Plato and his colleagues at the Early Academy


The scope of this website is to give fuller access to a good ms. of Plato’s writings, this being helpful in bringing to light a colleague of Aristotle’s and Plato’s, Philip of Opus.   Other colleagues there, such as Menaechmus, Amphinomus and Eudoxus may emerge more clearly also.   All three of these men practiced theoretical sciences at the highest level, near to the level of Aristotle himself.   In the case of Eudoxus’s mathematics (which Philip is likely to have have edited), the research and writing either matched or exceeded that of Aristotle’s in the sheer height and subtlety of its theorising.

Another major challenge to Aristotle (not by Plato this time) was from Amphinomus’s rejection of his doctrine that “geometers never seek out causes, on pain of ceasing to be mathematicians”.  Amphinomus took himself as iconic of mathematicians, and the “5 only are possible in this world” and at the same time took the doctrine of “Platonic” regular solid figures.  What causes these to be 5 and only 5, he asks, — and claims to be asking exactly as a geometer asks this.

This may be explained further as follows, by using language of early Greek astronomy, Eudoxus’s language specifically.   This website intends to cause a certain set of de-occultations.  In its meaning in the title of one of Eudoxus’s works, this was a kind of doubly negative concept: a de-disappearing, i.e.  a cancelling of this star’s regular daily occultation by background sunlight.   This is the same thing as that star’s “appearing” in the sky, some hour later than sundown. The star will have been occulted all day — so to say automatically — by background sunlight. In the familiar way and at the appointed moment the star will appear, or “come out”, as we sometimes say.

This series of de-occultations is not particularly deep or mysterious, as it repeats itself before the public eye with nearly every body in the heavens, repeats both the being-occulted and the being-de-occulted, or appearing, once daily.   A striking example: unless cloudcover made this difficult, citizens in Athens on 21 June -353 will have seen Alpha Ophiouchus culminating at roughly 8:30 PM local time that day, as calculations confirm.

Plato was the main cause of these occultings of his nearby colleagues, the chief and memorable exception being Aristotle, who is often seen shining even in broad daylight. Unlike the others’s, Aristotle’s occultations, being sparse, need few cancellings.

Ingmar Duering did considerable work many decades ago now, clarifying the obscure biography of this Socrates near Plato and Aristotle at the early Academy.  Gilbert Ryle outlined the mystery of what became of Dialectic at this same time in the Academy.  Barnes and Brunschvig have since developed this.  Jacques Brunschvig worked on similar questions, as did Jonathan Barnes.

Aristotle in his writing kept within matter-of-fact boundaries. He was not of Plato’s temperament and turn of mind, thus not much given to creating colleagues of “out of whole cloth”. Now he matter of factly describes this man whom he calls “Socrates the Younger” Σώκρατης ὁ νεώτερος (SwkratES ho neOteros) in Metaphysics Z,11. There are other mentions of this same Socrates nearby. Scholars tend to agree that the ‘Socrates’ mentioned in Plato’s Eleventh Letter is this same ‘blood and bone’ human, to re-borrow a phrase which Aristotle had borrowed from Plato. In both of these literary points of reference, we find both activities and thoughts attributed to this man they call ‘Socrates’, a man clearly different from Elder Socrates, who had died before Plato was 30 years old and before Aristotle was born.

We should not be content, as some scholars are, to adopt the professional skepticism, or procedural disbelief about this person, quite likely a man of flesh and blood.  Nor should we be content with the paradox of his colleagues at the Academy attributing things to him missing from our other evidences. Something I will myself be doing is suggesting that we attribute to him a number of writings, one or more now attributed to Aristotle, and some other ‘insurgent’ activities there at the Early Academy.   He may well have been an organiser of some not-so-loyal opposition forces there.   Thus he may have earned disapproving words and antagonistic attitudes from each side, Aristotle’s and Plato’s.

Scope of this website.

The main purpose here will be to furnish Plato scholars and students fuller access to the lead manuscript of the Family II ms., which resides in the San Marco Library in Venice. This is the lead member of one of the three ‘primary’ witnesses to what Plato actually wrote, and at this time there is some urgency about making access to it easier and more direct. Very good mss. are already online both in Paris and Florence, and others may soon follow. But as yet the one presented here is not very directly accessible. It is usually called “Venetus T”.

This website will supply both an index to the all dialogues to be found in Venetus T, and good images of a select set of these same works of Plato. The site will also provide some room for posting interpretative writing about Plato. Both your interpretations and mine. The images of the texts themselves will not be modifiable.   But few restrictions will be placed on the range of our exegeses, beyond those of WordPress.

A further purpose is to give an assist to the Oxford editors now working to complete their 21st century OCT edition.  The idea is to give both a wider and a more direct access to them and to other scholars, access to high quality images of this lead member of Family II.   This extra access will compound in a natural way if others take an interest.

If this agrees with the purposes of the OCT editors, a further purpose will be to supplement the base of scholarly information on such lexical peculiarities as are associated with this family of mss.   I refer especially to those patiently collected and published now some 40 years ago by Leonard Brandwood in his Word Index to Plato.   Quite specially this website will assist in enlarging the list Brandwood presents on pp. xxvii,f, of        αἰεὶ   ,    δαὶ     and   δαὶ  δὴ  .     Another purpose it to enable more detailed study of various textual matters local to Sophist, its chapters 37 and 49 notably.  I will not hesitate to use Stallbaum’s traditional chapter articulations.  Chapter 37 is the one which includes the rhetorically provocative reference to Eurycles of Aristophanes’s Wasps.    Chapter 49 includes a tellingly placed   γε μὴν  and other pointedly local indicators.

Although the new edition of the OCT Plato has already printed its Vol I, including Sophist, Vol. II is yet to appear, with its expected texts of Parmenides, Symposium and others.   Some scholars have expressed reservations about the Burnet edition.   Textual issues, some new since 1995, can be better resolved, given better access to Venetus T.

Of these, some key items fall within the texts of Sophist, Symposium and Euthydemus.  This last is a dialogue whose ‘dialectic’, rightly interpreted, may be helpful in resolving issues about Plato’s ‘Early Academy’ period.  Some of the needed extra work will likely be done following the lead of Duering on the side of biography and history, or following the lead of Ryle, Barnes and Brunschvig on the side of Dialectic.

Malcolm Brown 17 Nov 2016



Prof. Joseph Arel of No. Arizona State has published an insightful piece elaborating on recollection in Meno and bringing in connections between self-awareness and blindness averted or inverted.   He does this with much vigor and clarity and makes ample references to Derrida on the ‘aveugle’

Here, in this pair of links, you will see a set of curious signs of A. De Morgan’s achieving  deeply witty results with subjects in ancient physics, especially Thales.  He plays artfully on a word like ‘niemand‘ and/or Odysseus’s adopted proper name : ‘ou-tis‘   Odysseus is not often credited with a Sisyphus kind of  wit there in Polyphemus;s epic auditorium.   The giant’s infinite appetite (alas, anthropophagous !) is heard to reach its end with this very mortal — with Outis.    Thales’s publications  are the front of the atomists’s physics, h.e.  the ou- part of their ou-den.

A major point Slings was fond of in his interpreting of Rep. was his bringing out the elaborate wordplay on ‘ourano’ and soundalike words, related to seeing.  Here Slings can rely on the strength of the witty byplay, in that Plato’s text confesses to the peccadillo in point.   That is the little prank on the reader which is to shift about amongst the cognate sounds and near-cognate meanings.  Here in our Anglo-America it is customary to have speakers offering their ‘apologies’ for seeming to perpetrate a pun or play a trick of words.   And clearly in Plato’s Athens one could find those offended by exhibits of philological theatrics.    Plato locates this wicked word-play in the penultimate chapter of the key middle Book 5 of his masterwork, Republic.   Notice Plato’s signalling his own self-consciousness and conscientiousness over this  remark near this seeing-or-heaven passage:

εἰπὼν σοι σοφίζεσθαι περὶ τὸ ὄνομα [509d3]  [=  ‘I seem to you to be speaking a sophism over the word.’ ]

In the myth at the end of Phaedo, recall, the soul is meant to see with newfound power after being freed from its erstwhile body; it is calculated to be advantaged with a new heaven-specific clarity.   One will see well soon enough (I might put it into idiomatic French.)

Plato’s own wit, especially when challenged by his two students Aristotle and Philip of Opus, gave rise to published writing.   To include the π. κοσμου.   I judge the little work to have been authored by Philp of Opus, a.k.a. Younger Socrates.   Some of my arguments are supplied elsewhere.  In any case this work makes efforts at witty etymologies, especially in its seventh and final chapter, analysing the names of gods.  I refer to Chapt.. 7 of the π. κοσμου (=De Mundo).

One argument is as follows.   We are entitled to a good decipherment of the little anacoluthon of our best texts of Timaeus 28b, a little aside which  seems to be executing a play of wit:   call your book what you may, they both look to me to be about The All.   This little aside continues ‘. . . or whatever else we may opt to entitle it’.   The text uses the optative of urbanity here, a usage which earned the title optativus urbanitatis.  It is a common urbanity within Plato, often one he has issuing from an Athenian and addressing another speaker from that same city.    But it is just as fitting if a Londoner such as Jonathan Barnes is addressing a fellow Oxonian J. Annas.    Something we might imagine Plato to have added here might read this way :  ‘. . .my good and early editors might one day want to add the alternate title :  π. πύσεως ( p, Physews ) .   This would match nicely our Timaeus phrase ‘or whatever else we may opt to entitle it’  Were Plato to emulate Philodemus and his tradition he might opt for the Latin version, De [rerum] Natura.    Each of you two, my early academic disciples may opt differently, Aristotle in certifiable fact opting for  Π. οὐρανοῦ  (De Caelo) and Philip on my authorship hypothesis Π. κόσμου   It now appears in Aristotle’s Bekker edition, the roughly 10 Bekker pages prior to and including the final theological chapter, on p. 401.  There continues to be lively scholarly debate, including by J. Barnes of France about its true authorship.  A moderate view mediating between those who have it written centluries after Aristotle, and the extreme view that it comes directly from Aristotle is the position here:  it comes direct from Aristotle’s early days at the Academy, near to the date of his DeCaelo, from the hand neither of Aristotle nor his famous teacher.  Rather from the teacher assigned him by the Vita Marciana, Socrates Alternate.

An additional follower of Plato, Holger Thesleff, has for many decades now admired Plato’s wit.   There are many of us Plato-admirers, both “Quick and Dead”  as A.E. Taylor wrote.  He exercised a specialist wit in thus including himself as one amongst the dedicatees, even today.   Some of us are still quick today.  Plato, the man and his work.    One can reasonably say even that Holger is a major participant in the Ideal of Platonic Wit.   Thesleff’s admiration of Plato is very durable indeed, and he exhibits many of the virtues of Plato-lovers all.   A notable virtue, which Thesleff is witty in his own naming of it.    I feel sure he will plead guilty, before St. Peter, of the seeming vice, ‘The Over-Attentive Reader’.    Where do we find a more worthy subject for such extreme reading, than the writer Plato ?   A subject author of very distinctly lower value, the author of Epinomis and De Kosmou.  can be compared.  Each stands as by a  ‘pseudigraphos’ in their appendings, — one to Plato’s corpus and one to Aristotle’s.   I believe the author of both to be the same man, namely Philip of Opus, a.k.a. Younger Socrates.

Denniston’s posthumous book on Greek Prose Style made various depreciatory remarks about Plato’s very latest writing, especially in LAWS.  One could hardly seek out in a more likely place for samples of what Denniston calls puerille writing by Plato near the end of his life.  Consider a case, here exhibited in our best ms. (75 years prior to Ephraim’s fine ms. T).   It manifests at the end of the end chapter (#14) of the end book (#12) of all Plato’s writings.  Philip of Opus can well be awaiting the two events, Plato’s writing his final lines and his personal death, so that he can both add on his own little piece ‘Epinomis’, and perhaps trim away mercifully any embarrassing childishnesses on the part of his teacher.   Denniston has it that puns and overelaborate wordplay, such as he had formerly mocked mocking when critically of Gorgias or Prodicus  are signs of the very old man indulging himself in juvenilities ?  Consider this example where so hyperrefined a wordplay as shortening a word’s initial vowel, then pleonastically letting it redound in the listener’s ear with near nothing added to the content:   ἤθεσιν καὶ ἔθεσιν.    Here is our best ms. :

final 3 cols. in A of LAWS XII, 14, ca. 968c-969d

Likely also, for reasons I spell out elsewhere, this same same man Philip with expertise in astronomy, will have made appendages books of ‘Elements’ due to be assembled and edited into more finished form by Euclid in Alexandria two generations later.   There are strong evidences that someone attached to the ends of to Books IV and VI and XIIA of this later work, Elements.  In this last case, that of Euclid XIIA,  he published a tract we might rightly give the title ‘stereometric Episkepseis .  In bulk it contains more than Euclid’s standard Book XII, in that it supplies duplicates of the final theorems of stereometric Book XI, as well as the ‘episkepsis‘ version, which has no episkepsis arguments at all.      He contrived to make it over-attentively Platonistic.   I spell out elsewhere more about this last case.   It may be that the Academic-sounding neologism ‘epidhmiourgein’, now found in scholia to Euclid, is also responsibly traced back to the writings of Philip.   If so, he will have earned our descriptive name ‘pseudo-Eudoxus’.   One very modernistic way to put a formula on his Episkepsis arguments is to say of them that they at once stand as falsely Eudoxus-like arguments, which contrive to claim a kind of hyper-platonic position in number theory where, in the words of Feynman ‘we find a way to sweep infinities under the rug.    Current day work in mathematics, cosmology and logic is continuing.   Some of this researclh today proudly claims to prosper, and even to have helpful theological results, ‘without any need to sweep infinities under the rug.’   But this 2019 speculation seems to me ‘over the top’, especially its efforts at ‘neutroscopic’ logic not limiting itself to 2 values, and best left at some distance from speculations offered here, neither under any rug nor off any wall, but grounded in solid texts from the early Academy.

De Morgan, blind on right side since 1806, birth year

De Morgan, blind on right side since infancy



The add-on book at the end of Plato’s LAWS is named from its position as an add-on, “Epinomis“.  In antiquity it was reported to have been written by Plato’s student, Philip of Opus.  It was the part of the platonic corpus on which B. Einarson was doing a commentary when he died in the late 1970s.   We can reasonably hope that one of his students and followers, — say Wm M. Calder III — might publish an edition of all or portions or portions of Einarson’s not-completed work.   If so, the very great powers of Einarson’s writing would likely result in more light than we today get from parallel scholarly drafts or publications,  Here following you will see an excerpt from its final chapter, from folio 299r of our best ms.,(A):

(bis5) semi-Aeolic AIEI in final chapt. of Epinomis, at 992c1 length=3.5, rev6