“Philosophy is no doubt a delightful thing,” Callicles says to Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias, “as long as one is exposed to it in moderation at the appropriate time of life. But if one spends more time with it than he should, it’s a man’s undoing.” John M. Cooper’s Pursuits of Wisdom sets out, much as Socrates did in reply to Callicles, to show his readers “how wonderfully good and, above all, interesting the philosophies of antiquity are,” and his intricate and lucid reconstructions of the philosophies of Socrates, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Platonists provide a useful account of why philosophy is such a “delightful thing.” Yet while offering perspicuous readings of these philosophers’ arguments, Cooper’s book also misses an opportunity to convince the likes of Callicles today. Reading Pursuits of Wisdom does make one marvel at the variety and intellectual riches of ancient philosophy, but it leaves unexamined what living these philosophies in the ancient world actually consisted of — not to mention how these philosophies might constitute a way of life in the twenty-first century.I was glad to read the book, although I wished it had done more to explore the practice of these philosophies as well as how they might translate to the present. Since my full review won't appear for a while yet, I'd recommend Brendan Boyle's review (which appeared this summer in The Wall Street Journal).
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
I just completed a book review of John Cooper's Pursuits of Wisdom for Foucault Studies, which should be coming out in the next few months. Here's my first paragraph: