Organizers of philosophy conferences have devised a new kind of show. Dialogues are staged between philosophers long since dead in the persons of their latter-day interpreters. The ‘dialogues’ are ostensibly designed to let the philosophers’ thoughts rub off on each other in ways that accidents of history have prevented. Well, why not? After all, their thoughts still linger on. But if we begin to ask what can realistically be expected of these vicarious conversations between philosophers who never met, difficulties proliferate. Are the thoughts that linger with us really theirs or are they just what we find congenial when we selectively skim the textual surface? Do we share a philosophical language with them, or they with each other? By not penetrating the surface, and by failing to take account of the specific cultural contexts in which the texts arose, are whatever similarities we find, or whatever ways in which the thought of one thinker may seem to support or interestingly modify that of the other, merely specious, not in fact obscuring real and significant differences that then go unobserved?