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Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy
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 (ISBN-13: 9780511207815 | ISBN-10: 0511207816)

In fourth-century Greece (BCE), the debate over the nature of philosophy generated a novel claim: that the highest form of wisdom is theoria, the rational 'vision' of metaphysical truths (the 'spectator theory of knowledge'). This 2004 book offers an original analysis of the construction of 'theoretical' philosophy in fourth-century Greece. In the effort to conceptualise and legitimise theoretical philosophy, the philosophers turned to a venerable cultural practice: theoria (state pilgrimage). In this practice, an individual journeyed abroad as an official witness of sacralized spectacles. This book examines the philosophic appropriation and transformation of theoria, and analyses the competing conceptions of theoretical wisdom in fourth-century philosophy. By tracing the link between traditional and philosophic theoria, this book locates the creation of theoretical philosophy in its historical context, analysing theoria as a cultural and an intellectual practice. It develops a new, interdisciplinary approach, drawing on philosophy, history and literary studies.

• Major study of a key concept in Greek philosophy and culture which has had a profound impact on modern and postmodern thought • Addresses contemporary debates about the relation of 'theoretical' knowledge to civic and political affairs • Written in an accessible style suitable for non-specialists


1. Theoria as a cultural practice; 2. Spectacles of truth: inventing philosophic theoria; 3. The fable of philosophy in Plato's Republic; 4. Theorizing the beautiful: from Plato to Philip of Opus; 5. 'Useless' knowledge: Aristotle's rethinking of theoria; Epilogue 'Broken knowledge'? theoria and wonder.


Review of the hardback: 'Nightingale ably demonstrates the importance of theoria at a crucial stage in Western philosophy whose influence is still felt today, and she includes an interesting coda on the implications of theoria for modern environmental philosophy. Nightingale handles often complex and subtle material with clarity and insight; the writing is at all times lucid, jargon-free and her general argument has much to recommend it.' Journal of Hellenic Studies

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