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Encounters and Reflections

Conversations with Seth Benardete

Edited by Ronna Burger
With Robert Berman, Ronna Burger, and Michael Davis
By turns wickedly funny and profoundly illuminating, Encounters and Reflections presents a captivating and unconventional portrait of the life and works of Seth Benardete. One of the leading scholars of ancient thought, Benardete here reflects on both the people he knew and the topics that fascinated him throughout his career in a series of candid, freewheeling conversations with Robert Berman, Ronna Burger, and Michael Davis.
The first part of the book discloses vignettes about fellow students, colleagues, and acquaintances of Benardete's who later became major figures in the academic and intellectual life of twentieth-century America. We glimpse the student days of Allan Bloom, Stanley Rosen, George Steiner, and we discover the life of the mind as lived by well-known scholars such as David Grene, Jacob Klein, and Benardete's mentor Leo Strauss. We also encounter a number of other learned, devoted, and sometimes eccentric luminaries, including T.S. Eliot, James Baldwin, Werner Jaeger, John Davidson Beazley, and Willard Quine. In the book's second part, Benardete reflects on his own intellectual growth and on his ever-evolving understanding of the texts and ideas he spent a lifetime studying. Revisiting some of his recurrent themes—among them eros and the beautiful, the city and the law, and the gods and the human soul—Benardete shares his views on thinkers such as Plato, Homer, and Heidegger, as well as the relations between philosophy and science and between Christianity and ancient Roman thought.

Engaging and informative, Encounters and Reflections brings Benardete's thought to life to enlighten and inspire a new generation of thinkers.

Read an excerpt.

240 pages | 3 halftones | © 2002

Biography and Letters

Philosophy: History and Classic Works


"[Encounters and Reflections] is a remarkable collection of accounts of Seth Benardete’s encounters with various people, now mostly obscure, and his reflections on topics, more obscure still. Benardete, the classical scholar and philosopher who died last year, sat down in the early 1990s with three of his students to recapture their conversations of twenty years before. The resulting discussions are both spontaneous and well ordered; a lovely achievement brought about by the editor’s skill, Benardete’s wizardy, and the familiarity of friends. . . . One by one our intellectual giants disappear, and their memories seem to shrivel in the gloomy and endless cave of our mediocrity. It is more hopeful to say instead that in books like this they continue to glow. The humor and intelligence in Seth Benardete’s Encounters and Reflections make us long for the world it remembers.”

Mark Blitz | Weekly Standard

“Benardete may best be understood to be a ‘poet’ of the same sort as Herodotus, one recognizing the need for a history of such mythologizing, even when it is one’s own. Beautifully produced, Encounters and Reflections is recommended to those wishing to embark on such an inquiry into Benardete’s work themselves.”

Bryn Mawr Classical Review | Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of Contents

Part One: Encounters
1. The University of Chicago, 1948-52, 1954-55
2. Athens, Rome, and Florence, 1952-54
3. St. John’s, 1955-57
4. Harvard, 1957-60
5. Brandeis, New York University, and the New School, 1960-2001
Part II: Reflections
6. From Pattern to Dynamic
7. The "Indeterminate Dyad"
8. Eros and the City
9. Philosophy and Science
10. Christianity and Roman Writers

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