The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry

The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry


By (author) Michael Davis

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  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Format: Hardback | 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 238mm x 20mm | 476g
  • Publication date: 19 April 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Chicago, IL
  • ISBN 10: 0226137961
  • ISBN 13: 9780226137964
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 862,702

Product description

The understanding of the soul in the West has been profoundly shaped by Christianity, and its influence can be seen in certain assumptions often made about the soul: that, for example, if it does exist, it is separable from the body, free, immortal, and potentially pure. The ancient Greeks, however, conceived of the soul quite differently. In this ambitious new work, Michael Davis analyzes works by Homer, Herodotus, Euripides, Plato, and Aristotle to reveal how the ancient Greeks portrayed and understood what he calls 'the fully human soul'. Beginning with Homer's "Iliad", Davis lays out the tension within the soul of Achilles between immortality and life. He then turns to Aristotle's "De Anima" and "Nicomachean Ethics" to explore the consequences of the problem of Achilles across the whole range of the soul's activity. Moving to Herodotus and Euripides, Davis considers the former's portrayal of the two extremes of culture - one rooted in stability and tradition, the other in freedom and motion - and explores how they mark the limits of character formation. Davis then shows how Helen and Iphigeneia among the Taurians serve to provide dramatic examples of Herodotus' extreme cultures and their consequences for the soul. The book concludes with Plato's presentation of the soul of Socrates as self-aware and nontragic, even if it is necessarily alienated and divided against itself.

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Author information

Michael Davis is professor of philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College.

Review quote

"The Soul of the Greeks offers fresh interpretations of age-old texts that are deep, insightful, and revelatory. Richly rewarding, lucid, and original, Davis's approach will add substantially to the existing scholarship." (Jill Frank, University of South Carolina)"