Nehamas Alexander

Alexander Nehamas
Academy member

Biographical note

History of Philosophy  (2018)

Born in Athens (1946). He  graduated from Athens College in 1964 and studied Philosophy and Economics at Swarthmore College (B.A. 1967) and Philosophy at Princeton University (Ph.D. 1971).  He has taught at the University of Pittsburgh (1971-1986) and the University of Pennsylvania (1986-1989), and he returned to Princeton in 1989 as the Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Comparative Literature.  He has also taught, as Mills Professor (1983) and Sather Professor (1993) at the University of California/Berkeley.  He is the author of Nietzsche: Life as Literature, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault, Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates, Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art, and On Friendship—books that have been translated in various languages, and has published roughly one hundred and fifty essays and book reviews.  He has translated Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus into English.  At Princeton, he has been Chairman of the Council on the Humanities, Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies (awarded a prize by the Academy of Athens in 2000), and Founding Director of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts.  He holds honorary doctorates from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the International Hellenic University, and the Athens School of Fine Arts of the National Metsovian Polytechnic University. He was President of the American Philosophical Association, and is currently a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.  He has received several prizes, among them, the Behram Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities from Princeton University, the Premio Internazionale Nietzsche and the Mellon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.  He has given the Sather Lectures at the University of California/Berkeley, the Tanner Lectures at Yale University, the Gray Lectures at the University of Cambridge, and the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.  He was made a Commander of the Order of the Phoenix of the Hellenic Republic.  His intellectual interests center around the Presocratic philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche, focusing on the problems that occupied them at the time, in an effort to locate them, insofar as it is possible, in their original historical context.  Such an approach, instead of distancing these thinkers from the topics that concern contemporary philosophy, often brings them closer to us.  For example, the Platonic proscription of epic and dramatic poetry for the ideal city of the Republic, if combined with poetry’s social, political, and ideological role in ancient Athens, can be interpreted not as a denial of the value of high art but as the prototype of every attack that popular art and culture have faced from Plato’s time until our own.  And since the values of art, both popular and high, far from being isolated from the rest of life, permeate our world, philosophy must address them explicitly, articulate them, and defend their central place in human life.


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