Project (2018)

Aristotle’s Endoxa: Authority and Discipline Formation in Ancient Philosophy and Science

This project concerns the formation of disciplinary boundaries in ancient philosophy and science by means of a feature of Aristotelian texts which has long been noted and theorized, but never really studied with a view to the history of science: Aristotle’s use of, and continuous interest in, reputable and authoritative views—ἔνδοξα (endoxa). Ta endoxa is a neologism which Aristotle coins to refer specifically to the premises of dialectical argumentation in the Topics (Top. 1.1, 100a30–b23). The argumentative practice of identifying and interpreting authorities is clearly present in any number of Aristotelian works, and for the last few decades much scholarship on Aristotle has been dedicated to the methodological status of such passages as evidence for a commitment to dialectic as a procedure on the part of Aristotle.

My project builds upon previous philological and philosophical scholarship in confronting a question which has largely fallen between the cracks of research programs in the history of ancient science and philosophy: What norms underlie the practice of identifying and construing authoritative views, and how do the selection and criticism of the views of others serve to “discipline” the inquiries which Aristotle pursues upon the basis of, and often enough through, his discussion of the views of others?