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Herodotus and the Origins of Political Philosophy
The Beginnings of Western Thought from the Viewpoint of its Impending End
A doctoral thesis by
O. H. Linderborg
Dissertation presented at Uppsala University to be publicly examined in Engelska Parken,7-0042, Thunbergsvgen 3H, Uppsala, Monday, 3 September 2018 at 14:00 for the degreeof Doctor of Philosophy. The examination will be conducted in English. Faculty examiner:Docent Elton Barker (Open University).
AbstractLinderborg, O. H. 2018. Herodotus and the Origins of Political Philosophy. The Beginnings ofWestern Thought from the Viewpoint of its Impending End. 224 pp. Uppsala: Department ofLinguistics and Philology, Uppsala University. ISBN 978-91-506-2703-9.
This investigation proposes a historical theory of the origins of political philosophy. It isassumed that political philosophy was made possible by a new form of political thinkingcommencing with the inauguration of the first direct democracies in Ancient Greece. Thepristine turn from elite rule to rule of the people or to , a term coined afterthe event brought with it the first ever political theory, wherein fundamentally differentsocietal orders, or different principles of societal rule, could be argumentatively compared.The inauguration of this alternative-envisioning secular political theory is equaled with thebeginnings of classical political theory and explained as the outcome of the conjoining ofa new form of constitutionalized political thought (cratistic thinking) and a new emphasisbrought to the inner consistency of normative reasoning (internal critique). The original formof political philosophy, Classical Political Philosophy, originated when a political thoughtlaunched, wherein non-divinely sanctioned visions of transcendence of the prevailing rule, aswell as of the full range of alternatives disclosed by Classical Political Theory, first began to beenvisioned. Each of the hypotheses forming the theory the hypotheses concerning the AncientGreek beginnings of a secular-autonomous political rationale, political theory and politicalphilosophy is weighed against central evidence provided by the Histories of Herodotus. Thepassages thus given new interpretations are the Deioces episode in Book I, the ConstitutionalDebate in Book III and Xerxes War Councils in Book VII. Aside from the Herodotean evidence,a range of other relevant Greek literary sources from the archaic and classical ages e.g.passages from Homer, Hesiod, several pre-Socratic thinkers, Plato and Aristotle are duly takeninto consideration. Included is also a reading of the Mytilenean Debate of Thucydides Book III,which shows how the political thought of the classical democracies worked in practice. Finally,the placing of the historical theory against a background of contemporary relevance providesan alternative to all text-oriented approaches not reckoning with the possibility of reachinghistorically plausible knowledge of real-world events and processes.
Keywords: Herodotus, Herodotean studies, origins of political philosophy, origins of politicaltheory, early history of political thought, beginnings of Western civilization, contemporarysocial analysis, Sino-Hellenic studies
Otto H. Linderborg, Department of Linguistics and Philology, Box 635, Uppsala University,SE-75126 Uppsala, Sweden.
Otto H. Linderborg 2018
ISBN 978-91-506-2703-9urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-350646 (http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-350646)
This thesis is mainly intended to add knowledge to the fields of Classical phi-lology and history of political thought, but the nature of this investigation is present-oriented. The context of contemporary relevance that the historical theory defended here has been placed in is based on the works of a collection of writers in the fields of social analysis and economic theory. These are works that have appeared during the last decade and that deal with the perceived decay of our present world system, the system of industrial capitalism in its so-called neoliberal phase. Therewith, it should be understood that my re-search has the additional motive of giving new perspectives also with regard to questions related to the societal crisis inherent in our own time and place. The justification for using a study focusing on ancient texts and ancient soci-etal systems in order to expound on questions of contemporary relevance is the following. Although researchers in historical subjects may never distort their sources to make them conform to their theories without turning their works into false accounts, it is still the case that the researchers own worldview and own preoccupations determine which questions he or she pose to the sources. This study deals with questions of progressions within the An-cient Greek cultural sphere leading to the development of political thought into political theory and philosophy proper. In connection with this investiga-tion, the questions asked therefore naturally take the form of a set of concep-tual assumptions rising from the researchers presuppositions of which kinds of progressions the investigated societies may have witnessed. To truthfully determine if these progressions really occurred in the Ancient Greek cultural sphere is the object of this investigation. However, that it is exactly these as-sumed progressions and not some others that form the centre of interest fol-lows from the researchers own understanding of which aspects of ancient moral and political thought could still be of major interest today i.e., in the real-world context of what one now often finds described as our present pre-dicament.
I am happy to mention the number of people in Uppsala who have assisted me greatly in my research. Of these people, my project leader, Johan Tralau, has been the most important background figure for my whole investigation. With regard to the question of the origins of political philosophy, it was Tra-laus idea to turn the focus decisively to the historical developments detectable in arguments and argumentative techniques surrounding normative questions.
I found this suggestion so attractive that I chose to write my doctoral thesis under his supervision and as part of his project. If my own theory to some extent departs from Tralaus original idea of equalling the origins of political philosophy with the development of normative arguments of an internally crit-ical kind, this is so mainly because of one reason. If the beginnings of political philosophy were to be equalled with progressions in normative critique, this would downplay the world-historical impact of the fundamental societal re-settling taking the form of the first completed turnover in the principle of rule, which was witnessed for the first time in the Ancient Greek world. This turn-over was realized with the creation of the first full-scale direct democracies, and ultimately it was this event that made possible the amounting of internal critique in the Graeco-Roman cultural sphere as well.
Of others involved in Classical studies at Uppsala, I would like to espe-cially thank the following people for contributing to my work. Fredrik Six-tensson, who is in the midst of writing his thesis on early Greek developments in central political and military terminology, has been of great help in my at-tempts to specify some of the breaks in constitutional terminology that oc-curred because of the breakthrough of . Eric Cullhed, who entered as my supervisor at a late stage of the writing process, has challenged me to add more close readings of my Greek sources, and I think these additions have been important for the argument of my thesis. Patrik Klingborg and Axel Frejman, working in the field of Classical archaeology, have shown me the real Ancient Greek world on our trips together in Caria (modern-day Turkey) and the Peloponnese. Both of them have also assisted me in my attempts to form an adequate picture of early Archaic and Mycenaean Greek history, and I hope that I, in my turn, have been able to assist them correctly with the que-ries they have had of Greek passages in the sources they work with. Tuomo Nuorluoto, who is working on a doctoral thesis on Roman female names in the field of onomastics, has been a welcome reminiscence of my home country in a foreign land.
Of people working in the field of Herodotean studies abroad, one person deserves special notice. Rosalind Thomas, who welcomed me as an academic visitor at Oxford for some weeks in the early spring of 2016, has been a great inspiration for my work in that she has shown how directly connected the in-vestigations of Herodotus truly were to the wider intellectual milieu of his time.
I will not mention any friends outside of academia, since I am afraid that I may forget some important person. Of family members, I would above all like to thank my mother Lena Linderborg (1958-2015) for never-ending uncondi-tional love. I would also like to thank my father Henrik Linderborg for being a rock and always being there for me whatever I have tried to do whether that would be a 90-kilometer cross-country ski race or writing a thesis. Onyin-yechi Duru has been with me during the last year of this writing process, and has given me the inner and outer calm I so badly needed to be able to finish
my work. My sister Ellen Linderborg deserves special honour and recognition. When I had run out of money, and Swedish academia and Swedish society had shown me their most excluding face, she was willing to borrow from the funds she had inherited from our mother. Without her, I could never have fin-ished this thesis. I can only take it, then, that she must have recognized the same womb community that only me and her can belong to now.1