Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar

GIS 20/10 – Aristotle’s philosophical questions and social class in Daphnis & Chloe

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Alessio Santoro opened last week’s GIS with a talk about Aristotle’s 11th aporia, that questions whether Unity and Being are substances of things or if they have a different nature. Alessio took us through the structure in which Aristotle presents the aporiai in Metaphysics B, to clarify the display of this particular aporia that is part of his PhD Thesis. The 11th aporia is considered by Aristotle to be the most difficult but yet the most important question to reach the truth and it has been argued by some scholars that it doesn’t follow the pattern that can be seen in the rest of book B. Alessio claimed, however, that it does in fact show the same organisation that the rest of the aporiai display. Aristotle explores the implications of opposed theses (Unity and Being ARE substances & Unity and Being ARE NOT substances and therefore have a different nature) and includes the arguments of previous philosophers who explored these theses. As Alessio pointed out, this is precisely the structure that Aristotle himself explains in B.I and that is followed by all aporiai, including number 11.

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Valeria Pace’s talk explored the dichotomy of nature vs. culture and its relationship with class in the pastoral novel Daphnis & Chloe. This is a perfect literary context to play with this contrast, since the “natural” rural world is often depicted in a positive way in this genre, as opposed to life in the city, which is the realm of “culture”. Nevertheless, the two protagonists of the novel, Daphnis and Chloe are different from the rest of the peasants. They are in fact foundlings coming from wealthy families, but brought up by farmers. Longus depicts them in several passages with an inherited excellence and beauty that are not characteristic of the countryside, thus playing with the ideology of the kalokagathia, a “natural” division of society where excellence is inherited and the elite corresponds to these excellent people. In other passages of the novel, Valeria showed, the author deconstructs this model and seems to invoke a “cultural” division instead. She argued that the coexistence of these two models invites the reader to question the naturalness of social order and to reflect on the real motivations behind it.

 

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