Platonic Noise

Platonic Noise

J. Peter Euben
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Platonic Noise
    Book Description:

    Platonic Noisebrings classical and contemporary writings into conversation to enrich our experience of modern life and politics. Drawing on writers as diverse as Plato, Homer, Nietzsche, Borges, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth, Peter Euben shows us the relevance of both popular literature and ancient Greek thought to current questions of loss, mourning, and democracy--all while arguing for the redeeming qualities of political and intellectual work and making an original case against presentism.

    Juxtaposing ancient and contemporary texts, politics, and culture, Euben reflects on a remarkable range of recent issues and controversies. He discusses Stoic cosmopolitanism and globalization, takes a critical look at Nietzsche's own efforts to make the Greeks speak to the issues of his day, examines a Greek tragedy through Hannah Arendt's eyes, compares the role of comedy in ancient Athens and contemporary America, analyzes political theory as a reaction to an acute sense of loss, and considers questions of agency and morality.

    Platonic Noisemakes a case for reading political theory and politics through literature. Working as much through example as through explicit argument, Euben casts the literary memory of Athenian democracy as a crucial cultural resource and a presence in contemporary political and theoretical debates. In so doing, he reasserts the moral value of what we used to call participatory democracy and the practical value of seeing ourselves with the help of insights from long-gone Greeks.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2558-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. I Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Philip Roth'sThe Human Stain¹ is a novel about a light-skinned “black” man named Coleman Silk who opts to pass as a “white” Jew. Coleman eventually becomes a professor of classics and reforming dean at a small New England liberal arts college. But he is undone by a charge of racism when he wonders out loud whether the two missing students in his class are “spooks” and they turn out to be African American women. Since his chosen path to success has meant renouncing his family, symbolically if not literally killing his mother, and rejecting his heritage, one might think...

  5. II On the Uses and Disadvantages of Hellenic Studies for Political and Theoretical Life
    (pp. 14-39)

    In what follows I “use” Nietzsche’s essay “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”¹ as a framework for thinking in a general way about the uses and disadvantages of classical texts for contemporary political and theoretical life.² I will spend most of my time engaging that essay, considering Nietzsche’s idea of untimeliness and his claims for classical studies, his antimethodological method and his explicit argument, as well as the architecture and prose of his text. Mostly I will treat his reflections as he does Hellenism: as an earlier time with which we can struggle to better understand our...

  6. III Hannah Arendt at Colonus
    (pp. 40-63)

    Hannah Arendt is one of the few contemporary political and social theorists whose reading of the Greeks invigorates and augments our understanding in the way Nietzsche commends and exemplifies. But unlike Nietzsche, who has little to say about politics conventionally understood and almost nothing positive to say about democracy,¹ Arendt, like Weber, is concerned to establish the preconditions of “the political” and regards Athenian democracy as a paradigmatic embodiment of it.

    In fact, Hannah Arendt is one of the few contemporary political and social theorists for whom ancient Greece retains its hold as a point of reference and inspiration. Of...

  7. IV Aristophanes in America
    (pp. 64-84)

    This essay is animated by a question whose answer seems perfectly obvious. The question is, can television, particularly television comedy,¹ play the role in contemporary American democracy that Old Comedy played in ancient Athenian democracy? And the perfectly obvious answer is of course not. Ancient drama was a highly specific, if not unique, historical occurrence. When we examine its context of performance, which we must to understand its “content,” as we elaborate its place within a designated time and space as part of a vast conglomerate of religious ritual and civic festival, the claims dramatists made to be the political...

  8. V The Politics of Nostalgia and Theories of Loss
    (pp. 85-111)

    On February 18, 1970, Michael Eugene Mullen, sergeant first class, Sixth Infantry Division, was killed in Vietnam. As the eldest son of Peg and Eugene Mullen, he had been expected to inherit the Iowa farm that had been in the family for five generations. For the Mullens, Michael’s death seemed the death of the future, as such deaths did for so many Vietnamese and Americans. They disrupted the continuity of life, uprooting them from the ground that had defined their lives. At least in our civilized times, the young are not supposed to die before the old, and parents are...

  9. VI The Polis, Globalization, and the Citizenship of Place
    (pp. 112-140)

    The question that frames this chapter is easily stated even if its answer is not. Is there an illuminating analogy to be drawn between the experience of political dislocation and the theoretical struggles to understand it that accompanied the eclipse of the classical polis, and our experience of globalization, as process and ideology, and our attempts to understandit? More particularly, do the various efforts to redefine citizenship in the face of the huge transformations of scale then provide an inspiration or object lesson for current efforts to redefine citizenship in globalized deterritorialized terms?

    Most analysts of globalization insist that...

  10. VII Platonic Noise
    (pp. 141-174)

    In this concluding chapter, I offer some reflections on the interrelationship of mortality, politics, and political theory at the beginning of the new millennium. In some respects such reflections have been anticipated in chapters 3 and 5. Hannah Arendt is not only one of the few contemporary political thinkers to take the polis as a point of reference; she is also one of the few who regard mortality as a political problematic, and the connection between those preoccupations is hardly coincidental. “Hannah Arendt at Colonus” considered the death of Oedipus as enigma, gift, and loss, the idea of politics as...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 175-200)
  12. Index
    (pp. 201-210)