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(Sather Classical Lectures)Bernard Williams-Shame and Necessity -University of California Press(1994)

(Sather Classical Lectures)Bernard Williams-Shame and Necessity -University of California Press(1994)

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Preferred Citation: Williams, Bernard.
Shame and Necessity.
Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, c1993 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft4t1nb2fb/
Sham e and Necessity
Bernard William s
Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford 
 © 1993 The Regents of the University of California
To PatriciaPindar Pythian 8.95-97
Preferred Citation: Williams, Bernard.
Shame and Necessity.
Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, c1993 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft4t1nb2fb/
To PatriciaPindar Pythian 8.95-97
This book is based on Sather Lectures that I gave at the University of California at Berkeley in spring1989. The practice is that lectures in this series are given by extremely distinguished classicalscholars, and I owe it to the reader, and also to the Sather Committee who did me the honour of inviting me, an honour that I particularly appreciate, to make it dear that I am not primarily a classicalscholar. I am someone who received what used to be called a classical education, became aphilosopher, and has kept in touch with Greek studies primarily through work in ancient philosophy.
I must mention this, all the more, because this study does not stay within the limits that thisexperience might advise. I do discuss some ancient philosophy (most extensively, in chapter 5, someviews of Aristotle's), but for much of the book the writers I discuss are not philosophers but poets, andI try to discuss them as poets, not as providing rhythmic examples for philosophy. I say somethingabout my reasons for this in the first chapter. It is true that I am particularly concerned With Greekideas from periods in which there were no philosophical writers, or from which few and fragmentaryphilosophical writings survive; but that is not my main reason for turning to poetry.Philosophers who are guilty of bad scholarship should rightly
be reproached for it. It must be said at the same time that there are some literary scholars whoseem closed to the idea that their reflections might involve some bad philosophy. They should perhapsat least be conscious of the risk. That is not to say that they do wrong to run the risk—while there arestandards of scholarly orthodoxy, philosophy (in the words of an old joke) is anybody's doxy. But itdoes mean that scholarship, at least when it tries to say anything interesting,
[ 1]
cannot travel entirelyon its own credentials. The truth is that we all have to do more things than we can rightly do, if we areto do anything at all. As T. S. Eliot put it, "of course one can 'go too far' and except in directions inwhich we can go too far there is no interest in going at all; and only those who will risk going too farcan possibly find out how far one can go."
[ 2]
Eliot's admirable remark, however, carries not just an encouragement, but, to someone in mysituation, a warning as well. If those who are unused to working with literary texts may sometimes betoo rash to satisfy the demands of scholarship, they also run the risk of not going far enough, of seeming feeble or superficial, by the standards of imaginative criticism. An insight that is robustlyunaffected by contemporary writing about literature may turn out merely to represent someunforgotten prejudice. One can only accept that there is no reliable way of converting thedisadvantages of amateurism into the rewards of heroism.In admitting that the instrument for much of my recital is the
violon d'Ingres 
, I am cheered bythe fact that at least I was introduced to it by some excellent teachers. When I was an undergraduateat Oxford I had the good fortune to be taught by two of the most remarkable classical scholars of thiscentury, Eduard Fraenkel and Eric Dodds. They set quite different, but equally demanding, standardsfor understanding the ancient world. Neither, incidentally, was unqualifiedly admired in Oxford.Fraenkel was represented by the malice of the common
rooms as a monster of Teutonic arrogance. He could certainly be alarming when presented withrash or pretentious error, but the quality he conveyed in his teaching and taught one to respect washumility in the face of dense and complex philological fact; and while he possessed classical learningon a scale that I suppose is not matched by anyone now living, he saw himself as poorly informedwhen compared, for instance, with the master whom he called "the great Leo".If Fraenkel was sometimes derided by amateurs, Dodds was undervalued by pedants (the pedantsand the amateurs were in some cases, needless to say, the same people). Extremely liberal in hispolitical sentiments, interested in the social sciences, a poet and a friend of poets, he was also adeeply imaginative scholar. The Sather Lectures that he gave in 1949-50 yielded one of the mosthelpful and enduring books in the series,
[ 3]
and it is one of the closest in subject matter to theconcerns of this study. Since he was also extremely kind to me when I was a student, I should like tofeel that my undertaking, even though it is imperfectly related to the kind of scholarship he practised,might count as a homage to him.I have many people and institutions to thank. I am grateful to la Maison des Sciences de l'Hommein Paris, and its administrator, Clemens Heller, for a productive period of time spent there in 1981. Inthe same year, I presented an early version of some of the material in this book in the Eliot Lecturesthat I gave at the University of Kent; I appreciated this invitation, and I am sorry that by turning intotheir present and very different form the lectures I gave disqualified themselves from appearingamong the books that bear the name of that series. An invitation from the Classics Faculty atCambridge to give the J. H. Gray Lectures in 1986 moved some of my ideas nearer to their presentform. More recently, I have had the opportunity to present versions of some of the chapters in lecturesor papers given at Yale, UCLA, Haverford College, the University of Michigan,
Warwick University, and New York University. I have benefited from discussions and comments onall these occasions.Between the time when I was invited to give the Sather Lectures and my giving them, I hadbecome a member of the Berkeley faculty. The members of the classics department, undiscouraged bythis unprecedented and strictly irregular situation, extended the same hospitable and warm welcometo a visitor from the philosophy department as they customarily do to Sather lecturers from otherinstitutions. Tony Long, in particular, not only did everything that could be asked of a chairman, butalso showed himself a good Mend and a generous colleague in giving me the benefit of his own workon subjects related to the lectures, especially to chapter 2. Other members of the classics departmentto whom I have special reasons for gratitude are Giovanni Ferrari, Mark Griffith, Don Mastronarde, andTom Rosenmeyer. I thank David Engel and Chris Siciliani for their work as research assistants. Twohelpful seminars on the lectures were held in the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, forwhich I am specially grateful to Paul Alpers, Samuel Scheffler, and Hans Sluga.Other Mends and colleagues have been generous with their comments and scholarly help; somehave read all or some of the book at various stages of its preparation. I should like to thank JuliaAnnas, Glen Bowersock, Myles Burnyeat, Ronald Dworkin, Helene Foley, Christopher Gill, StephenGreenblatt, Stuart Hampshire, Stephen Knapp, Jonathan Lear, Geoffrey Lloyd, Anne Michelini, AmyMullin, Thomas Nagel, Ruth Padel, Robert Post, Andrew Stewart, Oliver Taplin, and David Wiggins fortheir various kindnesses. The mistakes are undeniably my own.
Chapter OneThe Liberation of Antiquity
We are now used to thinking of the ancient Greeks as an exotic people. Forty years ago, in the prefaceto
The Greeks and the Irrational 
, Dodds apologised, or rather declined to apologise, for usinganthropological material in interpreting an "aspect of the mental world of ancient Greece."
[ 1]
Sincethen, we have become familiar with the activity of applying to the societies of ancient Greece methodssimilar to those of cultural anthropology. Much has been achieved in these ways, and efforts, inparticular, to uncover structures of myth and ritual in such terms have yielded some of the mostilluminating work of recent times.
[ 2]
These methods define certain differences between ourselves and the Greeks. Culturalanthropologists, in their well-known role of observers living in a traditional society, may come veryclose to the people with whom they are living, but they are committed to thinking of that life asdifferent; the point of their visit is to understand and describe another form of human life. The kind of work I have mentioned helps us to understand the Greeks by first making them seem strange—morestrange, that is to say, than they seem when their life is too benignly assimilated to modernconceptions. We cannot live with the ancient Greeks or to any substantial degree imagine ourselvesdoing so.
Much of their life is hidden from us, and just because of that, it is important for us to keep a senseof their otherness, a sense which the methods of cultural anthropology help us to sustain.This study does not use those methods. Many of the subjects I discuss have been treated in thoseterms, but I have largely left those discussions to one side.
[ 3]
I want to ask a different sort of questionabout the ancient world, one that places it in a different—and, in just one sense, a closer—relation toour own. But I do not want to deny the otherness of the Greek world. I shall not be saying that Greeksof the fifth century B.C . were after all more modem than we have recently been encouraged tosuppose, and that despite gods, daimons, pollutions, blood-guilt, sacrifices, fertility festivals, andslavery, they were really almost as much like Victorian English gentlemen, say, as some VictorianEnglish gentlemen liked to think.
[ 4]
I shall stress some unacknowledged similarities between Greek conceptions and our own. Culturalanthropology of course also invokes similarities, or it could not make the societies it studies intelligibleto us. Some of the similarities are very obvious, lying in universal needs: human beings everywhere

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