The Soul Of The Greeks: An Inquiry by Michael DavisThe Soul Of The Greeks: An Inquiry by Michael Davis

The Soul Of The Greeks: An Inquiry

byMichael Davis

Paperback | September 15, 2012

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 192 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


The understanding of the soul in the West has been profoundly shaped by Christianity, and its influence can be seen in certain assumptions often made about the soul: that, for example, if it does exist, it is separable from the body, free, immortal, and potentially pure. The ancient Greeks, however, conceived of the soul quite differently. In this ambitious new work, Michael Davis analyzes works by Homer, Herodotus, Euripides, Plato, and Aristotle to reveal how the ancient Greeks portrayed and understood what he calls “the fully human soul.”

Beginning with Homer’s Iliad, Davis lays out the tension within the soul of Achilles between immortality and life. He then turns to Aristotle’s De Anima and Nicomachean Ethics to explore the consequences of the problem of Achilles across the whole range of the soul’s activity. Moving to Herodotus and Euripides, Davis considers the former’s portrayal of the two extremes of culture—one rooted in stability and tradition, the other in freedom and motion—and explores how they mark the limits of character. Davis then shows how Helen and Iphigeneia among the Taurians serve to provide dramatic examples of Herodotus’s extreme cultures and their consequences for the soul. The book returns to philosophy in the final part, plumbing several Platonic dialogues—the Republic, Cleitophon, Hipparchus, Phaedrus, Euthyphro, and Symposium—to understand the soul’s imperfection in relation to law, justice, tyranny, eros, the gods, and philosophy itself. Davis concludes with Plato’s presentation of the soul of Socrates as self-aware and nontragic, even if it is necessarily alienated and divided against itself.

The Soul of the Greeks thus begins with the imperfect soul as it is manifested in Achilles’ heroic, but tragic, longing and concludes with its nontragic and fuller philosophic expression in the soul of Socrates. But, far from being a historical survey, it is instead a brilliant meditation on what lies at the heart of being human.

Michael Davis is professor of philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College.
Title:The Soul Of The Greeks: An InquiryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:248 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:September 15, 2012Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022600449X

ISBN - 13:9780226004495

Look for similar items by category:


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Soul of Achilles

Part One: Aristotle
Chapter 1: The Doubleness of Soul
Chapter 2: Out of Itself for the Sake of Itself
I. Nutritive Soul
II. Sensing Soul: Vision
III. Thinking Soul
A. Sensation and Imagination
B. Passive and Active Mind
C. Imagination and Thought
Chapter 3: The Soul as Self and Self-Aware
I. “The Father of the Logos”
II. “For the friend is another self”

Part Two: Herodotus: The Rest and Motion of Soul
Chapter 4: Rest in Motion: Herodotus’s Egypt
Chapter 5: Motion at Rest: Herodotus’s Scythians

Part Three: Euripides: Soul as Same and Other
Chapter 6: The Fake That Launched a Thousand Ships: The Duplicity of Identity in the Helen
Chapter 7: Euripides among the Athenians: The Double Vision of Soul in Iphigeneia among the Taurian

Part Four: Plato
Chapter 8: The Soul of the Law: Gyges in Herodotus and in Plato
Chapter 9: The Subject of Justice: On Plato’s Cleitophon
Chapter 10: The Object of Tyranny: Plato’s Hipparchus
Chapter 11: Plato’s Phaedrus: Erōs and the Structure of Soul
Chapter 12: The Grammar of Soul: The Middle Voice in Plato’s Euthyphro

Conclusion: The Soul of Socrates