Tragedy and the Philosophical Life

Author: Beck, Martha C.
These books respond to Martha Nussbaum’s interpretation of Plato in The Fragility of Goodness: luck and ethics in Greek tragedy and philosophy. The author focuses her arguments on three issues: 1) Plato’s views did not change as radically as Dr. Nussbaum claims; 2) Plato is not anti-tragic; and 3) Plato’s dialogues go beyond tragedy, both in their form and in their content, without being anti-tragic. These books present a unique view of the philosophical life as a path out of tragedy and a unique understanding of how the character of Socrates exemplifies that life.


“Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote that ‘the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.’ Dr. Martha Beck directs our attention from the footnotes back to the text, where we discover an argument for and portrayal of the philosophical life as embedded thoroughly in the rough and tumble of society and politics. Indeed, Dr. Beck contends that Plato’s portrayal of the philosophical life is the profoundest argument for it ...” – Dr. Patrick Henry, Director, Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research (1984-2004)

“ ... In this passionately thought-provoking book about Plato’s philosophizing, Professor Beck traces with great acumen many lines of continuity between Plato’s dialogues and Greek tragedy. Deeply dissatisfied with Dr. Martha Nussbaum’s erstwhile readings of Plato’s Protagoras, Republic, Symposium and Phaedrus in The Fragility of Goodness, Professor Beck has engaged in an inquiry into the analogies and similarities between the form and content of these dialogues and the literary techniques and transformative potentials of Greek tragedies ... an excellent introduction to the dialogues for readers who need an accessible entrance into Plato’s thought.” – Professor Mark Moes, Grand Valley State University

Table of Contents

Vol. II
I. Introduction
II. Nussbaum’s Position
III. Response to Nussbaum #1: Plato’s View Did Not Change, or Change as Radically as Nussbaum Claims
IV. Response to Nussbaum #2: Plato is not Anti-Tragic
V. Tragedy in The Republic, Book I
VI. The Low Road: Books II-V and VII-IX
VII. Response to Nussbaum #3: Plato Goes Beyond Tragedy
VIII. The Discussion of Homer in The Republic: Socrates’ Effort to Re-educate the Youth
IX. Socrates’ Creation of Rational Art
X. Socrates as the Philosophical Ruler throughout The Republic
XI. Response to Nussbaum, The Republic: True Value and the Standpoint of Perfection