The Virtue of Double Ignorance in Olympiodorus Danielle A. Layne Conference Paper for Olympiodorus: Exegete, Teacher, Philosopher Utrecht University, December 14-15, 2017 I. Introduction The aim of this paper is twofold. First, it hopes to elucidate the problem, symptoms and cause of double ignorance or the shameful ignorance of ignorance that leads to both intellectual and moral error as portrayed by Olympiodorus. 1 In analyzing this shame-worthy condition, particular attention will be paid to understanding its role in living a life of appearances and tending not to oneself but to one’s reputation, body and/or belongings. Obviously drawing on Proclus’ arguments that the doubly ignorant are attracted to material objects and qualities that resemble or remind them of the reasoning principles constituting the essence of the soul, 2 Olympiodorus draws attention to why the doubly ignorant believe their natural and habitual virtues constitute human excellence. This section of the essay will conclude by focusing on Socrates’ unique mimetic form of purification which aims at transforming interlocutors via turning them away from the images of what they want and leading them toward the realities they actually desire. Second, we shall tackle what seems to be, at first blush, a strange error in Olympiodorus as well as the Anonymous Prolegomena insofar as they both associate a kind of double ignorance with one of the highest levels of philosophical excellence, the latter even identifying Socrates as an exemplar of double ignorance. 3 Indeed, in his commentary on the Phaedo Olympiodorus repeatedly appeals to the philosopher of Plato’s Theaetetus [173c6-174a2] as one 1 Insofar as the dialogue is concerned with self-knowledge, Olympiodorus, like Proclus before him, spends a considerable amount of time discussing the problem of double ignorance in his commentary on the Alcibiades . See 11, 9; 98, 10; 100, 4; 103, 25; 123, 21-125, 9; 128, 19-22; 132, 4-8; 134, 16; 142, 4- 6; 145, 19-146, 20; 169, 11-170, 8; 190, 13; 196, 22. For double ignorance in Proclus, see Layne (2009), (2015) and (2018). For a comprehensive treatment of Olympiodorus’ commentary see Tarrant and Renaud (2015). 2 For Proclus’ arguments regarding this see Layne (2015). For parallel identifications in Olympiodorus see In Alc ., 20, 1-21.5, 34, 3-8, 104, 15-21; 150, 19-23. 3 See Proleg. 16, 19-29. Quoted in full below. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
who possesses “a double ignorance that is superior to knowledge” ( in Phd., 6 3.14). While seemingly paradoxical, Olympiodorus argues that those who have reached the height of philosophical excellence are the inverse of those who depend upon their natural and habitual virtues in terms of the objects for which they are ignorant. In other words, the doubly ignorant person does not know they are soul while the contemplative person “forgets” they are embodied or part of this material world (see in Phd. 1 2.14-16 and 4.15). They are ignorant of the body but are also ignorant of that ignorance, i.e. unlike a person of purgative virtue, they are no longer even aware of the world they seek to escape or the body that interrupts. Due to this
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