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Jonathan Barnes, 9 July 1987

Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotelian Science 
by Richard Sorabji.
Duckworth, 253 pp., £29.50, February 1987, 0 7156 2089 4
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... Ioannes Philoponus – Industrious Jack – was a Christian Neoplatonist who worked in Greek Alexandria in the sixth century AD. He was a tireless author. His vast oeuvre, considerable portions of which survive, included commentaries on Aristotle, philosophical treatises, and works of Christian theology and Christian polemic. As a theologian, he was embroiled in the doctrinal disputes of the time, championing the monophysite cause and espousing tritheism ...


Jonathan Barnes, 23 January 1986

The Prehistory of Flight 
by Clive Hart.
California, 279 pp., £29.75, September 1985, 0 520 05213 7
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... Theaetetus is flying’: Plato presented the sentence as a paradigm falsehood; good Aristotelians later argued that its falsity was apodictically certain. For the impossibility of human flight seemed to follow ineluctably from two seemingly irrefragable truths. First, there’s no flying without wings. ‘Flight,’ according to Aristotle, ‘is the form of locomotion peculiarly appropriate to birds,’ and it is properly accomplished by means of wings ...

Hellenic Tours

Jonathan Barnes, 1 August 1985

The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Vol. I: Greek Literature 
edited by P.E. Easterling and B.M.W. Knox.
Cambridge, 936 pp., £47.50, May 1985, 0 521 21042 9
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A History of Greek Literature 
by Peter Levi.
Viking, 511 pp., £14.95, February 1985, 0 670 80100 3
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... Greek, Sir, said he, is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.’ So Johnson in 1780. An early editor punctiliously observed that ‘this was said twenty-five or thirty years ago, when lace was very generally worn.’ Two centuries later lace is quite out of fashion. Lovers of lace – and what civilised man is not a lace-lover? – sometimes despond, and sackcloth is generally worn when Classicists congress ...


Jonathan Barnes, 6 September 1984

by George Steiner.
Oxford, 326 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 812665 4
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... Who else would refer in the space of a hundred pages to a newly discovered papyrus of Stesichorus, a Zurich medical dissertation on the fear of being buried alive, and four 19th-century Danish followers of Hegel? George Steiner’s erudition is as exuberant as ever. The latest book, like its predecessors, teems with esoteric references, recondite allusions and jackdaw juxtapositions ...


Jonathan Barnes, 24 July 1986

The World of Thought in Ancient China 
by Benjamin Schwartz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £23.50, January 1986, 0 674 96190 0
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... In 1045 BC the Mandate of Heaven passed from the Shang to the Chou dynasty, and the sun rose on an age of gold. The tao prevailed in the land: the right path was taken, men were upright and amiable and rich, things went the way things ought to go. So at least thought Confucius five hundred years later. Finding his Utopia in the past, he claimed not to innovate but to transmit an ancient learning: in order to return to the tao, China need only recover the wisdom of the age of Chou ...

Aristotle and Women

Jonathan Barnes, 16 February 1984

Science, Folklore and Ideology 
by G.E.R. Lloyd.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, July 1983, 0 521 25314 4
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... Science is practised amid folklore and ideology, and it is foolishly romantic to imagine that the scientist conducts his professional affairs on a high plateau of reason untainted by the miasmous exhalations of ordinary life. It is equally foolish to suppose that science is and can be nothing more than a cunning defence of the ‘dominant ideology’ of the society within whose bounds it happens to be pursued ...

Spiv v. Gentleman

Jonathan Barnes: Bickering souls in Ancient Greece and China, 23 October 2003

The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece 
by Geoffrey Lloyd and Nathan Sivin.
Yale, 348 pp., £25, February 2003, 0 300 09297 0
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... Already hailed in America as ‘climactic’ and ‘monumental’, The Way and the Word is the product of a collaboration between an eminent Hellenist and an expert Sinologist. It compares ancient Greek thought and ancient Chinese thought. The period of comparison is officially the six centuries from about 400 BC to about 200 AD, but in fact a considerable part of the Greek material is taken from the fifth century BC ...

What, even bedbugs?

Jonathan Barnes: Demiurge at Work, 5 June 2008

Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity 
by David Sedley.
California, 269 pp., £17.95, January 2008, 978 0 520 25364 3
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... Why are there peacocks? And why are there pigs? ‘Nature loves beauty and delights in diversity: that is well shown by the tail of the peacock, for there nature makes it evident that the bird is born for the sake of the tail and not vice versa.’ ‘Pigs are born to be slaughtered, and god has added a soul to their flesh as a sort of salt, thereby providing us with pork ...

The Gods of Greece

Jonathan Barnes, 4 July 1985

Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical 
by Walter Burkert, translated by John Raffan.
Blackwell, 493 pp., £29.50, April 1985, 0 631 11241 3
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... Every pilgrim who ascends the Acropolis is seized by the splendour of the Parthenon, its ruined elegance, its marmoreal serenity. But the pilgrimage is secular: although we know that the Parthenon was a temple, we do not experience it as a numinous haunt of the gods. The power of its finished form is now perhaps beyond imagination: but it may be doubted whether even the vast chryselephantine statue of Athene which it housed – and which was, by all accounts, incomparable in its vulgarity – added any awfulness to the place ...

A Kind of Integrity

Jonathan Barnes, 6 November 1986

Philosophical Apprenticeships 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Robert Sullivan.
MIT, 198 pp., £13.95, October 1985, 0 262 07092 8
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The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Christopher Smith.
Yale, 182 pp., £18, June 1986, 0 300 03463 6
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... Hans-Georg Gadamer ranks as one of Germany’s foremost philosophers. He occupied a chair at Heidelberg for quarter of a century, during which time his lecturing skills and a steady flow of publications brought him a reputation and a following second to none. Since his retirement he has divided his time between Germany and North America. Many of his writings have been translated, and the English version of his major work on Truth and Method has helped to extend his fame ...

Good Repute

M.F. Burnyeat, 6 November 1986

The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation 
edited by Jonathan Barnes.
Princeton, 1250 pp., £53, August 1984, 0 691 09950 2
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... One important example of Ciceronian translation will serve both to signal the excellence of Jonathan Barnes’s Revised Oxford Translation and to highlight a feature of Aristotle’s philosophy which will have made it hard for the ancients to see his greatness. Aristotle is unique among ancient philosophers in his respect for people’s ...

The Sponge of Apelles

Alexander Nehamas, 3 October 1985

The Skeptical Tradition 
by Myles Burnyeat.
California, 434 pp., £36.75, June 1984, 0 520 03747 2
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The Modes of Scepticism: Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations 
by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes.
Cambridge, 204 pp., £20, May 1985, 0 521 25682 8
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Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties 
by P.F. Strawson.
Methuen, 98 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 416 39070 6
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Hume’s Skepticism in the ‘Treatise of Human Nature’ 
by Robert Fogelin.
Routledge, 195 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 7102 0368 3
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The Refutation of Scepticism 
by A.C. Grayling.
Duckworth, 150 pp., £18, May 1985, 0 7156 1922 5
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The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism 
by Barry Stroud.
Oxford, 277 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 19 824730 3
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... in some of the most interesting recent work on Scepticism – in the essays by Myles Burnyeat and Jonathan Barnes in The Skeptical Tradition and elsewhere, as well as in papers by Michael Frede. But what is also needed is a more elementary account of Scepticism, a presentation of the Sceptics’ main approaches when undermining their opponents’ views ...

Theroux and Through

Julian Barnes, 21 June 1984

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 241 11086 6
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Doctor Slaughter 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 137 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 241 11255 9
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... writing – the traveller going to an unexciting location and reporting on his lack of excitement; Jonathan Raban and Hugo Williams purvey this mode as well. Is it that old-style travellers chose their destinations better? Did they perhaps fake their enthusiasm? Or was the world simply fresher then? Today’s travellers may claim a greater truthfulness by ...

Peas in a Matchbox

Jonathan Rée: ‘Being and Nothingness’, 18 April 2019

Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenology and Ontology 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Sarah Richmond.
Routledge, 848 pp., £45, June 2019, 978 0 415 52911 2
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... 1951, when he got a letter from a young teacher of classics at Ohio State University called Hazel Barnes. She was a sexually unconventional feminist who, having convinced herself that Sartre’s philosophy was ‘exactly what I was groping toward’, approached the Philosophical Library to see if they would be interested in a modest introduction to his key ...

Come Back, You Bastards!

Graham Robb: Who cut the tow rope?, 5 July 2007

Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece 
by Jonathan Miles.
Cape, 334 pp., £17.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07303 5
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... French by the Treaties of Paris (1814 and 1815). The captain, Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, was, in Jonathan Miles’s words, ‘a rusty relic from the Ancien Régime who had not put to sea for about a quarter of a century’. When it ran aground, the Medusa had become separated from the rest of the expedition. There wasn’t enough room in its longboats and ...

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