Date posted: 13 May 11, 14:00
By Angie Hobbs
We asked Angie Hobbs to comment on her current work and ideas that have influenced her. Angie is appearing in the festival on 17 May in the panel on everyday philosophy.
Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
I have recently been thinking about a) erotic love (I am currently translating Plato’s Symposium and writing a new commentary on it); b) the philosophy of money: what money is good and bad for; ways in which it helps and hinders a flourishing life for both individual and community; c) fairness (I was heavily involved last autumn in the BBC’s examination of fairness and have since been involved in spin-offs from that at the Royal Society of Arts etc.)
What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
Plato’s beady-eyed dissection of what we mean by ‘romantic’ love in his Symposium (Aristophanes’ speech) has really challenged my naturally ‘romantic’ inclinations…
What are the most important books/articles/websites of ideas that everyone should read and why?
Plato’s Gorgias, Symposium and Republic; Aristotle’s Ethics; anything by David Hume; J.S.Mill On Liberty. The Philosophy Bites series of podcasts is an excellent introduction to many philosophical writers, works and themes.
In 1910 Charles Masterman asked ‘What will the future make of the present?’ What do you think people in the future will make of the present?
I think future generations will be astonished at a) how profligate we are with environmental resources and how feeble our attempts are to reduce global warming; b) how we have let money – designed by humans to increase leisure and reduce stress – do precisely the opposite; c) how readily we still rush into conflict before we have thought through the implications and possible consequences – amongst which, of course, are the worsening of the environmental and financial problems of a) and b).
What are you most pessimistic about?
I am not a pessimist by nature, though I am depressed at how governments and regulators – and electorates – seem unable or unwilling to bring banking under control.
What are you most optimistic about?
Though the Middle East and North Africa are clearly in great turmoil and pain at the moment, I think the refusal of, particularly, the younger generations in these regions to accept old dogmas is profoundly encouraging and will bring about a more integrated world.
Who are your heroes?
Two of my heroes are i) Hypatia (late 3rd and early 4th century C.E, Greek intellectual from Alexandria.), the first significant female mathematician and astronomer in the West that we know about, and also a teacher of philosophy; ii) Patrick Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE: traveller, writer and soldier, including serving as an SOE officer in Crete during the German Occupation. He spent more than two years living in the Cretan mountains disguised as a shepherd, and helped organize the capture and evacuation of the German Commander, General Heinrich Kreipe. He and General Kreipe discovered that they both loved Horace, and quoted an ode to each other in Latin while looking out (I think at the sunrise) from the cave hideaway. That’s my kind of war hero.
Angie Hobbs is Associate Professor in Philosophy at Warwick University and created the UK’s first Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy in 2009. Her most recent work has been a new translation of and commentary on Plato’s Symposium (for Oxford University Press) and a book on heroism, courage and fame.
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