Five books to illuminate two of history’s greatest minds.
By Annabel Lyon
History’s most famous teacher-pupil relationship: Aristotle, the founder of Western philosophy, and Alexander of Macedon, who would go on to conquer a huge swath of Europe and Asia. In no small feat of literary ventriloquism, Annabel Lyon gives us Aristotle himself as a narrator—one as thoughtful as we might expect, but with hidden depths of suffering and humor. As he works to instill the principles of virtue and understanding in his headstrong pupil, a tender and compelling tale of friendship takes shape.
Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns, editors
Some of the most fascinating works handed down by antiquity, Plato’s dialogues have engaged readers and scholars for thousands of years, as his fictionalized cast of Athenians—with the legendary figure of Socrates looming over every discussion—debate the questions of form and being that still provoke philosophers today. For this grand edition, the editors have chosen from among the most sensitive translations made over the past 100 years.
Richard McKeon, editor
After his time in the royal court of Macedon, where he tutored not only Alexander but future kings Ptolemy and Cassander as well, Aristotle returned to Athens, where he had first studied philosophy at Plato’s Academy. It was there that he set down the body of work that would later engender a great deal of Western science, theology, metaphysics, and ethical philosophy. A peerless observer of the natural world, Aristotle made everything from the night sky to the human mind an object of study; though many of his writings were lost to posterity, the core of his surviving work remains, in Cicero’s words, “a river of gold.”
By Simon Blackburn
Perhaps the most influential work Plato produced was also his strangest—a fantasy of the perfect city, and of the philosopher-kings who must, inevitably, rule it. Both an embodiment of Plato’s radical ideals and a reflection of the tumult of life in classical Greece, where small but powerful city-states struggled against one another for dominance, The Republic is a work that has fired the imaginations of generations of thinkers and politicians—sometimes to a dangerous degree. In this judicious and informative overview of the book and its life through the ages, Simon Blackburn suggests we approach this powerful text with care.
By Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein
Two philosophy-class clowns (one of whom is a professional comedy writer) return to their academic roots and show that the great conundrums of philosophy aren’t very far from the jokes that have circulated ever since Gorgias brought an extra bottle of wine to the symposium. Great fun.