Socrates: Reason or Unreason as the Foundation of European Identity
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Mar 26, 2009 - Philosophy - 280 pages
Socrates is widely regarded as the first philosopher to investigate not simply the natural world but to make human and political questions concerning justice, virtue and the good life central to rational inquiry. Thus, Socratic philosophy is often viewed as taking a rationalist approach to human narratives and becomes a narrative itself. After Socrates the prevailing view of what defines the Greeks and those commonly regarded as their descendents, the Europeans, is their civilizational foundation in philosophic rationalism.
The Socratic conception of Greek and European identity has not gone unchallenged however. In antiquity the comic poet Aristophanes lampooned Socrates as impious and unjust and cast doubt on whether the Socratic way of life was an appropriate basis for politics. Examples from more recent times include the ambiguous place that Socratic philosophizing holds in the philosophies of Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The re-assessment of Socratic rationalism in the 19th century has led a to a “post-modern” suspicion of “grand narratives.” The radical critique of Socrates as the remote but powerful source of the priority assigned to reason in the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment(s) has shaken European faith in scientific, social and political progress. The European mind is left longing for a unifying narrative that crystallizes the European identity.
Can Socratic philosophy survive the powerful challenges made in the name of history, faith and art? Does Socratic philosophizing adequately sustain political life in the face of such challenges, and does it prioritize reason over other human ways of knowing and representing their world? Alternatively, do the positions of later thinkers offer superior ways to understand the human person and develop political communities? This volume addresses these and related questions as it seeks to recover and revise our understanding of Socratic philosophy as an appropriate paradigm for European identity. It takes an interdisciplinary and international approach with contributions from scholars in the fields of philosophy, classics, religion, English and political science. The contributors teach and research in Europe, Canada, the United States and Iran.