POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Hoplite, Advantageous, Athenian Democracy

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Published on 16 May 2013
Prof. R. Balot
by: A Orellana
May 15, 2013
Thucydides - Lecture 2
Thucydides is a serious political philosopher worthy of brief study
we must remember that Thucydides wrote during democratic Athens and sets up the context of what Plato and
Aristotle wrote
set between 431 - 404 BC: fifth century
Athens and Sparta are the key players and big powers of this study
Sparta (powers on land) and Athens (powers at sea) had led a coalition of Greek power against Persia which was
they began to exert control over many Greek islands and cities:
to protect Greece
to assert “top dog” status Sparta
Sparta ruled the Peloponnesian lands - hence the name ‘the Peloponnesian wars’
Thucydides was notorious for never admitting his faults
Thucydides probed questions by looking at specific details of the Peloponnesian war
he thought that by narrating and offering speeches he could illicit a study on human nature
Thucydides believed that there was a single knowable conception of what human nature is
He does not elaborate on an ideal form of government - he merely offers a critical evaluation
we must ask ourselves: do his thoughts and ideas travel well for our times?
On historical method (p. 12-13)
He wants to look to history in order to diagnose human nature
throughout the text he offers a medical analogy (diagnosis)
saw the world in which he lived in as one of suffering, injustice and conflict
a disease he wanted to diagnose, as a healthy condition of the body of politics
p.13 - he means to distinguish himself particularly from Homer
also distinguishing himself from the pleasures of political rhetoric
his work is not meant to be popular but rather superior, philosophical and ambitious; he will give us a lasting
insight of human nature
why show human nature through history and not other means?
p.12 - the Athenians have a lot of national myths, they were ignorant of their own paths; they lack self
they built their politics on a myth
p.13 - past made up of deeds as well as speeches
he opposes ergon (deed) and logos (speech)
he believes speech is deceptive, and one can only rely on hard facts
he gives reasons for discrediting speech - it is always based on opinion and it always conflicts with the listeners
he is inviting us to listen to political rhetoric w/ great care and look into the motivations for speakers to speak
the deeds that lie beneath the words may not come off in the speech but may have ulterior motives
he discredits speech as it is unreliable - it was the preferred medium through which the rich deceived social
inferiors; it was corrupting, influential and persuasive
he claims that his speech is superior - yet there are some conflicts as he believes there are two types of speech:
fact-based (which he writes), and the political rhetoric (which is used by poets and artists)
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Prof. R. Balot
by: A Orellana
May 15, 2013
he refers to the idea that the Athenians celebrate Harmodius and Aristogiton as being liberators when if fact it was
an inaccurate account
Diagnosis: politics in general
Thucydides describes three key technologies of power
walls - to keep enemies out
ships - sea power is the ultimate source of power
liquid cash - money you can use
these three will be used for self-aggrandizing by the powers that be
human beings have gotten better at using these to exercise power over others
this notion of progress is distinctive as they use progress as a process of decline
Thucydides had the idea that human kind has continually made progress towards power
p. 15 - the greatness of the Peloponnesian war is the most devastating war in terms of the suffering caused
power causes pathos
war causes suffering, thus he is a critic of war
one of the way it causes pathos is civil conflict
he’s working towards the idea that the Greek world had once been united
they were related as an ethnic group
the Peloponnesian war can be read as a civil war amongst Greeks themselves
he represents himself as presenting a diagnosis; as a pathology of civil war - a plague
he wants to understand what brought about this plague
we must ask ourselves: is war an ever present necessity?
Spartans were also known as Lacedaemonians
Causes of war and idea of national character
the parties involved were different characters that came from different regimes
p. 16: he states that the cause of war was mainly fear
then shows accusations and self justifications for both sides aka logos
Speech of the Corinthians
they were allies of Sparta in conflict w/the Spartans over the siege of a nearby city
they accuse Spartans of being hypocrites
Spartans should embody military courage to the highest possible degree
but Athens has expanded power while Sparta has not
they are trying to make Spartans afraid of Athenians for they will face a power they do not know - but knowing
your enemy is key in war
they are an innovative democratic society, a sea power; they have an economy based on trade and imperialism
Thucydides is inviting us to examine oligarchy and democracy
Corinthians emphasized the Athenian novelty - they have the three key technologies of power
thus the Athenians are prototypical imperialists
Corinthian speech asks: is democracy the innovative political regime - does innovation equate success and justice?
is there a contradiction between democracy and justice?
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