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  • 1 CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

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From the days of Plato's Academy, academic life and discourse have operated in tension with political life, and often the political life of democracy. Since World War II, this tension has been read as essentially antagonistic. In this survey of the relationship of the original and subsequent incarnations of the Academy to ancient Athens, republican Rome, and the Florentine city-state, it becomes clear that the tension was, in fact, potentially as much of an asset to democracy as an assault upon it—even as the tension forever remained real. Readings of Plato and vers ions of the Academy become antagonistic to civic life only when their intellectual posture takes refuge in metaphysical doctrines or political ideologies that bear only marginal connections to the effective argument of Plato's dialogues or the initial political postures of Academic life.

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