Death and the Disinterested Spectator

An Inquiry into the Nature of Philosophy

By Ann Hartle

Subjects: Plato
Paperback : 9780887062841, 263 pages, October 1986
Hardcover : 9780887062858, 263 pages, October 1986

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Table of contents



Chapter I: Socrates: Penelope and the Bee

The Phaedo as Apology; Comedy, Tragedy, Philosophy; Actor or Spectator; Hubris and Irony; Truth and Deception: A. Socrates, B. Phaedo, C. Plato; Transition: From Philosophical Courage to Christian Hope

Chapter II: Augustine: The Look of Pity

Confession and Apology; Laughter, Tears, Trembling and Wonder; Actor or Spectator; Pride and Humility; Truth and Self-Deception; Transition: From Christian Hope to Modern Certitude

Chapter III: Descartes: Occupation and Pre-occupation

The Discourse as Apology; Laughter, Tears, Trembling, and Wonder; Actor or Spectator; Pride and Humility; Truth and Certitude; Transition and Return

Chapter IV: Conclusion: Death and the Disinterested Spectator

Compassion and Distance; Wonder and Death; The Strange and the Familiar; The Fable of Certitude; Philosophy and the Divine:From Disinterested Spectator to Compassionate Actor; Cartesian Presumption,Socratic Victory; Idle Talk and Endless Toil; Weaving the Shroud


Works Consulted



Death and the Disinterested Spectator examines the nature of philosophy in light of philosophy's claim to be a preparation for death. Does philosophy have any real power, or is it merely idle talk? The background against which this question is explored is a re-interpretation of Plato's Phaedo, Augustine's Confessions, and Descartes' Discourse on Method.

Ann Hartle is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory University.


"This book is a serious attempt to grapple with an absolutely fundamental question: the nature of philosophy in its relation to theory, practice, and death. The method for dealing with this question is also interesting: to discuss the larger question concretely by examining a philosophical dialogue, a theological and philosophical confession, and a philosophical treatise. " — Carl G. Vaught