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The concept of parresia in the History of political and juridical thought  

Reading Group of the Doctoral School in Philosophy and Human Sciences



The concept of parresia in the History of political and juridical thought:  some implications and consequences of the freedom of speech in Classical Athens


Conveners: Roberta Bonanno, Tommaso Longo

Committed: Simona Azzan , Sonia Rezzonico




A) Freedom of proposing arguments and, in general, ideas  and thoughts in an autonomous manner against the traditional moral or political values of a certain society, by which it is possible to contest and evaluate the democratic institutions and even the fundaments of the Athenian democracy.

B) The philosophical (e. g. what is a value from a philosophical point of view?) and political dimensions (e.g. what is a value from a political point of view?) are by no means deeply interconnected. Thus, their relationship and possible links have to be further investigated and assessed. Furthermore, there are several argumentations in multifold ancient Greek philosophical sources aiming to verify whether what is supposed to be a value turns out to be ultimately such from a philosophical point of view.

C) The philosophical activity as a way by which it is possible to criticize the democracy: is there a link between the philosophical research as such and the freedom of speech, which takes place in the Athenian democracy?

Does the democracy contain in itself elements, which causes it to self-destruction? If so, what is the process leading to such a situation?

E) The parresia as a critical attitude towards the nomoi. What is the specific role played by parresia in the political and juridical debate peculiar to the Athenian historical context?

F) In general, to analyze and assess the possible connections between the concept of parresia with  both the written and unwritten laws as a product of reasoning (logos) and a dialectical exchange among human beings in an institutional context.

H) To examine whether and to what extent a democratic society can tolerate divergent opinions expressed by the citizens (politai). Furthermore, it is worth asking if there is the possibility for the citizens of committing themselves into opinions or actions that are divergent in respect to the government.



Our reading group aims to analyze and assess ancient sources from both a historical and philosophical perspective. Likewise, it is useful to ask ourselves if and to what extent several argumentations put forward by ancient authors could be still regarded as interesting and intellectually stimulating.



H. Arendt, Philosophy and politics, in “Social research”, 75, 1 (1990), pp. 73-105.

R. Bultmann, Polis und Hades in der Antigone des Sophokles, in I.d., Glauben und Verstehen. Gesammelte Aufsätze, Mohr, 1952.

J. De Romilly, La loi dans la pensée grecque. Des origines à Aristote, Société d’édition Les Belles Lettres, 2001.

M.I. Finley, Democracy ancient and modern, Mason Welch Gross Lectureship Series, 1985.

M. Foucault, Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia, Berkley University Press, 1983.

P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, Belknap Press, 2004.

G.W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (translated by A. V. Miller), Oxford University Press, 1977.

R. Hirzel, W. Marg, Agraphos nomos, Arno Press, 1979.

A. Maffi, Gli studi di diritto Greco, in “Dike. Rivista di storia del diritto greco ed ellenistico”, 9 (2006), pp. 7-17.

P. Montani, Antigone e la filosofia, Hegel, Holderlin, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Bultmann, Donizzelli Editore,  2001.

M. Ostwald, Nomos and the beginnings of the Athenian democracy, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1969.

L. Strauss, On Plato’s Apology of Socrates and Crito, in Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press, 1983.

L. Strauss, Natural Right and History, University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Diels- Kranz, The older Sophists, Hackett Publishing Company, INC. 2001.

D.W. Graham, The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy. The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Plato, Republic (translated by C.D.C. Reeve), Hackett Publishing Company, INC. 2004.

Plato, The last day of Socrates (translated by H. Tarrant), Penguin Books 2003.

Sophocles, Antigone, Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, 1999.

Sophocles, Antigone (translated by D. J. Rayor), Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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