The Texas Book Festival, the venerable nonprofit that celebrates authors and their cultural contributions, has invited former dean of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff to speak. Dr. Woodruff will speak about his most recent book, The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards. The book centers on Agamemnon’s dilemma in Homer’s Illiad: how to recognize and reward two different types, so that each feels equally honored and appreciated. This year’s festival is scheduled for October 27-28, and held at the state capital building in downtown Austin. The full schedule is forthcoming.
In Homer’s Illiad, a loyal, strong, and dependable Greek soldier named Ajax lost a prize to his cunning rival Odysseus in a contest devised by the Greek general and king. As a result, the humiliated Ajax ran amok through the Greek army and ultimately took his own life. Dr. Woodruff’s book explores parallels in today’s world: can two sets of people feel recognized and honored for their contributions to a cause if both are given equal treatment? After all, Dr. Woodruff argues that “there is nothing special about being treated like everyone else.” Who, then, should be rewarded over others, and how? As Dr. Woodruff delves deeper into these questions, more themes emerge, such as the nature and function of justice and the qualities of good leadership. While the book hypothesizes that there is no definitive answer to “the Ajax dilemma,” its negative effects can be minimized. While the themes in The Ajax Dilemma are thought provoking and difficult to struggle with, the book is written simply and elegantly so that both those who are well-versed in philosophy and those who are not can enjoy it equally. Woodruff currently teaches philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has held positions for over 20 years as Dep