Monday, January 16, 2017

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] History

Dear Amy,

Thanks for your reply. I wasn't disagreeing with you on any point — rather, I was reflecting on the issues. I appreciate your comments, and by and large agree — or perhaps agree in part and entertain open questions in part.

Your comments on Plato and Aeschylus certainly make sense to me. Plato was an abstract thinker who lived in the world of ideal forms — or perhaps thought he did. He had no use for poets in his community — but perhaps he had no use for people, either, except as far as they should enact the wishes and commands of the philosopher-kings who ruled them. As you note, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and their colleagues demonstrated that "each individual existed both as a person and a part of the community." Aeschylus himself held both elements dear — and he placed the individual within the community and culture to which that community belonged. The words on Aeschylus's epitaph – he probably wrote them himself – commemorate his service as a soldier without mentioning his stature as the father of dramatic tragedy or the many honors and prizes that he won. Instead, his epitaph reminded those who came to honor him that he fought at Marathon:

"This memorial covers Aeschylus son of Euphorion – an Athenian,
though he died at wheat-bearing Gela.
Of his glorious prowess, the sacred land of Marathon can tell –
and the long-haired Mede who knows it well."

While Plato's mentor Socrates took pride in military service as a citizen, Plato does not seem to have fought for Athens. (I may be mistaken on this.) Plato did not seem to see philosophers as citizens, but as rulers. In contrast, Aeschylus valued his role as a citizen-soldier above all else.

In my view, the power of the tragic works is complex, and it changes over time as well as changing with the times. Their meaning is different to me today than it was when I first saw Oedipus performed in 1965. I suppose that anyone who thinks deeply on these works will find many different kinds of power in them. Some of the power in these works may be similar to the power that moved the ancient Greeks. Some of the power in these works is different and changeable, just as the world is different and very much changed since Aeschylus fought at Marathon 2,500 years ago. I always enjoy reading Bernard Knox's essays about that world. The meaning of these works today is different.

I'm not at all surprised that you read Reuben Hersh or Morris Kline. As the author of Art and the Brain, it is clear that you've been reading wide and thinking deep. You might enjoy revisiting Hersh — in my view, his book remains a good read the second or third time around, even years later.



Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia

Email | Academia | D&I

> On Jan 16, 2017, at 7:57 PM, Amy Ione <> wrote:


> As for Aeschylus and the tragedians, there is a large body of research
> that has examined these works in terms of how instrumental they were in
> helping the Greeks develop a sense that each individual existed both as a
> person and a part of the community. They were powerful works in their own
> time for reasons and, I would argue, the reason they were powerful then is
> not quite the same as why they are powerful today. Perhaps these two
> positionings are better underscored when we think how about how
> instrumental the tragedians were on Plato. You no doubt know that Plato
> banned the poets from his Republic because of the emotional element within
> these works like those produced by Aeschylus and Sophocles? As he put it
> "there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry" (Republic,
> 607b5–6). Longer story, but the Platonic focus on a rational truth has had
> an impact on who we see and talk about the "quarrel" when we have these
> STEM and STEAM discussions.


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