The Philosopher's New Clothes: The Theaetetus, the Academy, and Philosophy’s Turn against Fashion, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Philosopher's New Clothes

The Theaetetus, the Academy, and Philosophy’s Turn against Fashion, 1st Edition

By Nickolas Pappas


234 pages

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This book takes a new approach to the question, "Is the philosopher to be seen as universal human being or as eccentric?". Through a reading of the Theaetetus, Pappas first considers how we identify philosophers – how do they appear, in particular how do they dress? The book moves to modern philosophical treatments of fashion, and of "anti-fashion". He argues that aspects of the fashion/anti-fashion debate apply to antiquity, indeed that nudity at the gymnasia was an anti-fashion. Thus anti-fashion provides a way of viewing ancient philosophy’s orientation toward a social world in which, for all its true existence elsewhere, philosophy also has to live.


"Although it may at first appears to be impossible to discuss both Plato’s thought and the philosophy of fashion in a coherent and philosophically promising way, Pappas’ book shows that it is a feasible and challenging task … Pappas reveals a polished expertise on fashion in philosophy and the history of anti-fashion, as well as on some peculiar fashion and anti-fashion articles of clothing, like men’s suits, denim jeans, and black clothes. Reading these pages, with their many references to contemporary media, historic style icons (in particular, Beau Brummell) and philosophers who have theorized about fashion and its social and cultural effects, is pleasant and very informative … Like Socrates, Nickolas Pappas’ book is somehow atopos, yet able to stimulate reflections and debates. More than anything else, The Philosopher’s New Clothes is a very original book, one of a kind in Platonic studies."

- Filippo Forcignanò, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018

Table of Contents


What philosophers do

Philosophy for everyone

The philosopher as eccentric

Plato on the normal philosopher

Socratic legacies

How the philosopher appears

Part I. Socrates in the Theaetetus

Chapter 1. Entering the Theaetetus

Plato’s Academy

The Academy in Plato’s Theaetetus

The frame of the Theaetetus

Enter Theaetetus

Socrates as midwife

No place for philosophy

Chapter 2. Being a philosopher teaching philosophy

The cost of entering the Academy

Unwritten teachings

The shoemaker

The Cyrenaics

Pigs and dogheads

School as institution


Chapter 3. Philosophy’s first citizen

Wrestling and civilization

Where the wrestling happens

Two myths of philosophy’s beginning (archê)

Wonder and the rainbow

Iris the teras

Socrates the philosopher

A new myth of philosophy’s archê

Philosopher as headmaster

The philosophical gentleman

Beyond the Theaetetus

Part II. Philosophy Regarding Fashion

Chapter 4. Fashion in philosophy

Fashion thinking

The emperor’s new clothes

Philosophy of fashion today

Imitation according to the tradition

Beau Brummell, beyond imitating

The foreigner

Chapter 5. Anti-fashion

Alternative to fashion

The tradition of anti-fashion

Anti-fashion today

The suit

Denim jeans

Body art


Black and the body

Chapter 6. Fashion in antiquity

The threat of anachronism. Ancient fashion?

Diversity and contingency in dress

Change in dress

Justification for change in dress

Plato’s Republic


Part III. The Philosopher’s New Clothes

Chapter 7. There is no outfit like Greek nudity

Nudity in modern Europe

Nudity for non-Greeks

Recent treatments of Greek nudity


Inspection, sexual and otherwise

Chaste nudity

Ritual nudity

Ritual nudity and athletics

Civic nudity


Chapter 8. You can tell a philosopher

The Cynic display of withdrawal

The limits of philosophical costume

Platonic philosophical nudity

Platonic anti-fashion



About the Author

Nickolas Pappas is Professor of Philosophy at the City College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York, USA

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General