Thucydides and the Philosophical Origins of History
This book addresses the questions of how and why history begins with the work of Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War is distinctive in that it is a prose narrative, meant to be read rather than performed. It focuses on the unfolding of contemporary great power politics to the exclusion of almost all other elements of human life, including the divine. Western history has been largely an extension of Thucydides’s narrative in that it repeats the unique methodological assumptions and concerns that first appear in his text. The power of Thucydides’s text has never been attributed to either the charm of its language or the entertainment value of its narrative, or to some personal attribute of the author. In this study, Darien Shanske analyzes the difficult language and structure of Thucydides’s History and argues that the text has drawn so many readers into its distinctive worldview because of its kinship to the contemporary language and structure of classical tragedy. This kinship is not merely a matter of shared vocabulary or even aesthetic sensibility. Rather, it is grounded on a shared philosophical position, in particular on the polemical metaphysics of Heraclitus.
Darien Shanske is a scholar of classical literature and works on topics at the intersection of philosophy, classics, and law.
Thucydides and the Philosophical Origins of History
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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© Darien Shanske 2007
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First published 2007
Printed in the United States of America
A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Shanske, Darien, 1974–
Thucydides and the philosophical origins of history / Darien Shanske.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-10: 0-521-86411-9 (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0-521-86411-4 (hardback)
1. Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. 2. Greece – History – Peloponnesian
War, 431–404 B.C. – Historiography. 3. History – Philosophy. I. Title.
ISBN-13 978-0-521-86411-4 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-86411-9 hardback
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For My Parents,
Without whom not,
Thanks to whom,
|Restoring the Wonder of Thucydides||1|
|Introduction – Six Features of Thucydides’s Text||15|
|The First Sentence||18|
|The Empire of Logos||27|
|What the Athenians Did Not Know||31|
|Thucydides on His Method – Disclosure about Disclosure||33|
|The Causes of the War||37|
|2||The Case of Pericles||41|
|War – Pericles’s First Speech||42|
|Who We Are – Pericles’s Funeral Oration||45|
|Rhetoric and Adversity – Pericles’s Third Speech||46|
|Transition – The Dissemination of Pericles||49|
|Cleon and Diodotus||52|
|Brasidas and Hermocrates||55|
|Nicias and Alcibiades||57|
|Identity and Disclosure||64|
|3||Deinon, Logos, and the Tragic Question Concerning the Human||69|
|Introducing the Deinon||71|
|Tragic Elements in Thucydides||74|
|Deinon in Pretragic Literature – A Summary||80|
|Thucydides Revisited (The Deinon and Epieikeia)||105|
|The Metaphysics of Praise – Pericles and Socrates on Athens||120|
|Thucydides and Plato in the Philosophical Tradition||129|
|Thucydides as a Cure for Platonism||138|
|Appendix I: Restoring Key Terms 1.1–1.23||155|
|What Is Appropriate ( )||157|
|Pretext ( )||158|
|Kind ( )||167|
|Appendix II: Pretragic History of Deinon||169|
|Etymology and History of Interpretation||169|
|Homer and Hesiod||171|
|Appendix III: Wittgenstein on Fly-Bottles, Aspect Seeing, and History||177|
|Aspect Seeing and History||179|
|Conclusion: Forms of Life and Logos||184|
|Appendix IV: Heidegger on World and Originary Temporality||185|
|An Internal Defense||194|
It is easy to know where to begin my thanks, though impossible to know where to end. Without the love, support, and models provided by my parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts, neither this book nor any of the other endeavors I have been so happy and fortunate to be a part of would have been possible. I want especially to give thanks for the extraordinary relationships that I have enjoyed with my siblings, Alisa and Uri, and my uncles Abe and David and Aunt Shirley.
This book began as a dissertation in the Rhetoric Department at the University of California at Berkeley. Every member of my committee – Fred Dolan, Mark Griffith, Hans Sluga, and especially my chair, David Cohen – in many ways went beyond the call of duty to help me develop as a scholar and as a person. At Berkeley, I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from Anne Carson, Alan Code, and Hubert Dreyfus. Most remarkable of all was the time I spent learning from Philippe Nonet, who week after week opened his home to his students for a truly singular reading group.
I was introduced to Thucydides during the first semester of my first year as an undergraduate at Columbia College by Richard Billows. Clearly, it made quite an impression. Michael Tanner introduced me to Nietzsche, and Philip Buckley and Charles Taylor supervised my MA thesis at McGill University on Nietzsche and the self.
Academic work is often a fairly solitary endeavor, but I never felt alone. Two friends in particular showed great patience in reading the many earlier incarnations of this project: Mark Feldman and Stuart Murray. No friend has shown greater patience with me than Michael Wara. Of the many other people who enriched my life and helped and inspired me on this project, the following stand out for special thanks: Michelle Allersma, Kari Rosenthal Annand, Joanna Brooks, Kyra Caspary, Julia Cho, Steve Frenkel, Juliette Gimon, Natasha Guinan, Kusia Hreshchyshyn, David Kamper, Sara Kendall, Katherine Kim, Minna King, Jens Kjeldsen, Heidi Maibom, Eve Meltzer, Chris Palamountain, Loren Passmore, Deven Patel, Jeya Paul, Ellen Rigsby, Shalini Satkunanandan, and Rebecca Wara. No doubt, in my good fortune, I have overlooked many people to whom I owe a great deal, and I ask their indulgence.
It is hard, in the end, to say when this project began, with a passion for learning instilled by my family, my first introductions to Thucydides and Nietzsche, or the beginning of graduate school. The publication of this project does represent a more definite ending, and I am very grateful for the thought and care of the editors at Cambridge University Press – Terence Moore, Beatrice Rehl, Louise Calabro, and Helen Greenberg – as well as the anonymous readers who made so many astute comments and suggestions. The questions of this book, those of history, of tragedy, and of language and the self have, of course, not been answered, and I very much hope this book becomes a vehicle for ongoing dialogue.