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Inventing Socrates


Worldwide Publisher:
Bloomsbury Publishing

From the Publisher:

Inventing Socrates is a book about the consequences of knowledge and the coming of age. It is written in knowledge’s Western setting, making allegorical as well as literal use of the event known as the ‘birth of philosophy’ – an event that began in ancient Greece in the 6th-century B.C., when a handful of thinkers first looked at the natural world through the critical eyes of fledgling science.

Very little of concrete fact is known about this first philosophy and its protagonists. Only scant fragments of their writings have survived; and these are nearly always poetical and esoteric, some no more than a single line. They are freighted with meanings that might take one in two different directions at once; and this ambidexterity between ancient and modern has always been their beguiling feature. Altogether these thinkers are known as the Presocratics, because they pioneered the rational methods that Socrates would take to the question of the good life. If Socrates stands today as an icon of Western self-esteem, these pioneers are said to show the emergence of that poise from the fug of myth and religion. Apparently they prove the evolution of Western intelligence and the value of living today – in the secular maturity of its latest, greatest hour. But what if their continuing readability and tactility were actually to become the demonstration against that?

This is not just, then, a book about the foundations of Western thought. It is a book about all that we invest in the ideas of ancient and modern. Left to right is the Western way of learning and growing, but, as Miles Hollingworth shows, the truths of the human condition are subterranean corridors running psychologically and eternally.


“Anyone who wishes to think beyond our conventional categories of theories of progress, the history of western scientific rationality, the impasse of science vs. religion and philosophy vs. theology, or the contest of global values will find this book exhilarating, stimulating, perplexing, and refreshing — a dazzling anti-history of the tradition of western rationality.” –  Todd Breyfogle, Director of Seminars, The Aspen Institute, USA, and editor of Literary Imagination, Ancient and Modern

“This is an engaging and original book that unsettles the received narrative of Early Greek philosophy as the birth of reason. The book’s aim is to remythologize reason right from the quick – relishing the religious impulse of all genuine philosophical reflection. In Hollingworth’s hands the history of ideas becomes a living thing, a love song to the fragile moments of understanding that always open onto that which exceeds us. Perhaps best of all, the book performs its own argument. The reader is left to share the author’s grateful wonder that there is something rather than nothing.” –  Joseph Clair, Director of the William Penn Honors Program and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, George Fox University, USA

“In Plato’s great analogy for education — the analogy of the cave — it is far from clear what would compel a soul, having ascended to a sunlit world of clarity, to return to a place of depths and indetermination. Plato’s Socrates speaks of necessity and suggests the need, if not the desire, for a conversion of all things indeterminate into perfected beauties, like butterflies on pins. Hollingworth adds the framing of the Presocratics and returns us, more explicitly than does Plato, to an invented Socrates, standing, like the concept of invention itself, at the crossroads of science and imagination. Indeed Socrates will have become that crossroads by way of Hollingworth’s fierce and visionary prose. Here is not a crossroads to be left behind, as we either ascend towards an enlightened modernity or regress towards ancient imaginings; Hollingworth exhorts us instead to inhabit a capacious psychology, ever at a crossroads, and take our necessities from there. Inventing Socrates is an unexpected book, a knock at the door from the God within.” –  James Wetzel, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of St. Augustine, Villanova University, USA