In order to answer these questions, Ari Kohen turns to classical conceptions of the hero to explain the confusion and to highlight the ways in which distinct heroic categories can be useful at different times. Untangling Heroism argues for the existence of three categories of heroism that can be traced back to the earliest Western literature – the epic poetry of Homer and the dialogues of Plato – and that are complex enough to resonate with us and assist us in thinking about heroism today. Kohen carefully examines the Homeric heroes Achilles and Odysseus and Plato’s Socrates, and then compares the three to each other. He makes clear how and why it is that the other-regarding hero, Socrates, supplanted the battlefield hero, Achilles, and the suffering hero, Odysseus. Finally, he explores in detail four cases of contemporary heroism that highlight Plato’s success.
Kohen states that in a post-Socratic world, we have chosen to place a premium on heroes who make other-regarding choices over self-interested ones. He argues that when humans face the fact of their mortality, they are able to think most clearly about the sort of life they want to have lived, and only in doing that does heroic action become a possibility. Kohen’s careful analysis and rethinking of the heroism concept will be relevant to scholars across the disciplines of political science, philosophy, literature, and classics.
In Pliny’s Defense of Empire, Laehn offers a radical reinterpretation of the architecture of Pliny’s encyclopedia, exposing fundamental errors in the inherited understanding of the text traceable to its initial reception in ancient Rome. Recognition of the text’s true structure reveals that Pliny’s encyclopedia is in fact a first-rate work of political philosophy constituting an apology for Roman imperial expansionism grounded in a sophisticated account of human nature. Correcting the accreted errors and prejudices of nearly 2,000 years of faulty Plinian scholarship, Laehn critically examines one of the most persuasive apologies for the Roman Empire ever written and succeeds in rehabilitating the Elder Pliny as one of the world’s greatest political thinkers.
An excellent resource and a must read for scholars in political theory, philosophy, and classical studies.