Neither art nor philosophy was kind to beauty during the twentieth century. Much modern art disdains beauty, and many philosophers deeply suspect that beauty merely paints over or distracts us from horrors. Intellectuals consigned the passions of beauty to the margins, replacing them with the anemic and rarefied alternative, "aesthetic pleasure." In Only a Promise of Happiness, Alexander Nehamas reclaims beauty from its critics. He seeks to restore its place in art, to reestablish the connections among art, beauty, and desire, (...) and to show that the values of art, independently of their moral worth, are equally crucial to the rest of life.Nehamas makes his case with characteristic grace, sensitivity, and philosophical depth, supporting his arguments with searching studies of art and literature, high and low, from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Manet's Olympia to television. Throughout, the discussion of artworks is generously illustrated.Beauty, Nehamas concludes, may depend on appearance, but this does not make it superficial. The perception of beauty manifests a hope that life would be better if the object of beauty were part of it. This hope can shape and direct our lives for better or worse. We may discover misery in pursuit of beauty, or find that beauty offers no more than a tantalizing promise of happiness. But if beauty is always dangerous, it is also a pressing human concern that we must seek to understand, and not suppress. (shrink)
For much of its history, philosophy was not merely a theoretical discipline but a way of life, an "art of living." This practical aspect of philosophy has been much less dominant in modernity than it was in ancient Greece and Rome, when philosophers of all stripes kept returning to Socrates as a model for living. The idea of philosophy as an art of living has survived in the works of such major modern authors as Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Each of (...) these writers has used philosophical discussion as a means of establishing what a person is and how a worthwhile life is to be lived. In this wide-ranging, brilliantly written account, Alexander Nehamas provides an incisive reevaluation of Socrates' place in the Western philosophical tradition and shows the importance of Socrates for Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Why does each of these philosophers—each fundamentally concerned with his own originality—return to Socrates as a model? The answer lies in the irony that characterizes the Socrates we know from the Platonic dialogues. Socratic irony creates a mask that prevents a view of what lies behind. How Socrates led the life he did, what enabled or inspired him, is never made evident. No tenets are proposed. Socrates remains a silent and ambiguous character, forcing readers to come to their own conclusions about the art of life. This, Nehamas shows, is what allowed Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault to return to Socrates as a model without thereby compelling them to imitate him. This highly readable, erudite study argues for the importance of the tradition within Western philosophy that is best described as "the art of living" and casts Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault as the three major modern representatives of this tradition. Full of original ideas and challenging associations, this work will offer new ways of thinking about the philosophers Nehamas discusses and about the discipline of philosophy itself. (shrink)
Problems with representing friendship in painting and the novel and its more successful displays in drama reflect the fact that friends seldom act as inspiringly as traditional images of the relationship suggest: friends' activities are often trivial, commonplace and boring, sometimes even criminal. Despite all that, the philosophical tradition has generally considered friendship a moral good. I argue that it is not a moral good, but a good nonetheless. It provides opportunities to try different ways of being, and is crucial (...) to the processes through which we establish our individuality. (shrink)
The eminent philosopher and classical scholar Alexander Nehamas presents here a collection of his most important essays on Plato and Socrates. The papers are unified in theme by the idea that Plato's central philosophical concern in metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics was to distinguish the authentic from the fake, the original from its imitations. In approach, the collection displays Nehamas's characteristic combination of analytical rigor and sensitivity to the literary form and dramatic effect of Plato's work. Together, the papers represent Nehamas's (...) distinct and original contributions to scholarship on Plato and Socrates and serve as a comprehensive introduction to the thought of these two philosophers.In the book's opening section, Nehamas discusses Plato's representation of Socrates as a model of authentic human goodness, showing that Plato's Socrates is a more skeptical, troubling, and individualistic thinker than is usually supposed. The papers in the second section form a sustained defense of a new and important understanding of Plato's theory of the forms and the evolution of that theory in Plato's later writings. The third section examines Plato's contention that popular entertainment--by which he meant Greek epic and tragic poetry--misleads its audience into a debased life, an argument Nehamas relates to modern anxieties about television and other forms of popular culture. The collection also includes a discussion of Plato's use of the dialogue form in his representation of Socrates and carefully examines the combination of literary and philosophical elements in his work.Nehamas argues in the book that Plato's specific judgments of what is authentic are often flawed, but that his idea of authenticity as the mark of truth, beauty, and goodness is stronger than many modern scholars have assumed. In drawing together Nehamas's many influential ideas about Plato and Socrates, Virtues of Authenticity is a major contribution to the study of ancient Greek philosophy. (shrink)
The aim of interpretation is to capture the past in the future: to capture, not to recapture, first, because the iterative prefix suggests that meaning, which was once manifest, must now be found again. But the postulated author dispenses with this assumption. Literary texts are produced by very complicated actions, while the significance of even our simplest acts is often far from clear. Parts of the meaning of a text may become clear only because of developments occurring long after its (...) composition. And though the fact that an author means something may be equivalent to the fact that a writer could have meant it, this is not to say that the writer did, on whatever level, actually mean it.Alexander Nehamas, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, has written articles on ancient Greek philosophy, literary theory, Nietzsche and Thomas Mann. (shrink)
Nietzsche sometimes writes as if we are not in control—at least not in conscious control—of our actions. He seems to suggest that what we actually do is independent of our intentions. It turns out, though, that his understanding of both intention and action differs radically from most contemporary treatments of the issue. In particular, he denies that our actions are caused by their intentions, whose role is hermeneutical in a sense that this essay develops. How then is responsibility to be (...) assigned, since its moral variety, at least, depends, on several views, on the intention with which an action is performed? Nietzsche, of course, is not interested in making attributions of moral responsibility. Still, his views on the relationship between an individual action, its intention, other actions by its agent, and the agent's character, as this essay presents them, provide a reasonable account of action generally and a different, broader account of responsibility for oneself. (shrink)
When and for how long did Nietzsche accept the “falsification thesis”—a view that “seems to amount to a denial that any human belief is, or could be, true”?1 I believe that the thesis is already absent from the first edition of GS.2 Maudemarie Clark argues that my interpretation of the relevant passages of GS as well as of the scope and nature of perspectivism is mistaken.3 I don’t agree.I begin with a few remarks on GS 110, where Nietzsche writes, “Over (...) immense periods of time, the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny.” Toward the end of... (shrink)
A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE, ancient and modern alike, have always found in Socrates what seemed to them a suspicious, if not actually repugnant, aspect. This aspect, to put the point first in crude terms, is his devotion to philosophy, which presupposes an apparently unshakable faith in reason, in the power of understanding to secure goodness, and in the power of goodness to provide us with happiness.
In this astonishingly rich volume, experts in ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, political theory, aesthetics, history, critical theory, and hermeneutics bring to light the best philosophical scholarship on what is arguably Nietzsche's most rewarding but most challenging text. Including essays that were commissioned specifically for the volume as well as essays revised and edited by their authors, this collection showcases definitive works that have shaped Nietzsche studies alongside new works of interest to students and experts alike. A lengthy introduction, annotated (...) bibliography, and index make this an extremely useful guide for the classroom and advanced research. (shrink)
This paper offers an interpretation of self-Predication (the idea that justice is just) in plato, Given that self-Predication is accepted as obvious both by plato and by his audience, Which entails that "all" self-Predications are clearly, Though not trivially, True. More strongly, It is suggested that "only" self-Predications can be accepted as clearly true by plato. This is to deny that plato had at his disposal an articulated notion of predication, And his middle theory of forms, Primarily the relation of (...) participation, Is seen as his attempt to arrive at that notion. It is argued that his metaphysical and semantical views are heavily influenced by eleatic monism. But this monism is incompatible with the very idea of predication. It is only in his later works, Where he attacks parmenides directly, That plato manages to lay the groundwork for what can be considered as the discovery of predication. (shrink)
ONE of the central characteristics of Plato's later metaphysics is his view that Forms can participate in other Forms. At least part of what the Sophist demonstrates is that though not every Form participates in every other, every Form participates in some Forms, and that there are some Forms in which all Forms participate. This paper considers some of the reasons for this development, and some of the issues raised by it.
It is said that when Socrates is made to ask questions like "What is the pious and what the impious?", "What is courage?", or "What is the beautiful?", he is asking for the definition of a universal. For the "average" Greek of his time, however, this is a radically new question about a radically new sort of object, and Socrates’ interlocutors do not understand it. They usually answer it as if it were a different, if related, question: they tend to (...) provide concrete instances of the universal in question rather than a definition, however inadequate, of the universal itself. Socrates always tries, but does not always succeed, to make himself clear: Meno, for example, is supposed never to get the point. (shrink)
The Phaedo, despite the central role which the theory of Forms occupies there, gives us little explicit information. We meet with stock examples and with generalizations like "everything which belongs to being", "everything to which we give the mark of ‘that which is’ in our discussions", "all this sort of being". Socrates postulates the existence of the beautiful itself, the good itself, the large itself, and "all the rest", and he explains the beauty of beautiful things by appealing to their (...) participation in beauty, stressing that he means that for "everything". (shrink)
Nietzsche's unpublished notes are extraordinary in both volume and interest, and indispensable to a full understanding of his lifelong engagement with the fundamental questions of philosophy. This volume includes an extensive selection of the notes he kept during the early years of his career. They address the philosophy of Schopenhauer, the nature of tragedy, the relationship of language to music, the importance of Classical Greek culture for modern life, and the value of the unfettered pursuit of truth and knowledge which (...) Nietzsche thought was a central feature of western culture since it was first introduced by Plato. They contain startling and original answers to the questions which were to occupy Nietzsche throughout his life and demonstrate the remarkable stability and consistency of his fundamental concerns. They are presented here in a new translation by Landislaus Löb, and an introduction by Alexander Nehamas sets them in their philosophical and historical contexts. (shrink)