BMCR 2013.12.41

Thinking Through Excerpts. Studies on Stobaeus. Monothéismes et philosophie​

, Thinking Through Excerpts. Studies on Stobaeus. Monothéismes et philosophie​. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011. 730. ISBN 9782503529769 €100.00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book is a collection of articles in Italian, French and English that resulted from an international conference held at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, March 5-8, 2008, in cooperation with the University of Notre Dame. The subjects treated in this book range from philology and Quellenforschungen to hermeneutics and the critique of the established history of philosophy. The effort to summarize such a long and multi-faceted volume cannot be other than schematic.

The whole work challenges the following idea formulated by David Konstan: “excerptors represent, according to the common view, a decadent phase of civilization” (p. 9). As philosophical “paraliterature”, excerpts are too hastily considered to be of little philosophical worth and valuable only as source of information, which, moreover, is not always reliable. Yet, in its initial practice, the reading of such collections of excerpts like Stobaeus’, as Konstan points out, was made with pen in hand, a form of philosophical correction-composition, and in this perspective Stobaeus’ work offers new possibilities for renewed reflection and research.

Thus, Denis Michael Searby traces, on the basis of subheadings in Stobaeus’ text, the complex history that relates him to the tradition of philosophical “paraliterature” manifested in the minor genres of “elements, excerpts, and apopthegms”. Jean-Baptiste Gourinat relates Stobaeus to other ancient compilers like Aetius and Arius, and Graziano Ranocchia, in dealing with the presence of Ariston of Chios in Stobaeus, places him in the tradition of Diogenes Laertius. Pedro Pablo Fuentes González links Stobaeus to ‘popular’ currents of philosophy like Cynicism, characterized as a “philosophical resistance movement”, and shows his as well as Diogenes Laertius’ kinship to the “para-thetic philosophies”1 even if the relation of Stobaeus to Laertius is not established. One can conclude that the paradigmatic importance of Diogenes Laertius for the literature of philosophical excerpts cannot be ignored and that the Laertian Lives stand as a kind of ideal for philosophical anthologies. Diogenes Laertius is a turning point because his work combines the compiling genres of the antiquity and a special interest for the common moral content of philosophical life.2

The question of ethics in Stobaeus is treated in the article of Sophie Van der Meeren, who focuses in particular on the structure and sources of chapter II.7 of the Anthology and finds here a psychological flair, a Christian influence and a complex configuration of the moral universe and its constituents. Sophie Aubert focuses her analysis on the presence in Stobaeus of a moral pedagogy of Stoic origin. Ilaria Ramelli deals with the presence of Hierocles the Neostoic in Stobaeus, and Emmanuele Vimercati treats the presence of the Stoic sage in the Stobaean work the relevant passages are characterized by abundance of information as well as argumentative coherence (p. 613).

There are a number of philologically focused essays. Anna Lucia Di Lello-Finuoli undertakes a reorganization of the Anthology on the basis of Vat. Gr. 954. Michele Curnis broadens the scope of philological analysis and considers the reception of Plato in the time of Stobaeus, detecting a consistent strategy of transcription and composition. For Mauro Bonazzi, on the other hand, the work of Stobaeus is an occasion to think deeply and systematically about the destiny of Platonism. Serge Mouraviev, in examining the citations of Heraclitus in Stobaeus, rejects the accusations against the Stobaean citation skills brought by the philological hypercriticism of Quellenforschung : Stobaeus resembles a modern philologist working on philosophical texts and his compilation technique does not separate him from “real” philosophy. Luigi Ferreri perceives a secondary philosophical interest (primarily in relation to Cynicism and Stoicism) in the way that Stobaeus treats, albeit not in an exhaustive way, the Theognidean collection; the author underscores the correlation between the anthological method and the process of selection of poetical passages.

More general philosophical questions are examined by other contributors like Julie Giovacchini, who focuses on the question of the nature of Stobaeus’ work, aiming to surpass the purely doxographical concern inaugurated by Hermann Diels; she discusses the technique of discourses, the technique of verity in the anthology and the notion of parrhesia.3 Elena Gritti examines the doxographical tradition of the concept of perception in Stobaeus; the author considers rightly that no anthologist can deal with such a concept without “argumentative reflections”, in spite of the established ideas about philosophical paraliterature.

From these essays we can see that a philosophical work like Stobaeus’ is not pointing to an eclectic philosophy but rather Stobaeus (and his principal precedessor Diogenes Laertius) reflect a complex cultural situation where enlarged rationality joins common sensibility in the frame of long-standing historical forms of education and social signification.4 The Stobaean work displays the difference between the intellectualism of specific writers and the philosophical life-worlds that are part of general cultural settings. In a way, the philosophical anthologist’s work indicates the rupture between systematic philosophy based on individual conceptions and broader situations of cultural complexity.

Authors, Studies and Articles

Preface (7-8)
David Konstan, “Excerpting as a Reading Practice” (9-22)
Denis Michael Searby, “The Intertitles in Stobaeus: Condensing Culture” (23-56), followed by a Table of the Intertitles in Stobaeus according to Wachsmuth and Hense edition (57-70)
Michele Curnis, “Plato Stobaeensis. Citazioni ed estratti platonici nell’ Anthologion ” (71-118) followed by a series of facsimiles of manuscripts (119-123)
Anna Lucia di Lello-Finuoli, “Il vaticano Greco 954 e il restauro del Florilegio di Stobeo ” (125-142)
Jean-Baptiste Gourinat, “Aëtius et Arius Didyme sources de Stobée” (143-189), followed by an Annexe with a Comparative Table of Stobaeus and his sources (190-201)
Elena Gritti, “Dossografia sulla percezione nell’ Anthologium di Giovanni Stobeo” (203-242), followed by a section in Greek of Stobaeus’ “On senses and sensibles and whether the senses are true”, Anthologium 1.50 (242-246). Serge Mouraviev, “Stobée, citateur d’Héraclite” (247-263), followed by a Comparative Table of Heraclitus’ Placita according to Stobaeus and pseudo-Plutarch (264-266)
Luigi Ferreri, “Le citazioni di Teognide in Stobeo e il problema della formazione della silloge teognidea” (267-337) with an Appendix quoting the chapters of the Florilegium comprising a selection of Theognis (337-338)
Graziano Ranocchia, “Aristone di Chio in Stobeo e nella letteratura gnomologica” (339-369), with an Appendix collecting excerpts about Ariston of Chios’ Similarities in Stobaeus and in the Gnomologia, given in the Greek text and translated into Italian, each accompanied by a short apparatus (370-386)
Pedro Pablo Fuentes González, “Cyniques et autres ‘philosophes populaires’ chez Stobée” (387-436), followed by a Table on the presence of the Cynic and other ‘philosophes populaires’ in Stobaeus (437-439)
Mauro Bonazzi, “Il platonismo nel secondo libro dell’ Anthologium di Stobeo: il problema di Eudoro” (441-456)
Sophie Van der Meeren, “Sens et fonction du ‘discours éthique’ chez Stobée : du livre II, chapitre 7, à une lecture d’ensemble de l’ Anthologie ” (457-509). Sophie Aubert, “Réflexions sur une Mêtis stoïcienne à travers les témoignages de Stobée” (511-535)
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, “Ierocle neostoico in Stobeo: i καθήκοντα e l’evoluzione dell’etica stoica” (537-575)
Emmanuele Vimercati, “Stobeo sul saggio stoico” (577-614)
Julie Giovacchni, “Techniques de discours et techniques de vérité chez Stobée : remarques sur le Peri Parrhèsias (III 13)” (615-631)
Stobaeus Comprehensive Bibliography” (633-685)
Notes on Contributors” (687-690)
Index Locorum” (691-730)


1. Para-thetic are the philosophies that neither resolve the antinomies of philosophical reason nor opt for one or another possible answer; on the notion of parathetic philosophies, see Alexandre Kojève, Essai d’une histoire raisonnée de la philosophie païenne, vol. 1, Paris: Gallimard, 1968.

2. We should remember that Diogenes Laertius was one of the first subjects of study of young Friedrich Nietzsche; see Jonathan Barnes, “Nietzsche and Diogenes Laertius”, Nietzsche-Studien, 15, 1986, pp. 16-40.

3. A comparison with the analysis of parrhesia by Michel Foucault would be of importance here; see Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, edited by Joseph Pearson, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001.

4. In regard to Diogenes Laertius, see Richard Goulet (“Les références chez Diogène Laërce : sources ou autorités ?”, Études sur les Vies de philosophes de l’Antiquité tardive. Diogène Laërce, Porphyre de Tyre, Eunape de Sardes, Paris: Vrin, 2001, pp. 79-96) and his discussion about ‘blocs documentaires’ in Laertius. ​