Did Socrates Meditate? On Some Traces of Contemplative Practices in Early Greco-Latin Philosophy – Michael Chase


In one of his earliest papers, given in 1953, Pierre Hadot wrote of the lasting influence of the Stoic idea of tonic motion (tonikê kinêsis), a “vibrational movement proceeding from the internal to the external, and from the external to the internal” (Hadot 2019, pp. 45–52). For Hadot, this conceptual scheme “beyond the Stoics, goes back to more primitive intuitions concerning vital rhythm, and particularly respiration” (Hadot 2019, pp. 45–46). Hadot saw this conceptual scheme, involving a stage of inward-directed motion followed by one of outward-directed expansion, as constitutive of many aspects of Greco-Roman thought. When, more than twenty years later (Hadot 1993, 1995), Hadot first set forth his analysis of ancient philosophy as consisting in spiritual exercises (SEs), he divided these exercises, in accordance with this distinction between internally and externally directed orientations, into what Christoph Horn has analyzed as SEs intended for concentration or self-development, and those intended for “self-renunciation” (Horn 1998, p. 39). For Horn, SEs intended for concentration may be seen as corresponding to Hadot’s movement of contraction from the external to the internal, while what Horn calls SEs of self-renunciation, but I would prefer to call SEs of self-transcendence, would correspond to the reverse process, or movement of expansion from the internal to the external