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Unformatted text preview: 2/7/12 transcript01.html Introduction to Ancient Greek Histor : Lec
S 6, 2007<< , I' G I ?I --, C , , .I , W M .M W .M .I N P , V.S. N , W T , W , , .S I G W , ' , --?I .W ' P ofe o Donald Kagan: N , , , G - e 1 T an c ip
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C:/Users/JIMMIN~1/AppData/Local/Temp/Rar$EX14.014/ /transcript01.html , W , .I , , W . . , W . .M ,I , .O W . , , .I .T . G .T G 1/6 2/7/12 transcript01.html states called polei were republics. The differences in wealth among their citizens were relatively small. There were no kings with the wealth to hire mercenary soldiers. So the citizens had to do their own fighting and to decide when to fight. As independent defenders of the common safety and the common interest, they demanded a role in the most important political decisions. In this way, for the first time, political life really was invented. Observe that the word "political" derives from the Greek word poli . Before that no word was needed because there was no such thing. This political life came to be shared by a relatively large portion of the people and participation of political life was highly valued by the Greeks. Such states, of course, did not need a bureaucracy for there were no vast royal or state holdings that needed management and not much economic surplus to support a bureaucratic class. There was no separate caste of priests and there was very little concern, I don't mean any concern, but very little concern with life after death which was universally important in other civilizations. In this varied, dynamic, secular, and remarkably free context, there arose for the first time a speculative natural philosophy based on observation and reason, the root of modern natural science and philosophy, free to investigate or to ignore divinity. What most sets the Greeks apart is their view of the world. Where other peoples have seen sameness and continuity, the Greeks and the heirs of their way of thinking, have tended to notice disjunctions and to make distinctions. The Greek way of looking at things requires a change from the characteristic way of knowing things before the Greeks, that is to say, the use of faith, poetry, and intuition. Instead, increasingly, the Greeks focused on a reliance on reason. Reason permits a continuing rational inquiry into the nature of reality. Unlike mystical insights, scientific theories cannot be arrived at by meditation alone but require accurate observation of the world and reasoning of a kind that other human beings can criticize, analyze, modify, and correct. The adoption of this way of thinking was the beginning of the liberation and enthronement of reason to whose searching examination, the Greeks thereafter, exposed everything they perceived natural, human, and divine. From the time they formed their republics until they were conquered by alien empires, the Greeks also rejected monarchy of any kind. They thought that a human being functioning in his full capacity must live as a free man in an autonomous poli ruled by laws that were the product of the political community and not of an arbitrary fiat from some man or god. These are ideas about laws and justice that have simply not flourished outside the Western tradition until places that were outside the Western tradition were influenced by the West. The Greeks, however, combined a unique sense of mankind's high place in the natural order. The Greeks had the most arrogant view of their relationship to the divinity, as I will tell you about later in the course, of any people I know. So on the one hand, they had this very high picture of this place of man, but they combined it--excuse me, and what possibilities these human beings had before that--with a painful understanding of the limitations of the greatness and the possibilities before man. This combination of elevating the greatness in reality and in possibility of human beings with the limitations of it, the greatest limitation being mortality; that together, composes the tragic vision of the human condition that characterized classical Greek civilization. To cope with it, they urged human beings to restrain their overarching ambitions. Inscribed at Apollo's temple at Delphi, which became well, the Greeks came to call it the navel of the universe, but it certainly became the center of the Greek world--and which was also seen as a central place of importance by non-Greeks who were on the borders of the Greek world. That temple at Delphi had written above the Temple these words, "Know Thyself," and another statement, "Nothing in Excess." I think those together really mean this: know your own limitations as a fallible mortal and then exercise moderation because you are not divine, you are mortal.
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3/6 C:/Users/JIMMIN~1/AppData/Local/Temp/Rar$EX14.014/ 2/7/12 transcript01.html powers establishing their rights to conduct their own affairs and to govern themselves. In Italy, some of these cities were able to gain control of the surrounding country and to become city states, resembling those of the ancient Greeks. Their autonomy was assisted by the continuing struggle between Popes and Emperors, between church and state, again, a thoroughly unique Western experience. In these states, the modern world began to take form. Although the people were mainly Christians, their life and outlook became increasingly secular. Here, and not only in Italy but in other cities north of the Alps, arose a worldview that celebrated the greatness and dignity of mankind, which was a very sharp turning away from the medieval Western tradition that put God and life in the hereafter at the center of everything. This new vision is revealed with flamboyant confidence by Pico della Mir ndola, a Florentine thinker, who said-wrote the following: "God told man that we, meaning God, have made the neither of Heaven nor of Earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with freedom of choice and with honor, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer. Oh supreme generosity of God the Father, oh highest and the most great felicity of man, to Him it is granted to have whatever He chooses to be whatever He wills." Now, this is a remarkable leap, even beyond the humanism of the Greeks, something brand new in the world. According to this view, man is not merely the measure of all things as the Greek Sophist Protagoras had radically proclaimed in the fifth century. He is, in fact says Pico, more than mortal. He is unlimited by nature. He is entirely free to shape himself and to acquire whatever he wants. Please observe too that it is not his reason that will determine human actions but his will alone, free of the moderating control of reason. Another Florentine, Machiavelli, moved further in the same direction. For him, and I quote him, "Fortune is a woman and it is necessary to hold her down and beat her, and fight with her." A notion that the Greeks would have regarded as dangerously arrogant and certain to produce disaster. They would have seen this as an example of the word that they used, and we'll talk about a lot in this course, h bris, a kind of violent arrogance which comes upon men when they see themselves as more than human and behave as though they were divine. Francis Bacon, influenced by Machiavelli, urged human beings to employ their reason to force nature to give up its secrets, to treat nature like a woman, to master nature in order to improve man's material well being. He assumed that such a course would lead to progress and the general improvement of the human condition, and it was that sort of thinking that lay at the heart of the scientific revolution and remains the faith on which modern science and technology rest. A couple of other English political philosophers, Hobbs and Locke, applied a similar novelty and modernity to the sphere of politics. Basing their understanding on the common passions of man for a comfortable selfpreservation and discovering something the Greeks had never thought of, something they called natural rights that belonged to a man either as part of nature, or as the gift of a benevolent and a reasonable god. Man was seen as a solitary creature, not inherently a part of society. That is totally un-Greek. And his basic rights were seen to be absolute, for nothing must interfere with the right of each individual to defend his life, liberty, and property. Freedom was threatened in early modern times by the emergence of monarchies that might have been able to crush it. But the cause of individual freedom was enhanced by the Protestant Reformation. Another upheaval within Christianity arising from its focus on individual salvation, its inheritance of a tradition of penetrating reason, applied even to matters of faith and to the continuing struggle between church and state. The English Revolution came about, in large part, because of King Charles' attempt to impose an alien religious conformity, as well as tighter political control on his kingdom. But in England, the tradition of freedom and government bound by law was already strong enough to produce effective resistance. From the ensuing rebellion
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/transcript01.html 5/6 2/7/12 transcript01.html po e of he pe io indi id al o an fo m and hape hi o n na e, o of he mode n o ali a ian effo o change he na e of h mani b opian ocial enginee ing, he emp a ion o a ogance offe ed b he idea and o ldl cce of he mode n We h ea en i o n g ea adi ion and achie emen . Beca e of We e n ci ili a ion' eme gence a he e empla ci ili a ion, i al o p e en p oblem o he hole o ld. The challenge p e en ed b f eedom and he p edominance of ea on canno be igno ed, no can he be me b eco e o he e pe ience of o he c l e he e he e cha ac e i ic ha e no been p ominen . In o he o d , o nde and and cope i h he p oblem ha e all face, e all need o kno and o g apple i h he We e n e pe ience. In m ie , e need e peciall o e amine he olde adi ion of he We ha came befo e he mode n e a, and o ake e io l he po ibili ha ef l i dom can be fo nd he e, e peciall among he G eek ho began i all. The nde ood he po en iali of h man being , hei limi a ion and he p edicamen in hich he li e. Man i po en and impo an , e he i fallible and mo al, capable of he g ea e achie emen and he o c ime . He i hen a agic fig e, po e f l b limi ed, i h f eedom o choo e and ac , b bo nd b hi o n na e, kno ing ha he ill ne e achie e pe fec kno ledge and nde anding, j ice and happine , b de e mined o con in e he ea ch no ma e ha . To me ha eem an acc a e de c ip ion of he h man condi ion ha i meaningf l, no onl fo he G eek and hei hei in he We , b fo all h man being . I i an nde anding ha canno be achie ed i ho a e io e amina ion of he We e n e pe ience. The abandonmen of ch a d o i ad l e a ion fo c en poli ical p po e o ld be a e ible lo fo all of h mani , and a he ba e, a he oo of ha ci ili a ion ood he G eek . The e a e he ea on h I e amined hei e pe ience and I h o a e hinking abo lea ning abo i . Thank o . I'll ee o g , ome of o , ne T e da . [end of an c ip ] back o op C:/Users/JIMMIN~1/AppData/Local/Temp/Rar$EX14.014/ /transcript01.html 6/6 ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/07/2012 for the course ECON 159 taught by Professor Benjaminpolak during the Fall '08 term at Yale.
- Fall '08