The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle

The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle

The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle

The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle


In an attempt to subject representative texts of a dozen ancient authors to a more or less Socratic inquiry, the noted scholar George Anastaplo suggests in The Thinker as Artist how one might usefully read as well as enjoy such texts, which illustrate the thinking done by the greatest artists and how they "talk" among themselves across the centuries. In doing so, he does not presume to repeat the many fine things said about these and like authors, but rather he discusses what he himself has noticed about them, text by text.

Drawing upon a series of classical authors ranging from Homer and Sappho to Plato and Aristotle, Anastaplo examines issues relating to chance, art, nature, and divinity present in the artful works of philosophers and other thinkers.

As he has done in his earlier work, Anastaplo mines the great texts to help us discover who we are and what we should be. Some of the works used are familiar, others were once better known than they are now. The approach to all of them is freshand provocative, demonstrating the value of such texts in showing the reader what to look for and how to talk about matters that have always engaged thoughtful human beings.

These imaginative yet disciplined discussions of important texts of ancient Greek thought and of Raphael's The School of Athens should appeal to both the specialist and the general reader.


We read a classical text to improve our eyesight.

--John of Salisbury (115-1180)

I return in this book to some of the greatest works of the mind that have shaped and challenged us from antiquity. Each of these texts invites study on its own terms, instructive though it may sometimes be to weave them together. Vital to what is said in such texts may be the way it is said--that is, the artistry with which it is said. Even more significant aspects of artistry, including some form of inspiration, may be seen at the core of the most profound thinking, if not also in how texts can be said to be related to one another. But, however this book is organized, and whatever its topics and themes may be, it must ultimately justify itself as a collection of separable commentaries upon the ancient works, and workers, of the mind I happen to discuss. We have in this volume, therefore, still another set of reminders of how serious books might be read.

Most of the major Greek authors from Homer to Plato/Aristotle whose texts survive are represented here in a more or less chronological order. One of my principal omissions is Hesiod, whose Theogony will be discussed (along with Genesis and Parmenides) in an article on beginnings that I am scheduled to publish in the 1998 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica annual, The Great Ideas Today. Other neglected authors, such as Isocrates and Xenophon, are glanced at, in effect, in my (discussions in this book of Gorgias and of the Socratics.

I conduct inquiries into distinguished texts that can help us to re- member who we are--and this, in turn, can help us to discover what we should be and do. Some of the ancient texts drawn upon here are still familiar; others were once far more familiar than they are now. All of them reveal what can and cannot be sensibly said by the thinker in matters divine as well as human. Suggestions are made in this book about what these and like works of the mind have to say about the goodness of life, about the relation of art to politics, about education and morality, about . . .

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