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Han Baltussen

Revisiting Simplicius' Role in the Transmission of Greek Philosophy: Between Innovation and Preservation

The principal aim of the Episteme project is an intriguing one: to explore the dynamics between initiatives of preserving and handing on knowledge and the nature of the resulting new narratives. Whether accepting or rejecting the positions under examination, this representation of the commentary process applies remarkably well to Simplicius. This late Platonist commentator not only stands at the far end of a long tradition of exegesis, but also represents that tradition as continuously evolving, in part by its internal dialogue, in part by its response to several external forces.  My title's use of  ‘transmission’ is attempts to be neutral, but can be understood as almost the equivalent of ‘transformation’. My lecture will explore to what extent the notion of ‘transferred’ can be applied with regard to Simplicius’ implicit and explicit notions of transmission and preservation of Greek thought. I will focus on his engagement with early Greek philosophers, early Peripatetics and some of the commentators who play a central role in the composition of his own commentaries (scholia). The central question is not just one of terminology, but how Simplicius engages with earlier thinkers; that is, we should try to determine whether he uses an overall method to scrutiny and evaluation of the views he incorporates in his works.