CYA Virtual Lecture Series: Ancient Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy, Jan. 27

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

College Year in Athens presents another session of its Virtual Lecture Series via Zoom on Wednesday, January 27. Photo: Courtesy of College Year in Athens

ATHENS – College Year in Athens (CYA) presents another session of its Virtual Lecture Series via Zoom on Wednesday, January 27, 12 PM EST / 7 PM Athens, with guest speaker Michael K. Kellogg, founding and managing partner in the law firm of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, PPLC, and eloquent author of books on philosophy and the history of western thought, who will discuss the much-debated critical battle of philosophy and poetry. Attorney and CYA’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, K. Chris Todd, a name partner in the same Washington, DC law firm as his good friend Kellogg, will facilitate the discussion.

What Plato called “the ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy” was a quarrel over primacy. Which is most important to the city state: poetry or philosophy? Which has the strongest claim to wisdom?  

We know where Plato came out because he would have banned most poets from his ideal Republic. Our very term, philosophy, is a cognate of the Greek words, philia (which means love or friendship) and sophia (which means wisdom). But just because philosophers purport to love wisdom doesn’t mean they have a special claim to it.

Aristophanes contends that it is the poet’s job to safeguard the soul of the city-state and to lead men to wisdom and the good life. He dismisses philosophy as, at best, “never-ending futile chatter / In a niggling senseless game.” He condemns philosophy even as practiced by Socrates and Plato because their focus on what is true everywhere and for all people makes them indifferent to the local and temporal concerns of the city-state. Poetry, by contrast, tethers us to, even as it transforms our understanding of, the present and thus make us both wiser and better citizens.

Plato devotes his most beautiful, intricate, and poetic work – the Symposium – to refuting Aristophanes and yet, in the end, reveals his own ambivalence.

Register for the Zoom meeting online:

If you cannot attend the "live" lecture but would like to receive a recording of the lecture, please register and it will be sent to you 1-2 days after the event. 

Please note that all previous lectures may be viewed on CYA’s YouTube channel: