February 16, 2005

The golden age

Way back when there was an argument between a young idealistic Socrates who held that it is always better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, and Callicles, who maintained that 'might is right' and that morality is an invention of the weak to protect them from the strong.


At February 16, 2005 6:50 PM , Blogger fresca said...

Hmmm....not just an ancient argument, of course.
What put this in your mind?

At February 17, 2005 9:59 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

I bought a copy of The Histories of Herodotus at a garage sale in Pasadena 1.5 decades ago and happened to pick it up yesterday. This gem was in a synopsis for another book that they were plugging at the end of HH. I am convinced that it is a modern vanity to think we have advanced so much in the past generation, or in the past millenium, but I think most people would be surprised by how advanced the ancient civilizations were in social terms. So this is just an example of that, one of many I'm guessing, although I'm no classicist. Reminds me of Nietsche though, and of youth's idealism in general, and the way that the current administration of my institute or of my homeland has paved over the opposition-- and then you live with the new system and before you know it you are living the new reality yourself, and might has made right. On the one hand, leaders must lead, and if you aren't willing to do that then you shouldn't be a leader. Breaking eggs and making omelets. But on the other hand who wants blood on their hands? Its a slippery slope, and one where it is hard to be an absolutist.

At February 17, 2005 4:28 PM , Blogger fresca said...

I keep running into Herodotus as I work on my Libya book! Traveling around the desert in the ancient world. Did you see/read "The English Patient"? The aviator (I forgot his name) carries Heordotus with him.
I did study Classics--my degree in Religious Studies was under the umbrella of the Classics Dept.--didn't really fit anywhere at the state university so it got stuck in as part of ancient history. (I focused on patrisitics--Christian thinkers in Late Antiquity.) I can't say I have seen improvement in the quality of human thought from then till now, though I always say I am HUGELY grateful for improvement in anesthetics and antibiotics!!!
Yes, I too thought of Nietzsche... and George W.
I prefer the point of view of the early Augustine. In the Confessions he writes that when he was a boy, he hated studying Greek and even though he was beaten if he didn't study it, he always did poorly. However, when he liked something and had a good teacher, he worked hard. This shows, he said, that love is a better teacher than coercion.


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