For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Controvert, or On the Lie
and Other Philosophical Dialogues
  • Nicholas J. Pappas
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Controvert, or On the Lie. and Other Philosophical Dialogues
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Taking a quizzical, philosophical look at the conundrums life places before us, the author explores paradoxical situations in philosophical dialogues geared to stimulate thought and resonate with the reader’s own experiences. Implications regarding politics and politicians, leadership and democracy are investigated along the way.


About the Author

Nicholas J. Pappas, author of several books with Algora, graduated with honors in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and earned a Law degree at Harvard University. He has written over 100 philosophic dialogues as well as many short stories and poems.

About the Book

In a style emulating that of the Platonic dialogue, the author approaches serious moral questions in a conversational manner that will appeal to both the general and the specialized reader.

The first...

In a style emulating that of the Platonic dialogue, the author approaches serious moral questions in a conversational manner that will appeal to both the general and the specialized reader.

The first dialogue, “Controvert, Or on the Lie,” examines the nature of lies and telling “the truth” and tests our assumptions regarding whether or when it might be appropriate to lie. Is it right to lie just for fun? Is a lie justified when speaking to a tyrant?

“Contempt” ponders many distinctions we assume exist but which we may not have considered very carefully, including those between what is good and what is contemptible, and shades of nuance between pity, love, and respect, and hate and fear. Can contempt be the key element of a fighting creed? Or is contempt itself contemptible?

In “Ambition,” the characters debate the nature of this very human characteristic, its value as a passionate love of life that enables us to reach for the stars and its darker side as a destructive, self-centered drive to win adulation and assert our own good over that of others. Is ambition more than the love of praise? Must ambition be harnessed (and to what end?) or is it more powerful when left unchecked and allowed to flower into great accomplishments?

The world of human aspirations and the means by which we pursue them are explored further in the dialogues “Architect,” “Brilliance,” and “Anarchy.”

Using these specific threads the author weaves together a consideration of larger questions as well, including the inevitable competition between individual and society, and how to approach life for the maximum value.


More . . .
Virtue
Director: Cheer up! Is it so clear that the two are divorced?
Author: The character of the virtue of the heart changes when the virtue of the mind begins to flourish.
Director: How?
Author: It attaches more to the individual than the group.
Director: Is this how you see it, Student?
Student: Yes. Brilliance undermines the order that sustains it.
Director
:...
Virtue
Director: Cheer up! Is it so clear that the two are divorced?
Author: The character of the virtue of the heart changes when the virtue of the mind begins to flourish.
Director: How?
Author: It attaches more to the individual than the group.
Director: Is this how you see it, Student?
Student: Yes. Brilliance undermines the order that sustains it.
Director
: Hmm. But does the order sustain brilliance or stifle it?
Author: True — brilliance struggles against order in order to free itself.
Director: Because that order does not sustain its heart?
Student: Yes!
Author: No. Because the development of the virtue of mind is the highest end of man and worthwhile for its own sake. It’s not some sort of second-best compensation.
Director: But is virtue of the mind possible without virtue of the heart? What? No answer, Author?
Student: I think it is. It’s evil genius.
Director: Let’s take a step back. Suppose the virtue of one’s heart is fully developed — one is a Spartan, through and through, fully attached to one’s people, one’s state. Does one feel the need to develop the virtue of the mind?
Student: No, one is content.
Author: Really, now! It is my turn to be surprised. Did the Spartans not develop the art of generalship, to say nothing of politics, to the highest degree? And did this not take the virtue of the mind?
Student: Of course, but it didn’t take brilliance — just hard com­petence.
Director: And this is because brilliance is more flash than substance.
Student: Precisely.
Director: Author, I recall having read an article about your latest book which declares you brilliant. Now, please, don’t show false modesty when you answer. Do you think your work shows more flash than substance?
Author: I think my work shows a considerable bit of substance.
Director: More substance than flash?
Author: There is not all that much substance in this world, Director, that it can predominate easily over the flash. But that substance is worth more by itself than all the flash there ever was, or will be, put together.
Director: And the articulation of this substance is the work of hard competence.
Author: Of course it is.
Director: And is your heart in your work or are you, forgive me, an evil genius who writes with a completely cold head?
Author: You know better, Director. A clear head is a cold head — but it is sustained by a warm, if not hot, heart.
Director: So the evil genius that Student mentioned is a cold head coupled with a cold heart.
Author: I think that’s a fair description.
Director: Then is that our definition of brilliance, the effect of which is a work that more resembles a diamond than a portrait?
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Categories

Pages 188
Year: 2008
LC Classification: BJ1421.P37
Dewey code: 177'.3--dc22
BISAC: PHI005000 PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
BISAC: PHI011000 PHILOSOPHY / Logic
BISAC: PHI001000 PHILOSOPHY / Aesthetics
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-651-2
Price: USD 21.95
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-652-9
Price: USD 31.95
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