“A thorough study of the brilliant, timeless, entertainingly abrasive thinker.Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
As in her outstanding Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker (2014), Lehmann doesn’t present an encyclopedic analysis of Socrates’s life and thought, focusing instead on themes and ideas that will (or should, anyway) provoke immediate responses from today’s readers. Here, then, she steers (more or less) clear of esoteric philosophical topics to describe her subject’s lifelong quest for clarity on ethical issues, on how to conduct a meaningful life, and on the nature of true virtue. In retracing the course of his life, she also explores his adversarial relationship with the polis of Athens as soldier, public figure, and ultimately political victim. Along with describing his trains of reason in clear, simple language, she brings him to life as a “modest but arrogant, ugly but alluring, sensuous but ascetic, mocking but earnest” force of nature who considered himself not a teacher but a sort of intellectual midwife, asking thorny questions to confound the supposedly wise but leaving it to others (us, for instance) to work out answers. This account is based on judicious use of source material and massive research and further livened throughout by frequent photos or diagrams of major Athenian buildings, sexually suggestive images on artifacts, and even an illustration of a hemlock plant. Women do get rare but occasional mentions.
A vivid, perceptive portrait aimed at spurring readers to take up the quest.”