The essays collected here, somewhat autobiographical in their effect, range from a discussion of the despair of the Cold War and Vietnam in 1966 to reflections on the euphoria over the ending of the Cold War in Eastern Europe in 1990. The opening essays are general in nature: exploring the foundation and limitation of sound morality; examining what is “American” about American morality; measuring all by the yardsticks provided by classical and modern philosophers. Anastaplo’s overriding concern here is to show how one can be moral without being either cranky or moralistic. He then turns his attention to the issues of the day: the first amendment, religious liberty, women and the law, gun control, medicine, capital punishment, local politics, civil disobedience.
In an attempt to subject representative texts of a dozen ancient authors to a more or less Socratic inquiry, the noted scholar George Anastaplo suggests in The Thinker as Artist how one might usefully read as well as enjoy such texts, which illustrate the thinking done by the greatest artists and how they “talk” among themselves across the centuries. In doing so, he does not presume to repeat the many fine things said about these and like authors, but rather he discusses what he himself has noticed about them, text by text.
Drawing upon a series of classical authors ranging from Homer and Sappho to Plato and Aristotle, Anastaplo examines issues relating to chance, art, nature, and divinity present in the artful works of philosophers and other thinkers.
As he has done in his earlier work, Anastaplo mines the great texts to help us discover who we are and what we should be. Some of the works used are familiar, while others were once better known than they are now. The approach to all of them is fresh and provocative, demonstrating the value of such texts in showing the reader what to look for and how to talk about matters that have always engaged thoughtful human beings.
These imaginative yet disciplined discussions of important texts of ancient Greek thought and of Raphael’s The School of Athens should appeal to both the specialist and the general reader.