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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although he is not ordinarily interpreted as a philosopher, Thucydides enters into conversation with the canonical political philosophers by engaging with the question of the good life lived within a well-ordered society. Displaying the conceptions of the good society presented by leading Athenians and Spartans, Thucydides emphasizes their illusory, self-destructive qualities. If those political leaders are at least qualified utopians, then Thucydides is an anti-utopian who views human history as a world of war. Thucydides’ History highlights the suffering caused by the tendency of human beings, and especially political leaders, to aggrandize themselves. In the absence of durable customs, laws, and political institutions, we can hope, at most, for a decent life supported by resilience and guided by political prudence. More ambitious political aspirations will inevitably cause greater harm than benefit.

Keywords: Thucydides, warfare, democracy, suffering, resilience, hypocrisy, political rationalism

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