Writing the Poetic Soul of Philosophy

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320 pages, 6" x 9", Illustrations, introduction, abbreviations, footnotes

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Writing the Poetic Soul of Philosophy

Essays in Honor of Michael Davis

Schaeffer, Denise, Editor

What is it about the nature of “soul” that makes it so difficult to adequately capture its complexity in a strictly discursive account? Why do some of the most profound human experiences elude our attempts to theorize them? How can a written document do justice to the dynamic activity of thinking, as opposed to merely presenting a collection of thoughts-as-artifacts? Finally, what can we learn about the activity of philosophizing, and about the human soul, by reflecting on the possibilities and limitations of writing?

These concerns, in various forms and in different registers, have preoccupied Michael Davis throughout his distinguished career. This volume is in honor of, and in dialogue with, Davis’s work, which spans ancient philosophy and literature, continental philosophy and political philosophy. It includes original essays by numerous distinguished scholars in the fields of philosophy and political science. The remarkable range and caliber of the contributions attest to the breadth and depth of Davis’s influence.

The essays in Part I of the volume explore the nature of soul through the lens of tragedy. Part II consists of three essays that explore the human longing for perfect knowledge and completion—and the obstacles to the fulfilment of that longing—in relation to the divine. In Part III, the essays address the distinctive challenges of the political sphere and philosophy’s relation to it. And while the relationship between philosophy and poetry is an implicit theme throughout the volume, the essays in Part IV focus directly on philosophy’s aestheticizing tendencies. Many different philosophical and literary works are discussed throughout these chapters, including ancient works such as Plato’s Republic, Euthydemus and Laws, Homer’s Iliad, and Euripides’ Trojan Women, as well as works by modern philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. In addition, three essays analyze some of Shakespeare’s plays in relation to the thought of Plato and Machiavelli. All of the essays are thematically linked by a common thread as they attend to the poetic dimension of philosophical thinking.

Michael Davis is Professor of Philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College, where he has taught since 1977 and has been the Sarah Yates Exley Chair in Teaching Excellence (2003-2005). He has also taught on the graduate faculty at Fordham University and the New School for Social Research. He is the author of numerous articles and books, which include: Ancient Tragedy and the Origins of Modern Science; The Poetry of Philosophy: On Aristotle’s Poetics; The Politics of Philosophy: A Commentary on Aristotle’s Politics; The Autobiography of Philosophy; Rousseau’s The Reveries of the Solitary Walker; Wonderlust: Ruminations on Liberal Education; and The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry. He is also co-translator (with Seth Benardete) of Aristotle’s On Poetics.

Contributors include: Abraham Anderson, Jonathan Badger, Robert Berman, Ronna Burger, Kenneth DeLuca, Gwenda-lin Grewal, Scott Hemmenway, Paul Kirkland, Mary Nichols, Denise Schaeffer, Paul Stern, Richard Velkley, Lisa Pace Vetter, Ann Ward, Lee Ward, Catherine Zuckert and Michael Zuckert.

About the Editor: Denise Schaeffer is Professor of Political Science at the College of the Holy Cross. She is the author of Rousseau on Education, Freedom and Judgment and contributing co-editor (with Christopher Dustin) of Socratic Philosophy and Its Others. She is co-editor (with Gregory McBrayer and Mary P. Nichols) of the Focus Philosophical Library edition of Plato’s Euthydemus, for which she authored the Introduction and co-authored the Interpretive Essay.