In this original and rewarding combination of intellectual and political history, Ryan Balot offers a thorough historical and sociological interpretation of classical Athens centered on the notion of greed. Integrating ancient philosophy, poetry, and history, and drawing on modern political thought, the author demonstrates that the Athenian discourse on greed was an essential component of Greek social development and political history. Over time, the Athenians developed sophisticated psychological and political accounts of acquisitiveness and a correspondingly rich vocabulary to describe and (...) condemn it. Greed figures repeatedly as an object of criticism in authors as diverse as Solon, Thucydides, and Plato--all of whom addressed the social disruptions caused by it, as well as the inadequacy of lives focused on it. Because of its ethical significance, greed surfaced frequently in theoretical debates about democracy and oligarchy. Ultimately, critiques of greed--particularly the charge that it is unjust--were built into the robust accounts of justice formulated by many philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle. Such critiques of greed both reflected and were inextricably knitted into economic history and political events, including the coups of 411 and 404 B.C. Balot contrasts ancient Greek thought on distributive justice with later Western traditions, with implications for political and economic history well beyond the classical period. Because the belief that greed is good holds a dominant position in modern justifications of capitalism, this study provides a deep historical context within which such justifications can be reexamined and, perhaps, found wanting. (shrink)
Beginning with an analysis of the problematic relation of ‘the particular’ to ‘the universal’ in canonical political texts, this paper explores a variety of frameworks for the study of classical Greek political thought. Specifically, after investigating the influence of Quentin Skinner’s contextualism, the paper examines the ideas, approaches, and methods of Bernard Williams, Leo Strauss, and Josiah Ober. I draw attention to each figure’s distinctive motivations for returning to ancient Greece and to the influence of particular political ideals on those (...) motivations. I also assess their strengths and weaknesses and offer a critical commentary on their chief ideas. Toward the end of the paper, I outline a novel dialectical framework for the study of classical Athens – one that emphasizes the remoteness of the ancient past and the contribution that our studies might make to self-knowledge. In sketching this framework, I focus on what I call ‘ethical Athens’, ‘philosophical Athens’, and ‘critical Athens’. (shrink)
This wide-ranging history of ancient Greek political thought shows what ancient political texts might mean to citizens of the twenty-first century. A provocative and wide-ranging history of ancient Greek political thought Demonstrates what ancient Greek works of political philosophy might mean to citizens of the twenty-first century Examines an array of poetic, historical, and philosophical texts in an effort to locate Greek political thought in its cultural context Pays careful attention to the distinctively ancient connections between politics and ethics Structured (...) around key themes such as the origins of political thought, political self-definition, revolutions in political thought, democracy and imperialism. (shrink)
Scholars generally agree that, according to Aristotle, factionalizers are motivated by a sense of injustice (the ‘first cause’) to redress imbalances in wealth and honor (the ‘second cause’). Recent discussions, however, have offered a misleading interpretation of Aristotle’s third cause, which he identifies as the origin of the factionalizers’ sense of injustice. It involves, most importantly, greed, hubris, and other factors such as fear and ‘disproportionate growth’. In conversation with a recent publication in Polis, this article restores the third cause (...) to its proper place in Aristotle’s account. Abusive power holders, driven by greed, hubris, and overreaching, oppress their fellow citizens – following in the tradition of Homer’s Agamemnon, Hesiod’s basileis, and Solon’s aristocrats. These power holders prompt a sense of anger, indignation, and injustice in their fellow citizens, who ultimately form factions and take action on their own behalf. (shrink)
At least since the time of Plato’s writings, epideictic rhetoric has been criticized as deceptive, as epistemologically bankrupt, and as politically irrelevant. Aristotle himself emphasizes that the key ‘topic’of epideictic is amplification and stresses that the epideictic orator chiefly adds ‘size’ and ‘beauty’ to widely shared memories. This paper reinterprets Aristotle’s statements and argues that Aristotle’s account brings to light significant civic resources embodied in epideictic. A genuine statesman uses ceremonial speech to articulate and explain a regime’s underlying ethos and (...) purposes; thus he defines the regime’s telos and orients the citizenry toward it. In that way, it is argued, epideictic oratory is not the trivial cousin of deliberative and judicial rhetoric, but rather the rhetorical genre whose essential function is to explain and defend the fundamental building blocks of the regime. (shrink)
This chapter contains section titled: Mapping out the Problem: The “Old Oligarch” Modern and Ancient Quandaries The Challenge of Thrasymachus and Callicles Thucydidean Imperialists Revisit Nomos and Phusis Socrates and Nomos Logos and Ergon Democratic Epistemology and Relativism Democratic Epistemology and Untrustworthy Rhetoric ‐ or, Where Does the Truth Lie? Socrates and Athens.
This chapter contains section titled: The Ancestral Republican “Solutions” The Monarchic “Solution” Plato's “Solutions” Criticizing Contemporary Politics Plato on Rhetoric and Order in the Gorgias The Priority of Reason in City and Soul: Plato's Republic Educating Citizens in the Classical Context Politics and Ethics Philosophical Rulers Platonic Political Philosophy after the Republic.
This chapter contains section titled: Achilles, Agamemnon, and Fair Distribution Justice as “Distinctively Human” Institutions and Values of the Early Polis What is Justice? The Voice of the Oppressed and the Origins of Political Thought The Egalitarian Response The Elitist Response Case Study: Sparta and the Politics of “Courage” A Second Case Study: Archaic Athens and the Search for Justice.
This chapter contains section titled: Civic Conflict, Emotion, and Injustice: Observing the Polis as It Is Exploring What Ought To Be: Aristotle's Naturalism Aristotle on the Good Life Nature in the Politics Aristotle on Slavery Polis and Citizenship in General Aristotle's Best Polis Political Possibilities in Existing Cities The Best Constitution in Relation to Existing Conditions Classification of Constitutions The Power of the Masses Conclusion.
This chapter contains section titled: Evidence and Sources Democracy Ancient and Modern Democratic Conceptions of Freedom Democratic Deliberation Courage, Trust, and Leadership Democratic Political Thought Outside Athens? Protagorean Arguments for Democracy Democratic Conceptions of Equality Justice and the Demos.