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The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry [Michael Davis] on efycymepodor.tk *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The understanding of the soul in the West has been .
Table of contents
But, far from being a historical survey, it is instead a brilliant meditation on what lies at the heart of being human. The Soul of Achilles Part One: The Doubleness of Soul Chapter 2: Out of Itself for the Sake of Itself I. Sensation and Imagination B.
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Passive and Active Mind C. Imagination and Thought Chapter 3: The Rest and Motion of Soul Chapter 4: Soul as Same and Other Chapter 6: The Duplicity of Identity in the Helen Chapter 7: Euripides among the Athenians: The Soul of the Law: The soul with which we are familiar is serious business. There are, of course, reasons for this understanding of soul, and, while it is perhaps most available to us as the soul of Christianity, it is not so very different from what we sometimes seem to encounter elsewhere--say in Plato's Phaedo.
Still, is this how we first encounter, and so first come to speak of, soul? Is it the soul of everyday life? Was soul music designed to appeal a detached, non-bodily, immortal being? While such a beginning need not be the truth of the being of soul, it might nevertheless be the truth of how soul first appears. And even if first impressions prove subsequently problematic, it is always worth reflecting on why things initially appear as they appear. Let us then turn to the first sighting of soul in the West available to us--the poetry of Homer.
The first word of the first extant work of Greek literature is m enis , wrath or anger. M enis occurs twelve times in the Iliad-- four times describing Achilles 1. Accordingly, it seems worth asking what Achilles, and Achilles alone, might share with the gods. The Iliad is the story of a choice. Achilles seems to know before he comes to Troy that he will either return home to Phthia and live a long life without glory or remain with the army and gain immortal glory but at the cost of his own death 9.
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While Achilles does not so much choose death as the manner of his death, our first impression is still that in choosing glory, kleos , he thinks himself to choose a kind of immortality. Achilles longs to overcome death. Homer thus uses him as a paradigm for what moves he-men andres generally. Their longing for glory sets them apart from ordinary human beings anthropoi and signals their wish to live as gods.
The tension between god and he-man is echoed by the distinction between he-man and human being, which, in turn, points to a tension within human beings as such. As an exemplar of this human quality, Achilles is in some way essentially human. And yet, as an exemplar, he is also in some way qualitatively different from what he exemplifies. Achilles, as the man who wished to transcend his humanity, is exemplary of humanity. The Iliad is the story of man's striving for what seems highest, for an immortality that preserves one's greatness as a person.
It is the story of a man's attempt to become a god--a perfect soul--which, by virtue of being perfect, will no longer be human. Given this aspiration, it is curious that nowhere in the Iliad , or the Odyssey or, for that matter, in any text extant in all of Greek literature prior to the dialogues of Plato is a god ever said to have a soul.
And even in Plato, the attribution is rare and arguably ironical. Still, by the time of the classic age of Greek literature in the fifth century, psuch e has become the most important of these words by far. And it has a splendid future, for it is the word that Christianity will adopt in the New Testament. So, in a way, all thirty-three occurrences have to do with death or the appearance of death. From the very beginning, then, psuche is connected to human mortality and, insofar as we seek to avoid and overcome death, therewith to incompleteness and imperfection.
Insofar as soul makes an appearance in the Iliad , it seems to mean imperfect soul. The plot of the Iliad divides in three. Whether understood in terms of eros of Paris, of Helen, of Menelaus, or of some combination or in terms of justice that is, of retribution for the violation of the law of xenia- -guest-friendship , the initial cause of the war is grounded in the particulars of a specific situation and demands a specific resolution. The first three books of the Iliad display the gradual erosion of this framework. Helen belongs to Menelaus as a matter of conventional right, but the poem begins with a challenge to conventional right as Achilles' quarrel with Agamemnon sets at odds conventional rank and natural superiority.
In book 3, the story of the monomachia between Paris and Menelaus, this tension comes to a head, for as soon as Menelaus agrees to settle the question of Helen by personal combat with Paris, he relinquishes any claim to her that is grounded in right. That he proves to be Paris's superior in combat does not mean Menelaus has a legal right to Helen. If the war is about Helen in particular, then settling the question of Helen should end the war.
The ground-rules set for the contest between Paris and Menelaus confirm this 3. Whoever wins will get Helen and her possessions; Trojans and Greeks will then become friends. But Homer shows us that, while Helen may have launched the war, once launched, this war, and perhaps all war, acquires a life of its own, for after the failure of the monomachia Aphrodite spirits Paris away , another principle is at work in the conflict, the paradigm for which is the second monomachia in book 7 where Hector and Ajax fight solely for the sake of glory-- kleos. In the second stage of the poem, men fight not only to be "best and preeminent among men" but also to make their preeminence known.
They fight for immortal glory. Of this sort of war, there is in principle no end, for the question of justice, the answer to which might settle things, has disappeared. After they fight, Ajax and Hector can exchange gifts to indicate their mutual esteem. They do not hate each other; they even recognize that, in a way, they are alike in their deepest longing.
After Hector and Ajax fight, the transition begins to the final stage of the poem, where the war changes its character once more. When Achilles returns to avenge the death of Patroclus, a return foretold by Zeus to Hera at the end of book 8 , the war once again has a particular goal and so a potential end.
As Seth Benardete puts it,.
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The love for Helen turns into the love for fame, which in turn becomes Achilles' love for Patroclus. From er os to er os kleous "love of fame" to er os is the cycle of the Iliad ; but how Achilles' er os unites the other two will be our final problem. The movement of the poem first traces the origin of heroic longing as love of kleos and then reveals the tragedy of this longing in the tragedy of Achilles.
One can begin to see the root of this tragedy by reflecting on the transformation in the m enis of Achilles. He is not initially angry at the Trojans--his putative enemies; they are for him just the opportunity to display his virtue. The anger of the poem's first line is directed at Agamemnon, who claims precedence over an obviously superior Achilles. Achilles resents his dependence on conventional men and conventional distinctions. He therefore withdraws, for he is bigger than the battle that surrounds him. When Patroclus is killed, Achilles' anger is redirected at Hector and the Trojans.
But Patroclus dies because he seeks to save the Greeks from the catastrophe Achilles has brought upon them. Achilles is in an awkward position. The Greeks are losing badly, and it seems to be his fault. If things continue as they are going at the end of book 15, Achilles' immortal glory will give way to ignominy. And yet he cannot return to the battle without acknowledging Agamemnon as his lord and so losing face.
Patroclus is for him the perfect solution, for when he begs for Achilles' armor so that he may pretend to be Achilles, it becomes possible for Achilles to remain apart from the battle while "Achilles" returns to save the day.
If even a simulacrum of Achilles is sufficient to rout the Trojans, what must this mean about the virtue of the real Achilles? Achilles thus accepts Patroclus's proposal. The problem, however, is that by accepting, he places Patroclus's life in jeopardy and knows that he does so. May the gods not bring to pass evil troubles for my spirit, as my mother once made clear to me and told me that while I yet lived, the best of the Myrmidons would leave the light of the sun at the hands of the Trojans.
Moreover, Achilles lies to himself about what he has done, for, while he claims to have warned Patroclus not to fight with Hector And when Patroclus asks him whether he has some prophecy that makes him reluctant to lend his armor When Patroclus dies, then, at whom is Achilles really angry? When Achilles takes revenge by killing Hector, we are told that he knew precisely where to strike because he knew the weakness of his own armor, the armor Hector wears because he has stripped it from the body of the dead Patroclus We also know that the armor of the time hides the man beneath it, for the Trojans initially believed Patroclus to be Achilles.
This tragedy begins first, however, with the problematic status of love of fame as a means to immortality. At the beginning of book 6 it is the Trojans who are in trouble-they have just suffered the aristeia of Diomedes in book 5, and now fifteen of them die in quick succession. Hector is far and away the most able of their warriors, and yet on the advice of Helenos, the seer, he returns to Troy. Hector is hot to return to the battle, but in a famous scene, before leaving the city, he spends a moment with his wife, Andromache, and his infant son, Astynax 6.
We are meant to see how fond he is of his son, for whom he even has a pet name; while all others call him Astynax, Hector calls him Skamandrios.
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Weeping out of fear for Hector's life, Andromache begs him to remain in the city. Achilles already has slain her father and her seven brothers, and Artemis has struck down her mother. Hector, she says, is now her whole family-he is father, mother, brother, and husband to her. With shocking candor, Hector admits that he will not save Troy-that his mother, father, and brothers will perish, and Andromache will be carried off he does not mention the fate of his son and a few lines later even expresses his hope that Astynax will surpass him as a leader of the Trojans.
Nevertheless, Hector does not waver in his intent to reenter the battle. As solace to Andromache, he announces that "sometime someone will say, seeing your tears pour down, 'This is the wife of Hector, who was the best in fighting of the Trojans, breakers of horses, when they fought about Ilion'" 6. Readers may wish to read Davis's introduction both before and after the book.
If Davis has not given his readers any answers, he will certainly clarify their questions. In this, the book fulfills its purpose. While I normally would have purchased a book like this in a print edition, I wanted to read it on vacation, and decided to get the Kindle version for ease.
While the book looks fine in the Kindle edition, and the transfer is not marred by the all-too-usual mistakes, there are a couple of real problems. One is the special font used throughout, which sometimes creates awkward renderings on screen and will be "off-sized" compared to the majority of your books. The other is the way footnotes are treated a common problem with academic presses , each with its own separate page at the back of the book. Some of the footnotes in the book are quite important, and a more compact footnote format would allow a reader to quickly "glance ahead" and make sure any coming footnotes contained non-bibliographic information.
It also artificially inflates the page-count, but that is a minor nuisance. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Insightful and very important for further work on the subject. The book also offers intriguing discussions on aspects and relationship theme in Aristotelian thinking which allows a differentiated basis of metaphysical context from Plato. Finally an excellent read on the topic of Soul classics. One person found this helpful.
The Soul of the Greeks
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