THE GREEK NATIONAL CHARACTER
The primary sources used herein are specified throughout. Hyperlinks to web sites are provided. John Burnet's site (Early Greek Philosophy) on presocratic philosophy is especially noteworthy in that it contains extensive primary source fragments, and commentary. Other secondary sources are listed below:
Andrewes, A. The Greeks. N.Y.: Norton, 1967.
Bowra, C.M. The Greek Experience. N.Y.: Mentor Books, 1959.
Campbell, J. The Power of Myth. New York; Doubleday, 1988.
Durant, W. The Life of Greece. N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1939.
Graves, R. The Greek Myths. 2 Vols. N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1988.
Herzberg, M. Myths and Their Meaning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon Inc., 1984
The so-called "golden age of Greece" (5th Century BCE) marked a time of unprecedented intellectual achievement. Whether we consider art, architecture, philosophy, literature, law, politics or medicine, it was all here: One could learn from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, Thucydides and Sophocles, just to name a few. To appreciate the culture is to understand concept alien to our society--integration. In the Seventeenth Century, the poet John Donne understood, but ironically the neoclassical critic Dr. Johnson relegated him to artistic obscurity until our own time, when T.S. Eliot's more perceptive criticisms prevailed. Donne's images although "heterogeneous" were not "yoked together by violence," and he did not violate the mimetic theory, but rather the images were unified by the force of the poet's mind. Donne wanted diversity, but diversity that saw unity behind it. We have seen that some of the presocratics, Parmenides and Democritus, for example, also looked for unity. So did Socrates and Plato.
When Anaxagoras noted,
(12)All other things partake in a portion of everything,
while Nous is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with
nothing, but is alone, itself by itself. For if it were not
by itself, but were mixed with anything else, it would
partake in all things if it were mixed with any; for in
everything there is a portion of everything, as has been
said by me in what goes before, and the things mixed
with it would hinder it, so that it would have power over
nothing in the same way that it has now being alone by
itself. For it is the thinnest of all things and the purest,
and it has all knowledge about everything and the
greatest strength; and Nous has power over all things,
both greater and smaller, that have life. And Nous had
power over the whole revolution, so that it began to
revolve in the beginning. And it began to revolve first
from a small beginning; but the revolution now extends
over a larger space, and will extend over a larger still.
And all the things that are mingled together and
separated off and distinguished are all known by
Nous. And Nous set in order all things that were to be,
and all things that were and are not now and that are,
and this revolution in which now revolve the stars and
the sun and the moon, and the air and the aether that
are separated off. And this revolution caused the
separating off, and the rare is separated off from the
dense, the warm from the cold, the light from the dark,
and the dry from the moist. And there are many
portions in many things. But no thing is altogether
separated off nor distinguished from anything else
except Nous. And all Nous is alike, both the greater
and the smaller; while nothing else is like anything
else, but each single thing is and was most manifestly
those things of which it has most in it. R. P. 155.
(13) And when Nous began to move things, separating
off took place from all that was moved, and so much as
Nous set in motion was all separated. And as things
were set in motion and separated, the revolution caused
them to be separated much more.
(14) And Nous, which ever is, is certainly there, where
everything else is, in the surrounding mass, and in what
has been united with it and separated off from it.
Aristotle and Plato seemed impressed, but John Burnet in Early Greek Philosophy wrote,
Like Empedocles, Anaxagoras required some external cause to produce
motion in the mixture. Body, Parmenides had shown, would never move
itself, as the Milesians had assumed. Anaxagoras called the cause of
motion by the name of Nous. It was this which made Aristotle say that
he "stood out like a sober man from the random talkers that had
preceded him," and he has often been credited with the introduction of
the spiritual into philosophy. The disappointment expressed by Socrates
in the Phaedo as to the way in which Anaxagoras worked out the
theory should, however, make us pause to reflect before accepting too
exalted a view of it. Plato makes Socrates say: "I once heard a man
reading a book, as he said, of Anaxagoras, and saying it was Mind that
ordered the world and was the cause of all things. I was delighted to
hear of this cause, and I thought he really was right.... But my
extravagant expectations were all dashed to the ground when I went on
and found that the man made no use of Mind at all. He ascribed no
causal power whatever to if in the ordering of things, but to airs, and
aethers, and waters, and a host of other strange things." Aristotle, of
course with this passage in mind, says: "Anaxagoras uses Mind as a
deus ex machine to account for the formation of the world; and
whenever he is at a loss to explain why anything necessarily is, he drags
it in. But in other cases he makes anything rather than Mind the cause."
These utterances may well suggest that the Nous of Anaxagoras was
something on the same level as the Love and Strife of Empedocles, and
this will be confirmed when we look at what he has to say about it.
Plato was looking for something more, a "something" that has become a commonplace in philosophy: the doctrine of the forms as articulated especially in the Republic. The national character of the Greeks emerged in the fifth century as a synthesis of opposites:
ignorance and strength
the beautiful and the grotesque
victory and defeat
speculation and pragmatism
faith and skepticism
comedy and tragedy
health and disease
Athens and Sparta
Freedom and restraint
To understand how these opposites for one brief moment in time synthesized is to grasp the ancient definition of wisdom. We think of education today as formal schooling, and we also know that SOPHIE found it boring. I once had a professor who said that education gets in the way of learning, and learning is certainly more than the sum of what one memorizes in school. If we forget at least 60% of the factual knowledge the school mandates we learn, then what is left is our educational experience. I invite you to recall that SOPHIE is coming to believe that the "unexamined life is not worth living," so let us examine what shaped the Greek national character in the 5th Century BCE.
496--BIRTH OF SOPHOCLES--tragic dramatist 490--PERSIAN WAR 480--THE GOLDEN AGE OF GREECE:
460--BIRTH OF THUCYDIDES--the father of history 449-END OF THE PERSIAN WARS--the supremacy of Athens...(Sparta?) 431--THUCYDIDES--the funeral orations of Pericles (Note there are two--contrast the tone 429--DEATH OF PERICLES--THE EFFECTS OF THE PLAGUE--Oedipus 406--DEATH OF SOPHOCLES 404--DEFEAT OF ATHENS 400--END OF THE HISTORY OF THUCYDIDES 399--DEATH OF SOCRATES--The Apology
T I M E L I N E
490--BIRTH OF PERICLES
469--SOCRATES--philosopher and literary persona for Plato
496--BIRTH OF SOPHOCLES--tragic dramatist
480--THE GOLDEN AGE OF GREECE:
460--BIRTH OF THUCYDIDES--the father of history
449-END OF THE PERSIAN WARS--the supremacy of Athens...(Sparta?)
431--THUCYDIDES--the funeral orations of Pericles (Note there are two--contrast the tone
429--DEATH OF PERICLES--THE EFFECTS OF THE PLAGUE--Oedipus
406--DEATH OF SOPHOCLES
404--DEFEAT OF ATHENS
400--END OF THE HISTORY OF THUCYDIDES
399--DEATH OF SOCRATES--The Apology
We will examine three writers: Thucydides, ( 460-400) Pericles (490-429) and Socrates.,(469-399) What did each believe that helped to define Greece.
AS YOU EXAMINE THE ON LINE SOURCES, NOTE THE FOLLOWING CONCEPTS REFLECTED IN THEIR WRITINGS. BE ABLE TO CITE THE TEXTS FOR RELEVANT EXAMPLES:
1. IMPOSITION OF LIMITS:
How does the Greek national character derive the idea that to be free in the truest sense of the term, one must impose limits. How are they imposed and by whom; what for example does Plato believe about societies that over-legislate? Where does the responsibility lie? An excellent 20th century novel that explores this issues from a philosophical perspective is HEART OF DARKNESS by Conrad.
Shakespeare's King Lear pays a terrible price for "ever but slenderly knowing himself." It costs him his sanity. Why? On the temple of Apollo was inscribed, "Know thyself." What does the phrase mean? Look to the elements of the soul as described in The Republic, as you read the relevant selections. How does one come to know him/her self? What does SOPHIE accomplish in her quest for self knowledge? Perhaps Plato's idea of the dialectic would be worth pursuing.
3. LAWS ARE NECESSARY RELATIONS SPRINGING FROM THE NATURE OF THINGS:
We have seen that the presocratic philosophers looked to nature. Philosophy began by inquiring into the nature of what was observe--opposites, change etc. Were these "natural philosophers" the first scientists? Did they discover any laws? What is a law by the way? Are there laws in philosophy? What did Plato think: first principles must be treated as assumptions. Why? Did Plato accept the presocratic's "laws?" For what was he looking. For what was he looking that the presocratics were on the verge of discovering?
4. IDEALIZED MAN--THE DIVINE IN THE HUMAN:
We speak today of classical humanism, and Protagoras told us that "man is the measure of all things." How do you think Sophocles felt about such a belief? Is MAN the measure of ALL things? What was happening in Athens that made MEASURE such an important word? What do you think Plato understood by the DIVINE? Were the Homeric gods accepted as literal beings in the 5th century? Read Oedipus, paying careful attention to the choral odes. Look at Greek architecture. What do you notice about the human figure? Remember that we are in a time when conventional religious dogma was being challenged. By whom? Can virtue be taught and by whom? Socrates was put on trial (read the Apology), and one of the charges was corrupting the youth of Athens by showing disrespect for the gods. As you examine the work, what do you believe?
What do you notice about Greek art?
5. OBEDIENCE CANNOT BE ENFORCED:
In Heart of Darkness, a powerful symbol is the police officer. What do the police represent in society, and what would happen if they were to all disappear in a large city all at once? Why do so many people break traffic laws even when police are possibly present? When do we obey and why? Does the idea of restraint play a role in the "examined life?" What dispositions must be cultivated for restraint to be present. Aristotle spoke of happiness as activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Check the Nicomachean Ethics. Note that SOPHIE has to be admonished not to seek the identify of her "teacher" too soon. In the popular culture, in the film epic Star Wars, patterned after the Homeric epics, Luke is warned by Yoda (philosopher king?) not to abandon his training as a Jedi Knight too soon. In so doing, he runs the risk of being corrupted by the dark side of the "Force." Does Plato have a similar warning in The Republic?
6. THE POLIS:
Why do people like to travel? What cultural resources would a city provide? Recent tensions in the Middle East, for example, have alarmed governments since the economy depends so heavily on the tourist industry--i.e., the Valley of the Kings. In Athens of the 5th Century BCE, the polis, the city state, was an educational experience, providing for the social, moral, philosophical and scientific education of the people designed to enhance general excellence; the foundation of what we call today, a liberal education. Imagine discussing history with Thucydides, philosophy with Socrates and politics with Pericles. Read the first funeral oration of Pericles. What values did he believe the state ought to transmit to the next generation? What did Plato and Aristotle think about education. Plato's doctrines of innate knowledge, the process of conversion and the allegories of the line and cave remain the foundation of what education ought to do, and Aristotle's "golden mean" becomes the basis of his teaching that one cannot be virtuous without performing virtuously. Perhaps central to the issue is whether virtue can be taught. See Plato's Meno. Central to the question is the Greek premise that the knowledgeable person is the good person. Has this premise remained viable today? Pericles said, "...the man who can most truly be accounted brave is he who best knows the meaning of what is sweet in life and of what is terrible, and then goes out undeterred to meet what is to come."
7. THE TEACHERS:
One legacy of the presocratics was a belief that the universe could be understood in scientific terms, and that included human nature as well. Such implies a belief that if laws of nature can be discovered and if human behavior can imitate those laws, then a perfect society--the polis of Athens might emerge: "Man is the measure of all things..." In a direct participatory democracy, a literate and educated populace was also a necessary condition for survival. Groups of professional teachers called Sophists came to Athens looking to teach anyside of an issue to anyone willing to pay for it. Such implied a moral relativism, in that truth was no longer objectively knowable in all instances, but contingent on circumstances. Further, the gods were no longer seen as literal beings, but mythical figments designed to explain that which science had not yet discovered; the prevailing intellectual climate was thus skepticism, a philosophy that taught one must not accept a truth as truth without verification. Such was the intellectual climate that questioned assumptions --i.e., the dialectic. In the Seventeenth Century, Galileo's astronomy likewise seemed a threat to religious orthodoxy, and he like Socrates was condemned by an educational establishment that feared change. Conversely, religious conservatives like Sophocles (Oedipus) warned that the gods would exact a terrible revenge on any who blasphemed them. May of Plato's dialogues, using the literary persona of Socrates, dramatize the apparent ease with which the Sophists' arguments collapsed. In the Meno, for example, Meno as a teacher of virtue is forced to admit that he cannot define the term!
Note the core of the argument: WHAT IS VIRTUE? / CAN VIRTUE BE TAUGHT?
I. HYPOTHESIS: (KEEPING IN MIND THE DIALECTIC...TREATING FIRST_______AS__________.)
II. THAT WHICH IS CAPABLE OF BEING TAUGHT- IT MUST BE KNOWLEDGE
III. IS VIRTUE = SOMETHING GOOD = KNOWLEDGE & THEREFORE THAT WHICH IS TEACHABLE (THE GOOD IS TEACHABLE)
IV. HYPOTHESIS: IF GOOD THINGS ARE ADVANTAGEOUS; THEREFORE VIRTUE IS ADVANTAGEOUS
V. APPLY THE DIALECTIC : HEALTH, LOOKS, WEALTH ADVANTAGEOUS, BUT MAY NOT BE GOOD.
A. CONTINGENT ON RIGHT USE OF...
B. JUSTICE, COURAGE,
C. SUCH MUST BE GUIDED BY WISDOM (?)--WE NEED THE CAVE AND THE LINE...
VI. VIRTUE MUST BE A SORT OF WISDOM (SERVES AS A GUIDE)
VII. RIGHT CHOICE DEPENDS ON PHILOSOPHICAL (DIALECTICAL) CHARACTER WHICH DEPENDS ON WISDOM:
A. WISDOM IS THAT WHICH IS ADVANTAGEOUS
B. VIRTUE IS ADVANTAGEOUS, SO VIRTUE = WISDOM
VIII. SINCE WISDOM FORMS CHARACTER, THEN GOODNESS IS NOT INNATE (VERY CONTROVERSIAL IN PLATO):
A. DOES GOODNESS COME BY EDUCATION ?
B. IF SO, THEN THERE HAS TO BE TEACHERS
IX. WHO ARE THEY?
B. CLAIMED TO BE ABLE TO TEACH ANYTHING TO ANYONE FOR A FEE (SOUND - BITE SPECIALISTS)
C. EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT THE BEST EDUCATED MEN AND WOMEN DO NOT NECESSARILY HAVE MORAL OFF SPRING
X. CONFUSION--NO ONE CAN DETERMINE THE CRITERIA FOR WHAT VIRTUE IS, SO HOW CAN SOMETHING BE TAUGHT THAT CANNOT BE DEFINED?
XI. VIRTUE SEEMS TO REQUIRE:
A. KNOWLEDGE (OF THE G __ __ __)
B. RIGHT OPINION--THIS IS SUBJECT TO FLUX (HERACLITUS)
XII. IF VIRTUE CANNOT BE TAUGHT, THEN IT IS NOT KNOWLEDGE
XIII. "WHERE VIRTUE IS CONCERNED, SUCH A MAN WOULD BE JUST THAT, A SOLID REALITY AMONG SHADOWS
The ending of Meno was prophetic; one cannot question authority indefinitely, especially in the throws of a military defeat. A scapegoat must be found. Anytus warns Socrates that, "...you seem to me, Socrates, to be too ready to run people down." [94e]. Anytus will charge Socrates with corrupting youth, blasphemy and anti-democratic sentiments. Socrates' Apology [defense] is his reply. We must note that he could have paid a fine or left the city, but he chose to stay and face death for the truth he had defended all of his philosophical career.
8. THE CONTENT OF THE CURRICULUM--MYTH TO PHILOSOPHY TO SCIENCE:
(See the bibliography at the top of the page.)
I. Primary sources:
A. Homer and Hesiod
B. anthropomorphic of the culture: the gods are needed to explain...
2. seasonal tasks and cults
3. emotional terrors
...A simple but important example for readers of the ODYSSEY is the Greek attitude toward the sea. They depended on fishing for much of their food and, on communication with the islands for their trade. But they were terrified by the open water, they hugged the coast, rarely venturing out far from home as the western end of the Mediterranean. The need for navigational techniques was a necessary condition for survival. The so-called "fairy tale" elements of the ODYSSEY were early attempts, like today's science fiction, to make the unknown known. Trying to navigate hostile seas in fragile crafts must have been a terrifying experience, as the defeat at Salamis (480) was for the Persians. What did the gods intend?
The conception of a natural force as a supernatural being gave rise to many myths which myths became the basis for rituals that his worshipers performed in an effort to make contact with the gods . Mythology then is the essence of ancient religion.
Rituals and myths varied from place to place. Greek mythology might be though of as "political cartoons" that embody (not at times without satire which should be an indication of....?) elemental truths about a culture's development. As such they are fundamentally mimetic. In Greece the "elemental truths" involve what archeology has confirmed--the "...movement from the matriarchal to the patriarchal perspective--from a dominate mother goddess [Gaea], whose realm is the earth and who embodies fertility, to a dominate male sky god who embodies vast power above the earth." [Uranus]. In an agrarian culture, naturally the earth would be worshiped as a source of life. Each tribe glorified a fertility goddess, since from the male perspective, procreation was unknown. From this worship came the fundamental cycle archetype of birth-life-death-rebirth etc. Additionally, since life and death seemed to come from darkness, the moon (in its phases) became associated with this worship. Each tribe had a priestess who embodied the will of the goddess:
I am the natural mother of all life, the ruler of the elements, the first being, the chief of all gods, the queen of the world below, the first of those in the world above. I govern the light in the sky, the winds in the ocean...My single divine nature is worshiped throughout the world in many forms. Thus early races call me Athena ...Aphrodite...Artemis...Hera....
All women were considered her daughters.
Archeology suggests that as aggressive tribes (Achaeans) invaded what would become Greece, their male-dominated religions fused with the female ones described above, and this fusion generated the Olympian gods and goddesses familiar to readers of Homer. In practice the female fertility goddess acquires a male consort, a so-called "sacred-king" who in his youth would be sacrificed so his vitality would be preserved in his successor. Historically, this suggests the Hellenic invasion of, for example, Crete. Archeologists (Evans) confirmed that Knossus was advanced but relatively unfortified. This sacrifice has its parallels. The female 'opposite' gave birth to and nourished the male 'opposite' called Uranus (Sky). Thus the male is above the female, implying of course the mode for procreation (micro), and a fertile harvest (macro): sperm rains down.
The early myths are not without some rather horrid details that probably mime historical reality. Uranus bore Gaea generations of children, some of whom (Titans) were destined to precede the Olympian gods: e.g. Cronus-Zeus Uranus fearing rebellion in his children imprisoned them; Enraged, they and Gaea plotted revenge:
CRONUS: "I will promise to help you punish cruel Uranus..." As day light faded into dusk...Uranus arrived bringing with him the blanket of night. Desiring Gaea's comfort and love, he...embraced his wife, unaware that he lay within an arm's reach of treachery...The reclining god could not see the huge, black sickle shaped shadow waving menacingly above his body. Cronos castrated his father and threw his testicles into the sea.
Of this incident, Hesiod writes,
...with his right hand he
grasped the huge, long, and sharp-toothed sickle and swiftly hacked
off his father's genitals and tossed them behind him and they were not flung from his hand in vain.
Gaia took in all the bloody drops that spattered off, and as the seasons of the year tuned round she bore the potent Furies ...
As soon as Kronos had lopped off the genitals with the sickle,
he tossed them from the land into the stormy sea.
And as they were carried by the sea a long time, all around them
white foam rose from the god's flesh and in this foam a maiden was nurtured...
Both gods and men call her Aphrodite because she grew out of AFROS, foam that is And here is the power she had form the start...
from her comes young girl's whispers and smiles and deception
and honey-sweet love and its joyful pleasures.
Thus is explained the birth of a goddess important in Homer . Recall also her role in the critical judgement of Paris that led to the war. Historically the incident may explain the strong conservative resistance to paternal religions, fused with the agricultural fertility archetype. Helen, for example, was also the name of a Spartan "moon-goddess", marriage to whom made Menelaus a sacred king. During the trade wars, and piracy of the times, woman may have been carried off as slaves in retaliation for a Greek attack on Troy. Note there is a scene in the Odyssey that deals with the issues discussed here in a somewhat satiric and ironic mode.
Zeus represents the male archetype in the Olympian hierarchy; his frequent sexual liaisons suggest the fusion of the male with the various maternal religions. The fact that RAPE often occurs suggests violent resistance to change. See Iliad: XIV, 375 ff.
Hera etc. represent female fertility goddesses. Her name means "protectress." The birth of Athena (wisdom/courage) from Zeus' head implies a "desperate attempt" to rid her of matriarchal conditions. Wisdom was to be seen as a male prerogative.
Historically the suitors of Helen may have been those wishing to negotiate trade rights for the confederacy to navigate the Hellespont. In fact, the naval war to interrupt Troy's hegemony might have taken ten years as opposed to the siege itself. All of this followed the fall of Crete as various tribes on the mainland tried to shape economic destiny.
"Thus a God supreme in one city might just be a rumor in another town. The power of love might be represented in adjacent seaports by vividly different goddesses. The appearance of these deities, as revealed in statues, cave murals, and gold jewelry and coins, would depend on the talent of the local wood carver, stone cutter, and metal worker. No one objected to such diversity of religious notions, keeping in mind however, the male/female contest noted earlier. Everybody wanted a local patron god as his own special protector, and polytheism was the only type of religion that made sense in the ancient world of chaos." Note in this connection that the Greek definition of creation is bringing order out of chaos.
Here Homer exerted immeasurable influence in shaping the Greek notion of gods. In all this apparent diversity of cosmic forces, Homer saw unity or reconciliation of opposites. In the ODYSSEY, he portrays the gods in a well organized hierarchy, which is one of the ancestors of what will become the most important idea in the west--the chain of being.
In other words, from hordes of gods and goddesses whom he had heard about in his travels--gods local, vague, and various, Homer selected and glorified those that seemed to represent mans spiritual needs and ideals. Note that these are concepts that have both a philosophical and scientific base:
the need to belong
the need for love
the need for order
the need for family
the need for justice
He depicted all of them as really different of the same father god--Zeus. He invested these gods with memorable personalities--they are anthropomorphic, and he gave them distinct attributes so that each could be visualized by a listening audience. Note in the ODYSSEY especially the roles of Poseidon and Athena and Zeus. Homer depicted the gods as agents of the civilizing virtues and customs: removal and burial of the dead, hospitality to travelers and strangers, respect for life and property, and a sense of balance and order:proportion. Bowra notes:
II. Gods are needed to explain the inexplicable:
A. gods had both a macro and micro function--universe and man
B. anthropomorphic--the seed of homocentricism was already planted
C. gave men self-respect: man = gods, except gods were immortal and had one essential difference--power
D."Yet we can in greatness of mind / Or of body be like the immortals. (Pindar)
III. How do the gods and man make contact?
A. expiation--the sacrifice of Iphigenia
B. shift to hospitality and feasting
D. prayer elements: Invocation (prayer); Sanction (worthiness of the supplicator; Entreaty (the request)
C. contact through prophecy such as Delphi (part of a belief system)
IV. Failure to act as promised:
A. can a god betray a humans trust?
B. can a prophecy be misread?
C. Thucydides and the Oracles prophecy that Sparta would win the war
V. Divine wrath:
A. the suffering Oedipus and the will of the gods
B. Apollos punishing of the Greeks
C. Aphrodite's silencing Helen
VI. Those who follow their own inclinations will suffer--hubris
A. the gods give what is good, but men pervert the goodness and come to folly--start of scientific rationalism.
B. Recall what Zeus says in the opening of the Odyssey: "See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make love to Agamemnon's wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though he knew it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him not to do either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure to take his revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury told him this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he has paid for everything in full."
VII. The gods seem to laugh at man, which perhaps makes them less dignified than us, but in reality good and evil have little meaning for the gods; they are like what we would be if we gave free reign to desire
A. This idea is expressed in the Iliad with the parable of the urns of Zeus
B. the gods are supposed to reward virtue and punish evil; as the last book of The Republic states, but sometimes the wicked seem to prosper.
1--warning of Sophocles in Oedipus:
My lot be still to lead
The life of innocence and fly
Irreverence in word or deed,
To follow still those laws ordained on high
Whose birthplace is the bright ethereal sky
No mortal birth they own,
Olympus their progenitor alone:
Ne'er shall they slumber in oblivion cold,
The god in them is strong and grows not old.
Of insolence is bred
The tyrant; insolence full blown,
With empty riches surfeited,
Scales the precipitous height and grasps the throne.
Then topples o'er and lies in ruin prone;
No foothold on that dizzy steep.
But O may Heaven the true patriot keep
Who burns with emulous zeal to serve the State.
God is my help and hope, on him I wait.
But the proud sinner, or in word or deed,
That will not Justice heed,
Nor reverence the shrine
Of images divine,
Perdition seize his vain imaginings,
If, urged by greed profane,
He grasps at ill-got gain,
And lays an impious hand on holiest things.
Who when such deeds are done
Can hope heaven's bolts to shun?
If sin like this to honor can aspire,
Why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?
No more I'll seek earth's central oracle,
Or Abae's hallowed cell,
Nor to Olympia bring
My votive offering.
If before all God's truth be not bade plain.
O Zeus, reveal thy might,
King, if thou'rt named aright
Omnipotent, all-seeing, as of old;
For Laius is forgot;
His weird, men heed it not;
Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.
2.--So Zeus avenges, and unlike a mortal / He is not swift to wrath ...one may pay now, another later... Vengeance / Will come to those who flea the wrath of god
VIII. Shift to Philosophy:
A. Zeus at the conclusion of the Iliad
B. rational inquiry-Plato and justice; Aristotles Ethics and the mean
C. the philosophical notion is the goodness of an action likes in the action itself--it is intrinsically excellent
D. This rational approach came in part from what the gods represented
1--Zeus = justice
2--Athena = wisdom
3- Apollo = balance and moderation
IX. Religion stressed human dignity and suggested there was a reality beyond the physical that nonetheless actually existed.
A. Ironically, in Greek religion there is not a relationship between god and men based on love; the operative emotion seems to be fear.
B. In the Odyssey, though, mutual respect plays a part, and the notion in Christianity that all deserve to be loved regardless of accomplishmentsis not present
C. The gods themselves fight in the Trojan war and are not at peace.
X. Gradually the beliefs in the gods as literal beings waned as philosophy and science gained support
A. the notions began to arise of GOD (singular) as a maker, as in the Timaeus dialogue, or Aristotles pure act, but the problem of human contact is a serious issue.
B. Platos Laws (X) (Jewett translation) is important:. Socrates is not in this dialgoue which discusses what kind of law the state should enact. The conversation is between an Athenian, a Spartan and a Cretan.
At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe.
Cle. One such teacher, O Stranger, would be bad enough, and you imply that there are many of them, which is worse.
Ath. Well, then; what shall we say or do?-Shall we assume that some one is accusing us among unholy men, who are trying to escape from the effect of our legislation; and that they say of us-How dreadful that you should legislate on the supposition that there are Gods! Shall we make a defence of ourselves? or shall we leave them and return to our laws, lest the prelude should become longer than the law? For the discourse will certainly extend to great length, if we are to treat the impiously disposed as they desire, partly demonstrating to them at some length the things of which they demand an explanation, partly making them afraid or dissatisfied, and then proceed to the requisite enactments.
Cle. Yes, Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be preferred to length; who is "at our heels"?-as the saying goes, and it would be paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It is a matter of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove that there are Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more than men do. The demonstration of this would be the best and noblest prelude of all our laws. And therefore, without impatience, and without hurry, let us unreservedly consider the whole matter, summoning up all the power of persuasion which we possess.
Ath. Seeing you thus in earnest, I would fain offer up a prayer that I may succeed:-but I must proceed at once. Who can be calm when he is called upon to prove the existence of the Gods? Who can avoid hating and abhorring the men who are and have been the cause of this argument; I speak of those who will not believe the tales which they have heard as babes and sucklings from their mothers and nurses, repeated by them both in jest and earnest, like charms, who have also heard them in the sacrificial prayers, and seen sights accompanying them-sights and sounds delightful to children-and their parents during the sacrifices showing an intense earnestness on behalf of their children and of themselves, and with eager interest talking to the Gods, and beseeching them, as though they were firmly convinced of their existence; who likewise see and hear the prostrations and invocations which are made by Hellenes and barbarians at the rising and setting of the sun and moon, in all the vicissitudes of life, not as if they thought that there were no Gods, but as if there could be no doubt of their existence, and no suspicion of their non-existence; when men, knowing all these things, despise them on no real grounds, as would be admitted by all who have any particle of intelligence, and when they force us to say what we are now saying, how can any one in gentle terms remonstrate with the like of them, when he has to begin by proving to them the very existence of the Gods? Yet the attempt must be made; for it would be unseemly that one half of mankind should go mad in their lust of pleasure, and the other half in their indignation at such persons. Our address to these lost and perverted natures should not be spoken in passion; let us suppose ourselves to select some one of them, and gently reason with him, smothering our anger:-O my son, we will say to him, you are young, and the advance of time will make you reverse may of the opinions which you now hold. Wait awhile, and do not attempt to judge at present of the highest things; and that is the highest of which you now think nothing-to know the Gods rightly and to live accordingly. And in the first place let me indicate to you one point which is of great importance, and about which I cannot be deceived:-You and your friends are not the first who have held this opinion about the Gods. There have always been persons more or less numerous who have had the same disorder. I have known many of them, and can tell you, that no one who had taken up in youth this opinion, that the Gods do not exist, ever continued in the same until he was old; the two other notions certainly do continue in some cases, but not in many; the notion, I mean, that the Gods exist, but take no heed of human things, and the other notion that they do take heed of them, but are easily propitiated with sacrifices and prayers. As to the opinion about the Gods which may some day become clear to you, I advise you go wait and consider if it be true or not; ask of others, and above all of the legislator. In the meantime take care that you do not offend against the Gods. For the duty of the legislator is and always will be to teach you the truth of these matters.
XI. Is there a form of god behind all of the variations, and if so what is its nature?
A. fate? Necessity? Nous?
B. Is there an order two which even the gods must adhere?
XII. Moral problems--note how Plato wants to censor the Homeric epic because of the conduct of the gods
A. should the gods be role models?
B. Paradox: the gods are supposed to give us a sense of optimism but the Sophoclean theme of suffering etc. pervades---the weeping Athena.
C. The problem is philosophical and scientific--is there any permanence behind the confusion of the sense world
1. the views of the presocratics
2. what does science allow us to do?
XIII. The issue was to go beyond the metaphorical to the literal and the analogous:
A. The Greeks were seafaring and this meant that practical problems in navigation and astronomy and shipbuilding had to be solved.
B. Athletics and the Olympics and the plague demanded knowledge of medicine. What should be done if the gods do not answer? How do you build the Parthenon without a knowledge of mathematics?
C. mathematics--the study of geometry--Pythagoras--things are numbers Can we discover mathematical laws to explain how the universe operates?
D. mathematics represented for Plato a step in the education of the PK which stressed the ideas of order, harmony and conceptual relationships
XIV. Philosophy--what is the primary substance behind all things?
A. water, air? atoms?--recall the presocratics
B. (The myth was that chaos gave birth to light and darkness)
C. the myth did raise an issue though regarding the origin and nature of things
D. This thinking gave birth to logical reasoning--Aristotle
XV. Natural science--observe and experiment by looking at nature
A. Hippocrates in medicine moves beyond magic or the punishment of the gods.
B. It is necessary to learn accurately each constitution of the seasons as well as the disease; what common element in the constitution or the disease is good, and what common element the constitution or the disease is bad, what malady is long and fatal, what is long likely to end in recovery; ...With this knowledge it is easy to examine the order of the critical days and to prognosticate from it.
XVI. Initially, the gods were seen as providing the origin of , and the order behind the questions science asked: Heraclitus said, Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things. This could be god!!!
A. The notion of science in probing the nature of reality suggests that man is capable of seeing into the causes of things, and thus having the potential to become like gods--Recall Genesis.
B. A study into the nature of truth requires the skepticism to assert that the myths are metaphors that do not explain how things occur literally, as much as they are stories meant to teach and delight.
C. This in summary is Hesiods view of the creation and fall of man: (Theogony, ll. 105ff.)
GOLDEN AGE---similar to a heavenly existence--they knew no constraints & lived in peace--(saints)
SILVER AGE---less intelligent and more prone to war--reckless violence against one another
BRONZE AGE---God like race of heroes and race of warriors--dreadful...bent on the harsh deeds of war...bronze were their weapons
DIVINE RACE--heroes; demigods--they had sailed to Troy for the sake of lovely-haired Helen
IRON AGE---like man today after the fall, prone to evil--growing cares will be given them by the gods
D. This thinking is what prompted Socrates to say that virtue is wisdom.
E. Euripides: Happy is he who has knowledge / That comes for enquiry.
XVII. The following issues were matters for discussion:
A. one and the many
B. reality and appearance
C. knowledge and opinion
D. being and non being
E. matter and form
F. universals and particulars
XVIII. Socrates thus notes that the unexamined life is not worth living, and by implication the unexamined universe is not worth living in. Reason is the guide.
A. Democritus--his atomic theory suggested that the universe operated according to physical laws, meaning necessity to which even the gods are subordinate. His theory is based on how nature acts.
B. The assumptions are (recall the legos experiment for Sophie)
1. knowledge beings with sense perception observation
2. theories must be verified by observed fact
3. there is no external power for inherent laws--thinks operate
according to their own nature
4. the mind of man is capable of discovering how things work
A. Anaxagoras and Pericles: a one-horn ram turned out to be a creature that had a brain dysfunction that accounted for the physical abnormality. He demonstrated this by having the animal cut open.
B. Biology began by classifying what is out there, in, for example, an effort to find cures for diseases--you have to know how the body works.
XX. Thus it is not surprising that history as a formal discipline emerged. Can one study history as a series of cause and effects observable in the same sense as medicine?
A. Thucydides' conscious decision to base his studies on rationally observed and verified events, vs. mythology.
B. I have made it a principle not to write down the first story that came my way, and not even to be guided by my own general impressions, either I was present at the events which I have described, or else I heard of them from eye-witnesses whose reports I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible..
C. Thucydides hopes that a rational inquiry into, for example, the causes of war will prevent war from happening again--note that this is the definition of science--it allows us to predict what will happen next. (Burke)
D. The funeral orations of Pericles, for example, suggests a moral code grounded on a morality less mythological, and more rational.
XXI. The inevitable conflict between religion and science...
A. Do the gods exist? What of the atomic theory?
B. Are gods inventions designed to explain what reason cannot, or concepts meant to keep people submissive and frightened?
C. Protagoras: Man is the measure of all things...When it comes to the gods, I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or even what they are like in form., For there are many things that stand in the way of this knowledge--the obscurity of the problem and the brevity of mans life.
D. Persecutions of scientists and philosophers did not begin until the war began to go badly for the Athenians--what is the mind set?--Recall the trial of Socrates?
XXII. There was also a conflict between science and philosophy:
A. the idea was sense perception
B. the scientist bases truth on sense perception, while the philosopher denies its reliability: the dualism is between a priori knowledge (Plato) and sense perception (Aristotle)
C. Are things as they seem?
D. Platos philosophy broadly speaking asserts that the non-sensory is more real.
E. Aristotles philosophy states that the sensory is more real, and as such much of what he wrote details the nature of the scientific method. For Example: from Aristotle's: Posterior Analytics 1.1 (Loeb translation):
(1) All teaching and learning that involves the use of reason proceeds from pre-existent knowledge. This is evident if we consider all the different branches of learning, because both the mathematical sciences and every other art are acquired in this way. Similarly too with logical arguments, whether syllogistic or inductive; both effect instruction by means of facts already recognized, the former making assumptions as though granted by an intelligent audience, and the latter proving the universal from the self-evident nature of the particular...
There are two senses in which previous knowledge is necessary. Sometimes it is necessary to assume the fact beforehand, and sometimes one must understand the meaning of the term; sometimes both are necessary. E.g., we must assume as a fact that either the assertion or the negation of every statement is true; and we must know what the term "triangle" means; and as regards the unit, we must both know what it means and assume that it exists. This is because these truths are not all equally apparent to us. Recognition of a fact may sometimes entail both previous knowledge and knowledge acquired in the act of recognition; viz., knowledge of the particulars which actually fall under the universal, which is known to us. We knew already that every triangle has the sum of its interior angles equal to two right angles; but that this figure inscribed in the semicircle is a triangle we recognize only as we are led to relate the particular to the universal (for some things, viz., such as are ultimate particulars not predicable of anything else as subject, are only learnt in this way, i.e., the minor is not recognized by means of the middle term)....Unless we make this distinction, we shall be faced with the dilemma reached in the Meno: either one can learn nothing, or one can only learn what is already known.
XXIII. The crux of the argument is that the direction philosophy took via Plato lead to speculation about the a priori world as a world of substances more real than the what it was trying to explain.
THUCYDIDES, PERICLES AND SOCRATES
[USE THESE SITES TO ACCESS THE PRIMARY SOURCES
AND RESEARCH GUIDES]
Peloponnesian War and a
Interpretations of Thucydides
"Golden Age" of Athens
of the Plague
Do some reading, and "wonder" with Sophie about Athens in its golden age.