It’s getting closer and closer to our first Action Speaks panel of the year on Las Vegas! Joining Larry Gragg and Natasha Dow Schull on October 3rd will be our third and final Las Vegas panelist, David Konstan! David’s research centers around ancient Greek and Latin literature. Though this may initially seem at odds with a topic like Las Vegas, his focus is on the Greek conception of beauty and materiality, fully resonate within Las Vegas as a city and a culture. His book, “A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus” published in 2008 (in Vegas, no less!) looks at the ideas of Ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, who believed a happy life was one lived without pain and fear. David demonstrates that a societal system that is based on materialism provides irrational desires and therefore anxieties, which inhibits our enjoyment of life to the fullest. As David explains:
“There is a deep problem with beauty. Beauty is commonly equated with sexual attractiveness. Yet there is also the beauty of art, which arouses an aesthetic response of disinterested contemplation. Are there, then, two kinds of beauty? By looking back at the classical Greek conception of beauty, we may see how it gave rise to the modern dilemma, and some possible ways of resolving it.”
David Konstan holds a B.A. in mathematics but it was in senior year of college when he began studying ancient Greek and Latin, and went on to obtain a doctorate in classics. He taught at Wesleyan University from 1967 to 1987, and at Brown University from 1987 to 2010, until joining the faculty at NYU where he is a Professor of Classics today. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded NEH, ACLS, and Guggenheim fellowships, among others. We welcome David back to Providence for an evening of thoughtful discussion and debate on the utopic/dystopic dichotomy surrounding Las Vegas.