Philosophy Public Lecture

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"Myth is Not History … But That Does Not Mean It Isn’t True"

Louis A. Ruprecht
William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies
Director of the Center for Hellenistic Studies
Georgia State University

In the Poetics, Aristotle famously declares that tragedy is more philosophical than history, because history tells us what happened one time, whereas tragedy shows us the kind of things that can happen, perennially. In an even more intriguing aside, Aristotle refers to myth as the soul (psychē) of drama. In this lecture, I will begin by examining how Aristotle’s views of myth and history inform his analysis of the meaning of tragic drama. I will turn next to his predecessor, Plato, a philosopher who allegedly had a far dimmer view of the role of drama, myth, and poetry in the life of a city (polis) that aspires to philosophical integrity and moral excellence. I will question the standard view of Plato as the enemy of drama and poetry by examining the profound role which myth and poetry play in some of his most enduring works, especially the Phaedrus. Finally, I will turn to Friedrich Nietzsche’s stunning first book, The Birth of Tragedy, in which he declares a kind of philosophical war against Socrates and Euripides and Platonic philosophy. I will suggest that Nietzsche’s purposes are not historical in the sense expected then of classical philologists—for such he was—but rather that he was intent on making a new myth of Greece intended to do significant moral work in, and against, “modern times.”

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Brian Schroeder
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When and Where
November 15, 2022
5:00 pm - 6:05 pm
Room/Location: LBR-1251

Open to the Public

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