Intellectual Experiments of the Greek Enlightenment

Intellectual Experiments of the Greek Enlightenment

Friedrich Solmsen
Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 287
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    Intellectual Experiments of the Greek Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    Generally known for its advanced, often radical suggestions of reform in politics, religion, morality, and human behavior, the Greek Enlightenment has long been studied in terms of its doctrines and theories. To understand the environment in which the new ideas flourished and their impact, Friedrich Solmsen explores the novel intellectual methods that developed during the period.

    A variety of new modes of thought was introduced at this time or, if known before, was applied with delight in experimentation. Among those that Friedrich Solmsen examines are new methods of argumentation: persuasion aimed at the control of man's emotions; Utopian speculation; experiments with language; and the emergence of a secular psychology and its use in the reconstruction of human motives and historical events.

    Concentrating on the work of nonphilosophical authors such as the historian Thucydides and the tragedian Euripides, the author presents a portrait of a restless and spirited age engaged in an adventure of reason.

    Originally published in 1975.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7120-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-9)

    The Greek Enlightenment of the fifth century B.C., also known as the Rationalistic Movement or the Age of the Sophists, is generally associated with progressive or revolutionary ideas and even more, perhaps, with their negative correlate, the questioning of time-honored beliefs and values. In principle, nothing was any longer taken for granted, and the fact that something was commonly practiced did not in the least protect it from criticism. This criticism, not always original but skillfully employing whatever thought of the past could be drawn into its service, spared neither the official religion nor institutions, laws, or conceptions of justice...

    (pp. 10-46)

    Central in importance as is argumentation for the vigorous new use oflogos,an exhaustive account of its varieties seems impossible, and, even were it possible, would disturb the proportions of our study. On the following pages, we shall examine briefly one and, somewhat more fully, another type of argumentation. Instances of these types might be found in earlier days; but in the period of the Enlightenment they became appreciated and an object of conscious manipulation.

    It seems expedient to start at a point where arguments run riot. Gorgias in his treatiseOn NatureorNot-Beinguses arguments that are...

    (pp. 47-65)

    The third thesis that Gorgias defends in his treatiseOn Not-Beingis that reality, even if it existed and could be grasped, could not be communicated.¹ This may well make us wonder why, with such pessimistic opinions, Gorgias devoted so much effort tologosin the sense of speech and what effect he expected of it. Some answer to this question is provided by his defense of Helen. Here we learn of great powers inherent inlogos.They do not serve communication or clarification. Rather, they are the opposite or, if we prefer, the complement to the powers studied in...

    (pp. 66-82)

    As we have stated in the Introduction, we do not propose to deal with the content of radical and reformatory theories put forward in this period. Our concern is with forms rather than with subject matter. Sometimes the protest against tradition takes the form of a Utopian wish or thought; in fact when criticism goes to extremes, it is apt to demand impossible changes, and the most radical ideas of the time are known to us only in the medium of Utopian speculations. Speculations and wishes are free and can travel in any direction. To begin with a well-known instance,...

    (pp. 83-125)

    The principal instrument of reason is language, and if reason enjoyed new freedom and used it for experimentation, language was bound to be drawn into these experiments. In itself, a conscious attitude to language was nothing new. Even the early poets are likely to have known why they preferred one manner of phrasing to another. In theTheogonywe observe the “invention” of names for deities and understand what the poet wishes to express through them. Aeschylus speaks of names given “truly” and names given “falsely.”¹ Much more could be said about this subject, but our concern is with the...

    (pp. 126-171)

    During the earlier centuries of Greek thought and literature, hardly any concept holds so dominating a position in moral issues ashybris.¹ How far literature reflects “life” in this aspect is difficult to know, but some corresponding, even if far less articulate, beliefs and superstitions must have formed the substratum of what we meet in the written documents. Were one to say nothing here ofhybrisprior to the fifth century and, in this century itself nothing about its central importance in Aeschylus and about its somewhat reduced place in Sophocles, Herodotus alone would suffice to prove its continuing vitality....

    (pp. 172-240)

    In Chapter V we became acquainted with a new approach to the problems of human motivation. In the generation of Thucydides, realistic analysis took possession of a subject in which formerly divine operation had been allotted a large share. Antiphon the Orator uses the realistic psychology in the interest of his clients. Euripides and perhaps other tragedians of the time show men and women “as they (really) are” in their acting and suffering; and Thucydides thinks in terms of the new psychology to explain the conduct of individuals or communities directing the course of historical events. The events themselves are...

    (pp. 241-250)

    In a “Conclusion” it is usual to pull the threads together, and if the same threads have run from chapter to chapter, the Conclusion is expected to tie them into a firm knot. We have warned our readers in the Introduction not to expect anything of this kind. For in this monograph, chapter has not been built upon chapter; each has its individual subject, and, in each, one manifestation yet always a different one of the same basic tendency is discussed and illustrated. The chapters are parallel. Moreover we have, again in the Introduction, given away our thesis, and all...

    (pp. 251-252)
    (pp. 253-259)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)