One consequence of the invention of writing is that some people
didn't limit themselves to reading what had been written in the past but went
so far as to write about other people's writings. This constant tendency led
to a certain number of works' being awarded the status of "classics". But why
have so many authors committed themselves to interpreting, criticizing or strengthening
the classics? And, above all, what is the contemporary meaning of undertaking
the reading of philosophical texts that originated in such a culturally and
chronologically distant past? This book offers an account of a set of crucial
episodes in the debate that developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, concerning
the classics and how they have been mediated. After a critical appraisal of
the arguments for and against every possible use of traditional, canonical texts,
the author identifies cultural "otherness" as their most efficacious contribution
to cognitive wealth and freedom.
Giuseppe Cambiano teaches History of Philosophy at the University of Pisa's Scuola Normale Superiore.
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