The Problem: In this lecture we continue to explore paradoxes of 4th Century Greece. Despite the fact that Persia was manifestly vulnerable, the Greek states individually and collectively failed to find any track toward unity. How is this to be explained? Certainly there was political turmoil: stasis, imperialism, Persian intervention both direct and indirect, mercenaries replaced citizen armies (ACH298-299); Sparta and Athens, the two great states of the 5th C., were reduced to military mediocrity; none of the leading states showed much evidence of leadership (aka...?.). Yet despite the political turmoil, moderate democracy spread throughout the Greek world and many states improved their standard of living and participated fully in the cultural and intellectual life of the 4th C. What did the Greeks think about their problems? and what solutions did they propose?


Plato, Politics and Culture.

  1. Socrates, Contemporary Morality
    1. On the general situation
      1. Note the general effects of the intellectual revolution, the sophistic tradition (stressing the that knowlege was useful, but amoral in character), and the corresponding decline in traditional values (showing respect for gods, men and laws...recall Thucydides on this theme).
      2. Decline accelerated by the Peloponnesian War as is documented in Thucydides. Note the stasis at Corinth in the mid 390s: "But Argives the Athenians and Boiotians and those of the Corinthians who had a share in the money from the King and had been chiefly responsible for the outbreak of the war realized that if they did not get rid of those who had begun to incline toward peace, the polis would be in danger once more...they planned a massacre, the most impious thing imaginable...during a festival of Artemis...they took their swords and struck them[their enemies] down...without any trace of piety or legality" ACG 290.
      3. Hence, after the war there was a strong reaction esp at Athens to the 'new thinking' and a tendency to blame it for the defeat (the influence of the rhetoric on the demagogues; of Socrates on Alkibiades, etc.) ACG 248B.
      4. The transition from 'physics' to 'ethics', Socrates the key figure.
    2. His life.
    3. His philosophy. --difficult to distinguish between Plato and Socrates, but there are other sources. Xenophon, Aristophanes.
      1. Goodness or virtue is knowledge; knowledge of how to live well.
      2. Virtue cannot be taught
      3. No one willingly/knowingly does wrong.
      4. Happiness is the result of virtue/knowledge/goodness.
    4. The Apology (ACG 248B)and the Crito. A summary of the arguments.
  2. Plato: too much for part of one lecture, but the central issue is to understand why individuals and groups act irrationally, and to suggest ways to prevent it.
    1. The basics:
      1. The soul: three 'powers'. When things go wrong...
        • reason
        • the 'spirited'
        • the appetites
      2. The theory of forms.
      3. Theory of Reminiscence:
    2. Implications: For the human condition? For political life? . Hence, when things go wrong... As it is manifest that many are not capable of living by reason, it follows that..
  3. Political Theory and Political Thought in the 4th Century. There is an overt belief here that one can 'reason' one's way to peace and prosperity. But consider the countervailing forces.
    1. Though related, one must distinguish between the two; the former is the speculation of individual thinkers and is conscious thought while the latter is the thought consensus of a whole society and is not necessarily self-conscious reflection. Note the criticisms of democracy and radical democracy in ACG 303a, b and c.
    2. Thought:
      1. Principles of freedom and autonomy: political catchwords. All the imperial states claimed to be acting to defend this concept, but only because it served their political interests. ACG 293.
      2. Much formal discussion that assumes that the state exists for the betterment of its members and the increase in virtue (areté, not chastity) ACG 303a Nobody...would ever become a good man unless he had been educated [trained] from childhood in goodness...but the democratic state grandly tramples all this sort of thing underfoot, setting no store at all by the background and habits of those who seek a public career; provided they declare themselves friends of the masses/demos.
      3. Two types of discussion: the ['ancestral'] constitution and the relationship between Greeks and the outside world.
    3. Theory:
      1. Xenophon: student of Socrates, reflects concern for philosopher king in his education of Kyrus (the great). King who rules by virtue and by consent of aristocracy. The theoretical Spartan model. Yet he does propose ways to alleviate distress:
        1. every Athenian should have three slaves and then will not have to work; the slaves should not be Greek ESHAG 131. Also mine more silver.
        2. encourage trade and foreign investment. "look after the interests of the resident aliens, for in them we have one of the very best sources of revenue...we should make them better disposed toward us...it is useful to support traders and merchant marine...and the more people who settled here, the greater would be the amount of [revenue raised from the] imported and exported or re-exported, sold or rented out... ACG 286.
        3. avoid war: I know that triremes are often sent a great expense and that this expense is incurred when it is on the one hand not clear whether it will be for better or worse...and that the people will never get back what they pay ... ACH 286
      2. Isokrates: also conservative (i.e., skeptical of the radical democracy).
        1. Early in his a career. Against the lot, but for election. No overseas empire (always leads to despotism).
        2. The troubles of the Greek world caused by poverty and overcrowding. Legislation could only help so much; more important was colonial expansion. Only by serving abroad could the Greeks have freedom at home. ESHAG 130, 131(that the Greeks should not make war on Greeks, all of one ethné), also note 132; ACG 319, 320
        3. export of violence: It is much more glorious to wage war on the Great King than to be quarrelling among ourselves over hegemony...and many through lack of daily necessities take up mercenary service... ESHAG 108
    4. Pro and Contra:
  4. Science: What follows goes somewhat beyond the period covered by this class, but most of the concepts given here were worked out in the course of the 4th and into the 3rd centuries, B.C. Plato set the problem that was to influence the study of astronomy for generations: "By the assumption of what uniform and ordered motions can the apparent (i.e., "erratic") motions of the planets be accounted for." That is to "save the phenomena" in terms of uniform circular movement. Note the number and significance of the assumptions here. The most important of which is that the earth stands at the center of an ordered universe (cosmos) and cannot move; is "absolutely immobile.". The absolute immobility of the Earth: Ptolemy, Almagest I, 7:...it may be proved that the earth cannot make any movement whatever...or ever change its position at all from its place at the center of the cosmos.
    1. [First] it is manifest to any observer that the earth occupies the middle place in the cosmos, and that all weights move toward it..the earth is spherical and situated in the middle of the cosmos...and it is a simple fact that in all parts of the earth without exception the tendencies and the motions of bodies which have weight operate at right angles to tangent drawn through the point of contact where the object falls...That is, objects that have weight "naturally" fall to the center of the cosmos.
    2. [Second] lighter particles (air, fire and light sources) are faster and always fly up and away from the earth. Hence, the sun and planets, being of a different character, move faster and do not "fall".
    3. [Third] if the earth moved [away from the center of the universe, heavier objects would still all toward that center and the animals and all separate weights would have been left behind floating in air [at the center of the cosmos], while the earth at its great speed would have fallen completely out of the cosmos itself. but this is utterly ridiculous, for the rotation of the earth would be more violent than any known (1000 mph).
    4. There are significant problems with this theory of immobility: how to account for the change of seasons if the earth was absolutely immobile, and the movements of the planets did not lend themselves to any pattern of regular and orderly motion. So, too, if the earth turns on its axis it turns east toward the rising sun, so we should observer a strong wind "east wind" but that is not the case (prevailing winds blow from the west). And if the earths rotates in an orbit around the sun, one ought to observe a change in stellar parallax (a change in the angle of the "fixed" stars as the earth moves from (say) winter to summer. The important point here is that, faced with two awkward theories, the "phenomena" won out, that is people preferred the explanation that was consistent with their observations that the earth did not move. There may then be a scientific consensus, but the consensus is just that ("consensus" means "convergent trend of opinion"; not exactly objective truth!)