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Socrates and the Irrational

James S. Hans

BUY Cloth · 224 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813925530 · $32.50 · Oct 2006

Traditionally, Socrates has been linked to the view of reason as the most important element in human behavior, the means through which our irrational capacities are tamed. Yet, one might ask, if his legacy were solely derived from his having been a master reasoner, why would he have been able to maintain his place in our imaginations for so long? In Socrates and the Irrational, James Hans argues that when Socrates speaks for himself, he reveals a far more complex portrait of the nature of human existence than the Platonic conception of him has conveyed. Exploring Socratic thought through four key dialogues—the Ion, the Apology, the Phaedrus, and the Republic—Hans offers a larger vision of both Socrates and human potential that goes beyond the reductive placement of reason on the side of the good and unreason on the side of the bad. Embracing Socrates’ reverence for poets, his reliance on feeling and intuition, his attitude toward death, and his defense of prophecy and love, Hans shows how thoroughly the Socratic idea of reason is based on the affective aspects of bodily existence that traditional approaches to his thought ignore. For those who have a philosophical interest in the foundation of Western thought as well as those whose interests in the humanities encompass the nature of the examined life, Socrates and the Irrational is both an accessible and an erudite journey into the mind of this central figure of our civilization.


This penetrating and original exploration of the role of the irrational in Socrates opens a unique perspective on the central problems of interpretation that continue to preoccupy theorists throughout the humanities. It is a lucid and graceful, sustained and subtle meditation on the dialogue between reason and the irrational that is deeply related to the connection between the ethical and the aesthetic.

Ronald A. Sharp, Professor of English and Dean of Faculty, Vassar College

About the Author(s): 

James S. Hans is Charles E. Taylor Professor of English at Wake Forest University and the author most recently of The Sovereignty of Taste, among numerous other works.

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