers registration location


Platonic Summer Seminar 2023:
ἄγραφα δόγματα

The 2023 Platonic Summer Seminar wlll be focused on the study of the Platonic ἄγραφα δόγματα, the unwritten doctrine transmitted orally, alluded to by the dialogues, consisting in the theory of principles, the foundation of the Platonic tradition. For a long time Plato’s unwritten doctrine has been considered unworthy of attention. Nevertheless, the first important witness who mentions its existence is Aristotle, who in his Physics (209 b) writes: “It is true, indeed, that the account he gives there [i.e. in the Timaeus] … is different from what he says in his so-called unwritten teaching (ἄγραφα δόγματα),” i.e. in the fundamental metaphysical teaching which Plato disclosed only to his most trusted fellows. The reason for not revealing it to everyone is partially discussed in the Phaedrus (276 c) where Plato criticizes the written transmission of knowledge as faulty, favoring instead the spoken logos: “he who has knowledge of the just and the good and beautiful … will not, when in earnest, write in ink, sowing through a pen with words which cannot defend themselves by argument and cannot teach the truth effectually.” This argument is repeated in the Seventh Letter (344 c): “every serious man in dealing with really serious subjects carefully avoids writing.” And further: “I can certainly declare concerning all these writers who claim to know the subjects which I seriously study … there does not exist, nor will there ever exist, any treatise of mine dealing therewith” (341 c). Such secrecy is necessary in order not “to expose them to unseemly and degrading treatment” (344 d). Plato supposedly disclosed his teaching to the public in his lecture On the Good (Περὶ τἀγαθοῦ), in which the Good (τὸ ἀγαθόν) is identified with the One (τὸ ἕν), the fundamental ontological principle. The content of this lecture was transmitted by several witnesses, among others Aristoxenus who describes the event in the following words: “Each came expecting to learn something about the things which are generally considered good for men, such as wealth, good health, physical strength, and altogether a kind of wonderful happiness. But when the mathematical demonstrations came, including numbers, geometrical figures and astronomy, and finally the statement ‘Good is One’ seemed to them, I imagine, utterly unexpected and strange; hence some belittled the matter, while others rejected it.” Simplicius quotes Alexander of Aphrodisias who states that “according to Plato, the first principles of everything, including the Forms themselves are One and Indefinite Duality (ἡ ἀόριστος δυάς) which he called Large and Small (τὸ μέγα καὶ τὸ μικρόν) … one might also learn this from Speusippus and Xenocrates and the others who were present at Plato’s lecture on the Good”. This account is in agreement with Aristotle’s description of Plato’s metaphysical doctrine of principles (ἀρχαί) in the Metaphysics: “Now since the Forms are the causes of everything else, he [i.e. Plato] supposed that their elements are the elements of all things. Accordingly, the material principle is the Great and Small [i.e. the Dyad], and the essence is the One (τὸ ἕν), since the numbers are derived from the Great and Small by participation in the One” (987 b). “From this account it is clear that he only employed two causes: that of the essence, and the material cause; for the Forms are the cause of the essence in everything else, and the One is the cause of it in the Forms. He also tells us what the material substrate is of which the Forms are predicated in the case of sensible things, and the One in that of the Forms — that it is this the duality (ἡ δυάς), the Great and Small (τὸ μέγα καὶ τὸ μικρόν). Further, he assigned to these two elements respectively the causation of good and of evil” (988 a). The first scholar to recognize the importance of the unwritten doctrine of Plato was Heinrich Gomperz who described it in his speech during the 7th International Congress of Philosophy in 1930. The sources related to the ἄγραφα δόγματα have been collected by Konrad Gaiser, published as Testimonia Platonica in 1963, and subsequently interpreted by scholars such as Hans Joachim Krämer or Thomas A. Szlezák. We would like to examine Konrad Gaiser’s reconstruction of the ἄγραφα δόγματα. We shall supplement his collection of testimonies with the anthologies of Isnardi Parente, Richard, and Arana, and discuss the testimonies of Theophrastus, Hermodorus, Speusippus and Xenocrates. Ps.-Archytas’ Περὶ ἀρχῶν (On the principles) also deserves attention, as well as Dörrie’s account of the theory of principles (Platonismus in der Antike IV). We shall also discuss various interpretations of Platonic secrecy, Pythagorean and Straussian models of esotericism, and the crucial question of unspeakability of the ἄρρητον, ἀπόρρητον, and ἀπρόρρητον.


Platonic Summer Seminar 2023: Preliminary Schedule

The seminar will focus on the study of Gaiser’s Testimonia Platonica. 25.06: Opening, Inaugural lecture 26.06: Section A I-IV (TP 1-21): organization of the Platonic school 27.06: Section B I (TP 22-32): general reports on the Platonic doctrine 28.06: Section B II 1 (TP 33-48): mathematical basics of ontology 29.06: Section B II 2 (TP 49-55): theory of principles 30.06: Section B II 3 ab (TP 56-65): ideal numbers 1.07: Section B II 3 cde (TP 66-72): psychology, cosmology, physics Confirmed guest lecturers: Ewa Atanassow, Abraham Bos, Vincenzo Cicero, Gabriele Cornelli, William Franke, Giuseppe Girgenti, Laurence Lampert, Artur Pacewicz.

Platonic Summer Seminar: Readings

Basis of the Seminar: Gaiser, Testimonia Platonica English translations: Findlay, Plato: The Written and Unwritten Doctrines Krämer, Plato and the Foundations of Metaphysics Alternative anthologies: Isnardi Parente, Testimonia platonica. Aristotele Isnardi Parente, Testimonia platonica. Età ellenistica e imperiale Richard, L’enseignement oral de Platon Arana, Platón. Las doctrinas no escritas Dörrie, Der Platonismus in der Antike, Bd. IV [Additional Readings]

Platonic Summer Seminar: History

The first edition was held in July 1-9, 2017. Guests: Małgorzata Bogaczyk-Vormayr, Piotr Augustyniak, Paweł Kłoczowski, Piotr Graczyk, Janina Gajda-Krynicka, Łukasz Kołoczek, Mirosław Kozłowski, Jakub Majmurek, Włodzimierz Lengauer, Tomasz Mróz, Jacek Sieradzan. The second edition on Plato’s “Republic” took place in September 16-21, 2018. Guests: Piotr Augustyniak, Michał Bizoń, Ivan Dimitrijević, Piotr Graczyk, Paweł Kłoczowski, Tadeusz Krauze, Zbigniew Król, Marcin Podbielski, Bogdan Szlachta, and Karol Tarnowski. The third edition on “Plato and Modernity” took place in September 23-30, 2019. Guests: Marek Piechowiak, Wiesława Sajdek, Włodzimierz Heflik, Światosław Florian Nowicki, Piotr Graczyk, Paweł Pieniążek, Paweł Kłoczowski, Burt Hopkins and Łukasz Kołoczek. The fourth edition on the idea of Good took place in August 27-September 2, 2020. Guests: Claudia Baracchi, Janina Gajda-Krynicka, Karol Tarnowski, Damian Mrugalski, Artur Pacewicz, Piotr Augustyniak, Piotr Sikora, Alejandro Vigo, Michał Bizoń, John Sallis, Kevin Corrigan. The fifth edition on Plato’s “Phaedrus” took place in July 5-11, 2021. The sixth edition on the concept of οὐσία took place in August 21-27, 2022.

Andrzej Serafin’s 2017-2018 report (Argument nr 2/2018) Marta Kalfas’ 2017 report (Kraków Monthly, 09.2019) Michał Nowak’s 2018 report (21.09.2018, Polish Radio II) 2019 Wikimedia report (2.11.2019)


Platonic Summer Seminar: Organizers

Andrzej Serafin Associate professor at the Chair of Metaphysics and Ontology, IFiS UP. Translator of Plato’s Symposium and Epinomis.

Michał Bizoń Associate professor at the Chair of History of Philosophy, IF UJ. Translator of Plato’s Hippias minor.

Daniel Sobota Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, PAN.

Paolo Di Leo Senior Lecturer at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Scientific Council: prof. Krzysztof Bielawski, prof. Tadeusz Gadacz, prof. Janina Gajda-Krynicka, dr Piotr Graczyk, prof. Paweł Kłoczowski, dr Marcin Podbielski, prof. Karol Tarnowski


Platonic Summer Seminar: Location

The Platonic Summer Seminar takes place in the beautiful village of Lanckorona, one hour away from Krakow. We will be hosted by Willa Zamek situated near the ruins of the castle at the top of the hill.

Krakow Picture4 Krakow Picture3Krakow Picture2

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