What is the good life for a human being? Aristotle’s exploration of this question in the Nicomachean Ethics has established it as a founding work of Western philosophy, though its teachings have long puzzled readers and provoked spirited discussion. Adopting a radically new point of view, Ronna Burger deciphers some of the most perplexing conundrums of this influential treatise by approaching it as Aristotle’s dialogue with the Platonic Socrates.
Tracing the argument of the Ethics as it emerges through that approach, Burger’s careful reading shows how Aristotle represents ethical virtue from the perspective of those devoted to it while standing back to examine its assumptions and implications.
“This is the best book I have read on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. It is so well crafted that reading it is like reading the Ethics itself, in that it provides an education in ethical matters that does justice to all sides of the issues.”—Mary P. Nichols, Baylor University
For Raymond Geuss, philosophers’ attempts to bypass normal ways of thinking—to point out that the question being asked is itself misguided—represents philosophy at its best. By provoking people to think differently, philosophers make clear that we are not fated to live within the stifling systems of thought we inherit. We can change the subject.
The Meno, one of the most widely read of the Platonic dialogues, is seen afresh in this original interpretation that explores the dialogue as a theatrical presentation. Just as Socrates's listeners would have questioned and examined their own thinking in response to the presentation, so, Klein shows, should modern readers become involved in the drama of the dialogue. Klein offers a line-by-line commentary on the text of the Meno itself that animates the characters and conversation and carefully probes each significant turn of the argument.
"A major addition to the literature on the Meno and necessary reading for every student of the dialogue."—Alexander Seasonske, Philosophical Review
"There exists no other commentary on Meno which is so thorough, sound, and enlightening."—Choice
Jacob Klein (1899-1978) was a student of Martin Heidegger and a tutor at St. John's College from 1937 until his death. His other works include Plato's Trilogy: Theaetetus, the Sophist, and the Statesman, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Boldly contesting recent scholarship, Sallis argues that The Birth of Tragedy is a rethinking of art at the
limit of metaphysics. His close reading focuses on the
complexity of the Apollinian/Dionysian dyad and on the
crossing of these basic art impulses in tragedy.
"Sallis effectively calls into question some commonly
accepted and simplistic ideas about Nietzsche's early
thinking and its debt to Schopenhauer, and proposes
alternatives that are worth considering."—Richard
Schacht, Times Literary Supplement
At its most basic, philosophy is about learning how to think about the world around us. It should come as no surprise, then, that children make excellent philosophers! Naturally inquisitive, pint-size scholars need little prompting before being willing to consider life’s “big questions,” however strange or impractical. Plato & Co. introduces children—and curious grown-ups—to the lives and work of famous philosophers, from Descartes to Socrates, Einstein, Marx, and Wittgenstein. Each book in the series features an engaging—and often funny—story that presents basic tenets of philosophical thought alongside vibrant color illustrations.
“Tell us, Delphic Oracle, who is the wisest man in all of Greece?” So begins The Death of Socrates. No mortal man is wiser than Socrates, who, on his daily walks through Athens, talks to all the people he meets. When the person he talks to takes himself to be very wise, Socrates asks so many questions that the person ends up admitting he knows nothing. When he runs into people who know little, Socrates sets them on the way to wisdom. But not everyone shares Socrates’s love for the truth. When the people of Athens become angry with him for his ceaseless questioning, how will he find the courage to continue to speak the truth?
Plato & Co.’s clear approach and charming illustrations make this series the perfect addition to any little library.
Plato’s dialogues show Socrates at different ages, beginning when he was about nineteen and already deeply immersed in philosophy and ending with his execution five decades later. By presenting his model philosopher across a fifty-year span of his life, Plato leads his readers to wonder: does that time period correspond to the development of Socrates’ thought? In this magisterial investigation of the evolution of Socrates’ philosophy, Laurence Lampert answers in the affirmative.
The chronological route that Plato maps for us, Lampert argues, reveals the enduring record of philosophy as it gradually took the form that came to dominate the life of the mind in the West. The reader accompanies Socrates as he breaks with the century-old tradition of philosophy, turns to his own path, gradually enters into a deeper understanding of nature and human nature, and discovers the successful way to transmit his wisdom to the wider world. Focusing on the final and most prominent step in that process and offering detailed textual analysis of Plato’s Protagoras, Charmides, and Republic, How Philosophy Became Socratic charts Socrates’ gradual discovery of a proper politics to shelter and advance philosophy.
Walter T. Schmid offers the first original interpretation of the Laches since Hermann Bonitz in the nineteenth century in the only full-length commentary on the Laches available in English.
Schmid divides the book into five main discussions: the historical background of the dialogue; the relation of form and content in a Platonic dialogue and specific structural and aesthetic features of the Laches; the first half of the dialogue, which introduces the characters and considers the theme of the education of young men; the inquiry with Laches, which examines the traditional Greek conception of military courage; and the inquiry with Nicias in which two nontraditional conceptions of courage are mooted, one closely associated with the sophistic movement in Athens, the other with Socrates himself. Furnishing a detailed paragraph-by-paragraph reading that traces Socrates’ ongoing quest for virtue and wisdom— a wisdom founded in the action of a whole human life— Schmid conclusively shows how and why the Laches fills an important niche in Plato’ s moral theory.
Many people believe that when it comes to moral questions, anyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's. Teachers of philosophy, by exposing students to the full panoply of moral theory, can reinforce this prejudice towards skepticism even when they intend to challenge it. Gary Michael Atkinson has taught introductory courses in philosophy for decades, and he has developed an effective approach to show that widespread skepticism based on the existence of persistent moral disagreement is mistaken. Our Search with Socrates for Moral Truth will appeal not only to students and teachers of philosophy but to any educated reader seeking to ascertain or defend the existence of moral truth.
The Pedagogical Contract explores the relationship between teacher and student and argues for ways of reconceiving pedagogy. It discloses this relationship as one that since antiquity has been regarded as a scene of give-and-take, where the teacher exchanges knowledge for some sort of payment by the student and where pedagogy always runs the risk of becoming a broken contract. The book seeks to liberate teaching and learning from this historical scene and the anxieties that it engenders, arguing that there are alternative ways of conceiving the economy underlying pedagogical activities.
Reading ancient material together with contemporary representations of teaching and learning, Yun Lee Too shows that apart from being conceived as a scene of self-interest in which a professional teacher, or sophist, is the charlatan who cheats his pupil, pedagogy might also purport to be a disinterested process of socialization or a scene in which lack and neediness are redeemed through the realization that they are required precisely to stimulate the desire to learn. The author also argues that pedagogy ideally ignores the imperative of the conventional marketplace for relevance, utility, and productivity, inasmuch as teaching and learning most enrich a community when they disregard the immediate material concerns of the community.
The book will appeal to all those who understand scholarship as having an important social and/or political role to play; it will also be of interest to literary scholars, literary and cultural theorists, philosophers, historians, legal theorists, feminists, scholars of education, sociologists, and political theorists.
Yun Lee Too is Assistant Professor of Classics, Columbia University. She is the author of Rethinking Sexual Harassment;The Rhetoric of Identity in Socrates: Text, Power, Pedagogy; and The Idea of Ancient Literary Criticism, forthcoming; and coeditor, with Niall Livingstone, of Pedagogy and Power: Rhetorics of Classical Learning.
Philosophy means “the love of wisdom.” Kreeft uses the dialogues of Socrates to help the reader grow in that love. He says that no master of the art of philosophizing has ever been more simple, clear, and accessible to beginners as has Socrates. He focuses on Plato’s dialogues, the Apology of Socrates, as a lively example to imitate, and a model partner for the reader for dialogue. Kreeft calls it “the Magna Carta of philosophy,” a timeless classic that is “a portable classroom.”
“If only every introductory course were as engaging as Philosophy 101 by Peter Kreeft! Kreeft offers a marvelous way of using Plato’s Apology both to introduce the whole scope of philosopher and to evoke a personal response. Even the diffident freshman, prone to keeping a new subject like philosopher as arm’s length, will feel the enchantment of love-for-wisdom that philosophy is supposed to be.” – Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., chair, Department of Philosophy, Fordham University
“A terrific introduction to philosophy through this not uncontroversial commentary on Plato’s Apology. Not everyone will agree that Socrates provided the best possible defense for himself nor that he intended to. But Kreeft’s is an eminently defensible reading of the Apology and will awaken many a student to the delights of Plato and Philosophy. The comparisons of Socrates with Christ are fascinating. This book will go a long way to consoling those who are not privileged to have Socrates or Kreeft as teachers in the flesh.” – Janet Smith, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit
Plato’s dialogues are some of the most widely read texts in Western philosophy, and one would imagine them fully mined for elemental material. Yet, in Plato and Tradition, Patricia Fagan reveals the dialogues to be continuing sources of fresh insight. She recovers from them an underappreciated depth of cultural reference that is crucial to understanding their central philosophical concerns. Through careful readings of six dialogues, Fagan demonstrates that Plato’s presentation of Socrates highlights the centrality of tradition in political, erotic, and philosophic life. Plato embeds Socrates’s arguments and ideas in traditional references that would have been familiar to contemporaries of Socrates or Plato but that today’s reader typically passes over. Fagan’s book unpacks this cultural and literary context for the proper and full understanding of the philosophical argument of the Platonic dialogues. She concludes that, as Socrates demonstrates in word and deed, tradition is essential to successful living. But we must take up tradition with a critical openness to questioning its significance and future. Her original and compelling analyses may change the views of many readers who think themselves already well versed in the dialogues.
Plato, Allan Bloom wrote, is "the most erotic of philosophers," and his Symposium is one of the greatest works on the nature of love ever written. This new edition brings together the English translation of the renowned Plato scholar and translator, Seth Benardete, with two illuminating commentaries on it: Benardete's "On Plato's Symposium" and Allan Bloom's provocative essay, "The Ladder of Love." In the Symposium, Plato recounts a drinking party following an evening meal, where the guests include the poet Aristophanes, the drunken Alcibiades, and, of course, the wise Socrates. The revelers give their views on the timeless topics of love and desire, all the while addressing many of the major themes of Platonic philosophy: the relationship of philosophy and poetry, the good, and the beautiful.
In this culmination of a lifetime's study, Joseph Cropsey examines the crucial relationship between Plato's conception of the nature of the universe and his moral and political thought.
Cropsey interprets seven of Plato's dialogues—Theaetetus, Euthyphro, Sophist, Statesman, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo—in light of their dramatic consecutiveness and thus as a conceptual and dramatic whole. The cosmos depicted by Plato in these dialogues, Cropsey argues, is often unreasonable, and populated by human beings unaided by gods and dealt with equivocally by nature. Masterfully leading the reader through the seven scenes of the drama, Cropsey shows how they are, to an astonishing degree, concerned with the resources available to help us survive in such a world.
This is a world—and a Plato—quite at odds with most other portraits. Much more than a summary of Plato's thinking, this book is an eloquent, sometimes amusing, often moving guide to the paradoxes and insights of Plato's philosophy.
You were reading a somewhat retro loveletter, the last in history. But you have not yet received it. Yes, its lack or excess of address prepares it to fall into all hands: a post card, an open letter in which the secret appears, but indecipherably.
What does a post card want to say to you? On what conditions is it possible? Its destination traverses you, you no longer know who you are. At the very instant when from its address it interpellates, you, uniquely you, instead of reaching you it divides you or sets you aside, occasionally overlooks you. And you love and you do not love, it makes of you what you wish, it takes you, it leaves you, it gives you.
On the other side of the card, look, a proposition is made to you, S and p, Socrates and plato. For once the former seems to write, and with his other hand he is even scratching. But what is Plato doing with his outstretched finger in his back? While you occupy yourself with turning it around in every direction, it is the picture that turns you around like a letter, in advance it deciphers you, it preoccupies space, it procures your words and gestures, all the bodies that you believe you invent in order to determine its outline. You find yourself, you, yourself, on its path.
The thick support of the card, a book heavy and light, is also the specter of this scene, the analysis between Socrates and Plato, on the program of several others. Like the soothsayer, a "fortune-telling book" watches over and speculates on that-which-must-happen, on what it indeed might mean to happen, to arrive, to have to happen or arrive, to let or to make happen or arrive, to destine, to address, to send, to legate, to inherit, etc., if it all still signifies, between here and there, the near and the far, da und fort, the one or the other.
You situate the subject of the book: between the posts and the analytic movement, the pleasure principle and the history of telecommunications, the post card and the purloined letter, in a word the transference from Socrates to Freud, and beyond. This satire of epistolary literature had to be farci, stuffed with addresses, postal codes, crypted missives, anonymous letters, all of it confided to so many modes, genres, and tones. In it I also abuse dates, signatures, titles or references, language itself.
"With The Post Card, as with Glas, Derrida appears more as writer than as philosopher. Or we could say that here, in what is in part a mock epistolary novel (the long section is called "Envois," roughly, "dispatches" ), he stages his writing more overtly than in the scholarly works. . . . The Post Card also contains a series of self-reflective essays, largely focused on Freud, in which Derrida is beautifully lucid and direct."—Alexander Gelley, Library Journal
An oracle was reported to have said, "No one is wiser than Socrates." And in fact it was Socrates’ life’s work to interpret these words, which demanded and defined the practice of philosophy. Each of these original essays attends carefully to the specifics of the Apology, looking to its dramatic details, its philosophic teaching, and its complexity as a work of writing to bring into focus the "Socrates" of the Apology.
Overall, the contributors, distinguished scholars of ancient philosophy, share a belief in the unity of the letter and the spirit of Platonic philosophy: the conviction that the Platonic text cannot be reached except through reading and cannot be read except through thinking. In this way, the readings in this volume mirror Socrates’ own hermeneutical practice of uniting the demands of the mind and the demands of the text—the Socratic "examination." The result, true to the Socratic injunction that the unexamined life is not worth living, continues that practice of examination, here offering a reexamination of Socrates in the Apology.
When Athenians suffered the shame of having lost a war from their own greed and foolishness, around 404 BCE the public’s blame was directed at Socrates, a man whose unique appearance and behavior, as well as his disapproval of the democracy, made him a ready target. Socrates was subsequently put on trial and sentenced to death. However, as René Girard has pointed out, no individual can be held responsible for a communal crisis. Plato’s Apology depicts Socrates as both the bane and the cure of Greek society, while his Crito shows a sacrificial Socrates, what some might consider a pharmakos figure, the human drug through whom Plato can dispense his philosophical remedies. With tremendous insight and satisfying complexity, this book analyzes classical texts through the lens of Girard’s mimetic mechanism.
The ancient world of fifth century Greece, an astonishing period of cultural development that helps situate the originality of Socrates, and to the city-state of Athens in particular. The social, political and cultural currents flowing through Athens are inseparable from an understanding of the events and attitudes that Socrates examined and intellectually dissected.
Socrates among Strangers
Joseph P. Lawrence Northwestern University Press, 2015 Library of Congress B317.L39 2015 | Dewey Decimal 183.2
In Socrates among Strangers, Joseph P. Lawrence reclaims the enigmatic sage from those who have seen him either as a prophet of science, seeking the security of knowledge, or as a wily actor who shed light on the dangerous world of politics while maintaining a prudent distance from it. The Socrates Lawrence seeks is the imprudent one, the man who knew how to die.
The institutionalization of philosophy in the modern world has come at the cost of its most vital concern: the achievement of life wisdom. Those who have ceased to grow (those who think they know) close their ears to the wisdom of strangers—and Socrates, who stood face to face with death, is the archetypal stranger. His avowal of ignorance, Lawrence suggests, is more needed than ever in an age defined by technical mastery and expert knowledge.
Socrates and Aristophanes
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress PA3879.S78 1980 | Dewey Decimal 882.01
In one of his last books, Socrates and Aristophanes, Leo Strauss's examines the confrontation between Socrates and Aristophanes in Aristophanes' comedies. Looking at eleven plays, Strauss shows that this confrontation is essentially one between poetry and philosophy, and that poetry emerges as an autonomous wisdom capable of rivaling philosophy.
"Strauss gives us an impressive addition to his life's work—the recovery of the Great Tradition in political philosophy. The problem the book proposes centers formally upon Socrates. As is typical of Strauss, he raises profound issues with great courage. . . . [He addresses] a problem that has been inherent in Western life ever since [Socrates'] execution: the tension between reason and religion. . . . Thus, we come to Aristophanes, the great comic poet, and his attack on Socrates in the play The Clouds. . . [Strauss] translates it into the basic problem of the relation between poetry and philosophy, and resolves this by an analysis of the function of comedy in the life of the city." —Stanley Parry, National Review
Socrates and Legal Obligation was first published in 1981. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Charged with "impiety" and sentenced to death under the law of Athens, Socrates did not try to disprove the charges or to escape death, but rather held to a different kind of rhetoric, aiming not at persuasion but at truth. In Socrates and Legal Obligation, R.E. Allen contends that Plato's works on Socrates' acceptance of death—the Apology and the Crito — should be considered together and as such constitute a profound treatment of law and of obligation to law. Allen's study of Socrates' thought on these vital issues is accompanied by his own translations of the Apology and the Crito.
What kind of literature is the Talmud? To answer this question, Daniel Boyarin looks to an unlikely source: the dialogues of Plato. In these ancient texts he finds similarities, both in their combination of various genres and topics and in their dialogic structure. But Boyarin goes beyond these structural similarities, arguing also for a cultural relationship.
In Socrates and the Fat Rabbis, Boyarin suggests that both the Platonic and the talmudic dialogues are not dialogic at all. Using Michael Bakhtin’s notion of represented dialogue and real dialogism, Boyarin demonstrates, through multiple close readings, that the give-and-take in these texts is actually much closer to a monologue in spirit. At the same time, he shows that there is a dialogism in both texts on a deeper structural level between a voice of philosophical or religious dead seriousness and a voice from within that mocks that very high solemnity at the same time. Boyarin ultimately singles out Menippean satire as the most important genre through which to understand both the Talmud and Plato, emphasizing their seriocomic peculiarity.
An innovative advancement in rabbinic studies, as well as a bold and controversial new way of reading Plato, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis makes a major contribution to scholarship on thought and culture of the ancient Mediterranean.
"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Asked by the early Christian Tertullian, the question was vigorously debated in the nineteenth century. While classics dominated the intellectual life of Europe, Christianity still prevailed and conflicts raged between the religious and the secular. Taking on the question of how the glories of the classical world could be reconciled with the Bible, Socrates and the Jews explains how Judaism played a vital role in defining modern philhellenism.
Exploring the tension between Hebraism and Hellenism, Miriam Leonard gracefully probes the philosophical tradition behind the development of classical philology and considers how the conflict became a preoccupation for the leading thinkers of modernity, including Matthew Arnold, Moses Mendelssohn, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. For each, she shows how the contrast between classical and biblical traditions is central to writings about rationalism, political subjectivity, and progress. Illustrating how the encounter between Athens and Jerusalem became a lightning rod for intellectual concerns, this book is a sophisticated addition to the history of ideas.
The oeuvre of the Greek historian Xenophon, whose works stand with those of Plato as essential accounts of the teachings of Socrates, has seen a new surge of attention after decades in the shadows. And no one has done more in recent years to spearhead the revival than Thomas L. Pangle. Here, Pangle provides a sequel to his study of Xenophon’s longest account of Socrates, the Memorabilia, expanding the scope of inquiry through an incisive treatment of Xenophon’s shorter Socratic dialogues, the Economist, the Symposium, and the Apology of Socrates to the Jury. What Pangle reveals is that these three depictions of Socrates complement and, in fact, serve to complete the Memorabilia in meaningful ways.
Unlike the Socrates of Plato, Xenophon’s Socrates is more complicated and human, an individual working out the problem of what it means to live well and virtuously. While the Memorabilia defends Socrates by stressing his likeness to conventionally respectable gentlemen, Xenophon’s remaining Socratic texts offer a more nuanced characterization by highlighting how Socrates also diverges from conventions of gentlemanliness in his virtues, behaviors, and peculiar views of quotidian life and governmental rule. One question threads through the three writings: Which way of life best promotes human existence, politics, and economics—that of the Socratic political philosopher with his philosophic virtues or that of the gentleman with his familial, civic, and moral virtues? In uncovering the nuances of Xenophon’s approach to the issue in the Economist, Symposium, and Apology, Pangle’s book cements the significance of these writings for the field and their value for shaping a fuller conception of just who Socrates was and what he taught.
The fourth century c.e. saw the death of the ancient world and the birth of the medieval. Pagan temples crumbled through disuse, while Christian churches sprang up around the fledgling Holy Roman Empire. The emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity changed history: pagans blamed the decline and fall of the Roman Empire on Christianity, but Christians explained events differently.
The church history written by Socrates of Constantinople is one of the most important sources, Eastern or Western, pagan or Christian, for these complex centuries. Socrates of Constantinople: Historian of Church and State is the first detailed study of Socrates' history--it describes the historical situation in which he wrote his work, and it pulls together all the personal information available about the author. The volume then examines Socrates' own work: how it was composed, which sources were used and how, and it looks at the relationship between Socrates' work and other church histories. It goes on to consider Socrates' attitudes towards bishops, emperors, and their enemies.
Socrates is sometimes dismissed by modern scholars for being a poor ecclesiastical historiographer. However, Theresa Urbainczyk carefully demonstrates Socrates' theory of causation, which affected the way he wrote his history, and she argues that he introduced secular material deliberately. In his view arguments and division in the church caused trouble in the state. In other words, when church leaders quibbled over theology, they endangered the state. It was therefore their duty, for the sake of church and state, to unite--under the emperor. This study not only calls on scholars to reexamine Socrates of Constantinople but makes the wider arguments that the ancients were far less concerned with genre than are modern scholars, and that ecclesiastical history is a continuation of, not a deviation from, political history.
Socrates of Constantinople: Historian of Church and State will be of interest to students and scholars interested in late Roman and early Christian history, theology, and historiography. Anyone studying late antiquity will find an examination of Socrates' attitudes essential.
Theresa Urbainczyk is College Lecturer in the Department of Classics, University College, Dublin.
In The Socratic Paradox and Its Enemies, Roslyn Weiss argues that the Socratic paradoxes—no one does wrong willingly, virtue is knowledge, and all the virtues are one—are best understood as Socrates’ way of combating sophistic views: that no one is willingly just, those who are just and temperate are ignorant fools, and only some virtues (courage and wisdom) but not others (justice, temperance, and piety) are marks of true excellence.
In Weiss’s view, the paradoxes express Socrates’ belief that wrongdoing fails to yield the happiness that all people want; it is therefore the unjust and immoderate who are the fools. The paradoxes thus emerge as Socrates’ means of championing the cause of justice in the face of those who would impugn it. Her fresh approach—ranging over six of Plato’s dialogues—is sure to spark debate in philosophy, classics, and political theory.
“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Weiss, it would be hard not to admire her extraordinarily penetrating analysis of the many overlapping and interweaving arguments running through the dialogues.”—Daniel B. Gallagher, Classical Outlook
“Many scholars of Socratic philosophy . . . will wish they had written Weiss's book, or at least will wish that they had long ago read it.”—Douglas V. Henry, Review of Politics
The Socratic Way of Life is the first English-language book-length study of the philosopher Xenophon’s masterwork. In it, Thomas L. Pangle shows that Xenophon depicts more authentically than does Plato the true teachings and way of life of the citizen philosopher Socrates, founder of political philosophy.
In the first part of the book, Pangle analyzes Xenophon’s defense of Socrates against the two charges of injustice upon which he was convicted by democratic Athens: impiety and corruption of the youth. In the second part, Pangle analyzes Xenophon’s account of how Socrates’s life as a whole was just, in the sense of helping through his teaching a wide range of people. Socrates taught by never ceasing to raise, and to progress in answering, the fundamental and enduring civic questions: what is pious and impious, noble and ignoble, just and unjust, genuine statesmanship and genuine citizenship. Inspired by Hegel’s and Nietzsche’s assessments of Xenophon as the true voice of Socrates, The Socratic Way of Life establishes the Memorabilia as the groundwork of all subsequent political philosophy.
One of the central challenges to contemporary political philosophy is the apparent impossibility of arriving at any commonly agreed upon “truths.” As Nietzsche observed in his Will to Power, the currents of relativism that have come to characterize modern thought can be said to have been born with ancient sophistry. If we seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary radical relativism, we must therefore look first to the sophists of antiquity—the most famous and challenging of whom is Protagoras.
With Sophistry and Political Philosophy, Robert C. Bartlett provides the first close reading of Plato’s two-part presentation of Protagoras. In the “Protagoras,” Plato sets out the sophist’s moral and political teachings, while the “Theaetetus,” offers a distillation of his theoretical and epistemological arguments. Taken together, the two dialogues demonstrate that Protagoras is attracted to one aspect of conventional morality—the nobility of courage, which in turn is connected to piety. This insight leads Bartlett to a consideration of the similarities and differences in the relationship of political philosophy and sophistry to pious faith. Bartlett’s superb exegesis offers a significant tool for understanding the history of philosophy, but, in tracing Socrates’s response to Protagoras’ teachings, Bartlett also builds toward a richer understanding of both ancient sophistry and what Socrates meant by “political philosophy.”
The relation between virtue and knowledge is at the heart of the Socratic view of human excellence, but it also points to a central puzzle of the Platonic dialogues: Can Socrates be serious in his claims that human excellence is constituted by one virtue, that vice is merely the result of ignorance, and that the correct response to crime is therefore not punishment but education? Or are these assertions mere rhetorical ploys by a notoriously complex thinker?
Lorraine Smith Pangle traces the argument for the primacy of virtue and the power of knowledge throughout the five dialogues that feature them most prominently—the Apology, Gorgias, Protagoras, Meno, and Laws—and reveals the truth at the core of these seemingly strange claims. She argues that Socrates was more aware of the complex causes of human action and of the power of irrational passions than a cursory reading might suggest. Pangle’s perceptive analyses reveal that many of Socrates’s teachings in fact explore the factors that make it difficult for humans to be the rational creatures that he at first seems to claim. Also critical to Pangle’s reading is her emphasis on the political dimensions of the dialogues. Underlying many of the paradoxes, she shows, is a distinction between philosophic and civic virtue that is critical to understanding them.
Ultimately, Pangle offers a radically unconventional way of reading Socrates’s views of human excellence: Virtue is not knowledge in any ordinary sense, but true virtue is nothing other than wisdom.
The vast majority of academic books are written from the scholar’s position, even those that primarily concern teaching. Writing/Teaching, on the other hand, is a book about teaching written from the position of the teacher. As the title suggests, Kameen’s book is split into two halves—yet both, in different ways and through different discourses, are derived from his work in the classroom, and his own struggle with issues and problems all teachers of writing must face.
The first half is a series of essays originating from a graduate seminar Kameen team-taught with professor and poet Toi Derricotte in 1994. Included are essays Kameen wrote, a selection of pieces written by other members of the group, and a reflective “postscript.” These essays combine personal narrative, reflective meditation, and critical inquiry—all used as discourse to depict and examine the process of teaching.
The second half of the book contains essays on Plato’s dialogues—primarily Phaedrus and Protagoras—as a means to interrogate the position of teacher through the lens of the most famous of Western pedagogues—Socrates. Here, Socrates is used as a tool to examine and critique both Kameen’s own teacherly identity and, in a wider sense, the set of cultural forces that pre-figure the available positions for both “teacher” and “student” in contemporary education.
What unites both halves is the way Kameen approaches each—the “personal” and the “scholarly”—from his position as teacher. The texts presented provide the occasion for a complex and nuanced meditation on the classroom as a legitimate arena for the production of knowledge and research. Sure to be timely and controversial, Writing/Teaching will enter into the debate on whether to reconfigure the relationship between research and teaching currently taking place among teachers of composition, cultural studies, and rhetoric. Compelling reading for teachers or those contemplating a career in the profession.