Category Archives: Plato Problems

If Platonic dialogues helped to invent philosophy as we today understand the term, why doesn’t (or does?) current philosophical practice find itself flooded with questions, collaborations, public performances, polyphonic poetically narrativized quasi-fictions? I wondered so long that I finally started asking some of my favorite Plato-reading philosophers, political scientists, and historians. Their thoughtful, generous, self-questioning responses have helped me to recognize how central constructive civic discussion remains even in (or perhaps especially in) our ever-more polarized present. By Andy Fitch.

A Two-Way Street: Talking to Josiah Ober

By Andy Fitch 

This conversation focuses on Josiah Ober’s books The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, and Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule. Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, focuses on the contemporary relevance of the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world. From probing the complicated (and intellectually generative) social status of economically powerful yet politically marginalized elites, to prioritizing democratic-tending Athens’s distinct capacities for producing/sharing both practical and specialized fields of knowledge, to reconceptualizing the commercial prowess and relatively egalitarian distribution of wealth across ancient Greece’s diversified macro-ecology, Ober consistently has prompted new methods for rethinking when, how, and why dialogue might open up eudaimonic possibilities within the lives of its participants. And even as these methods have received praise across numerous academic disciplines, Ober never has lost his deft touch for showing why our own ever-provisional democratic culture (both inside and outside the academy) ought continually to look to classical precedent as one practical means for engaging the most pressing social questions of the present. Ober’s latest book Demopolis: Democracy before Liberalism in Theory and Practice, recently published by Cambridge University Press, will be the subject of a sequent conversation. Continue reading