Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Who the Hell is Norman L. Livergood and What Does He Want From Me?

As part of my on-going effort to streamline my web profile--for better or worse, I now have over 15 years of web resources that I've created--I recently did a search to see what came up under my name, and much to my surprise, I found a critique of a short piece I did in the 90s to introduce students to the philosophy of Socrates. It wasn't supposed to be a scholarly article, but a general overview of Socrates' thought for undergraduate students who knew absolutely nothing about the great philosopher.

The critique was written by a fellow named Norman L. Livergood, who apparently was less than smitten by what I had written:

"Mr. Russo is not particularly any worse (or better) than most academics, but his unenlightened misunderstanding of Plato is typical of scholastic 'professors.' Academic 'professors' are the modern equivalent of the charlatans Plato opposed, the sophists.

What is especially perplexing is how a scholastic so-called 'Plato expert' (self-appointed) can comprehend certain elements of Plato's philosophy and yet--in the next paragraph sometimes--totally misrepresent what Plato is saying. This kind of selective, limited understanding is particularly true of such scholars as Russo." (from: http://www.hermes-press.com/russo.htm)

I'll pass over Mr. Livergood's ad hominum attacks on me, except to point out that I certainly would never claim to be an "expert" on Plato's thought. I'm just a simple teacher of philosophy who tries to the best of his ability to make complex thought accessible to the average college student.

Concerning the content of what I wrote, the basic insight that I had expressed in the original piece would certainly be accepted as true by most well-informed Socrates scholars. Socrates' goal in cross-examining the young men of Athens undoubtedly had both a negative as well as a positive function. The negative function is obvious: it is to show the arrogant individuals with whom he is debating that they really don't know that which they profess to know. But, if this was Socrates' sole philosophical purpose, then he would have been little better than any Sophist. No, Socrates' ultimate purpose was a positive one: his method aimed at leading himself and those with who he was debating to a higher, universal truth about the right way to live.

I don't know what Mr. Livegood's own position on Socrates is because I haven't read his book (since it's only $10 I probably will check it out at some point just to see what his beef with me actually is). I would strongly encourage him, however, to cite the text version of this piece, which will be coming out in my new anthology, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Minds. I don't think that's much to ask...especially coming from a modern "Sophist" like myself


  1. Don't mess with the Livergood. He will crush you like a bug!

  2. I came across your comments after encountering Mr. Livergood's site at hermes-press. I also wondered "who he might be." I must admit the above comment gave me a chuckle... free speech and all... I wish you good fortune in your teaching and a drive to adhere to the truth.

  3. I got more than a few chuckles from Mr. Livergood, so it's only fair for me to offer some of the same!