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Philosophy with a Public Voice: A Forgotten Legacy of Ancient Greece

Lecture by Professor Alexander Nehamas, delivered on 18 October 2011 (venue: The British Academy). One of a triptych of lectures organised by the British School at Athens, with support from the British Academy, to celebrate the School’s 125th Anniversary (in association with the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies).

Ancient Greek philosophy, at least since the time of Socrates and extending all the way to Plotinus, was not primarily an academic discipline but a way of life - the philosophic life, which the ancients were ready to declare the best for human beings. That is not to say that the ancient philosophers formulated no theories: far from it. But their theories were ultimately meant to answer questions about life in a way that is much more direct than what we find in modern and, especially, contemporary philosophy. Derived from, and aimed at, everyday life, ancient Greek philosophy provides a stark alternative to current practice and, as we shall see, it still exerts considerable, though often unrecognized, influence on our thought.

About the speaker
Professor Alexander Nehamas was born in Athens, and educated at Athens College, Swarthmore College and Princeton University, where he is now the Carpenter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature. He is the author of Nietzsche: Life as Literature, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault, and Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art. With Paul Woodruff, he has translated Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus into English. He is the recipient of a Mellon Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities and holds honorary degrees from three Greek Universities.

The other lectures in the series:
19 October 2011: Byzantium Today
20 October 2011: The Heritages of the Modern Greeks

The British School at Athens has been enabled to present this series of lectures through the greatly appreciated generosity of a number of sister organizations and individual friends: the Classical Association, the London Hellenic Society, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, Matti and Nicholas Egon, Sir Jeremy Morse, and Lord Waldegrave of North Hill.

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