Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2009.06.35 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.06.35

André Laks (ed.), Diogène d'Apollonie: edition, traduction et commentaire des fragments et témoignages. International Pre-platonic Studies; v. 6.   Sankt Augustin:  Academia Verlag, 2008.  Pp. 336.  ISBN 9783896654403.  €44.50.  

Reviewed by Eugene Afonasin, Centre for Ancient Philosophy and the Classical Tradition, Institute of Philosophy and Law, Novosibirsk, Russia (

The book under review is a substantially revised work on Diogenes of Apollonia, the "last Presocratic cosmologist" (fl. 440-430 B.C.E). It contains an edition, a translation and comprehensive commentaries on the few extant fragments of his writing(s?) and more extensive ancient testimonia about his life and teachings. The publication continues a new series of reprints recently established by Academia Verlag1 and will surely be useful for specialists in ancient cosmology, medicine, and other areas of early philosophy and science. as well as researchers with an interest in doxography. The title of the publication has been changed,2 but the structure of the book remains the same. The Introduction (21-53) is subdivided into two sections which treat (1) a history of interpretation of Diogenes' philosophy and (2) the circumstances of the transmission of Diogenes' fragments, together with a reconstruction of his argumentation, supplemented by the relevant texts (Simplicius, in Phys., p. 24, 13-25, 13; p. 149, 3-27; 151, 20-153, 22 Diels).

In the first section Laks discusses scholarship from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries (Schleiermacher, Panzerbieter, H. Ritter, Zeller, Natorp, Gomperz, Burnet, Cherniss, Joël, Mondolfo, etc.), with special attention to H. Diels and W. Theiler (cf. also appendix IV: Teleological interpretation of Diogenes, p. 275-280). Laks' own proposal for a new approach to Diogenes is reiterated in Appendix V (Diogenes Revisited), where he complains that the situation in Diogenes studies has not changed much since 1983, when the first edition of the book appeared: "Diogenes is certainly still lacking general recognition" (p. 281). This is not quite the case: given the state of our evidence and the overall importance of the thinker, he is clearly "visible" in the field of classical studies. Take for instance recent work on Diogenes' medical views,3 or a section dedicated to him in most recent books on the Derveni Papyrus and on ancient cosmology.4 It is true however that in the second edition of Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, the chapter on Diogenes remained unchanged (except for an updated bibliography), and, most surprisingly, the work by Laks has not been utilized or even mentioned in a recent anthology by Waterfield.5

The main body of Laks' book comprises the fragments (pp. 57-108), doxographical testimonia (pp. 111-233) and doubtful testimonia (pp. 237-243). The texts are arranged according to the principles stated in the introduction and differ from what we find in Diels-Kranz both in terms of their order and their content, with a few new pieces of evidence added and the context of the fragments and testimonia considerably expanded.

The first section contains Fragments 1-12 (three more than in Diels-Kranz). Doxographical testimonia are subdivided in 1. Biographical evidence (T(estimonia) 1 a,b,c); 2. The principle (T 2-4); 3. Life and consciousness (T 5-14); 4. Semen and embryo (T 15-20); 5. the Universe (T 21-36), and Dubia (S 1-5). It is important that variant doxographical testimonia (those by Ps.-Plutarch, Stobaeus, Ps.-Galen, etc.) are usually quoted in full and discussed at some length in the commentary.

Finally, as previously mentioned, the book contains Appendices: I. On the order of chapters in Diogenes Laertius, Vita philosophorum IX, 57; II. On the absence of doxographical testimonia concerning explanation of the seismic activity by Diogenes (Seneca, Quaest. Nat. VI, 14-16); III. The question of the "influence" of Diogenes of Apollonia; IV. Teleological interpretation of Diogenes: Remarks on the work by W. Theiler; and V. Diogenes revisited.

The edition has been substantially updated and the author was careful to maintain the continuity of this book with his previous work: the pagination of the first edition is printed in square brackets in the text, while all new sections and additions (even minor ones) are clearly marked by double asterisks.

In what follows I will list major new additions and briefly comment upon them.

932; 8: A long notice by Theophrastus (De sensu, 39-45) with detailed commentary (p. 133-159) is now supplemented with an additional section (p. 160-164) which contains the critique of the Diogenes' position by Theophrastus (De sensu, 46-48). We learn that Diogenes' attempt to connect all five senses to a single cause (air) is not persuasive because thinking and perception become no longer a feature of living beings (Wimmer's correction ἐμψύχων is accepted), as 'air', 'composition' and 'proportion' can be found in all things. Theophrastus calls Diogenes' views "naïve" twice (because it is wrong to suppose that we see by the internal air, and because one should not think that human intelligence differs from that of animals only by the purity of the air) and thinks in general that in his theory Diogenes "went astray from reasonable".6

T 22 (pp. 192-197), T 24 (p. 200-201) and T 28 (p. 208): Following Palmer (2001), Laks attributes to Diogenes the second part of a doxa, preserved in Eusebius' Preparatio evangelica I, 8, 11 (= Ps.-Plutarch, the Stromateis), and plausibly ascribed here to Metrodorus of Chios, with the confusion due to a mistake by a scribe or editor in the course of textual transmission.

Minor changes, beyond bibliographic additions, are as follows: fr. 1 (an interesting note on the incipit in the Presocratic works); fr. 2; fr. 4; fr. 6; fr. 9 (a slight shift in interpretation on the basis of a corrected reading in the Derveni Papyrus, and dismissal of the interpretation of ἄπειροι as 'inexperienced'); fr. 10 (references to a new study by Lloyd 2006);7 T 4; T 21 (an earlier translation corrected).

Appendix III: The question of Diogenes of Apollonia's "Influence" (pp. 255-274). Section C of Diels-Kranz, which contains "Influences and imitations", completely excluded in the 1983 edition, is now restored as a special note.8

In Appendix V, "Diogenes Revisited" (p. 281 ff), Laks publishes his contribution to a new Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy, eds. P. Curd and D. Graham (Oxford 2009). The section adds a few interesting points, especially as concerns his originality and his status in modern scholarship and his teleology. Whatever its merits as a handbook chapter, the section is valuable in that it discusses the recent literature, and serves perfectly well as an afterword which meant to accompany a reprint of the book 25 years after its first publication.

Minor mistakes are unfortunately numerous,9 but this does not affect the overall favorable impression. The book clearly supersedes and replaces the first 1983 edition and could be ranked among the most important recent editions, indispensible in the field of Presocratic studies. Each research library should definitely have a copy of it. However, my suggestion to the press is that in case if a new reprint of this valuable book is prepared, it would be helpful not only to include necessary corrections but also to improve its binding, since in its present form the book falls apart almost immediately. The book will surely be used by many readers as a work of reference and should be durable enough for this purpose.


1.   Sider D. (2005) The Fragments of Anaxagoras (Sankt Augustin); Marcovich M. (2001) Heraclitus. Greek text with a short commentary (Sankt Augustin); both changed only slightly (some notes in the introduction and a new appendix), while the book under review is substantially corrected and considerably expanded.
2.   The first edition: Laks A. (1983) Diogène d'Apollonie. La dernière cosmologue présocratique (Lille).
3.   Crivellato E., Mallardi F., Ribatti D. (2006) "Diogenes of Apollonia: A pioneer in vascular Anatomy", Anatomical Record - Part B: New Anatomist, 289/4, 116-120. These authors conclude: "Diogenes provided indeed a very interesting and accurate description of the vascular system, which largely surpassed the standard of his time and has to be regarded as basically correct".
4.   Betegh G. (2004) The Derveni Papyrus: Cosmology, Theology, and Interpretation (Cambridge); Graham D. (2006) Explaining the Cosmos. The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy (Princeton and Oxford); Gregory A. (2007) Ancient Greek Cosmology (London).
5.   Kirk G. S., Raven J. E., Schofield M. (1983, 2nd ed.) The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge); Waterfield R. (2000) The First Philosophers (Oxford). For comparison, in Russian scholarship the situation is similar: everything related to Diogenes stems from translations and/or interpretations of the texts presented in Diels-Kranz, as if no new studies existed. Working upon this review I conceived the idea to update the state of affairs and have prepared a study which contains a new translation of the fragments and testimonia (forthcoming this year in a journal Schole. Ancient Philosophy and the Classical Tradition).
6.   Laks discusses this afterwards (p. 289). Cf. an important study: Baltussen H. (2000) Theophrastus against the Presocratics and Plato. Peripatetic Dialectics in the De Sensibus (Leiden).
7.   Also, the article by Crivellato-Mallardi-Ribatti 2006 (see n. 3) is left unnoticed, probably because it is located in a publication rarely checked by classicists. (Actually doctors also do not read philosophers, as proven by absence of a reference to Laks in this article!)
8.   This is a reworked version of Laks A. (1998) "Éditer l'influence? Remarques sur le section C du chapitre Diogène d'Apollonie dans des Fragmente der Vorsokratiker de Diels-Kranz", in Burkert W. et al., hrsg. Fragmentsammlungen philosophischer Texte der Antike / Le raccolte dei frammenti di filosofi antichi (Göttingen) 89-105.
9.   A few of the most obvious are listed below.

Text: P. 207 (T 28): πσυχροῦ, not πσύχους. P. 289: apparent mistakes: "The [this?] does not necessarily characterizes [characterize?] Diogenes' specific outlook. . ."

References to the sources :P. 60: Fr. 2 is found in Simpl., In Phys. 151, 27 (not 30) Diels, while fr. 3 is indeed in 151, 30 (cf. p. 51 where the text of Simplicius is printed). P. 77: Fr. 7 is found in 153, (not 152) 18-21. P. 81: Fr. 9, actually runs up to 153, 13, not 16. P. 108: here (and elsewhere) a dot appears to be excessive: Theophr., De sens. 45., 9. P. 199: Stob., Ecl., I, 20 1e should read I, 20, 1e. P. 211 (reference at T 32) excessive comma p. 67, 1-14, Hayduck (must be p. 67, 1-14 Hayduck) . P. 319: Philemon fr. 91 Koch-Kassel-Austin -- should be something like fr. 91 Koch / fr. 95 PCG (= Kassel R., Austin C., eds. (1983-) Poetae Comici Graeci (Berlin), given correctly on p. 255).

Bibliography: P. 299: Funkenstein (1986) and Furley (1989) are listed twice--apparently, a result of a careless copy-and-paste procedure; while at P. 302 the editor of the Derveni Papyrus must be Th(eocritos) Kouremenos, not T. Kouromenos, as it is written (twice; cf. also p. 269 n. 1; 272, etc.). At the same page "auf dem" is written without a space. Also at P. 302 there are three (!) mistakes in Laks 1998 (see n. 8 above): two fragments have disappeared altogether and we find dei instead of di. P. 306: Schiefsky M. J. (2005) Hippocrates On Ancient Medecine (instead of Medicine).

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