Carl Huffman Lecture: Pythagorean Ethics in the Time of Plato
Season 3, Ep. 3
This episode of The Grindstone features the lecture given by Carl Huffman (DePauw University) at Purdue University on Saturday, 27 April 2019. The lecture was given at a conference honoring the career of Dr. Patricia Curd, Professor Emerita of the Department of Philosophy at Purdue.The title of the lecture is: "Pythagorean Ethics in the Time of Plato".Dr. Huffman's abstract of the talk is below:In this talk I first argue that the Pythagoreans whose way of life Plato notes in Book Ten of the Republic are the Pythagoreans whose ethical system Aristoxenus described in his Pythagorean Precepts. The rest of the talk is devoted to an overview of the ethical system found in the fragments of the Pythagorean Precepts and a brief discussion of that system's place in the history of Greek ethics. The ethical system of the Pythagorean Precepts is based on a peculiarly Pythagorean understanding of human beings as by nature insolent and excessive. In the natural state human beings live shameless and incoherent lives from which they must be saved by supervision, which imposes restraint upon them. I examine the Pythagorean treatment of the following topics in light of these general principles: the proper goals for human action, desire, diet, sex, procreation, friendship and luck. Study of these topics shows that the Precepts are best understood as a parallel development to the ethics of Democritus and Socrates. The Precepts emphasize expertise and appeal to authority figures rather than just to the best argument, which is not surprising in Pythagoreanism, which is ultimately based on the authority of the master, Pythagoras.NOTE TO LISTENER: Due to technical difficulties with the wireless mic during this talk, portions of the audio drop out for a few seconds here and there. In an effort to keep the flow of the talk in tact, we did not edit these portions out. The longest drop lasts for about 15-20 seconds, but in total less than 2 minutes of the 50 minute talk have been lost. We apologize to Dr. Huffman and our listeners for this.