1st Edition

The Philosopher's New Clothes The Theaetetus, the Academy, and Philosophy’s Turn against Fashion

By Nickolas Pappas Copyright 2016
    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

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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.


    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


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

    "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)


    "In Nickolas Pappas’ book, The Philosopher’s New Clothes: The Theaetetus, the Academy, and Philosophy’s Turn Against Fashion, one finds a wonderfully unexpected and oddly appropriate connection between the emergence of the Academy as a place in which the philosopher appears wearing that title, ‘philosopher’, and philosophy’s turn against fashion. While historians date the beginning of fashion to around 1300, and a second movement to 1850, Pappas argues that something recognizable as fashion and its antithesis already existed in Greek and Roman antiquity ... Pappas’ book ends on the shrewd and invaluable note that, even while it paves the way for a brood of philosopher-fashionistas, the Academy arises both then and now as the place where such fashions will nonetheless be able to be critiqued—a risky business, to be sure, but perhaps less risky naked in the gym than before a jury of suits. The tension persists, but so too the belief in philosophy’s beginning."

    - Gwenda-lin Grewal, The New School for Social Research, USA, ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY 41 (1): 232-236 (2021).