Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Isocrates and the Philosophers: Review of Tarik Wareh, The Theory and Practice of Life

I recently reviewed for The Journal of Hellenic Studies Tarik Wareh's monograph The Theory and Practice of Life: Isocrates and the Philosophers (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 2012). The review is available in PDF here. From the review:
Wareh makes great progress by giving fuller consideration to the indispensible evidence of Aristotle’s Protrepticus, which has long been recognized as interrelated with Isocrates’ Antidosis, but has not yet been brought to bear on the reconstruction of Isocrates’ own educational methods and priorities, even by more recent scholars of Isocrates. We are only fairly lately beginning to profit greatly from the fortuitous 19th-century recovery of all of Isocrates’ Antidosis and part of Aristotle’s Protrepticus, as Wareh’s careful sifting of the evidence shows. And yet the Antidosis and its immediate context is crucial, since this is the work in which Isocrates defends his educational principles and conception of philosophy at greatest length, in part by attacking the abstract preoccupations and impracticable priorities of the Academy. Aristotle’s defence of theoretical and mathematical science as the heart and soul of philosophical education in the Protrepticus apparently went so far as to produce speeches against theoretical and mathematical philosophy in the voice of an Isocratean character which were then refuted by Aristotle in his own voice, an innovation in the dialogue genre and philosophical polemics that was embraced and imitated by Cicero in his own dialogues.

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