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Greek Tragedy and Political Philosophy
Rationalism and Religion in Sophocles' Theban Plays

$46.99 (C)

  • Date Published: May 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107699120

$ 46.99 (C)
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About the Authors
  • In this book, Peter Ahrensdorf examines Sophocles’ powerful analysis of a central question of political philosophy and a perennial question of political life: Should citizens and leaders govern political society by the light of unaided human reason or religious faith? Through a fresh examination of Sophocles’ timeless masterpieces – Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone – Ahrensdorf offers a sustained challenge to the prevailing view, championed by Nietzsche in his attack on Socratic rationalism, that Sophocles is an opponent of rationalism. Ahrensdorf argues that Sophocles is a genuinely philosophical thinker and a rationalist, albeit one who advocates a cautious political rationalism. Such rationalism constitutes a middle way between an immoderate political rationalism that dismisses religion – exemplified in Oedipus the Tyrant – and a piety that rejects reason – exemplified by Oedipus at Colonus. Ahrensdorf concludes with an incisive analysis of Nietzsche, Socrates, and Aristotle on tragedy and philosophy. He argues, against Nietzsche, that the rationalism of Socrates and Aristotle incorporates a profound awareness of the tragic dimension of human existence and therefore resembles in fundamental ways the somber and humane rationalism of Sophocles.

    • Offers original, rich and engaging interpretations of two of the most widely read and taught works of Western literature
    • Presents Sophocles' analysis of a central question of political philosophy: should reason or religion guide political philosophy?
    • Analyses Sophocles within the theoretical context of Nietzsche's attack on Socratic rationalism in the name of tragedy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Ahrensdorf, a political philosopher, gathers Socrates, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, around a table in his virtual department of political theory in order to retrieve Sophoclean drama for the world of reason. I would invite rather different figures to the discussion (including Protagoras, Thucydides and Hegel as well as some theatre directors) and emphasise the exceptional complexity of Sophocles' portrayal, through enacted dialogue, of the dialectic between deliberation and intuition in human responses to an often baffling universe. Yet it is ultimately gratifying to find a political philosopher addressing this great dramatist with such energy and conviction...
    Notre Dame Philosophical Review

    "Ahrensdorf has written an exceptional study of Sophoclean drama that will challenge the way we think about this poet, in particular, and the purposes of tragic poetry, in general."
    Review of Politics

    "… written with intellectual clarity and that the author's views of Greek tragedy and philosophical literature are clearly worth becoming antiquated with."
    Arctos

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107699120
    • length: 206 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.31kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Oedipus the tyrant and the limits of political rationalism
    2. Blind faith and enlightened statesmanship in Oedipus at Colonus
    3. The pious heroism of Antigone.

  • Author

    Peter J. Ahrensdorf, Davidson College, North Carolina
    Peter J. Ahrensdorf is Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Classics at Davidson College. He is the author of The Death of Socrates and The Life of Philosophy: An Interpretation of Phaedo and the co-author of Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace.

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