We live in a world where CEOs give themselves million pound bonuses even as their companies go bankrupt and ordinary workers are laid off; where athletes make millions while teachers struggle to survive; a world, in short, where rewards are often unfairly meted out. -/- In The Ajax Dilemma, Paul Woodruff examines one of today's most pressing moral issues: how to distribute rewards and public recognition without damaging the social fabric. How should we honour those whose behaviour and achievement is (...) essential to our overall success? Is it fair or right to lavish rewards on the superstar at the expense of the hardworking rank-and-file? How do we distinguish an impartial fairness from what is truly just? Woodruff builds his answer to these questions around the ancient conflict between Ajax and Odysseus over the armour of the slain warrior Achilles. King Agamemnon arranges a speech contest to decide the issue. Ajax, the loyal workhorse, loses the contest, and the priceless armour, to Odysseus, the brilliantly deceptive strategist who will lead the Greeks to victory. Deeply insulted, Ajax goes on a rampage and commits suicide, and in his rage we see the resentment of every loyal worker who has been passed over in favour of those who are more gifted, or whose skills are more highly valued. How should we deal with the 'Ajax dilemma'? Woodruff argues that while we can never create a perfect system for distributing just rewards, we can recognize the essential role that wisdom, compassion, moderation, and respect must play if we are to restore the basic sense of justice on which all communities depend. -/- This short, thoughtful book, written with Woodruff's characteristic elegance, investigates some of the most bitterly divisive global issues today. (shrink)
What is unique and essential about theatre? What separates it from other arts? Do we need 'theatre' in some fundamental way? The art of theatre, as Paul Woodruff says in this elegant and unique book, is as necessary-and as powerful-as language itself. Defining theatre broadly, including sporting events and social rituals, he treats traditional theatre as only one possibility in an art that-at its most powerful-can change lives and (as some peoples believe) bring a divine presence to earth. The Necessity (...) of Theater analyzes the unique power of theatre by separating it into the twin arts of watching and being watched, practiced together in harmony by watchers and the watched. Whereas performers practice the art of being watched-making their actions worth watching, and paying attention to action, choice, plot, character, mimesis, and the sacredness of performance space-audiences practice the art of watching: paying close attention. A good audience is emotionally engaged as spectators; their engagement takes a form of empathy that can lead to a special kind of human wisdom. As Plato implied, theatre cannot teach us transcendent truths, but it can teach us about ourselves. Characteristically thoughtful, probing, and original, Paul Woodruff makes the case for theatre as a unique form of expression connected to our most human insticts. The Necessity of Theater should appeal to anyone seriously interested or involved in theatre or performance more broadly. (shrink)
Americans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In this eye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar Paul Woodruff offers some surprising answers to these questions. Drawing on classical literature, philosophy, and history--with many intriguing passages (...) from Sophocles, Aesop, and Plato, among others--Woodruff immerses us in the world of ancient Athens to uncover how the democratic impulse first came to life. The heart of the book isolates seven conditions that are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny (including the tyranny of majority rule), harmony (the blending of different views), the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willing to invite everyone to join in government. It must respect the rule of law so strongly that even the government is not above the law. True democracy must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people. And it must be willing to pay the price of education for thoughtful citizenship. Ancient Athens didn't always live up to these ideals. Nor does modern America. If we learn anything from the story of Athens, Woodruff concludes, it should be this--never lose sight of the ideals of democracy. This compact, eloquent book illuminates these ideals and lights the way as we struggle to keep democracy alive at home and around the world. (shrink)
Reverence is an ancient virtue dating back thousands of years. It survives among us in half-forgotten patterns of behavior and in the vestiges of old ceremonies. Yet, Paul Woodruff says, we have lost sight of reverence. This short, elegiac volume makes an impassioned case for the fundamental importance of the forgotten virtue of reverence, and how awe for things greater than oneself can--indeed must--be a touchstone for other virtues like respect, humility, and charity. Ranging widely over diverse cultural terrain--from Philip (...) Larkin to ancient Greek poetry, from modern politics to Chinese philosophy--Woodruff shows how absolutely essential reverence is to a well-functioning society. He tackles some thorny questions: How does reverence allow not only for leaders but for followers? What role does reverence play in religion? Do some religions misuse reverence? Must reverence be humorless? In the process, Woodruff shows convincingly how reverence plays an unseen part in virtually every human relationship. Elegantly written, thoughtful yet urgent, Reverence is sure to reach out to a wide variety of people interested in the moral health of Western culture, showing how our own intellectual and spiritual legacy can guide us more than we realize. (shrink)
This volume brings together mostly previously unpublished studies by prominent historians, classicists, and philosophers on the roles and effects of religion in Socratic philosophy and on the trial of Socrates. Among the contributors are Thomas C. Brickhouse, Asli Gocer, Richard Kraut, Mark L. McPherran, Robert C. T. Parker, C. D. C. Reeve, Nicholas D. Smith, Gregory Vlastos, Stephen A. White, and Paul B. Woodruff.
Good judgment (euboulia) was the principal reward Protagoras promised from his teaching, and he was the foremost teacher to whom students went for paideia in fifth-century Greece. I begin with a theoretical exposition of the nature of good judgment in the contexts relevant to fifth-century paideia—in deliberative bodies, in the law courts, among generals discussing tactics, and among private citizens managing their households. I then turn to review what teachers like Protagoras taught, and ask whether it is reasonable to expect (...) such teaching to foster good judgment. I will show that it meets the problem of relevance by attempting to bring every possible factor into an adversarial discussion before a matter is put to judgment. (shrink)
This edition of early Greek writings on social and political issues includes works by more than thirty authors. There is a particular emphasis on the sophists, with the inclusion of all of their significant surviving texts, and the works of Alcidamas, Antisthenes and the 'Old Oligarch' are also represented. In addition there are excerpts from early poets such as Homer, Hesiod and Solon, the three great tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, medical writers and presocratic philosophers. (...) Besides political theory, areas represented include early anthropology, sociology, ethics and rhetoric, and the wide range of issues discussed includes human nature, the origin of human society, the origin of law, the nature of justice, the forms of good government, the distribution of wealth, and the distribution of power among genders and social classes. (shrink)