on 4 August 2009
Without exception the most enlightening read I have undertaken in many years. Though very heavily academically rigorous at times which may sometimes baulk, the littered arguments never detract from the flow of the narrative.
Martha Nussbaum's is perspicuous in marrying philosophy and literature and elegantly presents the line between philosophy and psychology so that it appears as a charade. I can therefore only describe the read as a journey: at times my mind felt as if it was bent out of position and moulded into a penetrating analysis of Plato and Aristotle - only rarely offered by someone with a unique and gifted scholarly passion.
Martha Nussbaum has an uncanny intimate connection with Aristotle. She puts forward a strong argument for his philosophy of practical wisdom and tragedy that sets out to test the 'gap' between being good and (eudaimonia) living well that is dependent on the fragility of (tuche) luck. Tragedy as a dramatic form was criticised by Plato as manipulative.
Virtuosity, dignity and self respect are words that appear to reference more earlier versions of civilisation, whereas the excesses of performance, notoriety and success seem to me to be a modern illness. By taking an analytical reading of Greek tragedy through the lens filter of Aristotle's golden mean of excellences it was interesting to draw parallels with our current state. In particular how self-ignorance and narcissism have always been a part of the human condition. But whereas early Platonic thought emphasised release and detachment from the world of senses as the mark of human improvement, i.e. one of rarefied forms based on reason - though with some concession in later his works (e.g. Phaedrus), Aristotle, the great pragmatist, emphasised catharsis as bodily emotional cleansing.
There is so much to learn from the beauty of Greek culture. Martha Nussbaum's introspective and methodically reasoned ethical insights developed from the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the tragic poets have the power to illuminate par excellence.
on 10 January 1999
Anyone interested in Greek philosophy and literature should read this wonderful book. Nussbaum is the only scholar-philosopher working today with an understanding of the complex and challenging ideas of these texts as well as their literary forms and historical contexts. This book, along with Bruno Snell's "The Discovery of the Mind," is required reading for any student of Plato, Aristotle, and the Greek tragedians (whether they're in a formal academic institution or not).