Socrates and Dionysus: Philosophy and Art in Dialogue
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Socrates and Dionysus engages and seeks to redraw the boundaries between philosophy and poetry, science and art. Friedrich Nietzsche argues in his work The Birth of Tragedy that science conquers art, especially the tragic art of the Dionysian poet of ancient Greece. Appealing to the natural, primeval self that is suppressed but not extinguished by the knowledge of culture, Dionysian tragedy establishes contact with our bodies and their deepest longings. Science and philosophy, associated with the 'Socratism' of the theoretical man, celebrate the human mind in particular and the mind or rationality of the universe more generally. According to Nietzsche, it is Euripides who destroys the Dionysian entirely. Euripides celebrated the unadorned individual because only the individual, separated from their god, is intelligible or accessible to human reason; he insisted that art be comprehended by mind or that it be rationally understood. Euripides was possessed of such a rationalizing drive, Nietzsche claims, because his primary audience was Socrates. It is Socrates, therefore, who is the true opponent of Dionysus. Following Nietzsche's bifurcation between philosophy and art, postmodern political philosopher Richard Rorty rejects the tendency of philosophy to posit absolute, universal truths and turns to the concept of 'redescription' which he associates with the 'wisdom of the novel'. The novel is wise because it posits the relative truths and perspectives of the various individuals, societies and cultures that it represents. As an art form, it can therefore include every possible perspective of every particular situation, event or person. New interdisciplinary fields in politics, literature and film are giving rise to an expanding community of scholars who disagree with the approaches taken by Nietzsche and Rorty. These scholars are shedding light on the ways in which philosophy and art are friends rather than enemies. They seek to bridge the theoretical and ethical gaps between the world of 'fiction' and the world of 'fact', of art and science. There appears to be a fundamental tension between literary-artistic and scientific projects. Whereas the artist seeks to recreate human experience, thereby evoking basic ethical issues, the scientist apparently seeks ethically-neutral, evidence-based facts as the constituents of our knowledge of reality. Chapters in this volume, however, will reconsider how artists, philosophers and film-makers have addressed and attempted to reconcile the artist's language of normativity and the scientist's language of facticity.
are inadequate from Thucydides’ perspective. Demosthenes’ attachment to a nature that is apparently indifferent to human affairs reflects a particularly Athenian turn of mind, one whose openness to nature represents the flip-side of a pious concern for what one might call “divine” or unchanging wholes. Like the Athenians at Delos, whose increasing efforts to liberate Apollo’s holy island from all that generates and de-generates reflect a pious concern with unblemished wholes (I.8, II.8, III.104,
observing here that such a measured balance was based on an experience with extreme necessity and not, say, the more traditional (i.e., religious) sources of law and order. Given that The Five Thousand proved remarkably unstable, devolving into full-blown democracy not long after it was established, it is unlikely that Thucydides presents it as an example for other communities to follow. And yet his praise of this regime suggests that we are to take seriously its chief virtue and the encounter
origin. In doing so, he reveals how foundation stories reflect much more about the needs and desires of the present, than provide an accurate record of the past (Doughtery 1996). For our own present, his retelling remains useful as it simultaneously exposes the necessary role of foundation stories in crafting political identity, as well as the limitations of such stories to provide an unambiguous understanding of the political self. In addition, as Euripides locates the heart of foundation
manly Achilles finally acts, then, not because of virtue, but rather because of passion. Aristotle not only distinguishes between the two (e.g., NE 1108a32 and 1128b16), he seems to be describing Achilles when he says, “Those who fight on account of anger or revenge are fit for battle, but they are not courageous, since they fight not on account of the noble or as reason commands but on account of their passion” (NE 1117a7-9). Homer concurs: at the beginning of the Iliad he asks the Muse to sing
radical freedom, such as one often finds in tyranny or imperial rule, with the need to devote one’s self freely to the law. This is a volatile mix whose darkest implication suggests that what we understand to be both injustice and justice originates from the same source, namely the concern to overcome our fundamental and enduring human neediness. That such a political antithesis should share a common origin resonates poetically with many of the dyads interwoven throughout the History, but none