Spring 2016

Philosophy & Its Classical Past

Phillip Mitsis

The notion that philosophers can abandon their history and set their arguments on new foundations has a long history. One strain of recent philosophy that traces its roots to Frege has been particularly confident in this regard, and its rejection of a classical past has had widespread influences on the study of ancient philosophy over the past several decades. With the waning of this recent paradigm, however, the possibility of philosophical engagement between the old and new has again led to significant work in several areas of philosophy. I concentrate on one of these, the philosophy of death, and also ask whether ancient philosophy might furnish models that enable contemporary philosophers to rise above their specialisms and address crucial issues in a public discourse, allowing for both mutual intelligibility and criticism.

PHILLIP MITSIS is the Alexander S. Onassis Professor of Hellenic Culture and Civilization at New York University, Senior Affiliated Professor of Philosophy and Literature at New York University Abu Dhabi, and Academic Director of the American Institute of Verdi Studies. He is the editor of Allusion, Authority, and Truth: Critical Perspectives on Greek Poetic and Rhetorical Praxis (with Christos Tsagalis, 2010), Word Play and Power Play in Roman Poetry(with Ioannis Ziogas, 2016), and The Oxford Handbook of Epicureanism (forthcoming). His recent book L'Ethique d'Epicure (2014) offers a detailed discussion of Epicurean views of death and also the swerve.

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