Skip to Content

Category Archives: Dialectics

Classics Rock Star

by October 23, 2020

NB**Today is the LAST DAY you can get tickets to our Inaugural Symposium, as well as all the recordings of the event…You can get the Two Day Pass for only $22.50 (that’s less than 2 movie tickets!) See below for details.
You will want to watch because we have a genuine Rock Star of the Classics World presenting this weekend… a brilliant classicist and storyteller who will be discussing Philosophers, Kings and Philosopher Kings.**
Symposium Spotlight: James S Romm
James Romm is an author, reviewer, and the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Classics at Bard College in Annandale, NY.
He specializes in ancient Greek and Roman culture and civilization. His reviews and essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the London Review of Books, the Daily Beast, and other venues.
On top of all that, James is quite prolific. Indeed, he has so many cool books, it’s sort of hard to know where to start… You may have heard him on Classical Wisdom Speaks talk about Dying Every Day. We discussed his work on Seneca at the Court of Nero as well as his thoughts on How to Die.
But before you rush to conclusions that Dr. Romm is of the morbid sort, he’s also delved deeply into Herodotus, Greek Plays, and perhaps most famously, Alexander the Great in his popular work, Ghost on the Throne.
James’ most recent book is “How to Give”… To give and receive well may be the most human thing you can do—but it is also the closest you can come to divinity. So argues the great Roman Stoic thinker Seneca (c. 4 BCE–65 CE) in his longest and most searching moral treatise, “On Benefits” (De Beneficiis). James Romm’s splendid new translation of essential selections from this work conveys the heart of Seneca’s argument that generosity and gratitude are among the most important of all virtues.
For Seneca, the impulse to give to others lies at the very foundation of society; without it, we are helpless creatures, worse than wild beasts. But generosity did not arise randomly or by chance. Seneca sees it as part of our desire to emulate the gods, whose creation of the earth and heavens stands as the greatest gift of all. Seneca’s soaring prose captures his wonder at that gift, and expresses a profound sense of gratitude that will inspire today’s readers.
Complete with an enlightening introduction and the original Latin on facing pages, How to Give is a timeless guide to the profound significance of true generosity.

See Dr. James S. Romm Speak LIVE
This weekend James will present on Philosophers, Kings and Philosopher Kings… he will also take part in a thrilling panel discussion on the concept of Power…and I’m not certain he will agree with the other speakers. It should most definitely be interesting!
Whether you can watch LIVE on the day, or enjoy the videos whenever it’s convenient, you will have FULL access to the event.
As I mentioned, you can get the two day ticket for only $22.50! All you need to do is use this code at checkout:
Click here to get your tickets:
Hope you can join us!

Do we NEED to hear Opinions we don’t like?

by October 19, 2020

I’m going to start off today’s mailbag with a Dare.
Whatever side of the political spectrum you happen to find yourself…next time you are watching the News, I dare you to watch your opposing side’s channel for at least 5 minutes.
If you get your current events from CNN or MSNBC, for example, switch on Fox News or click on the New York Post. If you read the Washington Times, then check out the Washington Post. Apply this to whatever local outlet in whichever country you find yourself!
That doesn’t sound too tricky, I hear you say… but there’s a catch…
You need to 1: Not shout furiously at the screen.
And 2: Practice a bit of healthy Skepticism (the ancient kind) and suspend judgement.
One of the more recent Media charts by Ad fontes Media (NB: Ad Fontes is a Latin expression which means “[back] to the sources” (lit. “to the sources”)
That means you have to watch and actually take it seriously.
This is important – you need to try to understand the best version of your opponent’s argument. This is called ‘Steelmaning’ their position (as opposed to ‘strawmanning’, which is attacking the weakest version of their point. This will help strengthen your own understanding of the issue).
You might already do this! As a Classics lover you probably are already predisposed to finding the nuance in this messy political climate…
Perhaps, indeed, this missive would be best forwarded to friends and family still learning the Skeptic ropes… A bit of ancient wisdom for modern minds wouldn’t go amiss these days! And in preparation for the inevitable questions to this little dare – or should I say philosophical exercise – we come to today’s mailbag question…:
Do we NEED to hear Opinions we don’t like? What is the Importance of Differing Views? And why should we try to be objective in the first place?
As always you can comment below or write me directly at [email protected].
I’ll be particularly interested in your comments, because it’s a topic I’ve had to discuss a lot recently when explaining our upcoming Symposium (taking place THIS Saturday). You see, I’ve tried hard to ensure we have a diversity of ideas represented. Indeed, one of the speakers is from the Ayn Rand Institute, which sometimes provokes a bit of a response.
For those wanting a recap, the Russian “Atlas Shrugged” author Ayn Rand (the philosopher behind the philosophy of Objectivism), was heavily influenced by the Classics, in particular by Aristotle. Nowadays she is sometimes dismissed as a darling of the right… but I feel this does Rand an injustice.
Watching her speak you can tell her mind is working on another plane from the rest of us… Being a genius doesn’t necessarily make Ayn right (think of the many philosophies proposed over the centuries!), but it does mean that you will certainly learn something by considering her ideas because she has a completely different perspective on things. Her views might reinforce some of your opinions or contradict them, but either way it is you, the reader, who will benefit from the experience.
Take, for example, her book on Capitalism…
The foundations of capitalism are being battered by a flood of altruism, which is a major cause of the modern world’s collapse…or so says Ayn Rand, a view so radically opposed to prevailing attitudes that it constitutes a major philosophic challenge. In this series of essays, Ayn Rand presents her stand on the persecution of big business, the causes of war, the default of conservatism, the evils of altruism, and the nature of individual rights.
It is considered a challenging new look at modern society by one of the most provocative intellectuals on the American scene.
Classical Wisdom Symposium attendees will have the pleasure of hearing Aaron Smith of the Ayn Rand Institute speak on Sunday on Morality and Political Power.
Smith, who has a PhD in philosophy from John Hopkins University and specializes in ancient Greek philosophy, will discuss the need to interrogate and sometimes radically rethink our conception of morality.

Should We Learn “Outdated” History?

by October 12, 2020

It seems like most holidays start with a bit of throat clearing nowadays… Followed by a few caveats… and the inevitable, “well… actually…”.
I’m acutely aware of this because I’m regularly tasked with the job of explaining American holidays and their corresponding customs both to my five year old and local friends down here in Argentina.
Thanksgiving is always a… long story.
Demonstrating all the pagan vestigial elements of Easter, Halloween and Christmas seem to confuse rather than illuminate.
And why exactly again does everyone celebrate Cinco de Mayo when it’s not even a thing in Mexico?

The American holiday, Cinco De Mayo

Today’s holiday, whatever you wish to call it, conjures up a whole other level of difficulty. Whenever asked, I immediately begin the spiel I was taught in school many decades ago… and then I stop.
As a lover of history, I feel compelled to get to the truth of any event – but now as our own histories get more and more updated, I wonder, is there any value in learning ‘outdated’ history? Will Christopher ever again just simply sail the ocean blue in 1492?
Now, if 15th century Italian explorers aren’t really your cup of tea – perhaps the topic is too controversial or just not sufficiently classical (fair enough!)- then consider the beloved bare breasted Minoan snake goddess

Minoan Statuette at the Walters Art Museum

Ancient Greek buffs might recognize the figurine as the quintessential statue from the Aegean Bronze age civilization. Discovered by the always controversial archeologist Sir Arthur Evans in Knossos, Crete, the Snake Goddess may not be what she seems.
In the most recent Classical Wisdom Speaks Podcast, the associate Curator of the Walters Art Museum and one of our Classical Wisdom Symposium Speakers, Lisa Anderson Zhu drops some truth bombs on the subject.
Let’s just say, I WAS SHOCKED.
If these statues are all fakes, then… should we even care about them anymore? There’s enough stuff to learn in history that perhaps the history of history is simply too niche for most people.
So, I’ll ask again for this week’s mailbag question: Should we learn “outdated” history? Is there any value in it? Or should we cross it out and move along?
As always, you can write me at: [email protected] or comment below.

Symposium Spotlight: Walters Art Museum
I’d like to introduce… the Baltimore Painter. The artist of this vase is known as the Baltimore Painter, taking his name from the location this piece, his most prominent work. More than 1,500 vases are attributed to this artist, who worked in what is modern-day Apulia, Italy.
Covered with figures and ornament, the centerpiece of this volute krater is the god Hermes–identified by his hat, caduceus and winged boots–who stands in a colonnaded structure before a seated woman, perhaps Persephone. The identities of the figures gathered around the outside of the structure are unclear, but perhaps they are dead souls in the Underworld.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters’ outstanding collection of ancient Greek art illustrates the history and culture of Greece from the Cycladic to the Hellenistic period (ca. 3rd millennium–1st century BC). It ranges from engraved gemstones to exceptional vases and marble statues. Among the dazzling jewelry in the ancient treasury are the extraordinary Olbia bracelets, which are encrusted with multicolored gemstones.
The Walters Art Museum is ALWAYS Free… and now open!
Listen LIVE at the Symposium
Associate Curator of ancient Mediterranean art, Lisa Anderson Zhu, will be discussing Power and Politics in Art at Classical Wisdom’s Inaugural Symposium, taking place October 24 – 25.
***NB: The Wine Option of the Symposium Ticket Ends TUESDAY MIDNIGHT. Make sure to reserve your winebox here.

Do the Classics Matter?

by October 5, 2020

“So… what do you write about?”
“Ancient Greece and Rome”
“Uh huh.. and um… why again?”
“Ahh… well, do you have a moment?”
Replace ‘write’ with ‘read/study/discuss/like’, and it’s a conversation I imagine many of us have had. With the Odyssey firmly tucked under our arms, it’s as if we are classical missionaries trying to spread the ‘good word‘.
I often start with the fact that to be considered an educated person straight up until the 19th century, you had to be versed in the ancient world… and that influence is clearly seen in history, philosophy, art and literature.
So if you want to understand any of that stuff, you better read up on what came before.
Indeed, for generations, the study of Greek and Latin was used to train the elites of the western world. Knowledge of classical culture, it was believed, produced more cultivated, creative individuals; Greece and Rome were seen as pinnacles of civilization, and the origins of western superiority over the rest of the world.
But that’s not how it’s seen today, is it?
The tides have turned and few today are willing to defend this “elitist, sometimes racist, vision of the importance of classics.” It is no longer considered essential education for politicians and professionals (as is sadly evident!)
Shouldn’t classics then be obsolete? It’s up us, the classics lovers, to come to its defense.
So, I’d like to ask you, dear reader – why do the Classics Matter?
It’s an important discussion that we should all have. You can comment below with your thoughts or email me directly at [email protected].
I’ll publish your responses next week… and in the meantime, if you should also read Classics: Why it Matters, authored by Dr. Neville Morley, Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter and one our excellent Symposium speakers.
Neville Morley shows that the ancients are as influential today as they ever have been and we ignore them at our peril. Not only do they have much to teach us about the past, but they can offer important lessons for the complex cultural, social and political worlds of the present.
It’s an excellent read for those who love the Classics, and an essential gift for those who don’t yet know the value of ancient wisdom.
Check out Dr. Neville’s book, “Classics: Why It Matters” Here:
Ask the Expert Yourself!
Dr. Neville Morley will be speaking LIVE at our Classical Wisdom Symposium on his most recent research: ‘Thucydides, Power and Negotiation’. He will also be participating in the panel discussion.
Make sure to check out all the details of our Symposium below!

Symposium 2020: Tickets are NOW Available!

by September 29, 2020

This is your opportunity to join an exclusive online Symposium with some of the greatest thinkers on the ancient world.
Immerse yourself in the Classical World for a weekend of wit and wisdom (and wine!) that will return you to the modern world refreshed and inspired by the Ancients.
Now, part and parcel of the whole ‘Symposium’ Experience is… of course, the wine!
To accomplish this essential task, Classical Wisdom has teamed up with the Bonner Private Wine Partnership.
(Long time readers may recognize the name Bonner… a lover of the classics and an astonishing example of Stoic philosophy, Bill Bonner has been forced to live on the land up in the Argentine mountains… fortunately for him -and his wife- they happen to grow fantastic wine there.)
The Bonner Private Wine Partnership usually reserves its wines for members only (and there’s actually a waitlist to join). That’s because the wines they source are mostly small batches, from traditional winemakers – no overbearing industrial wines.
They are also fellow Classicists, so when it came to providing wine for our Symposium, they did not disappoint!
They carefully choose selections to suit the occasion perfectly. As such, each small-production bottle from this Bonner Private Wine Partnership collection comes from a vineyard steeped in ancient history…
In fact, some of these have never been imported to the US before! So enjoy them while you can!
There is ONE CATCH: We only have 100 sets available.
This means you do have to act fast, because it will be first come, first serve.
That’s why I am writing to you, our faithful readers, first. This week we will open registration up to several publications at our friends at Agora, which means we could sell out very quickly.
Don’t miss out! This is a once in a life time opportunity… exactly at the moment when we all need history and philosophy the most! Make sure to register your spot today.

Do We Need Human Rights?

by September 21, 2020

I hate to say it’s all relative – but it seems to be the case when it comes to COVID. You see, depending on where you live, your experience of this pandemic has been completely different… from the government response… to your ability to move about… to the scale and fear of the daily numbers.
Here in Argentina, for instance, we had one of the longest lockdowns in the world, with police not letting anyone leave their houses for months. Children were not allowed outside for even short walks – no schools, no parks, no playgrounds. Masks are mandatory everywhere (and are actually worn). We also have over 12,000 new cases a day.
The restaurants and parks (but still no playgrounds or childcare) finally opened about three weeks ago and…the numbers are finally going down in the capital!
Your experience was probably not like that… but it probably hasn’t been like many of our family members’ in Australia either.
Those in Melbourne, the country’s second largest city, have had another strict lockdown put in place. Enforced curfews start at 8pm. Police, riding on horseback, have raided open air fruit stalls. A pregnant woman was jailed for posting a Facebook event, ironically in the birthplace of Australian democracy. (It turns out protesting peacefully is not part of the Australian constitution).

The now famous image of Zoe Buhler arrested

Yesterday there were 14 new cases, and in fact, there are only 8 people in Intensive Care for COVID in the ENTIRE Country of Australia.
Human rights watch groups have condemned the actions of the Victorian government, to which the Premier (their ‘governor’) Daniel Andrews, replied,
“It’s not about human rights, it’s about human life.”
Now, the concept of ‘human rights’ is modern. While Aristotle and many of his elk contemplated the role of man in relationship to the state, they never considered the universality of these issues. After all, slaves were slaves – and the idea of a world without them never fully occurred to them. (Granted Aristotle did contemplate machines taking over the role of slaves).
But it’s our job as modern philosophers – of lovers of wisdom and virtue – to take up the gauntlet where previous great minds left off. So I ask you dear reader about the subject of ‘Human Rights’:
Do we need human rights? Is it possible that they can be universal? And if so, what should they be and what happens when we lose them?
As always you can write to me directly at [email protected] or comment below.