Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 October 2009
Since the end of the Second World War, the academic study of Greek philosophy in Britain and North America has changed almost out of recognition. One fairly crude index of the change is the huge growth in the numbers of scholars active in the subject, the volume of their publications, and the variety of their interests. Harder to characterise is the way in which scholarly study of the ancient texts has, without losing in historical scrupulousness or historical imagination, become much more a first-order philosophical activity than it was in the first half of the century. Such changes require moving causes. This volume salutes the work of a scholar and philosopher whose influence on the development of study of Greek philosophy in the last 30 years is second to none.
There have been three major channels through which G. E. L. Owen has made his influence felt. Pride of place must go to the series of masterly essays which he has given us since the early fifties, transforming the state of the art. In Parmenides and Zeno he has shown us, in place of the dogmatic monist and the sophist of the textbooks, the inventors of philosophy as we now understand it, or more specifically of a tradition of profound and subtle metaphysical argument. He has demonstrated how Plato in the theory of Forms gave classic expression to a seductively simple picture of the relations between language and the world, but then in his later dialogues fought his way self-critically to a more penetrating understanding of their complexities.