The Rise and Fall of Athenian Civilization

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A Cautionary Tale in the Era of Globalization

. Citizens need a collective vision of a great society to guide every decision they make.I. Isn’t this simply a pipedream. to lead them toward a greater realization of the good life. you can become it. You have to have a vision to make yourself and your society the best they can be. d.” e. Private life and public life are inseparable.” f. Adults need a vision of the good life as a guide for every decision they make. But it is also true that “If you do not dream it. an unattainable goal? Won’t it simply lead to frustration and social unrest? Won’t it lead people to undermine law and order and ignore their leaders because they think they deserve better? c. Why do we need to articulate a vision of the good life and the good society? b. What is a truly free people? What is a great society? a. It is false to believe that “If you can dream it. you will never become it.

Self-knowledge: know one’s strengths and weaknesses. give excess money away in ways that improve quality of life for all iii. Sociability: good will toward fellow citizens one does not know vii. not overreact or under-react. keep each other informed about public affairs vi. Friendships: continual cultivation of virtue.Athens: A society based on a vision of the good life. thinking one knows more than one knows . accept unjust suffering when necessary. no revenge. sex ii. Anger: appropriate. encourage each other. both individually and collectively Personal virtues i. fear of loss of reputation: courage to speak one’s mind. drinking. avoid pride. engage in activities that promote everyone’s well-being. war). to admit one is wrong. moderation in standard of living so that everyone can attain the same level of prosperity. Courage: overcome fear of death (old age. avoid unnecessary suffering for oneself and others v. fear of pain. Generosity: middle class. Self-control in relation to eating. and to learn from others iv.

education. Natural desire to understand the ultimate foundations of reality: speculative reasoning c. Equity: good judgment about how to apply the laws. cases b. Intellectual virtues i. Pleasure from profit: avoid greed and sloth. unequal ii.a. Justice: relationships with fellow-citizens one does not know i. Natural curiosity: sciences ii. Rectify of wrongs: equals: punishing those who harm others unjustly iii. power. Vision of a great society: establish institutions and a collective spirit that motivates citizens to encourage each other to develop their capabilities . Distribute of social goods: wealth. everyone does what they are most skilled at. status. Our vision of the well-lived life: develop one’s natural capabilities d. contribute talents to the common good iv.

Spartans: barbarians: institutions organized around the goal of educating people to value being honored in war. pleasure. blind obedience b. demi-god. Athens: focus on the cultivation of the free minds of citizens. Athens was more evolved and unique a. Persians: barbarians: one leader. Trojans: barbarians: dedicated to wealth.I. the full development of their souls . promoted empire-building. political power as the ultimate value d. self-destructed c.

people regulate themselves. can learn how to become good citizens . tragedy. drinks.At the time of the Golden Age. paintings. and exercise routines maintain inner harmony and long-term health A model for exercising the art of rhetoric so that uneducated people can be taught how to use their minds. institutions Democracy by lottery: people take turns ruling and being ruled in turn Trial by jury: those who break laws are punished by a group of peers. don’t need powerful authority figure Written works: history. Athens had developed a complex and comprehensive set of institutions whose purpose was to nurture a truly free people *Parthenon: Religion: spiritual humanism: To be fully human is what the gods want We naturally desire to create something greater than ourselves. be able to think clearly about private and public affairs. leave behind a legacy that will sustain the great society. epic poetry Sculpture. music A system of education from birth throughout life aimed at developing human reason A model for exercising the art of medicine that promotes the citizen’s ability to keep themselves healthy by finding out what foods. the rule of reason in human affairs Examples of creative endeavors that promote the rule of reason Set of laws.

no one makes themselves into a god Use reason to determine best laws. how to enforce them Dialogue: need to debate issues. no desire for revenge Rule of Law: the way the gods want us to live Rule and be ruled in turn: no one has absolute power. not empire-building If victorious. proportionality: natural response. leaving behind a legacy of stories of the good life Roof of temple follows shape of hills: culture completes nature. integrate nature and culture *Beauty. Ares) Prefer diplomacy to war: rational resolution of conflicts honored by the city more than facing danger in war War for the sake of national security only. link appreciation of mathematics. understand different perspectives before making final decisions *Parthenon: walk slowly upward. patterns in math to concrete embodied existence . columns.Living one’s life in ways that engage people in the use of reason. not at odds with nature. not denigrate nature Athena: goddess of wisdom and war: only just wars (vs.

deserve respect Middle-class citizens as able to rule themselves sometimes and as making mistakes other times Middle-class citizens get manipulated by corrupt rulers Families who inherit more power and privilege abuse their privileged: Athenians learn to identify corruption in rulers. irrational behavior does not pay The education of a people for freedom: how to develop and maintain their collective ability to rule themselves . majority determines winner All members of community.*Tragedy Religious festivals: everyone came Contest: citizens vote. to avoid believing rhetoric that appeals to irrational emotions to get people to vote and act irrationally Members of the most privileged families learn how to use and abuse power. recognize that abuses only lead to more abuses. unnecessary suffering. even slaves Learn to think critically Women portrayed as intelligent Slaves portrayed as capable of empathy.

Patterns of human experiences that require rational choice in the face of the temptation to act irrationally Youth: coming-of-age: transition from blind obedience to learning how to think for oneself Middle-age: resisting the temptation to abuse one’s authority. flush out self-pity and fear so one can live a full life. many ways everyone suffers unjustly Having good intentions but doing the wrong thing Must be educated: good intentions are not good enough Must seek wisdom throughout life. continual dialogue Purgation of pity and fear: recognize human vulnerability. to think the end justifies the means. prevent making same mistakes . to use and abuse others to maintain one’s own power Old age: resisting the temptation to become bitter due to the many. take responsibility for one’s self and one’s city Taverna: discuss the tragedy after the performance: learn what the characters did not learn.

Olympics International cooperation. thunderbolts *Islands: scientific investigation. sophisticated health care. speculative reasoning. perfection of soul. foreign women *Dialogue: ultimate value. interaction Objective rules. exercised *Corinth: Natural beauty. no censorship *Poseidon: god of the sea *Zeus: sound body. the way reason/mind is educated. leads to city-state. rugged terrain. apply rules Sound mind in sound body: preventative medicine *Hephaestus: craftsmanship: human capacity for creating beautiful artifacts *Agora: marketplace International trade Dialogue with people from all over the world Public square: debate current affairs: open. wealthy businessmen . prostitutes.*Olympics Need to train young people for possible war Instead of blind obedience. collective judgments. different schools *Aspasia: women’s medicine. navy Temple to Apollo: sailors.

9 months.” Thought is an inner dialogue of the soul with itself: decision *Theater: purgation of irrational emotions *Olympic stadium: sound mind in sound body *International law: written on stone *Hygeia: health: mind. body . do not favor one’s own International culture: Crete: Minoans Apollo and Dionysius: Reason and Passion. rule of law. not the priests’ Take responsibility for one’s own actions. 3 months Suppliants Purification: baths Know thyself Nothing in excess “Answer” is a riddle: interpreted according to the desires of the interpreter.*Delphi: same principles as Athens *Culture and nature Apollo and Python: matriarchy and patriarchy. a great empire will be destroyed. tribal loyalties vs. interpretations “If you go to war. reflects one’s own soul. reason is detached and objective.

hypocrites  Do not distinguish between just and unjust wars  Some Athenians have the souls of Spartans. took over power  Trial by jury: ambitious and wealthy lawyers paid teachers of rhetoric. not educated. tribalism. will take revenge if they can  Treat friends unjustly. learned how to manipulate jurors  Citizens expected to be manipulated. Athens *Parthenon: paid for by spoils of war and excess taxation of allies  Treat enemies unjustly. for a stable future . ambitious citizens learned the skills. value conquest and glory from fighting in war more than cultivation of the soul  Public policy made by Assembly: foreigners paid large sums to teach rhetoric.Corruption of Athens *Melos: might makes right: Sparta vs. how to persuade people to do whatever you want. not reason or justice  Citizens no longer really believed in the rule of law. will rebel if possible  Athenians exercise absolute authority over others. being governed privately and publicly by a detached and objective assessment of what is best and most just for everyone. expected to vote on the basis of emotion.

power struggles between the privileges families *Teachers of rhetoric and students now believed that people are by natureirrational. the poets magnify them for the sake of pleasure and entertainment . used to justify themselves. beauty by nature *Natural love of beauty perverted: Math teachers detached themselves from public affairs. morality is relative. justice. want as much power as they can get. shrinking middle class. those who loved order obsessed about harmonies in music rather than using music as a way to form a strong character *Tradition of tragedy perverted People preferred comedy to tragedy People preferred to be entertained not educated People did not learn lessons: assume irrational emotions are natural. disconnect education in math from seeking to create order in one’s soul and society Natural love of order in music perverted: more emotional music became more popular. virtue.*Those with more wealth and power used it to consolidate what they already had. no truth.

public life and the quality of public life *Hephaestus: craftsmanship perverted Instead of making beautiful artifacts. observers Medicine: pander to irrational desires. fear of pain. wealth.*Olympics perverted Military conquest valued in spite of Olympic tradition Overspecialization: athletes have extremely regimented lives. then watches as Greeks destroy each other and themselves in unjust wars . status Conversations in public square reinforced and reflected corruption of spirit. loss of original ideal *Poseidon: watches as Greeks defend themselves against Persians. not exercise and still not get sick Keep people alive whose bodies are trying to die Keep people from experiencing natural pain Rich spend money on “medicines” rather than on public affairs. therefore there is not truth. just war. measure: power. drink too much. swords and shields *Agora: international trade Led to moral relativism: everyone has different beliefs. gods. not overall wellness. fear of death Create medicines and remedies so that people can overeat. audiences fat and out of shape. we can’t know or see We should pursue what we can see. skills put to use making military hardware.

each is seeking his own power: the souls of the citizens no longer driven by the desire for wisdom. its original vision . prostitution *Dialogue: more extreme positions. excess wealth.” philosophers live on islands to prevent persecution *Aspasia: women go to Aegina to run from male abuse. rejection of restraint either by choice or by law *The society is losing its soul. lack of self-control. personal power. intolerant of interpretations that focus on the moral lesson rather than a literal truth *Athenians condemn those who seek a rational foundation for reality: “atheists. or “freedom” interpreted as the license to do whatever one pleases. instead driven by the desire for glory in war. people not learning from each other. rape.*Zeus: Athenians seek blind obedience to a literal understanding of the stories of the gods and goddesses.

wealth. those with privilege.*Corinth: when a vision is lost. another replaces it: Christians were sincere. I wrote my dialogues to remind people of what a great vision and a great society we had and how quickly we lost it *Sunset: What legacy have I left behind? Will my readers understand the message? . or status *Delphi: priests recognized the corruption of Athens. when citizens claim to be blindly obedient and really use their religion to pursue power. any cultural tradition will be replaced when the people no longer exercise the virtues it is based on. exposed corruption *Citizens accused Socrates of atheism and of corrupting the youth *Citizens condemned Socrates to death by hemlock *Taverna: I started a school to educate the next generation: don’t make the mistakes we made. exercised the virtues the Athenians had originally promoted. preserved the tradition *Socrates: Delphi: “Socrates is wisest” Socrates questioned authorities.

value. leading to the destruction of their societies and eventually of themselves or the next generation? *Like the priests at Delphi. and intellectual? Or will they pursue glory in war.*Will human beings in the future understand. and pursue the ideal of the cultivation of the human soul in all the virtues: personal. wealth. this riddle: What will you do with your life? What is the good life? What makes life worth living? What sort of life leads most likely to a better life for our children and grandchildren? What sort of legacy do you want to leave behind? . social. political. license to do whatever they want. or personal power. I leave you with this puzzle.

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