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The Greeks on How to be a Man
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Getting Ahead The Capabilities of Man Self-Mastery The Strong Man and his Ancestors Popular Belief about the Cosmos Mind, Society, Cosmos In Training with the Greeks

How to be human? That is our question. Each society offers its own answers, and offers the education that enable its members to conform themselves to the definition of man on offer. All societies have accounts of their place in the world and of their ambitions, and so of education of humankind. This question drives every period of Western history, the history that us formed us, our worldview and our world. Our choice of questions and of conversation partners is fundamental. All Christian doctrine must be done in conversation with the pagans. Pagan is not a morally-loaded expression, but simply a term for those who are not Christian. Pagan is our default setting. If we are not Christian, and not Jewish, we are pagan, regardless of how we describe ourselves. The world is always pagan. Pagans did not disappear when Christians arrived but continue to be present through the centuries of Christendom. Post-Christian societies have reverted to a more obviously pagan set of assumptions, though these are seldom explicit beliefs and have not yet been articulated as pagan doctrine. The Greeks give us the best expression of the pagan conception of human life. Plato provides the most sophisticated account of a vast range of ideas which have become central to us, indeed which make us the people we are. We are heirs of the Greek and Romans, and we may learn more about ourselves by learning about them. How to be human. How to be a man. The word man allows us to refer simultaneously to the individual and to the whole human race, and so examine the relationship between each and all of us. And because in the pagan conception, the male has higher ontological status. Equality of the sexes comes with Christianity.

1. Getting Ahead
Humanity Divided The Self-Ruled and the Unruled We have two sets of humanity, the educated and wise and the uneducated and gullible. Then there are the rich and the poor, themselves divisible into further sets. We have not only the leaders and the led, but the leaders and the unled, those who might lead but dont, and those who need to be lead but arent. We have the teachers and the taught, or even the taught, who do or do not pass on the teaching they have received so we have a class of learners or of the untaught, the self-ruled versus the unruled. This war of all against all, creates alliances and groupings, to achieve the advantage against greater rivals.

But the ruled are not really different from the unruled. The leaders are themselves not under rule or discipline. They do not lead, but merely exert themselves, put themselves before the rest of us, and try to leave the mass behind. The ruling classes do not lead and shepherd the people, but have left them a leaderless mass. If the poor a rabble, without discipline or self-control, this is the fault of the rich. The pitiful condition of the masses is the fault of their leaders. That there is a rabble is demonstration that the educated and righteous have not led or exercised righteousness where it is needed. They are shown to be not under discipline, not educated, but unrighteous. The form of life is a means of: 1. sociality (being together with others, building your own team); 2. self-advancement (getting ahead of others, climbing over them to get beyond them), and 3. escapism (leaving others behind, leaving materiality behind). We try to control our exposure to the world and make ourselves resistant to outside pressures. We can call these means as forms of self-control, training regimes, therapies or religion. The pagan calling is to make ourselves imperturbably serene, by the power of thought to raise ourselves above the everyday shocks of this world. Life is all about learning how not to be pushed around by our passions, or by other people, or by circumstances, or rather when we are externally pushed around, to withstand it, while remaining internally undisturbed.

Life as Climb
We want to get ahead. We want to be independent and autonomous. Everyone wants to be at the top. No one wants to be led, ruled, taught or disciplined. We want to differentiate ourselves from the crowd. All pagan life is about trying either to dominate the crowd or to escape it. We set out to make ourselves more secure. We want to put ourselves above the fray, out of reach to other people, so we can be serene. We dont want to feel constantly under threat. We want to become invulnerable. We scramble for the next rung of the ladder, and clamber over one another to get ahead. We strive to climb the ladder of being. Philosophy as a program of ascent that takes the student from contemplating bodies, through contemplating souls, to contemplate the Mind and what is beyond. The souls in bodies all originally come from a single transcendent Soul and never fully lose their identity with it. Life is all about learning how not to be pushed around by our passions, or by other people, or by circumstances, or rather when we are externally pushed around, to withstand it, while remaining internally undisturbed. There is a great distance between the top and the bottom of the cosmos. The gap may be filled by intermediary beings which may offer to assist us to make the climb or which may wish to hold us back in order to use us for their own ends. How can we know which are aids and which obstacles? . For Greek pagans everything relates to its origin. The fact that there is a world at all is through result of the fall. Everything relates to what it once was and the most we can look forward to is that it becomes again what it once was. We come to know things by recapturing them from the past. All knowing is an act of recovery. At some

time in the past there was a cosmic catastrophe. What was once an entire and perfect world has suffered a collapse. Mankind was once a timeless and immortal being, but we have become material beings, and this is a disaster. Our whole purpose now must be to recover by disengaging ourselves from the immediate material circumstances in which we find ourselves. The mind has to retrace its path back out of this fog that is made up of all the material and broken pieces of reality. The questioning mind can carve through the blizzard of appearances and sense impressions, to feel its way towards the original unity behind them

2. The Capabilities of Man

Virtues Man has a range of powers. His first power we might call brute strength is the first of these. Virtue comes from virtus, strength, and is related to vir, the Latin word for man, from which virility comes. The four most important of these virtues are courage (andreia, virtus), self-control (sophrosyne, temperance), wisdom (phronesis, also known as practical rationality or prudence) and justice (dikaiosyne). Man is synonymous with strength: virtues are the strengths, or aptitudes and abilities, of a man. Physical strength and machismo is the beginning of manliness. Ajax is as strong as anyone, but brute strength is his only virtue. Yet physical strength may be out-manoeuvred by intelligence or cunning. Perhaps because he has always been able to rely on his strength he has never needed to develop any other skills, and so is now without any, with the result that he is not smart or be adaptable enough. Achilles is not only strong but a supreme warrior. His strength is accompanied by skill at battle in which he displays unrivalled machismo, virility and valour. By strength of spirit machismo he leads his own elite troops, and they have a loyalty to him. But Achilles has too much self-regard to be a reliable team member; the rest of the leaders of the Greeks cannot trust him. The most fundamental imperative of survival is not to be caught on your own. You are nothing without your friends. Your task is to secure your group around you and to defend it. You have to reward your friends. You do this through conflict with your rivals in which you can win resources (goods, slaves), weakening them and strengthen yourselves. Life is a perpetual process of building up and protecting what your rivals are attempting to tear down and carry away. We see this in Aristotles Nichomachean Ethics, the handbook on how to be a man. The ability to make friends, to be loved and create loyalty are vital aspect of being a man. Man is a social animal; he lives in covenants and in societies. Societies require these four virtues of courage, self-control, wisdom and justice. Honour Homer shows us the warrior chiefs of Greece at war. The fight goes to the strong and relentless. The hero is a brute and a thug. He pushes his way to whatever he wants, and is always looking for a fight. He is driven to seek his honour by pride and rage. Each manly chest is a simmering cauldron from which one dangerous mood after another boils over. He is not in control of his moods. Each is possessed by forces from outside himself, that sweep through him, or the group. In the heat of battle he goes berserk, his spirit turns to pure rage: he is possessed by the passion,

or god, of war and destruction. He is ready to kill or be killed, preferably by someone of greater renown than himself. He is driven by the forces inside him or that flow through him. He may be a hero, but he is also a victim of these forces. The best we can do is to be brave. We can go into battle, or into the market square, to win fame and secure our reputation. We are fully in view of our contemporaries, and of our ancestors and of posterity. We have to give a good account of ourselves, by overpowering and mastering other men. We may not pass on to our children less than we received from our father; we have to bring home to our ancestors at least as much honour as they sent us out with. Violence and Retaliation Men are warriors. We live in a closed economy of honour, revenge, retaliation and retribution. If one wins, it because someone else has lost. Our life consists in pushing ourselves forwards and upwards, and thereby pushing our rivals behind us and beneath us. Our gain is their loss. Life is all about learning how not to be pushed around by other people, and when we are, to push back, and to give as good as we get. Not to push back is unmanly, not virtuous. You cannot be a man if you do not revenge every insult, and every slight to your honour, and even the honour of your allies and friends. The real man uses all the strengths he has. He must find a proper balance so that his physical overbearing does not prevent him being conciliatory enough to make alliances, hold on to his friends, and by rewarding them secure his own power base. The real man is good at everything. But even this may not help him. Pursuit of one set of loyalties and interests will inevitably bring you into conflict with another set.

3. Self-Mastery
The cosmos is a place swept by contending forces and passions. These forces sweep through us so there are not only external but also internal to us. They are the emotions we feel. We are victims of them until we find some way to control them. If we are not absolutely self-controlled and so defended against these outside forces, the rage gets into us. But there is nothing more ludicrous than the man driven by rage to a conviction of his own absolute rightness. In this situation the rage-driven man can hear only his own voice, cannot takes his view absolute seriously, has no one he will listen to who can talk him down from the position he has convinced himself of. If there is one thing that that demonstrates more manliness than giving a harder blow or being a more aggressive fighter, it is being able to take a blow. To be beaten up and then to walk away whistling as though you hadnt even noticed, is a sure sign of a greater manliness than any more aggressive behaviour. Virility and masculinity require endurance and the ability to tough it out and withstand whatever your enemies, or nature, can throw at you. The way to beat your opponents is to let them exhaust themselves and then to walk away. The most enviable characteristic is not to feel the pressure of the world, or at least not to seem to feel it. We will come back to this issue of passivity and impassivity.

Wisdom and Counsel

Yet even warriors meet in councils and concede that wisdom is sometimes better than brute force. The Greeks are an effective fighting force when they can agree and cooperate. But they are individually so touchy about their honour that much of their interaction must involve the painful process of reconciling these massive egos to make a functioning team. Then it appears that real man and true leader is not the one who asserts his own honour in the face of all others, but who is able to be reconciliatory. The skill of building consensus and unity is most valuable of fall. The true leader has to resist the temptation to put his rivals down, for he humiliates them they will have no reason to cooperate. If we are not self-controlled and do not defend ourselves against these outside forces, rage will come to control us. There is nothing more ludicrous than the man driven by rage to a conviction of his own absolute rightness. In this situation the rage-driven man can hear only his own voice and is unable to let anyone talk him out the position he is convinced of. Among the strengths and virtues are the ability to listen, to take advice, to reason and to be persuaded. It is not weakness to change your mind as result of taking counsel from the assembly. The highest calling of the human being is to be a member of the assembly of public discourse, a reasoning being. Odysseus survived a war, a long sea voyage and mysterious encounters with foreigners. His cunning keeps him alive much longer than sheer strength would have done. Intelligence is the strength by which this man triumphs. Odysseus shows that a very-rounded set of virtues, which control the manly spirit and passions of his chest. It is intelligence, that comes out on top, so intelligence is the virtue that will come to be associated with what it is to be a man. A man must learn to use his head. Other people as Problem We all employ means of controlling our exposure to the force of the world. We look for ways to make ourselves more resistant to the buffeting of outside pressures. We can call these means as forms of self-control, or training regimes, or therapies, or religion. A therapy is a process by which we are purified and recover from our exposure to the pressures of the world around us. It is a way of bringing our bodies and minds under greater control. It will help us to make our movements less wild or aggressive. Marcus Aurelius, soldier and emperor, offers stoicism as the best means of gaining that self-control that will put you above the hostile forces of the world. Marcus Aurelius Meditations
Be like the headland against which the waves break and break: it stands firm. (Marcus Aurelius Meditations (Penguin p. 75) Hour by hour resolve firmly, like a Roman and a man to do what comes to hand with a correct and natural dignity, and with humanity, independence and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all of considerations. This you can do if you approach each can as though it were your last, dismissing the wayward thought, the emotional recoil from the command of reason, the desire to create an impression, the admiration ourselves, the discontent with your lot (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 2.5).

Stoicism is about the individual in a hostile world. It makes the virtues of courage and self-control solely important. It requires repression of emotion. But, if you cannot show feelings, how do you love? Without love, what gives you your motive to do anything? Cicero, Caesar, Scipio and Marcus Aurelius act for Rome, and for their own reputations. Their stoicism is not complete, because they are moved by these two loves, of country and of glory. But a more complete withdrawal from emotion attachment could not be the basis for social or political life, or even for family life. There is another, more radical form, of detachment, that creates the modern individual who does not identify himself with his family, nation or culture, or who denigrates these and is defined by his antipathy to them. He is the hedonist, the option represented by the Epicureans. Their cosmology is atomist and their ethic is withdrawal into the immediate enjoyments and so into narcissism, the life that concedes nothing to other persons or public culture or is not even aware of them. This attitude is only one step away from self-hate and loss of appetite for life.

4. The Strong Man and his Ancestors

All rulers have their power sourced to them from their ancestors and the divinities above them. They are representatives and front men of powers that are both natural and political. Each actual current political leader is just the lieutenant of the greater leadership in the level above him. The very senior are very high, made so by the, forced, worship of many generations. They ascend slowly up into a status of divinity, serenity and indifference. The past hangs over us in layers, termed eons. The most ancient centuries, or rather the most ancient kings, are furthest up above us: they have greatest power and have become most divine. But they are also most serene and least interested in us, and are least approachable. More recent rulers have not yet ascended so far up the cosmos, and the lowest of them can be persuaded sacrifices and honours to help us. Cicero The Dream of Scipio The hierarchical arrangement of ancestors and authorities can be seen Ciceros account of the Dream of Scipio. Rulers who have been great ascend up to take their place in the hierarchy of the heavens. Scipio is a reluctant military leader who would rather be a philosopher. In a dream he is taken on a night flight by his own illustrious ancestor to preview the heavens where national leaders and other heroes go after service to their country. Some philosophers have to become philosopher-kings.
It is your duty to devote to your people the benefit of your integrity, talent and wisdom .. the fate of the whole country will depend on you and you alone. It will be your duty to assume the role of dictator and restore order to our commonwealth.. (Penguin p.343) Every man who has preserved or helped his country is reserved a special place in heaven, where he may enjoy an eternal life of happiness .. It is from here in heaven that the rulers and preservers of those states once came and it is to here that they eventually return. They are still living, though they have escaped the prison house of their bodies, that is from the life, as you call it, which is in fact death.

Unless God has freed you from your confinement in the body, you cannot be admitted to this place. For men were brought into existence in order that they should inhabit the globe known as the earth, which you see here at the centre of this holy space. They have been endowed with souls made out of the everlasting fires called stars and constellations, consisting of globular and spherical bodies which are animated by the divine mind and move each in its own orbit and cycle. Therefore it is destined that you, Publius Scipio, shall allow your soul to stay in the custody of the body. You must not abandon human life except at the command of him who gave it to you so cherish duty and devotion. These qualities are owed to parents and kinsmen and, most of all, to ones country. That is the life that leads to heaven and to the company of those who, having completed their lives in the world, are now released from their bodies and dwell in that region you see, pointing to a circle of light blazing brilliantly among all the fires. (p. 346) Strive on, he replied and rest assured that it is only your body that it mortal; your true self is nothing of the kind. For the man you outwardly appear to be is not yourself at all. Your real self is not that corporeal palpable shape but the spirit inside; understand that you are god. You have a gods capacity of aliveness and sensation, memory and foresight; a gods power to rule and govern and direct the body that is your servant, in the same way that God himself, who reigns over us, directs the entire universe. And this rule exercised by eternal God is mirrored in the dominance of your frail body by your immortal soul. (p. 353) Use this eternal force therefore for the most splendid deeds it is in you to achieve. And the very best deeds are those which serve your country. The soul devoted to such pursuits will find it easiest to soar upwards to the place which is its proper home and its flight will be all the more rapid if, already during the period of its confinement within the body, it has travelled widely and by contemplating what lies outside itself, has contrived to detach itself from the body to the greatest possible degree. When a man has failed to do this and has abandoned himself instead to bodily indulgence and become its slave, letting the passions which serve pleasure him to flout the laws of both gods and of men, his soul after departing from his body, hover about close to the earth. Nor does it return to this place until many ages of torment have been undergone.

5. Popular Belief about the Cosmos

There were a large number of eclectic systems, which rely on narrative, with no underlying concept for coherence. The pagan worldview is pessimistic and fatalistic. The world and the course of man is determined by necessity. Man is under fate. Fate and Tragedy We can contrast two options represented by two gods. One the one hand there is the cool, calm, serene life that is associated with the God Apollo. And on the other there is the violent and dangerous God of uncontrolled passion Dionysius. We can be reasonable and civilised people much of the time, rational people and adherents of Apollo. But not all the time. We have to let off steam every so often. Dionysius

must also be honoured, or paid off. Madness waits for us. Once a year in his Festival, in which we drink the new wine harvest we allow ourselves to go crazy, get out of our minds and act like animals. We lose our individuality and become a mob; there is riot, lynching and murder. Euripides play The Bacchae shows that when the passion is pent up too long it will burst out violently. We have to allow this occasional release of passion so that we are released and purified (catharsis) of it. Greeks pay their dues to Dionysius by putting on a festival of tragedies, alternated with vulgar comedic goat dances. The tragedies show that mankind is under fate: we can rebel and be free for a short while, but fate will finally catch up with us and punish us. Creation as Product of Cosmic Violence Hesiod Theogony In the eighth century BC, Hesiod offers us a genealogy of gods and forces. In his Theogony Hesiod shows us that the cosmos is made up of a series of emanations as one thing has descended from another, in long ladder of divinities. The greatest are at the top though there is no single definition of their order. Sometimes most basic, and therefore highest in the order, is Chaos, or the Abyss, from which everything is said to come. At others Order, represented by Zeus, is at the top. The earliest is the highest, what is further down the ladder of being is subsequent and of lesser duration. What is most recent is also least likely to last. The question we ask about anything is, how far back do its origins go, how high on the ladder of being is its source. But the gods themselves are not free beings. All the gods are under fate, and violence is at the foundation of the universe. Above the gods is Fate (Necessity), which constrains the freedom of humanity, making human life a tragic affair. Pagan cosmology is about copulation, rape, birthing, murder and consumption. One thing gives way to another by rupturing it. Either children eat their father or fathers eat their children. All forces are personified. In Hesiods account any quality or abstraction, good or evil, has the status of a divinity. The formation of the cosmos appears to be a large and violent family drama. It features forces that we would consider political, moral or cultural, but also forces that are geological, seismic, meteorological or other phenomena of astronomy, physics or biology. Hesiod starts by establishing a basic succession Chaos gives birth to Earth
Chaos was first of all, but next appeared Broad-bosomed Earth, sure standing place for all the gods who live on snowy Olympus peak and misty Tartarus, in a recess of broad-pathed Earth, and Love most beautiful Of all the deathless gods. He makes men weak He overpowers the clever mind, and tames the spirit in the breasts of men and gods. From Chaos came black Night and Erebos. And Night in turn gave birth to Day and Space. And Earth bore starry Heaven, first to be An equal to herself, to cover her All over, and to be resting place, Always secure for all the blessed gods

(Hesiod Theogonis translated by Dorothea Wender, Penguin Classics, 1973) Creation is the outcome of this family feud p.28

These most awe-ful sons of Earth and Heaven were hated by their father from the first. As soon as each was born, Ouranos hid The child in a secret place in Earth And would not let it come to see the light And he enjoyed this wickedness. But she, Vast Earth, being strained stretched inside her, groaned And then she thought of a clever evil plan. Quickly she made grey adamant and formed a mighty sickle and addressed her sons urging them on with sorrow in her heart My sons, whose father is a reckless fool, if you will do as I ask, we shall repay your fathers wicked crime. For it was he who first began devising shameful acts

Earth immediately revenges herself on her mate, using their children to do so.
The hidden boy stretched forth his left hand; in his right he took the long a jagged sickle; eagerly he harvested his fathers genitals and threw them off behind. They did not fall from his hands in vain, for all the bloody drops that leaped out were received by Earth and when the years time was accomplished, she gave birth to the Furies

When the genitals of Ouranos (Heaven) were thrown into the sea they produced, paradoxically, two gods of love, Aphrodite and Eros. But the same act had also initiated another episode of cosmic deterioration and descent, adding new and increasingly dire names to the list of gods

Then deadly Night gave birth to Nemesis That pain to gods and men, and then she bore Deceit and Love, sad age and strong-willed Strife. And hateful Strife gave birth to wretched Work Forgetfulness, and Famine, tearful Pains Battle and Fights, Murders, Killings of men Quarrels and Lies and Stories and Disputes And Lawlessness and Ruin, both allied And Oath, who brings most grief to men on earth When anyone swears falsely, knowing it. In this pagan of account of creation, each level or world comes into existence through some cosmic disaster. The coupling of the divine Mother with the divine Father initiates a creates two sets of forces and of new divine or semi-divine entities. On one hand there are the forces of Love and Unity, and on the other, Violence, Dissent, Division and Distress, each of whom is also a god that shapes the fate of man.

Cosmic powers have to be appeased and persuaded to assist human projects. The lowest of them have to be paid off through sacrifice, involving the payment for which blood is the usual currency.

6. Mind, Society, Cosmos

There are three basic elements mind (psyche), society (polis), the universe (cosmos) that we have to consider. They share a common order (logos) and hierachy. The Hierarchy The Greeks set out a series of analogies between man, society and the material world. Man is a small part of the cosmos. But all souls are parts of the cosmic Soul. The soul of man along with the cosmos as a whole, is drawn forward and upward by goodness, truth and love. Man is moved by desire or love. Each man is made up of a head, a chest, a stomach, and these are decreasingly obedient to the head. The mind or head accounts for our spontaneity and able to take decisions. Our chest is full of spirit, noble passions and virtues. Our stomach represent our needs and habits, while our groin represents our passions and instincts, and our limbs represent our need to labour (necessity). So the human body represents a hierarchy of virtues and passions. The body of each individual represents the relationship of the individual and society; as the mind is to the body so the individual is to society. His mind (= spiritual eyes) contemplates the completeness and divinity of the whole (heavens) His eyes see the lower spheres of order, knowledge and law His ears hear the confused speech and claims of the world of politics, reputation, opinion, how to win His lower body is part of the lower out of control world of individuals without rule, in anarchy and slavery. The constitution of man mirrors the constitution of the cosmos: Upper heavens and God generosity, justice and love Lower heavens and angels order, knowledge World rule of law, politics, reputation, opinion Lower world out of control, individuals without rule, anarchy How to be really human, or how to be a real man? How can we be human together? How can we hold together a functioning society? What gives us our definition of human? Do we mean human according to nature (phusis) or according to culture (nomos)? Is the real man the strong man whose charisma makes all others notice and follow him? Will the real man act according to his own nature. Should he pretend to obey? Is all convention a disguise? Must the strong man always pretend? Or should he throw off his pretence to obey conventions and exercise his power without disguise? Is all law produced by the weaker to hold down the strong and stop them acting as their nature dictates, in their own interest? Or is the real man the one who


achieves a balance of nature and culture, who doesn't experience culture and law as onerous external restrictions, because he has learned them and sees that they correspond to the truth of the universe ? Man is moved by love and desire. He wants love and friendship. He desires to know and he reaches out to what he does not yet know. We therefore need to talk about love and knowledge. We will see how each tradition and period gives one of these aspects of man priority over others.

7. In Training with the Greeks

From Bodies to Persons We are becoming human. Life is a process of learning. First we learn to be social beings: we learn our mother-tongue, and the customs and traditions of our people. We are sent to school to learn the literature and history of our country. The Greeks learned the law and customs that made them Greeks, and learned much of this off by heart. A healthy mind requires a healthy body. We must exercise, sculpt our bodies and make them beautiful. The Greeks developed their bodies through exercise, first running and jumping, then wrestling and fencing and then by whole basic training of the soldier. We start by training the body. We prepare it for the test of war. War will test our character, our bravery, which is to say our manliness. The first of these techniques are sport and gymnastics which prepares young men for war. As they mature these are followed by public speaking and trying to win arguments in the public square, which is a form of mental gymnastics. These speech-games are about how to win your case, support your friends and defeat your enemies in public debate. These techniques are ways to compete, to make us successful, raise our profile, put us ahead of our competitors. To resort to giving your opponent a beating indicates that you have succumbed to passion. If you can take a beating without giving way to rage, resentment or desire for revenge, you rise above your beating. More impressive even than flooring the biggest opponent is taking your opponents biggest punch and being able to walk away from it. This is also a skill, that it is thought, can be learned. You want to display your manliness, but perhaps you do not need to fight. We can learn skills of persuading people and winning arguments, triumphing in debate, either by logic or by other less worthy debating skills of rhetoric. We must learn how to outthink our opponents so we can to trounce them publicly and persuade their supporters to come over to us. We aspire to be the lawyer or public speaker, who triumphs by his own wits, who can turn a hostile crowd or courtroom and get it cheering for us. All our training prepares us for such tests. All discussion and debate is a form of contest.


The Man with the Complete Range of Attributes: The four most important of these virtues are self-control (sophrosyne, temperance), courage (andreia, virtus), wisdom (phronesis, also known as practical rationality or prudence) and justice (dikaiosyne, translated in Scripture as righteousness). Strength he is a warrior (Homer, training starts in the gymnasium He respects authority, of the tradition of his people, their way of life and ancestors (piety) He has intelligence cunning (skill, know-how, practical knowledge) He is able to please, persuade and bring people with him. He can create consensus and so unify a group under his leadership He is under the authority of the law and tradition He has knowledge of the psyche-polis-and cosmos He has self-knowledge and self-control But to be a man may not lead us to towards political power. Our highest end may not be to glory in the political realm, but to be hunter in search of truth. Perhaps to be the one who knows is the highest aim of man.

Excellence and the Few

All society is inevitably divided into classes or even into hereditary castes. The overwhelming majority of people are obliged, by the demands of their own bodies, to work. They are necessarily defined by the work they do. They have no leisure for reflection, debate or political participation. Many people have to be driven to work by punishment. They are mere bodies, which without internal self-government, must receive their government externally. Their master has to beat them in order to make them work. The great majority of the population must be dedicated to creating the national economic product. This does not give them the time to undergo the education and training by which they can become self-ruled actors in public affairs. When the majority works, in the oikos (household, estate), an economic surplus is created which allows some heads of households to meet one another in the public square. They are not driven to do so by the needs of their bodies but wish to do in order to attempt a meeting of minds. They converse and offer one another reasons for their views, and so a world of public reasoning emerges. There they may compete for public standing and cooperate with one another in order to promote their shared interests. They arrange public affairs and create a national polity. They have the wealth and leisure to undergo the training and education which teaches them to act well, and to recognise and promote those who act well. Public life and politics is for this minority. Some or all of these may lead the nation in war, and so be warriors. Others be responsible for the traditions and conventions and law that constitutes the national memory and gives the nation its identity. They may form a priestly caste. That society is divided into these functions and these castes is required for its continuity. Self-Rule the Rule of the People Is democracy ever possible? Is it ever possible for a (whole) people to be so welleducated that they can tell good leaders from bad and always follow good leaders? Is democracy always rule by the unscrupulous politicians who out-bid one another to bribe the people with their own money?


A people can only be well-led by an elite that is well-trained in government. Government is always a by-product of good self-government. Good rule can come only from those who have learned how to govern themselves, their heads governing and controlling the demands of their bodies. The nation that pretends that everyone can participate in political life and public affairs deceives itself. Few people can be suitable for roles in government and public life. The possibility that there can be limitless social mobility and universal political participation is a myth. If the vote is given to people who are not trained up to selfrestraint and even self-denial means that public decisions are made without the exercise by particular persons of the restraint that would hold those decisions within practical economic bounds. Such a demos eventually votes itself more expenditure than it produces. It is always the present political class voting itself a bigger budget, and so exercising power against the interests of those groups not in power, or without their own vocal political representation. Democracies always end in socialism and socialism always ends in national bankruptcy. Everyone assumes that it is for other people to exercise self-restraint. Demo-cracy is a paradox, for the whole demos cannot be involved in its own rule; the entire population can never achieve the self-restraint required for self-government. When the leaders are afraid of the people, or rather, of the most vocal groups among them, they compete to placate their demands. They buy their support, with funding taken from the least vocal groups. Political power without political self-restraint democracy always comes to an end. The people give way to the mob, and the mob is controlled by the demagogue who makes himself the dictator. Democracy always flips over into autocracy. National continuity requires the rule of an elite. Aristo-cracy is rule of the best (arte- virtue). Good government requires a trained elite, which must be able to control its own and pursue the cmg good rather than its own interests.

Public Life is for an Elite

The Greeks do not condition the majority of any population to be full participants in society, and so as persons in the full sense. Those who are unable to participate in the political life of the city, in its debate and the public duty of reasoning, are unable to develop mind so their own, but remain the functions of their natural and economic circumstances, driven by nature and material considerations. They are not persons, but merely bodies, determined by necessity. There are two classes of men, one motivated by virtue, driven by the demands of their bodies. Everyone is either a full member of a community, in which case he is a person, or simply a nobody, like a slave. Real men were not obliged to resort to trade and interaction with the material world. You can appeal to their reason and persuade them to do what you want them to do, by talking to them and reasoning with them. All their status as persons was provided in their encounter with one another in public. The free self-supporting man finds his fulfillment in life among his equals in the city. He is his own master. He has to demonstrate his manliness, selfcontrol and power of public speech, all of which were described by the term virtue.


The majority are not their own master, or rather their needs drive them to graft and compete, jockey and trade because they do not have control of themselves. Anyone has needs has no autonomy and has to prostitute himself and become dependent on someone. Such people are not persons in the full sense, you cannot reason with them, but simply have to apply as much force to them as is required to get them to do what you want. This is how it is with most of the world; they do not have minds that can respond to your mind, so you have to use the stick on them. The resource that supports the whole elite of free rich male citizens, is the household (oikos), and estate. Women, servants, slaves and foreigners work away unseen. This realm in which no one is free, provides the elite with the means of life and the leisure which gives them the freedom to participate in public life and politics.

SUMMARY 1. Heaven (Father) and Earth (Mother) inadvertently bring new forces and new phenomena into existence by copulation, or by violence that starts a cycle of retaliation. Creation is the result of a family feud. New gods appear by breaking their way out of the body of an existing god, and so by violence. 2. There is a hierarchy, at the top of which things exist fully and unchangingly, at the bottom of which beings have only the most meager existence Fate Gods & political-cosmological forces Divinized rulers Present rulers The living the dead 3. Cosmic powers have to be placated, and have a price. 4. We all employ means of controlling our exposure to the force of the world. We look for ways to make ourselves more resistant to the buffeting of outside pressures. We can call these means as forms of self-control, or training regimes, or therapies or religion. 5. Philosophy is a form of therapy, a process of recovery or purification that takes out all the contradictions we have internalised and a way of bringing our bodies and minds under greater control. 6. Every expert and teacher offers a system of knowledge that functions as a form of therapy. But do their systems and therapies create new forms of subordination by which the expert can extract payment? Do they create the obstacles they claim to overcome? 7. Is all education a plot by the old to make the young sit down and behave? Should the young call the bluff of the old?