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Greek Models of Mind and Self (Revealing…

Greek Models of Mind and Self (Revealing Antiquity)

by A. A. Long

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The result of a long and unusual gestation, this diminutive book is a treasure. In its preface, A. A. Long reveals the story of how the book came to be: having been under contract to Harvard University Press for “decades” to write on the topic of Greek thought about the mind and self, Long often began the work, but was stymied by the prospect of producing a traditional monograph that exhausted the subject. He finally created a manuscript fitting the bill for his contract when he had the opportunity to give a series of public lectures at Renmin University in Beijing a few years ago.

Readers should be very glad for the delay. Bearing the nimble authority won from an extended and productive career, Long unfurls in these revised lectures a carefully stitched series of observations and discussions about the history of theorizing the human being in ancient Greek literature. Greek Models of Mind and Self may not be the comprehensive treatment Long once set out to create, but with this book in hand, it is hard for me to consider that a loss. Because, here, instead, is something different: a masterful tour through classical Greek psychology, conducted with insight and clarity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067472903X, Hardcover)

This lively book offers a wide-ranging study of Greek notions of mind and human selfhood from Homer through Plotinus. A. A. Long anchors his discussion in questions of recurrent and universal interest. What happens to us when we die? How is the mind or soul related to the body? Are we responsible for our own happiness? Can we achieve autonomy? Long asks when and how these questions emerged in ancient Greece, and shows that Greek thinkers’ modeling of the mind gave us metaphors that we still live by, such as the rule of reason or enslavement to passion. He also interrogates the less familiar Greek notion of the intellect’s divinity, and asks what that might mean for us.

Because Plato’s dialogues articulate these themes more sharply and influentially than works by any other Greek thinker, Plato receives the most sustained treatment in this account. But at the same time, Long asks whether Plato’s explanation of the mind and human behavior is more convincing for modern readers than that contained in the older Homeric poems. Turning to later ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism, Long concludes with an exploration of Epictetus’s injunction to live life by making correct use of one’s mental impressions.

An authoritative treatment of Greek modes of self-understanding, Greek Models of Mind and Self demonstrates how ancient thinkers grappled with what is closest to us and yet still most mysterious―our own essence as singular human selves―and how the study of Greek thought can enlarge and enrich our experience.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 11 Jul 2015 06:03:18 -0400)

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