Death by Philosophy

The Biographical Tradition in the Life and Death of the Archaic Philosophers Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Democritus

Subjects: Classical Studies, Greek, Literary Studies, European Literature, Philosophy
Hardcover : 9780472113880, 220 pages, 6 x 9, August 2004
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Brings to vivid life the connections between philosophy and biography by examining the spectacular—and often wildly implausible—biographies of famous pre-Socratic thinkers

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Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


How does one die by philosophy? In Diogenes Laertius, philosophers jump into volcanoes, bury themselves in dung, get eaten by dogs, hang themselves, drown, and vanish into thin air -- sometimes all in a single lifetime. But what happens when we look beyond the fantastic and absurd to examine the particular ways that the philosophers' lives and deaths are recounted?
Ava Chitwood's reexamination of Diogenes Laertius's philosophical biographies opens a new window on the intellectual culture and context in which the work of philosophers like Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Democritus was read, received, and transmitted. Chitwood's analysis also suggests a methodology for understanding the interplay between biography and philosophy and for evaluating biographical sources.
While Chitwood's approach combines the disciplines of classical philology and philosophy, Death by Philosophy is not intended solely for the specialist. This investigation offers the modern reader a fascinating, fresh, and entertaining view of the ancient literary and philosophical world.
Ava Chitwood is Assistant Professor of Classics, at the University of South Florida.

Ava Chitwood is Assistant Professor of Classics, at the University of South Florida.