Language, necessity, and human nature in Thucydides' History.

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Joho, Tobias.
Description:334 p.
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330.
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago.
Notes:Advisors: Elizabeth Asmis; Nathan Tarcov.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--The University of Chicago, Division of the Humanities, Department of Classics: Classical Languages and Literatures and Social Thought, 2015.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 76-08(E), Section: A.
Summary:The main argument of the dissertation is that a stylistic idiosyncrasy of Thucydides, namely, his frequent use of abstract nominal expressions, should be understood as Thucydides' attempt to articulate his conception of the factors that qualify human choice. The following is a good illustration of the stylistic tendency in question: τò δϵ αντιτϵταχθαι αλληλοις τη γνϖμη απíστωςϵπí πολυ διηνϵγκϵν ("Being distrustfully set in thought one against another got the upper hand far and wide;" 3.83.1). In this sentence, Thucydides turns the verbal idea of "being set one against another" into a nominal expression and makes it the subject of the sentence. By means of this stylistic device, activity is reified, and the attribution of personal agency is avoided. As a result, actions are re-described as incidents to which people are passively exposed, and the centrality of human subjects is called into question. Whereas the effect of the nominal style has traditionally been interpreted as contributing to the creation of a lofty tone, I argue that it has a more specific function: to reveal the impact of transpersonal psychological and material forces and the frequently overwhelming influence they have on people's decisions. The interpretation of the nominal style forms the basis for three further contributions to our understanding of Thucydides. First, the dissertation defines the type of agency to which the abstract phrases alert the reader: namely the impact of physis, a force that reduces individuals' scope for free choice and under whose influence collective actions come to resemble physiological processes and events in the natural world such as earthquakes or diseases. Second, I show that change in moral evaluative language, which Thucydides discusses explicitly in the chapters on stasis (3.82-83), is more widespread than has usually been assumed: it already plays itself out in the first two debates recorded by Thucydides. Through the new evaluative judgments, the destructive behavior that is typical of the war and in which physis reveals itself surreptitiously gains respectability. Third, the dissertation gauges the scope that remains, despite the emphasis on necessity, for the successful intervention of individual agents into the course of events.