Cover image for Virtues of authenticity : essays on Plato and Socrates
Virtues of authenticity : essays on Plato and Socrates
Nehamas, Alexander, 1946-
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxxvi, 372 pages ; 25 cm.
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B395 .N44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Alexander Nehamas is Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In The Art of Living, an intelligently written and closely argued book, Nehamas (humanities, philosophy, and comparative literature, Princeton; Nietzsche: Life as Literature, LJ 12/85) begins with a reexamination of Socrates' significance in Western philosophy and then proceeds to show his importance in the writings of Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault, in particular with respect to what Nehamas calls the tradition in Western philosophy of writings about the "art of living." Nehamas gives the thrust of the book clearly in the introduction: "[My] own view," he writes, "is that no single mode of life exists that is best for all people and that the philosophical life is only one among many praise-worthy ways of living. I do not urge a `return' to a conception of philosophy as a way of life...[but] I do believe that we should recognize that such a conception exists." He perceives this as a counterbalance to the way much philosophy is carried on today. Nehamas analyzes the three thinkers he has chosen with considerable skill. This original work should be part of all philosophy collections. Virtues of Authenticity is a collection of 16 previously published essays on various themes concerning Plato and Socrates. The essays are divided into four groups. The first focuses on Socrates and questions relating to epistemological method and the idea of goodness. The second deals with several aspects of Platonic metaphysics and epistemology. The third considers questions of Plato's aesthetics, while the fourth contains one essay each on the Republic, Phaedrus, and the Symposium. The essays are all well written and well argued; for those who are not familiar with Nehamas's work in Greek philosophy, this collection provides an excellent introduction. Recommended for all philosophy collections.‘Terry C. Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
I Socrates: Questions of Goodness and Method
1 Meno's Paradox and Socrates as a Teacherp. 3
2 Socratic Intellectualismp. 27
3 What Did Socrates Teach and to Whom Did He Teach It?p. 59
4 Voices of Silence: On Gregory Vlastos's Socratesp. 83
5 Eristic, Antilogic, Sophistic, Dialectic: Plato's Demarcation of Philosophy from Sophistryp. 108
II Plato: Questions of Metaphysics and Epistemology
6 On Parmenides' Three Ways of Inquiryp. 125
7 Plato on the Imperfection of the Sensible Worldp. 138
8 Confusing Universals and Particulars in Plato's Early Dialoguesp. 159
9 Self-Predication and Plato's Theory of Formsp. 176
10 Participation and Predication in Plato's Later Thoughtp. 196
11 Episteme and Logos in Plato's Later Thoughtp. 224
III Plato: Questions of Beauty and the Arts
12 Plato on Imitation and Poetry in Republic Xp. 251
13 Plato and the Mass Mediap. 279
IV Plato: Individual Works
14 The Symposiump. 303
15 The Republicp. 316
16 The Phaedrusp. 329
Index of Passages Citedp. 359
General Indexp. 365