Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy ’2013

Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy ’Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy ’2013

Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy

Tyrants, Kings, Emperors, and Philosophers: Philosophy and Political Power in AntiquityNew School for Social Research, New York, May, 10-11 2013

May 10

Introduction – Dmitri Nikulin (NSSR)

Andreas Kalyvas (NSSR), The Dictator is a Tyrant: Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Critique of Roman Republicanism and its Significance Today


My presentation focuses on Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ original and critical reinterpretation of the Roman institution of dictatorship as a form of consensual or voluntary tyranny. After a close reading of his “Roman Antiquities” (Ρωμαικής Αρχαιολογίας), I discuss his interpretation’s present significance for contemporary debates on the state of emergency, the revival of neo-republican doctrines of politics, and the irreconciliable differences between democracy and republicanism (around questions of conflict, agonism, power, and participation).

Dmitri Nikulin (NSSR), Telling Truth in the Face of a Tyrant: Diogenes the Cynic as a Political Thinker


The article considers the role of performance and conversation in Diogenes of Sinope, with reference to the extant fragments, as well as to Dio Chrysostom’s Discourses. By speaking in public and acting through personal example, a Cynic philosopher is not asserting an abstract true proposition or a rational theory but is rather engaged in truth-telling and thus in a provocative, critical and subversive act that challenges conventional codes of behavior. Enacted as literature and theater, philosophy invites, then, for the creation of a new vocabulary and action suitable for liberating political practice.

Cinzia Arruzza (NSSR), Philosophical Dogs and Tyrannical Wolves in Plato’s Republic


In Books VIII and IX, tyranny is presented as the most degenerated regime, and the tyrant as the unhappiest man, a miserable slave of his lawless desires. However, the tyrant also appears to have an exceptional nature, which – uncannily enough – has some traits in common with the philosopher. Moreover, we learn from Letter VII that Plato traveled to Syracuse in order to try to reform its tyrannical regime. How to make sense of this apparent contradiction? The aim of this paper is to show that the philosopher and the tyrant of the Republic are like the two faces of Janus: they have a common nature and are both driven by eros, but they look at opposite directions. Recognizing the kinship between the philosopher and the tyrant helps shed some light on the relationship between philosophy and political power in the Republic, and on the issue of the feasibility of the beautiful city.

Chris Bobonich (Stanford University), What’s the Good of Knowing the Good?


In the Republic, it is clear that the philosopher benefits from knowing the Forms. But what is such knowledge good for? In particular, I examine the relation between knowing Forms and (i) making good laws, (ii) making good political judgments not embodied in law, and (iii) engaging in good individual ethical deliberation.

May 11

Christoph Horn (University of Bonn), Individual Competence and Collective Deliberation in Aristotle’s Politics

(the video is missing 20 min; the audio, however, is complete)


There can be no doubt that we find, in Aristotle’s Politics, many traces of the Platonic principle that political rule should be transferred to those individuals who are cognitively and morally outstanding or excellent. The idea behind this seems to be that insight (phronêsis) is the most important virtue of rulers, as Aristotle contends, e.g., in Politics III.4. On the other hand, we are told, especially in Politics III.11, that a bigger group of people is capable to arrive at an even better political judgment than an individual since they are able to combine their competences. In my talk, I will deal with the problem how these two seemingly antithetic principles may fit together. Where do we have to locate Aristotle: close to ‘expertocracy’ or close to ‘deliberative democracy’?

Gretchen Reydams-Schils (University of Notre Dame), Dion and Epictetus on how to speak the truth to power


In treatments of the how the Stoics of the Roman imperial era viewed participation in politics, the issue of the so-called opposition to imperial rule has received disproportionate attention. But one cannot make sense of this stance unless one reintegrates it into the larger question of political responsibility in general. Regarding the latter, the diverging positions of Epictetus and Dion of Prusa, who were both seen as influenced by Musonius Rufus, present an interesting dilemma.

Dominic O’Meara (University of Fribourg), Plato’s Tyrant in Neoplatonic Philosophy


The purpose of this paper is to examine the way in which the Platonists of Late Antiquity interpreted the figure of the tyrant, as they found this figure in Plato’s works. I will discuss in particular the interpretation of the tyrant in Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Republic, but will also take into account other authors, notably Olympiodorus and Damascius. I wish also to raise the question as to the extent to which these Platonists, in speaking of Plato’s tyrant, may be referring indirectly to the emperors of their time.

Final roundtable

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