Welcome…<br />Wesleyan Live, Spring 2011<br />Friendship and Politics: Ancient Practices and Modern Habits<br />Session V, March 1<br />
Exemplary Agon – The Iliad<br />The Iliad exhibits a new type of ruling authority in Athenian legend (contraMycenean “palace-culture“). Archaic Greece (circa 9th-6th centuries) is ruled by “warrior-aristocrats” (i.e., like Achilles, Odysseus, Diomedes, etc.) who manifest a competitive ethos supported by a sense of equality. They:<br />-speak to and debate with one another as a “group of equals” (homoioi) and<br />-display the “goods” of battle (i.e.,“booty”) “in the middle” of the group<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: firstname.lastname@example.org<br />
Koinon – A “common right” in the model of “Warrior-Speech”<br />“In warrior assemblies, speech was a common right, a koinon set down “in the middle.” Each individual could exercise this right when his turn came, with the agreement of his peers. Standing at the center of an assembly, an orator found himself equally distant from all his listeners, and each listener found himself…in a position of equality and reciprocity vis-à-vis the speaker” (Marcel Detienne, Masters of Truth, 99).<br />
The competitive ethos…<br />“This egalitarian spirit at the very heart of an agonistic conception of social life is a distinguishing feature of the Greek warrior-aristocrats, and it played a part in casting the idea of power in new terms” (Vernant, p. 47).<br />-openness in public spaces; the public “hearth”<br />-speakers in the Assembly occupy “the middle”<br />-the concept and practice of political “rights” (i.e., stasis)<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: email@example.com<br />
Politics too had the form of agon…<br />“an oratorical contest, a battle of arguments whose theatre was the agora, the public square…Those who contended with words, who opposed speech with speech, became in this hierarchical society a class of equals…all rivalry, all eris, presupposes a relationship of equality: competition can take place only among peers” (Vernant, 46-7).<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: firstname.lastname@example.org<br />
“Politics in a democratic setting…<br />…is intensely competitive and engages essentially the same factors as when two boys wrestle in a gymnasium, when armed cocks fight to death in the ring, when a dozen four-horse chariots round a tight turning post at Olympia, or when Euripides takes on his older hallowed rival, Sophocles” (Nicholas Jones, Politics and Society in Ancient Greece).<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: email@example.com<br />
Is Politics an Agon?<br />The competitive ethos is an aristocratic ethos; can it legitimately evolve to a democratic ethos? (i.e., who comprise the “worthy field?”)<br />The questions concerns not just who is a “citizen” but “whether they are citizens justly or unjustly” (Politics, 1275e)<br />And this question concerns whether they have acted justly or unjustly…<br />i.e., for Aristotle, Ethics and Politics are inextricably connected<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: firstname.lastname@example.org<br />
Solon’s “Reforms” (circa 590 bce<br />“…bad government brings the most evils to a city, while good government (eunomia) makes everything fine and orderly”…How?<br />The source of bad government seems to be hubris, in its leaders and its citizens: “I gave the common people as much privilege as they needed…But for those who had power and were admired for their wealth, I arranged for them to have nothing unseemly. And I set up a strong shield around both parties by not allowing either to defeat the other unjustly.”<br />
Fragments from Euripides<br />What constitutes “unjust”defeat?<br />To rule without law, to be a tyrant, is neither reasonable nor right. Even the wish is foolishness when a man wants to have sole power over his equals [isonomia] (Antigone N 72)<br />For any issue you can set up a contest of double speeches (dissoilogoi), if you want to be a clever speaker (Antiope N 189)<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: email@example.com<br />
Unicameral Logoi<br />“Nebraska has excellent legislators. We have variety, like the state, and represent all kinds of folks, some of whom are ‘hard working’ and some are a bit nuts. We are all of that. The open debate is fair. Most are able to listen and dialog.<br />There is a true collegial feeling on the floor. Though speeches, on camera, included some outrageous putdowns this was not the case when we dealt privately with each on other on matters of strong disagreement…<br />
…continued<br />Public outrageous statements and bizarre untruths are a painful price we must pay for free speech. A wide-open debating society is an unusual experience. You can actually say what you think. However, expect a candid response” (Rev. Lowen Kruse, The Political Impact of Faith, p. 112).<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: firstname.lastname@example.org<br />
Possible questions…<br />“Contests” allow for conflict resolution at a procedural level, but do they –should they--allow for ‘resolution’ at a substantive level?<br />If the “common good” is what is decided “in the middle,” and what is decided is the result of a type of contest, is the common good synonymous with who are what “wins”?<br />Questions, comments, email Mel: email@example.com<br />
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