At once bold and scholarly, this book should serve as a model for all those who wish to overcome the artificial division between academic depth and general relevance.
The omissions in the historical record may be the most interesting parts. They truly teach us about ourselves by showing us what we have lost and what we are still seeking. The poems of Sappho and the paradoxes of Heraclitus were, in antiquity, a part of the Western tradition; now they are the subjects of speculation for feminists and process philosophers, who would like to make a new break with the historical record.
To deny the importance of history is also to deny the importance of science, as it is to deny the fundamental role of empirically given information in constructing a worldview.
After the unbearable excess of the last few years’ news cycles, it is very tempting to fantasize about how the news might disappear. Public gathering places may replace cable news channels with documentaries of bird migration, and radio news updates may be replaced by the live sound of wind chimes.
In our time, questions of acceptable speech and proper sensitivity have become paramount, and have compelled us to look more deeply at the intention and effect of language. In this respect, Ovid is a great case study, because he seems to have been, simultaneously, one of Rome’s most sensitive voices and the author of a noxious bro-bible.
When young, we may be the victims of an overbearing, reactionary past; when old, we may frustrate and destroy the dreams of our children, even when we have the best of intentions.
In a literal sense, almost everybody in Western society today is either a demagogue or an aspiring demagogue.