Perictione on Philosophy and Science
In the Hellenistic period, a large collection of texts starts to circulate under the pseudonyms of Pythagorean women philosophers. Whilst most of these writings discuss women-related topics and focus on ethical questions, the treatise titled On Wisdom and ascribed to Perictione, the mother of Plato, is unique for at least two reasons: first, it concerns humankind as a whole and, second, it has an explicit metaphysical and epistemological focus. As such, On Wisdom is the first metaphysical treatise ever attributed to a woman philosopher in Greek antiquity.
In my talk, I will analyse the surviving fragments of On Wisdom. First, I will challenge the traditional view that this text was not written by a woman, but rather by a man under female pseudonyms. Next, I will offer a close reading of the philosophical argument. Specifically, Perictione discusses how philosophy relates to physics, and mathematics, what they are about and whether one should be ranked higher.
My purpose is therefore twofold: first, I will reconstruct Perictione’s contribution to the history of ancient Greek philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology. The talk will show that the texts of the Pythagorean women go well beyond female ethics, all the way to contemplating ‘all the things that are’. Second, I will explore what ancient Greek women have to say about the relation between philosophy and science, thus raising questions that are still relevant today.
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