Print

Print


As Hannah Arendt points out later Greeks developed the idea of 'poesis' in 
contrast to the 'civitas' of which you speak. Arendt much preferred 
'civitas' as you seem to do. However the idea of 'poesis' or the expectation 
of responsibility and relationship has been found to be of great benefit as 
well. There are otehr ways of organizing life beyond 'civitas' and other 
ways seem to match teh human condition more accurately than 'civitas.'

Indeed the idea of 'poesis' is commonly used in modern engineering systems 
as a predictor of human behavior. Examples of this are systems, that can 
predict the behavior of crowds. Another system, predicts the behavior to 
drivers and ahs been sued to create accurate predictions of traffic on Dutch 
highways from only a few basic rules.

Eliot seems to be on the 'poesis' side of the argument.



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2005 11:08 AM
Subject: _Politike_ vs _idiotes_ was Re: "Extraordinary minds"--'Henry 
James'


Vishvesh Obla wrote:

> 'we corrupt our feelings with ideas; we produce the public,
> the political, the emotional the political,
> evading sensation and thought.... Mr. Chesterton's brain
> swarms with ideas; I see no evidence that it thinks.'

Aristotle (following spontaneous Greek assumptions) defined the human
person as a _politike_, one who lives in cities or, more precisely, one
who takes part in the public (shared) life of the the Polis. One who did
not share in that public life was a private person or _idiotes_, one who
was not fully human, was "not all there" as it were. We become fully
human through our participation in that public life. Even some 2000
years later, Jefferson speculating idly in a letter to John Adams on
what 'heaven' should be like, proposed an endless Continental Congress:
i.e., for Jefferson as for Aristotle, one became wholly human, one
exercised one's human faculties, through the public process of
persuading and being persuaded. (See for interesting discussion of all
of this Hannah Arendt's _The Human Condition_ and _On Revolution_.)

James Madison in Federalist No. 10 offers a fascinating and complex
simile or ratio. As air is to fire so freedom is to 'faction,' and just
as we would not eliminate air (which is necessary for animal life) in
order to control the destructive forces of fire, so we must not
eliminate freedom (which is necessary to political life) to control the
rages of faction. That is, political life is not merely (or at all) a
_means_ to an end, it is an end in itself. Why? Because outside
politics, we cannot be fully human. (I'm not a particular admirer of
Chesterton, but in this respect at least his thought was definitely
superior to the thought of Eliot.)

(Of course the Athenians would not have regarded mere passive voting, or
campaigning, for this or that candidate real politics. But that is
another story.)

To go back to Athens. In _Antigone_ there is a really fascinating
exchange between Creon and his son Haemon, which climaxes in Haemon's
declaration that "It is no city where one man rules." (Quoted from
memory, the Grene translation I believe.) Haemon doesn't say, "It's a
_bad_ city or a _corrupt_ city where one man rules; he says that it is
no city at _all_ where one man rules. Why? Because in a tyranny there is
no public life, no glorious participation in the public life, but _that_
is what cities are for: to provide a public space in which the citizens
can exercise their crucial human quality of persuading and being
persuaded. A _polis_ that does not provide for this, then, is no _polis_
at all.

Eliot's "avoiding sensation and thought" is simply bizarre, one more
implication that "real humanity" is not for the great unwashed, but only
for "sensitive" souls like TSE.

Carrol