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3. Topics: Philosophy & Education [Dr. Müller, Spain]

Start Date:
23. June 2015, 10:30
Finish date:
23. June 2015, 11:15
MESHS - Espace Baïetto



An Ancient Perspective on Contemporary Cultural Conflict


Abstract Course

The aim of this lecture is to look into Western history of thought and inquire how it can be employed to promote knowledge and reflection on the role of the citizen from past to present societies. Our methodological approach is the study of the etymology of paradigmatic terms and its social-philosophical evolution. By the main of interdisciplinary research we can gain new insights and alternative solutions for the tackling of contemporary cultural conflicts. This lecture will be centred on the origin and development of the concepts of destiny and freedom in the Ancient Greek world and discuss how the classical interpretation of the human will provides a civic experience of an ethos of responsibility for the common good of society. We will focus on the “soft powers” of the Ancient Greek society, like the artistic expression of theatre, and not on the “hard powers” of economics, politics and their respective institutions. Although Greek Tragedy reflects in its structure and language, social and political changes, it also has an educational and therapeutic function. In his Poetika, Aristotle presents how the spectator of the Greek Drama can educate his practical intelligence (phrónesis), moral capability, and emotions. The conception of theatre as the education of human consciousness and the possibility to develop his intelligible and emotional capacities (paideai), is based on the Aristotelian idea of the vulnerability of the human will. In the De Anima, the philosopher denotes the voluntas as a rational desire (boulēsis) and not as a faculty with full autonomy from the individual´s reason and appetites. The boulēsis of Aristotle needs external and internal impulses to motivate its process and defines itself very differently from the Augustinian voluntas (generally inherited in the modern Occidental societies). Augustine had the conception of the will as a faculty free from every determination not reducible to its own self-determination and uniquely responsible for the actions it commands. But this free and infinite will does not only raise a host of unsolvable paradoxes – like the reduction to an alienated and arbitrary power, which has nothing to do with all that makes us human-; but is also susceptible to become dogmatic and “autistic”. The Aristotelian point of view resumes the archaic and classical ethics, expressed not only by the philosophers but also by the poets. Homeric poetry and Aeschylean tragedy describe a conditioned will, open to external and internal necessity. The gods, destiny and violent passions motivate the human will, but this fact does not make the hero less responsible for his deeds. In the archaic and classic moral the human being was also responsible for his unwilled decisions and actions. An interpretation that is very alienated to current Occidental moral and judgemental systems. We emphasize the power of the will, making it fully responsible for our freedom and happiness. In this lecture we will question if the Aristotelian interpretation of the boulēsis, as a “needless” power of our soul, is no more plausible than the Augustinian version of the voluntas. Maybe our freedom is the capacity that we have to educate our emotions and appetites and redirect them by our practical intelligence. Perhaps rethinking our freedom in this way we can create a community spirit, instead being a society occupied in procuring systems of control and domination of all that we conceive as a threat to our individual freedom.



Secondary Literature

  • Adkins A (1960) Merit and responsibility, Oxford University Press, London
  • Bieri P (2009) Das Handwerk der Freiheit. Über die Entdeckung des eigenen Willen, Fischer, Frankfurt
  • Candel M (2009) The Will a needless power of the soul? In Anales del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía, Barcelona, XXVI: 185-194
  • Dietrich B (1967) Death, Fate and the Gods, 2nd edition, London, The Athlone Press, London
  • Frede M (2011) A Free Will, Origens of the Notion in Ancient Thought, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles
  • Greene W (1948) Moira, Fate, Good, and Evil in Greek Thought, Harvard University Press, London
  • Jaeger W (1933) Paideia, Die Formung des Griechischen Menschen, 2 vols., Walter de Gruyter & Co, Berlin
  • Leitzke E (1930) Moira und Gottheit i malten griechischen Epos, Sprachliche Untersuchungen, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen
  • Lesky A (1961) Göttliche und menschliche Motivierung im homerischen Epos, Carl Winter, Heidelberg
  • Onians R (1951) The origins of European thought, about the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Pohlenz M (1955) Griechische Freiheit, Wesen und Werden eines Lebensideals, Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg

Primary Literature

  • Aristotle, The Poetics, edited by Heinemann, Harvard University Press, 1932, Cambridge (Mass)
  • Aristotle, De Anima, edited with commentary by Sir David Ross,The Clarendon Press 1961, Oxford