Ann Ward is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Politics and International Studies at Campion College at the University of Regina, Canada. She is the author and editor of several books, including Herodotus and the Philosophy of Empire and Socrates and Dionysus: Philosophy and Art in Dialogue.
The Socratic conception of Greek and European identity has not gone unchallenged however. In antiquity the comic poet Aristophanes lampooned Socrates as impious and unjust and cast doubt on whether the Socratic way of life was an appropriate basis for politics. Examples from more recent times include the ambiguous place that Socratic philosophizing holds in the philosophies of Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The re-assessment of Socratic rationalism in the 19th century has led a to a “post-modern” suspicion of “grand narratives.” The radical critique of Socrates as the remote but powerful source of the priority assigned to reason in the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment(s) has shaken European faith in scientific, social and political progress. The European mind is left longing for a unifying narrative that crystallizes the European identity.
Can Socratic philosophy survive the powerful challenges made in the name of history, faith and art? Does Socratic philosophizing adequately sustain political life in the face of such challenges, and does it prioritize reason over other human ways of knowing and representing their world? Alternatively, do the positions of later thinkers offer superior ways to understand the human person and develop political communities? This volume addresses these and related questions as it seeks to recover and revise our understanding of Socratic philosophy as an appropriate paradigm for European identity. It takes an interdisciplinary and international approach with contributions from scholars in the fields of philosophy, classics, religion, English and political science. The contributors teach and research in Europe, Canada, the United States and Iran.
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.