Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A letter to the Editor of the Oxford Isis

Dear Editor,

Allow me to inform you about my protest-appeal addressed to Oxford philosophers. Tomorrow I shall arrive at Oxford to spend the afternoon and the evening in front of Balliol with a simple poster: LET US DISCUSS PLATO.

I shall not be eating tomorrow, I shall hold a token one-day hunger-strike against my exclusion from academic circles, to which I belong thanks to my work on Plato, which you can see on my blog and on my website.

Wednesday is a good day for my appeal-protest; I held on Wednesdays my philosophy seminar in Prague in 1977-1980, to which I invited Oxford philosophers. See Roger Scruton’s ‘A Catacomb Culture’ on my website.

Would Isis inform Oxford students about my protest-appeal? I do believe that classics and classical philosophy has a future. The culture that is ever more and more diverse and ever more and more globalized needs to find again and again its roots in the world of the Ancient Greeks. But we can enjoin the Greeks authentically only if we understand Ancient Greek directly, without translating it into English (or German, or French … or Czech). And here is the root of the ‘disagreement’ between me and my Oxford (and Cambridge, and Berkeley, and Heidelberg … and Prague) colleagues. When I learnt Ancient Greek in Prague, I knew that the Ancient Greeks did not translate their Greek in their heads into Hebrew or Scythian or Persian, to understand it; they understood it in Greek. I therefore learnt it so as to understand it without translating it in my head.

When Dr Kathy Wilkes (from St Hilda’s) and then Dr Anthony Kenny, the Master of Balliol, came to Prague to my seminar in 1979/1980, the difference between their and my approach to Ancient Greek became apparent. Having been drilled in translating Ancient Greek into English, and chosen English texts into Ancient Greek, from their tender youth in their public schools onward, they were incapable of understanding Ancient Greek without translating it in their heads. The great advantage my approach gave me became even more apparent after I came to Oxford in 1980 at the invitation of the Master of Balliol, and took part in professor Owen’s (from Kings College Cambridge) Aristotelian seminar in London, three times a term, attended by the best classical philosophers from Oxford, Cambridge, and London Universities, and in Professor Ackrill’s (at Brasenose) Aristotelian seminar at Oxford. Understanding Ancient Greek directly is the only authentic way of approaching the Greek texts, and the only way one can truly enjoy them. It would be great if students interested in culture approached me at Balliol and discussed these matters with me.


Julius Tomin

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