Preferred Citation: Dodds, Eric R. The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley: University of California Press, c!, printing : The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures) ( ): Eric R. Dodds: Books. E. R. DODDS. The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley and Los. Angeles, University of California Press, Pp. ix + $ (Sather Classical Lectures.
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The Greeks and the Irrational by E. In this philosophy classic, first published inE. Dodds takes on the traditional view of Greek culture as a triumph of rationalism. Paperbackpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about The Greeks and the Irrationalplease sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Greeks and the Irrational. Lists with This Book. Jul 09, Manny marked it as to-read. View all 29 comments.
Feb 26, Lisa Lieberman rated it liked it Shelves: I first read this book during the height of my Greek phase in college–a phase, I should add, that lasted through grad school, when I did one of my fields in medieval Christian thought, largely so that I could trace the influence of Plato through to the early modern era.
Joining the Group Read of Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey has provided me with an opportunity to revisit anv love of ancient Greek literature and philosophy. Needless to say, a great deal has changed since the s. Dod I first read this book during the height of my Greek phase in college–a phase, I should add, that lasted through grad school, when I did one of my fields in medieval Christian thought, largely so that I could trace the influence of Plato through to the early modern era.
Dodds, I am sorry to report, has not aged well. I had the privilege of hearing Vlastos lecture, toward the end of his life, at the University of Irgational. He was a rock star in the field of Classical Studies and I am not ashamed to admit to having been a groupie. But back to Dodds. The Greeks and the Irrational originated as a series of lectures delivered at Berkeley irratiojal and the book bears the marks of the era. Both Fromm and Popper were refugees from Nazi Europe, the first a psychoanalyst, the second a philosopher.
Both sought to apply the tools of their trades thf understanding how Dodds was possible, in a world that seemed to be progressing toward freedom and enlightenment. Fromm found an answer in the still-primitive impulses within our psyche–paralleling the impulses that the cultural anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor observed in primitive societies. Freud was influenced by Tylor, I should mention.
Popper found irratioonal of these impulses in Plato’s Republicand speculated that the great philosopher was articulating the anxieties felt by members of his class toward the spread of Athenian democracy. He called Plato a thhe. Let me say right irrationap that, notwithstanding Plato’s paternalism in the RepublicI disagree with Popper. Dodds said that he wanted to approach the ancient world on its own terms, rather than succumbing to the tendency of some of his peers of viewing the past through the lens of the present.
The depth of his scholarly understanding of the Greeks is fully evident as he traces notions of divine possession from the earliest parts of the Homeric epics through the classical greesk and beyond, but in terming these elements “irrational,” and “religious,” as if the two were synonymous, he shows his hand.
By the time we get to the final essay in the book, “The Fear of Freedom,” his allegiances are clear. Mind you, I share his irrwtional over the “recoil from rationalism” or, to put it in Existentialist terms Dodds was also reading postwar French philosophers, as grerks I at the same time I was reading the Greeks and Dodds’s book”the unconscious flight from the heavy burden of individual choice.
Did the Greeks go there first? Can we draw lessons from what Dodds ultimately confesses is the th of his book — “the failure of Greek rationalism” — so that we, unlike the Greeks, will face squarely “those irrational elements in human nature which govern, without our knowledge, so much of our behavior and so much of what we think is our thinking” and subdue them?
Sadly, I’m afraid not. View all 4 comments. Nov 05, Derek rated it it was amazing. Despite its age, this work by Dodds is still considered a seminal text for students of Greek history and classics. The usual survey-level understanding of the Greeks anx that they were a culture which always put rationality on a pedestal at the expense of all else and ultimately ignored the irrational until well after dodde passing of the classical period.
Dodds corrects this view, showing irrational impulses and institutions which were more widely accepted during the Archaic, Classical, and Hellen Despite its age, this work by Dodds is still considered a seminal text for students of Greek history and classics. Dodds corrects this view, showing irrational impulses and institutions which were more widely accepted during the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Periods than the works of rationalist philosophers such as Heraclitus and Plato.
At a most fundamental level, this work is great for putting Greek intellectuals in their proper place at the fringes of society and in reaction to irratonal. This was one of the first works of ancient history to employ modern anthropological and psychological theory as a tool for greejs the past. Though early efforts at this were almost always clumsy and driven more by the theory didds by the facts, Dodds uses his modern insights cautiously, judiciously, and helpfully. The scope of the work is broad and every chapter addresses some different aspect of Greek irrationality.
The chapter which several Classics professors dodd to have memorized is the one on how Greece transitioned from being a shame culture in Homer’s time to a guilt culture by the Archaic Period. This part seems a bit simplistic and is probably the most dated section, but since the Classics Department at my current university is rather geriatric, I can see vodds they are still bewitched by this section.
Other sections carry with them certain assumptions about the nature of religion which are out of irrztional, such as the idea that the beliefs of the elite and common people were completely different.
However, that does not necessarily mean that Dodds was wrong and at least his assumptions are out in the open and can be seen for what they are. Though what is here lacks the latest evidence and isn’t the most in-depth coverage of any particular facet of Greek religion and psychology, it is still an excellent summary of classical scholarship up to and everything here seems like a reasonable interpretation of the evidence then available.
If you are a hardcore Hellenophile, then this is one of the best books ever. However, it is definitely not for the casual reader or a novice to the subject matter.
The Greeks and the Irrational
Jan 30, Erik Graff rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Dodds was a classicist and member of the Society for Psychical Research who apparently got fed up enough irrrational the hackneyed portrayal of the classical Greeks as rationalists to pen this popular study of the irrational elements of their culture dodsd beliefs.
It’s an easy read and somewhat of an antidote to the usual picture given students in high school and introductory college courses. Dec 05, Regan rated it it was amazing.
While Ancient Greeks are most known for the triumph of rationalism over superstition and magic, E. Dodds presents an alternate history irrrational demonstrates that, despite the intellectual advancements in the direction of reason, the Greeks particularly Plato of the Golden Age fundamentally retained certain pre-5th century magical read: Dodds argues that the progressive excision of “irrationality” in the Stoic and Epicurean traditions turns out to be a regression–a failure to appreciate the affective elements of living a human life.
He sees this failure culminate in medieval Christianity’s devaluation of earthly life. This book is essential and utterly fascinating. Because it was first delivered as a series of lectures each chapter is relatively short–approx pagesit is eminently digestible and suitable for any audience. But boy, does he pack a lot of detail in: This makes this a great bibliographical source in addition to being a spectacular read.
Jul 15, Feliks rated it liked it Shelves: Interesting topic; the writing is as dry as the dust on the Acropolis; but overall too fascinating to dismiss as just pedantic. If you want to get to know Greek culture, this is a good means; because it invokes a ‘thinking-about’ process rather orrational just ‘receiving the stories’.
The author –discussing various aspects of mental irrationality and how they might have been perceived by the Greeks–draws on numerous references. At the end of each chapter e.
Its an info-dump from the mouth of a howitzer. No ‘hand-holding’ or ‘spoon-feeding’, here. This kind of author would write rings around someone like Jared Diamond or Malcolm Gladwell. Copious notes and bibliography placed after each chapter, rather than all at greeks end. You rarely see that anymore. Mar 30, Matthew Gallaway rated it it was amazing. I read this book four times in a row. The book is beautifully written and argued, and even the footnotes are worth scouring. I would give this book fifty thousand stars if I could.
Jun 11, Mary Greejs rated it it was amazing Shelves: A book on a somewhat loose and heterogeneous collection of concepts. Irraional, it was to combat the pop culture image of the Greeks as the perfect culture of rationality that the Enlightenment is so blameworthy for coming up with. The middle ages get the equally and oppositely ridiculous image of the world of irrationality; for that I recommend C.
Lewis’s The Discarded Image. To be irrationak, it uses the loose-goosey, pop culture notion of what’s rationality and irrationality, but then, so does the A book on a somewhat loose and heterogeneous collection of concepts. To be sure, it uses the loose-goosey, pop culture notion of what’s rationality and irrationality, but then, so does the image.
So it goes though monitions in Homer, whether the characters are said to be moved by gods, and the development of a guilt-culture tge a shame culture and all the attendant development of pollution and catharsis, which originally meant ritual purification.
The Greeks and the irrational
An insane man might go through many ceremonies for many gods and goddesses known to cause insanity, and if it didn’t work — why, obviously, they had yet to propitiate the right god. Inspiration as a form of madness, whether it caused prophecy, ritual dancing, or poetry. They did not think all dreams significant. I must say that it’s a few decades and takes Freud rather more seriously than turned out to be wise. But you have your premonitions and other abilities. This took on a rather shamanistic slant — he puts out a correlation to demonstrate idrational Orpheus was a shaman — and the reason that the dreams can be prophetic is that the god-like soul is more god-like when semi-liberated by sleep.