Seth Benardete’s Second Sailing by Michael Davis

Michael Davis, "Seth Benardete's Second Sailing: On the Spirit of Ideas" The Political Science Reviewer, vol. 34 (2005): 7-21.

In twelve books, six translations, and over fifty scholarly articles Seth Benardete wrote with unsurpassed breadth and depth on Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Heracleitus, Parmenides, Aristotle, Cicero, Horace, Apuleius, and twenty Platonic dialogues. His thought comprehends the whole of antiquity, to which his writings provide a guide of incalculable worth. Still, of his books, six are commentaries on Platonic dialogues, one is a collection of twenty essays (eleven of which are on Plato), and another is an edition of a Leo Strauss’s commentary on Plato’s Symposium. And Benardete himself traces to Plato two of his other books—on Herodotus and on the Odyssey—and his influential interpretation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. Accordingly, it does not seem unjust to say of him what he said of Leo Strauss: that for Seth Benardete “what philosophy is seems to be inseparable from the question of how to read Plato.”

And for Benardete, as for Plato, “[n]o matter how remote from philosophy a question may appear to be…the argument always turns around and points to philosophy,” for [p]hilosophy comprehends the apparent manifold of things and the single truth of their meaning. More precisely the one thing needful for man is latent in everything men say, do, and experience.

There is a coincidence in philosophy and only in philosophy of the understanding of all human things with the human good.

To turn to Benardete’s Plato, then, is to turn to his understanding of all human things and of the human good.


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