Gill, Christopher 1946-
GILL, Christopher 1946-
PERSONAL: Born 1946.
ADDRESSES: Office—University of Exeter, Northcote House, The Queen's Drive, Exeter EX4 4QJ, England.
CAREER: University of Exeter, Exeter, England.
(Editor, with T. P. Wiseman) Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1993.
(Editor) Epictetus, The Discourses of Epictetus, translation revised by Robin Hard, C.E. Tuttle (Rutland, VT), 1995.
Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue, Clarendon Press (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor, with Mary Margaret McCabe) Form and Argument in Late Plato, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor, with Susanna Morton Braund) The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with Norman Postlethwaite and Richard Seaford) Reciprocity in Ancient Greece, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: British scholar Christopher Gill has devoted much of his career to the study of human psychology as evidenced in the literature of classical Greece. Affiliated with the University of Exeter as an academic, he has written or edited a number of books on various topics in this field. He first edited the dozen essays in the 1990 Oxford University Press title The Person and the Human Mind: Issues in Ancient and Modern Philosophy. About half of the writings from other scholars or scientists explore the idea of the person in contrast to the human animal—what sets us apart as rational beings, and how did the ancient world contemplate this? The other essays in the book examine the rational mind and the concept of person-hood as it evolved through the centuries.
Gill also edited, with T. P. Wiseman, the 1993 work Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World, actually a collection of papers presented at a conference at the University of Exeter two years earlier. The poets, philosophers, and scholars of ancient Greece struggled with the border area between a lie and a statement of fiction—-if something is not true, is it meant to deceive? The essays here present the Greeks' alternate definition of truth, and the realization that an "untruth" can sometimes sound like the truth. His coeditor, Wiseman, wrote "Lying Historians: Seven Types of Mendacity," while Gill contributed the essay "Plato on Falsehood—Not Fiction." In it he posits that Plato recognized the difference between the two. "This book will profit and delight those scholars interested in poetry, philosophy, history, or the ancient novel," asserted Gareth Schmeling in a Classical Outlook review.
Gill's first authorship of a title came with the 1995 tome Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue. Here he investigates psychoanalytical concepts through the dramas of classical Greece's great literary era, the fifth century BCE. His text explores the idea of the "objective-participant" model of psychology: the Greeks considered themselves individuals, but also saw themselves as part of larger community. The concept of selfhood and its relationship to the heroic—defined as arduous efforts to serve a greater good than just mere self-aggrandizement—exploits chronicled in the Iliad and the Odyssey from this period are discussed, as are monologues from the plays of Homer, Euripides, and several writers of the Stoic era. The characters of Medea—who killed her children after murdering her spouse's lover—and Ajax, the courageous warrior who helped Odysseus, but committed suicide when his heroism went unacknowledged—are just two of the character studies that Gill explores in his text. Throughout the work, Gill interjects the concepts formulated during this same century by the philosophers of the time, including Plato and Aristotle.
Elsewhere in Personality in Greek Epic, Gill delves into other scholarly critiques of Greek drama—particularly in theories that evolved after the discipline of psychology emerged in the modern era—and rebuts some of the ideas about morality and the self that have become part of classical scholarship. He finds them far too reliant on a position that can be directly traced to the work of seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes ("I think, therefore I am"), and his German counterpart, Emmanuel Kant, who formulated the notion of "rational agency." Gill argues that it is unwise to bring such interpretations to bear on the study of Greek drama and the idea of self, since they were so far removed from currents in Greek person-hood at the time. "In the end, what Gill sees is an objectivist, naturalist reading of ancient moral psychology that is socially rather than biologically based," stated Michael I. Morgan in a critique of the book in Review of Metaphysics. The reviewer, however argued that some of Gill's refutations were not wholly convincing and had a tendency to repeat themselves across the book, though its readership "will nonetheless learn a good deal from his framing of the issues and clarification of the influences that shape recent readings of the Greeks."
In 1996 Gill edited, with Mary Margaret McCabe, another scholarly work: Form and Argument in Late Plato. Here, a collection of writings discuss the Dialogues, written late in the philosopher's career, along with the work of Parmenides and Thaeaetetus, among other Greeks who wrote about virtue, the universe, a supreme deity, and just leadership. "In his 'Afterword,' Christopher Gill demonstrates how the late dialogues may be taken to illustrate an abiding Platonic commitment to the notion of philosophy as a dialectical search for truth," remarked Colm Luibheid in a Classical Review assessment.
Gill also served as coeditor for Reciprocity in Ancient Greece, a collaboration with Norman Postlethwaite and Richard Seaford. Here, fourteen writers explore the subject of reciprocity, or how individuals exchange favors among themselves and thereby establish a sense of community.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Philology, spring, 1998, pp. 119-22.
Ancient Philosophy, spring, 2000, Robert J. Rabel, review of The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature, p. 259; fall, 2000.
Choice, October, 1996, p. 274.
Classical Review, no. 2, 1997, pp. 332-334.
Classical Outlook, summer, 1994, p. 142.
Classical Philology, October, 1999, David Wray, review of The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature, p. 481.
Classical World, May, 1997, p. 380.
Ethics, October, 1991, pp. 182-183.
Journal of the History of Philosophy, April, 1998, Francisco J. Gonzalez, review of Form and Argument in Late Plato, p. 311.
Review of Metaphysics, March, 1998, pp. 686-688; September, 1998, pp. 150-152
Times Literary Supplement, December 31, 1993, p. 9; May 28, 1999, p. 9.*