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Dissertationsprojekt von Anna Pavani

The Linguistic Basis of the Dialectical Method in Plato’s Late Dialogues (Arbeitstitel)

The strong scholarly interest in Plato’s dialectic tends to neglect the late dialogues, since the method of division they entail is usually regarded as a failing definition’s procedure. Challenging the traditional disregard by investigating its underlying conditions, the main concern of the project can be summarised by the following question: What exactly is dialectic in Plato’s late dialogues? The present research pursues this issue by choosing language as a springboard into an analysis of the twin dialogues Sophist-Statesman. There, indeed, the actual application of the so-called “Method of Collection and Division” is the subject matter under discussion: During the inquiry, which is grounded in an elaborate system of bifurcations, the interlocutors reflect on their meth-odos by scrutinising the structural shortcomings of their previous steps, or by making a detour through preparatory paradeigmata. Within these reflections, language plays a fundamental role.

In the only platonic dialogue entirely devoted to the phenomenon of language, namely the Cratylus, Socrates ascribes a critical function to the particular kind of tools our names are. Different names and names in different languages can be regarded as correct if they satisfy one condition: Their constituting syllables have to embody a reference to the same cut along the natural joints of reality Socrates addresses in the Phaedrus. Investigating both dialogues reveals the theme of names as one of the major topics the meta-reflection is concerned with: The inquiry starts by questioning the legitimacy of the current names and during the subsequent reflection, several mistakes are triggered and explained by referring to them.

Taking into account the controversies surrounding this topic, the main issue is addressed by focusing on three mutually interdependent aspects: What objects does dialectic deal with?, How exactly does it operate?, and What is its result? Against the background of the dialectical function of names, the project discusses the interplay of things, concepts, and Forms relying on the multilayered referentiality of language. Moreover, the study aims to overcome both the unilateral consideration of the method’s procedure and the traditional interpretation that identifies the goal of dialectic with definition.



Anna Pavani, geboren 1988 in Verona (Italien), begann ihr Philosophie-Studium in Padua und setzte es in Jena im Rahmen des ERASMUS-Austauschprogramms und danach in Würzburg fort. An der Universität zu Köln schloss sie den 1-Fach-Master mit Schwerpunkt „Antike und mittelalterliche Philosophie“ in einer Arbeit über „Das onoma als Instrument der Dialektik in Platons Kratylos“ mit Auszeichnung ab. Während des Studiums war sie am Lehrstuhl für Antike und Spätantike Philosophie zuerst als Tutorin, später als Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft und als freie Mitarbeiterin tätig. Zudem wirkte sie im Maimonides Latinus-Projekt des Thomas-Instituts mit. Im Sprachlabor des Philosophischen Seminars unterrichtet sie „Altgriechisch für Philosophen“. Seit April 2017 ist Anna Pavani MSCA-Fellow im EUmanities Programm an der a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne. In ihrer Promotion zum sprachlichen Fundament der dialektischen Methode in Platons Spätwerk wird sie von Prof. Dr. Christoph Helmig betreut. Ab Januar 2018 wird sie sich als Visiting-Fellow bei Prof. Mary Louise Gill an der Brown University (Rhode Island, USA) aufhalten.

Kontakt: pavania(at)smail.uni-koeln.de



“Forms and names. On Cratylus, 389a5-390a10”
November 09, 2017, XIth Symposium Platonicum Pragense, Villa Lanna, Prague.

“Diairesis and Definition: Reconsidering Aristotle’s remarks on Plato’s Method of Collection and Division”
September 28, 2017, EGSAMP (European Graduate School for Ancient and Medieval Philosophy) Summer School, Akademie Schmöchwitz, Berlin.



Wintersemester 2017/18

“Griechisch I für Philosophen”, Sprachlabor des Philosophischen Seminars, Universität zu Köln.

Sommersemster 2017

“Griechisch I & II für Philosophen”, Sprachlabor des Philosophischen Seminars, Universität zu Köln.

Wintersemester 2016/17

“Griechisch I für Philosophen”, Sprachlabor des Philosophischen Seminars, Universität zu Köln.


Titelbild: Viatici Mediterranei (Foto: Sara Cecchetto) // Portraitfoto: Patric Fouad