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10. Plato and Greek History. Outline. 1) Relation to nature (last lecture) Geography Basic technology Consciousness: from anthropomorphic polytheism to philosophical monotheism 2) Relation between people – continued Obstacles to freedom: inequality from within Important chronology

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  • 1) Relation to nature (last lecture)
    • Geography
    • Basic technology
    • Consciousness: from anthropomorphic polytheism to philosophical monotheism
  • 2) Relation between people – continued
    • Obstacles to freedom: inequality from within
    • Important chronology
    • Meaning of Solon’s reforms
  • 3) Consciousness: from religion to philosophy: Plato – continued
important dates
Important Dates
  • (1) 600 Solon
  • 500 (d) Cleisthenes
    • (2) 490-465 Persian Wars
      • 470 Naxos punished for leaving Delian League
  • (3) 461-451; 431-404 Peloponnesian Wars
    • 441 Sophocles’ Antigone
    • 399 Death of Socrates
  • (4) 334-323 Alexander’s conquests
social problems
Social problems
  • Individual farmers on limited land
  • Some are impoverished and sell their children as slaves
  • Two partial solutions to this impoverishment
    • Flight (emigration)
    • And Fight (Hoplite soldiers)
      • Poorer peasants have iron weapons
      • Can afford discipline from long training
  • There is no state, no standing army, at this stage
full solution solon s reforms
Full solution: Solon’s Reforms
  • Cancels debt servitude;
  • Outlaws enslavement of Athenians
  • Political power to ordinary male farmer
    • Two chamber government
  • => Compromise, cross-class state
winners and losers
Winners and Losers
  • Enslavement of foreigners still allowed
  • Women, foreigners, slaves do not participate
  • > Aristocracy survives, grows stronger
  • Fate of small farmer?
solon s balancing act
Solon’s Balancing Act
  • Inequality: rich (aristocracy) control more and more land
  • Poor outnumber them, threaten to take land back
  • Solon’s legal reforms for a new State society:
    • Share political power with small farmers
    • Landowners keep economic rights to property
rousseau on the victory of the rich over the poor
Rousseau on the victory of the rich over the poor
  • The outcome was “. . . the most thought-out project that ever entered the human mind. It was to use in his favor the very strength of those who attacked him, to turn his adversaries into his defenders… to give them other institutions which were as favorable to him as natural right was unfavorable to him.”
legal right and natural right
Legal Right and Natural Right
  • “to give them [the poor] other institutions which were as favorable to him [Solon, the aristocracy] as natural right was unfavorable to him.”
  • Legal rights of the new state replace natural rights of ancient kinship
legal system replaces kinship
Legal system replaces kinship
  • Cleisthenes divides citizens by residence (demes), not by clans (i.e., not by kinship)
  • =>Law unites people of different kin groups, overriding natural kinship ties by law-based relations created by the state
two types of law and kinship
Two types of law, and kinship
  • 1) God-given (Hammurabi)
  • 2) Man-made (Antigone, Greece)
  • 3) Local kinship traditions continues elsewhere: Egypt (no such law: kinship traditions persists)
    • Kinship tradition goes underground in Greece (Antigone defends kinship tradition against the law of the state)
limits of greek law
Limits of Greek law
  • 1) Rich maintain property rights: can continue to keep slaves, but not from their own city-state
    • Spartans enslave their neighbors (Helots: conquered people of Laconia and its central city, Helos.)
  • 2) Women excluded too
  • 3) Original problem remains: 5 unfree people against 1 free citizen
    • Government or “State”?
context of antigone
Context of Antigone
  • Formation of Delian League led by Athens
    • to fight Peloponnesian war against the Spartan coalition
  • Athens becomes tyrannical
    • brutally punishes Naxos (470) for leaving the League
    • Peloponnesian War begins (461)
    • Treasury moved to Athens, used for city (454)
  • Sophocles’ message to Athens in Antigone: “Don’t go to extremes.”
two fold context of writing of antigone
Two-fold context of writing of Antigone
  • General conflict between
    • the old order of kinship
    • and the new order of the State and its laws
  • Particular conflict between
    • Sparta (militarized aristocracy, slave-based control of Helots) and
    • Athens (limited, exclusive “democracy”)
power of the excluded
Power of the Excluded
  • Antigone: Old kinship order v. new legal order
  • The old order of the family, of kinship, still has force
  • Antigone: Warns of the dangerous power of the excluded
    • Women, Slaves, foreigners
    • Sophocles’ implicit message: Those left out of the new Greek order will get revenge
  • =Fate, Justice, Hegel’s “irony of history”
greek gods express human qualities
Greek gods express human qualities
  • The poets’ account of the gods: vivid, naturalistic embodiments of human qualities
    • Homer, Sophocles
  • Conflicts among the gods express human conflicts
  • Hence appeal, power of Greek anthropomorphic polytheism: people implicitly learn about themselves
sophocles on the power of love
Sophocles on the Power of Love
  • Eros, undefeated in battle,
  • Eros, who falls upon possessions,
  • who, in the soft cheeks of a young girl,
  • stays the night vigil,
  • who traverses over seas 785
  • and among pastoral dwellings,
  • you none of the immortals can escape,
  • none of the day-long mortals, and
  • he who has you is maddened. 790
aphrodite rules
Aphrodite rules
  • You wrest the minds of even the just
  • aside to injustice, to their destruction.
  • You have incited this quarrel
  • among blood kin.
  • Desire radiant from the eyelids 795
  • of a well-bedded bride prevails,
  • companion in rule with the gods' great
  • ordinances. She against whom none may battle,
  • the goddess Aphrodite, plays her games.800
classic pattern of evolution
“Classic” Pattern of Evolution
  • 1) Animism of hunter-gatherers
  • 2) Anthropomorphic polytheism of early civilizations
    • Egypt, Persia: mixed with animism
  • 3) Monotheism (linked to empire)
    • In Egypt, Persia
religious evolution is blocked
Religious Evolution is Blocked
  • 1) Beautiful anthropomorphic polytheism of Homer
    • Sophocles beautifully continues these themes
    • Old poetry still has great power
    • Further evolution of religion (to monotheism) is blocked
  • 2) Also: no need for a religion of empire
    • The Greek city states remain divided
turn from greek religion to philosophy
Turn from Greek Religion to Philosophy
  • See Athena (149)
    • = symbol of Athens, the city-state—the polis
  • New function of religion: Focus on the (free) city-state
  • => Worship ourselves!
  • Oracle at Delphi: Know Yourself
  • Philosophy: Think for yourself!
history of greek consciousness
History of Greek Consciousness
  • 1) Animism (religion of mother Earth)
    • Trampled on by Man, with iron plow, defended by Woman (Antigone)
  • 2) Anthropomorphic polytheism of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey
    • Beauty of expression, psychological accuracy of the anthropomorphic qualities of the gods
    • Blocks further evolution of religious thought
    • > Failure of Greek empire of Alexander
  • 3) Philosophical monotheism: Think for yourself
    • What do the gods themselves know?
from religion to philosophy
From Religion to Philosophy
  • Socrates: Is something good because the gods command it,
    • E.g., is it wrong to kill innocent people only because the gods say so?
  • or do the gods command it because it is good in itself? (Plato’s, Euthyphro)
    • The gods say so, because it really is wrong, independently of what anyone says
socrates crime
Socrates’ “crime”
  • Socrates/Plato replace focus on religious authority with philosophy: people can think for themselves about what is good.
  • Is this “impiety” to the gods? Atheism?
  • Alleged crime of Socrates: “he denies the gods and corrupts the youth”
turn to philosophy
Turn to philosophy
  • Philosophy: know (think for) yourself
  • Reflects freedom of iron-age people
    • Homer’s religion of anthropomorphic polytheism reflects bronze age, aristocratic society
    • Aristocrats rule peasants as gods rule humans
  • In iron age this has to change
    • Common people feel their own power
  • With trade (reinforced by alphabet) thinking must become independent and rational
reform not replace old religion
Reform, not replace old religion
  • 1) Dominance of Homeric religion
  • 2) Reinforced by poets
  • 3) Reinforced by city-state patriotism
    • Reject Athena = rejecting Athens
  • 4) Socrates (Plato) puts old religion on new basis of rational philosophy
    • Criticizes the poets for their anthropomorphic view of the gods
    • Plato’s gods are higher spirits in touch with Truth, Goodness, Beauty: we should imitate this
  • 5) > Socrates is condemned to death
    • Recall failure Akhenaton's reforms
    • Greece, like Egypt, fails to become a world power