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The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault (Sather Classical Lectures) [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   294
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.99" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.65"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2000
Publisher   University of California Press
ISBN  0520224906  
EAN  9780520224902  

Availability  89 units.
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Item Description...
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.

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More About Alexander Nehamas

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Alexander Nehamas is Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He is the coeditor, with David J. Furley, of "Aristotle's Rhetoric: Philosophical Essays" (1994) and the author, with Paul Woodruff, of a translation and commentary on "Plato's Phaedrus" (1995) and "Symposium" (1989). He is also the author of "Nietzsche: Life as Literature" (1985) and of "Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates" (1998).

Alexander Nehamas currently resides in the state of New Jersey. Alexander Nehamas was born in 1946.

Alexander Nehamas has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Princeton Classic Editions

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
every one should read this book who study phil.  Nov 7, 2003
Art of living is a context which is discussed by every one -not by only philosophers- since the mankind have created. Why do we get angry when Nehamas brings a new view about this topic? I interpret Nehamas' argues as a kind of deconstraction about the texts of Plato and Nietzsche -a useful one!- Nehamas is not an oponnent against to philosophic living; his objection is against to "the philosophic living". We must separete these two different things as Nehamas did.
O Philebus!  Sep 10, 2003
I have just read Philebus's comments. If there ever was a good example of the messenger's ethos discrediting the message, this is it. Philebus's personality seems so, how to put it, offputting, that one wonders whether acquaintance with philosophy can have any sort of beneficial effect. Perhaps, ironically, his ringing condemnation will have a good outcome: if someone with so distasteful a character finds this book wanting, it may be that it's quite a book. His outburst will motivate readers to read Nehamas. As for Philebus's strictures and his apology for philosophy, surely they need a corrective which might come after a review of the lives of any number of philosophers, which would lead even philosophy's most ardent defenders to the conclusion that being called to the philosophic life does not confer the status Philebus, following Plato, would claim for it. Pointing that out does not necessarily lump one with relativists. It simply acknowledges human frailty and refuses, unlike religious fundamentalists, to legislate a single path to salvation
Understand Socrates is philosophy in act  Jul 8, 2003
Socrates is the personification of philosophy. Who loves this way needs to make the effort of trying to understand the enigma that is Socrates and the problematic knowledge of ethics values he's questionning.
Nehamas makes a excelent book on that matter. Interesting and not too academic. Writting books of philosophy is already a way of living and it seems that he's good in that!
Interesting, though not essential  Jun 23, 2003
The subtitle SOCRATIC REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO TO FOUCAULT introduces ambiguity that I feel the need to resolve. It should be rendered--most properly--as REFLECTIONS ON SOCRATES FROM PLATO TO FOUCAULT as opposed to SOCRATIC-LIKE REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO TO FOUCAULT. First and foremost, this work is about Socrates, the interpretation and re-creation of Socrates, and [to a limited extent] the uses to which the fictional character Socrates (not saying that Socrates didn't ever exist, but the figure we have inherited is fictional) has been put by Plato, Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Those four figures (with the possible exception of Plato, are NOT the main focus of this work, but subsidiary).

What this book is NOT is a work and synthesis of the theme of the "Art of Living" from Plato to Foucault (as I had hoped). Nehamas's book is much less grand of a project than that--once again, a focus on Socrates and how he embodies the care of oneself. [Perhaps THE ART OF LIVING should have been made the subtitle of REFLECTIONS ON SOCRATES.] Nonetheless Nehamas's analysis is interesting (and would be more so, I imagine, if I were a classics scholar). His Nietzsche (a figure with whom Nehamas has a lot of experience) chapter is notable.

There is a little bit of explication of the "Art of Living" for Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault outside of the realm of Socrates, but not much. Nehamas focuses on a type of ethic, an art of living, a self-creation of one's life as a work of art, that he views as deriving (in some way, however nonlinear or even through confrontation) from the practice of the Socrates of Plato's early dialogues that results in a creation of a self that is not universalistic but that "only [Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault] and perhaps a few others can follow. They do not insist that their life is a model for the world at large" (10). This is interesting, but instead of going deep within each of the later figures that he studies to pull out the details of their projects of self creation, the "Care of the Self", the "Art of Living", etc, Nehamas focuses on their relationship to Socrates in regard to their project. It is only in this regard that I am disappointed.

I got a scholarly study when I expected a great synthesis. But, I guess a scholarly study is what this was supposed to be, though the title certainly is ambiguous.

Interesting, though--I argue--not essential, especially if you are familiar with Nietzsche and Foucault (the "ethics" part of his work near the end of his life). For someone interested in the classics, maybe it is important, but on that I don't feel qualified to pass judgment. (i.e., there is quite a bit of critical engagement with classics scholars like Vlastos)

A must read for fans of classical philosophy  Dec 31, 2001
If you are reading this, you already know this is a great book. Buy it.

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