Scribner Seminar Titles
The Good Life in Greek Literature and Philosophy
Instructor(s): Francisco Gonzalez, Philosophy
Description: All of us want to live a good life. Yet since there are many different goods in human life, such as health, wealth, fame, education and virtue, which is to be given priority when they conflict? Can one be a good person without being happy and vice versa? If so, which is most essential to the good life, morality or happiness? And are we in full control of the goodness of our lives or are there factors (God, fate, chance) beyond our control and even our understanding? And to whom can we turn for the answers? The Ancient Greeks asked these questions in a radical way and, far from dogmatically accepting any particular answers and reaching any final consensus, they remained deeply divided not only about the answers, but also about how to approach the questions. While we might consider the above questions "philosophical," in Ancient Greece they were equally the concern of the poet, artist, playwright, and historian. Thus we will study Homer's Iliad; plays by the comic poet Aristophanes and the tragedians Sophocles and Euripides; an account of war and imperialism by the historian Thucydides; dialogues by Plato on piety, civil disobedience, and the rhetoric of power; and lectures on ethics by Aristotle. We will also give some consideration to the ideals and values embodied in the visual arts. The goal in studying these works of the Ancient Greeks will be for them to have a fundamental impact on how you see your own life today.