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Greek Tragedy and Political Philosophy: Rationalism and Religion in Sophocles' Theban Plays [Hardcover]

Peter J. Ahrensdorf
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 6, 2009 0521515866 978-0521515863 1
In this book, Peter Ahrensdorf examines Sophocles' powerful analysis of a central question of political philosophy and a perennial question of political life: Should citizens and leaders govern political society by the light of unaided human reason or religious faith? Through a fresh examination of Sophocles' timeless masterpieces - Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone - Ahrensdorf offers a sustained challenge to the prevailing view, championed by Nietzsche in his attack on Socratic rationalism, that Sophocles is an opponent of rationalism. Ahrensdorf argues that Sophocles is a genuinely philosophical thinker and a rationalist, albeit one who advocates a cautious political rationalism. Such rationalism constitutes a middle way between an immoderate political rationalism that dismisses religion - exemplified in Oedipus the Tyrant - and a piety that rejects reason - exemplified by Oedipus at Colonus. Ahrensdorf concludes with an incisive analysis of Nietzsche, Socrates, and Aristotle on tragedy and philosophy. He argues, against Nietzsche, that the rationalism of Socrates and Aristotle incorporates a profound awareness of the tragic dimension of human existence and therefore resembles in fundamental ways the somber and humane rationalism of Sophocles.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ahrensdorf, a political philosopher, gathers Socrates, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, around a table in his virtual department of political theory in order to retrieve Sophoclean drama for the world of reason. I would invite rather different figures to the discussion (including Protagoras, Thucydides and Hegel as well as some theatre directors) and emphasise the exceptional complexity of Sophocles' portrayal, through enacted dialogue, of the dialectic between deliberation and intuition in human responses to an often baffling universe. Yet it is ultimately gratifying to find a political philosopher addressing this great dramatist with such energy and conviction... --Notre Dame Philosophical Review

"Ahrensdorf has written an exceptional study of Sophoclean drama that will challenge the way we think about this poet, in particular, and the purposes of tragic poetry, in general." --Review of Politics

Book Description

In this book, Peter Ahrensdorf examines Sophocles' powerful analysis of a central question of political philosophy and a perennial question of political life: Should citizens and leaders govern political society by the light of unaided human reason or religious faith?

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521515866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521515863
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,209,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reconsideration of Sophocles' Theban Plays August 3, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Ahrensdorf does it again with this study. Like his study on the death of Socrates, he carefully reads Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone and other thinkers to reconsider Sophocles. He is concerned whether our views of Sophocles as a thinker may be overshadowed by Nietzsche's interpretation of his Greek tragedies.

It is clear that Professor Ahrensdorf is familiar with the texts and the literary criticism. What makes this work exceptional is that he weighs the words and deeds (the action) judiciously in coming to his conclusions that Sophocles is closer to Socrates as a seeker of wisdom.

I look forward to other studies by Professor Ahrensdorf. He enlivens texts, a rare feat, especially when he is concerned with the transhistorical questions.
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