Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy: Tyrants, Kings, Emperors, and Philosophers. Day 1

9:45 a.m. - 6:15 p.m.

Hannah Arendt and Reiner Schürmann Symposium in Political Philosophy

Tyrants, Kings, Emperors, and Philosophers: Philosophy and Political Power in Antiquity

New School for Social Research, New York, May, 10-11 2013

55 W 13 St Room I 202

May 10

9:45: Introduction – Dmitri Nikulin (NSSR)

10:00-11:30: Andreas Kalyvas (NSSR), The Dictator is a Tyrant: Dionysius of Halicarnassus' Critique of Roman Republicanism and its Significance Today

Chair: Chiara Bottici (NSSR)


My presentation focuses on Dionysius of Halicarnassus' original and critical reinterpretation of the Roman institution of dictatorship as a form of consensual or voluntary tyranny. After a close reading of his "Roman Antiquities" (Ρωμαικής Αρχαιολογίας), I discuss his interpretation's present significance for contemporary debates on the state of emergency, the revival of neo-republican doctrines of politics, and the irreconciliable differences between democracy and republicanism (around questions of conflict, agonism, power, and participation).

11:45-1:15: Dmitri Nikulin (NSSR), Telling Truth in the Face of a Tyrant: Diogenes the Cynic as a Political Thinker

Chair: Banu Bargu (NSSR)


The article considers the role of performance and conversation in Diogenes of Sinope, with reference to the extant fragments, as well as to Dio Chrysostom's Discourses. By speaking in public and acting through personal example, a Cynic philosopher is not assertingan abstract true proposition or a rational theory but is rather engaged in truth-telling and thus in a provocative, critical and subversive act that challenges conventional codes of behavior. Enacted as literature and theater, philosophy invites, then, for the creation of a new vocabulary and action suitable for liberating political practice.


3:00-4:30: Cinzia Arruzza (NSSR), Philosophical Dogs and Tyrannical Wolves in Plato’s Republic

Chair: Omri Boehm (NSSR)


In Books VIII and IX, tyranny is presented as the most degenerated regime, and the tyrant as the unhappiest man, a miserable slave of his lawless desires. However, the tyrant also appears to have an exceptional nature, which – uncannily enough –  has some traits in common with the philosopher. Moreover, we learn from Letter VII that Plato traveled to Syracuse in order to try to reform its tyrannical regime. How to make sense of this apparent contradiction? The aim of this paper is to show that the philosopher and the tyrant of the Republic are like the two faces of Janus: theyhave a common nature and are both driven by eros, but they look at opposite directions. Recognizing the kinship between the philosopher and the tyrant helps shed some light on the relationship between philosophy and political power in the Republic, and on the issue of the feasibility of the beautiful city.


4:45-6:15: Chris Bobonich (Stanford University), What’s the Good of Knowing the Good?

Chair : Ross Poole (NSSR)


In the Republic, it is clear that the philosopher benefits from knowing the Forms.  But what is such knowledge good for?  In particular, I examine the relation between knowing Forms and (i) making good laws, (ii) making good political judgments not embodied in law, and (iii) engaging in good individual ethical deliberation.







Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor

Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

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