Notes on Reading: Thorton, chs 3 and 4

  1. In general: we made some progress toward my goal of explicating the argument of an author. That is, we articulated several central points:
    1. What is [according to Thornton] the primary cultural achievement of the Greeks? "...sustained, self conscious reflection"
      1. Implicit in the discussion, and what should have come out more dynamically, was the sense that this "reflection" is preserved in literature, namely, that it was in literary works --publically presented to a primarily male audience-- that the Greeks addressed the issue of passion, its consequences, and why it needs to be controlled.
      2. Thornton argues that tho the Greeks were not models of perfection in their treatment of women and sexuality, their insistence on "self conscious reflection" was a critical component in "liberation" and made possible later advances in the Enlightenment and beyond.
    2. What we did not do well was to examine the subordinate arguments of his position, and that is what I am challenging you to do here. Namely to consider: how SSR = reason has to be used with empathy and self control to develop a shared sense of identity = humanity. The formation of a city, indeed of a state has to encourage these qualities among its citizens.
    3. The subjects of the reading for this session and next involve slavery and warfare.
  2. Chp. 3: Regarding slavery:
    1. bear in mind that there are significant differences between Greek slavery and that practiced in the US; what are those differences?
    2. The crux of his argment is the apparent paradox that the Greek could speak theoretically of the "brotherhood" of all men (taken generically here) and yet practice slavery. But how does he develop his argument? How does he overcome the paradox?
    3. How is it that "sustained self-conscious reflection" could lead one to the conclusion that slavery --practiced everywhere in the ancient world and still found today-- was morally wrong?
    4. Proposition for Report: "To justify slavery, the slave must be dehumanized, deprived of reason, virtue and self-control." How did the best of Greek literature undermine this perspective? See tool below
  3. Chp.4: Warfare. Regarding warfare: The Hoplite Reform We will turn to this chapter next Tue.
    1. Note again the paradox in western thinking: support for "lean, mean fighting machines" and yet the espousal of peace and the recognition of the humanity of the enemy.
    2. Note especially the rather unique feature of greek literature that it can celebrate --represent in a sympathetic light-- the heroism and tragedy of the enemy. Greeks do not demonize their enemies.
    3. Again, think about the subordinate and supporting arguments introduced by Thornton.

Discussion Question: How did the best of Greek literature employ notions of SSR, empathy and humanity, rationality to critique the practice of slavery and the reality of warfare?