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本頁翻譯進度

燈號說明

審定:無
翻譯:蕭維中(簡介並寄信)、王晶(簡介並寄信)
編輯:朱學(簡介並寄信)

紙本作業

閱讀作業 (下載所有列出的作業: 英文PDF繁體PDF簡體PDF英文DOC繁體DOC簡體DOC)

演講一:
開場白

演講二:
荷馬,《奧德賽》(Odyssey),第一章到第六章

討論主題

兩千五百年前(約西元前七百五十年),在地中海東側的愛奧尼亞(Ionia),一個希臘的吟遊詩人作了首冗長的敘事詩:一個叫尤里西斯(Odysseus)的戰士,在一場偉大戰役結束後(對吟遊詩人來說,顯然是有史來最大的戰役),在回鄉的路上所遭遇的種種艱困和歷險。吟遊詩人沒書寫下他的詩歌,只是經由不斷口述,在許多年後,大概也出現許多不同的版本。稍後,吟遊詩人或別人記載下這首詩歌,從那天起,即使不是每天,至少也是每年,不斷有人閱讀這首詩作。這也使《奧德賽》和其姊妹作《伊里亞德》(Iliad)成為史上最古老、不曾間斷閱讀的敘事詩。聖經的某些部分可能更古老些,但舊約成為我們今天閱讀的單一敘述文本,是在荷馬之後許久。其他冗長的敘事詩,不是被人完全遺忘、再也沒人閱讀,就是得靠學者使其再現生機,而較晚才出現的詩作如魏吉爾(Virgil)的《埃涅伊特》(Aeneid)或米爾頓(Milton)的《失樂園》(Paradise Lost),都是師法荷馬的作品。


誰是荷馬?自古臆測無數。長久以來,大家都肯定他是《奧德賽》《伊里亞德》的作者,也知道他是個男人,名字叫荷馬。直到最近,開始有人懷疑兩首詩作可能出自不同人之手,可能還是數人合作;甚至有人支持巴特勒(Samuel Butler)所說,《奧德賽》的作者是女性的說法。今天,認為兩首詩應該是出自不同的作者的大部分學者,所提出的證據薄弱:僅限於兩首詩作的主題以及藝術意圖的差異。有個學者哈維洛克(Eric Havelock)甚至建議,我們不該將「荷馬」一詞看做人名,而該是詩作中意旨的架構與傳導的過程,由此可見,我們對此主題仍所知不多。

  1. 荷馬的詩作以祈求繆司(Muse)做開端,這意味著什麼?開端內容主要是簡介未來故事的大綱,這段文本作為概要適合嗎?

  2. 《伊里亞德》《奧德賽》的開端,故事本身已進行到某階段(拉丁文:in media res),作者帶領讀者進入廣大的戲劇行動章節,並插入其他章節的相關訊息。《伊里亞德》的故事開始於長達十年之久的圍攻特洛伊城(Troy)的最後一年,希臘的兩個暗中較勁的指揮官展開激烈衝突,幾乎使戰爭原先的目的受挫,而這場戰爭的主要內容,僅在詩中有限的行動中多少被提及。在《奧德賽》中,以諸神終於決定讓在外流浪十年的奧德賽斯回家為開端,並描述許多特洛伊戰爭中英雄的回鄉情節。你認為《奧德賽》中的這個古老想法適當嗎?文本到底是從頭開始還是從中間開始?最後的結局毫無爭論的餘地嗎?書中結局提供「終了」的感覺嗎?

  3. 在荷馬死後很久,《奧德賽》被劃分為六大部和二十四卷,每卷由古希臘字母代表。這樣的區分是否記錄下詩作的結構?如果你被指定替六大部書寫標題,你會怎麼寫呢?

  4. 有人說,如果稍微用心重寫,我們可將眾神在文本中的行動部分刪除,例如讓泰勒馬酋斯(Telemachos)自行出發尋父,無須等雅典娜(Athena)提醒。如此版本的優劣為何?在哪一個章節中,這樣的改寫會出現困難?

  5. 《奧德賽》故事的開端,奧德賽斯家中的狀況如何?家中有哪些求婚人?他們在那裡做什麼?因為時間久遠,是否有可能故事的某些章節已遺失,而這些失落的部分會使原有的狀況更易了解?雅典娜啟發泰勒馬酋斯出外尋父的重點為何?(畢竟,整個搜尋工作注定會徒勞無功;如我們所知,沒有人能找到奧德賽斯,因他幾乎身在世界之外)

  6. 奧德賽斯「命中注定」會回家嗎?如果真是如此,路程為什麼艱辛又困難?宙斯(Zeus)在眾神聚會中,如何辯論人類該受應得的報應?人類最後的結局如何?

  7. 你認為荷馬相信他的眾神嗎?如果不考慮無神論(atheism),相信荷馬的眾神或一般神祇是否合理呢?

  8. 大部分的人多少熟悉或聽過《奧德賽》第四部、第三卷所謂的「流浪的奧德賽斯」(wanderings of Odysseus),這段內容主要由奧德賽斯自身來敘述。如果由荷馬來描述會和奧德賽斯的自述有何不同?這段文本充滿幻想中的生物,和其他章節的敘述題材有何差異?

  9. 奧德賽斯完成不少任務,包括造訪冥王(Hades),最後並生還離開。在這段期間,他還遇見不少人,包括阿基里斯(Achilles,譯注:希臘神話中英雄,出生時被母親握著腳踵在冥河中浸洗,除了腳踵外,渾身刀槍不入)。阿基里斯在生前面對兩個選擇:過著冗長低賤或是簡短榮耀的生活,他選擇後者。現在他已來到冥國,他對自己當初的抉擇想法為何?荷馬詩中的兩大英雄:偉大的戰士阿基里斯和榮耀歸鄉者的奧德賽斯,兩者的差異為何?

  10. 柏拉圖說許多人認為荷馬是「古希臘的教育家,應成為人類文化事物管理的指導者,人們該遵循詩人的教導。」(《理想國》606E)這個想法合理嗎?(柏拉圖似乎認為這是個昏聵的主意)

  11. 重量級評論家路易斯(C.S.Lews)曾試著比較《奧德賽》《伊里亞德》和米爾頓的《失樂園》,辯論後二者的詩作對世界所造成的影響:特洛依城的淪陷,永遠改變並塑造出不同的可能性,後者則是人類的墮落。路易斯說,不管奧德賽斯回家與否,都不會對希臘或整個世界造成影響,因此並非所謂的冒險性史詩。(詩人艾略特(T.S.Eliot)也持相近的看法)你對路易斯的看法為何?

  12. 荷馬所描述的古老世界,並非是他的讀者所生活的世界,兩者生活的方式也大異。下列是主要的差異:荷馬故事的人物使用銅器,並非像荷馬時代使用鐵製武器;故事的時代背景並無騎兵、沒文字系統、人們居住在巨大的宮殿中(這點奧德賽斯倒很像他的讀者—他也住在一般人住的小房子)、尚未征服鄰近土地、生活得如海盜般—荷馬詩作的海上英雄的職業是搶略而非貿易。這就像在現代,我們對這些早已消失的年代如西部電影或海盜電影仍頗為熟悉。在今天重建過去的意義為何?在重建過去的過程中,故事細節的正確性是否重要?荷馬為何將故事背景設定在永遠消失的過去?

演講六:索福克里斯(Sophocles)的兩齣戲劇、伊思奇勒斯(Aeschylus)的《亞格曼儂》(Agamemnon)《奧瑞斯提亞》(Oresteia)

希臘悲劇的創作主要是為了慶祝雅典的節慶(約在復活節期間)而作。這個慶典是為了讚揚戴奧尼索斯(Dionysus)—具有狂歡氣質的神祇,至於這些參與節日的人,因被神祇的神靈所感動,也會瘋狂地舞動、看見異象、在地上翻滾、做出各種淫蕩、具毀滅性的行為,一般來說,會出現威脅市民秩序的舉動。當然,這些戴奧尼索斯的崇拜者只是在作戲。他們這些近似儀式的表演,只是在模仿神的舉止(就像其他與春天降臨有關的神祇般)。戴奧尼索斯是重生的神,他在幼年時因希拉(Hera)的煽動而被撕扯成碎片,後來被他祖父母拼湊後重生,並藏身多年,以躲過希拉的暴怒。戴奧尼索斯早年的經驗使他變得瘋狂,他過了一段漂泊的日子,從埃及流浪到利比亞和印度,一路上破壞無數。模仿這個角色的人叫做波迷斯(Bromius),此人希望能藉著膜拜與模仿他的瘋狂舉止而使神祇息怒。還有人說戴奧尼索斯發明了酒,難怪他的崇拜者的反應頗像酩酊大醉。


這個節日就叫做戴奧尼索斯節,而這些看見異象與忘我的經驗通常和毀滅的舉止相關,因此做為其中一部份的希臘悲劇,也成為對此的禮讚表現。我們有時對表演過程中合唱隊的頌歌不滿,覺得它打斷戲劇的敘事節奏;但對於過去的觀眾來說,合唱歌的內容才是重點,它是對故事情節忘我的表現反應。合唱隊同時擔任歌舞工作,隊員主要是由當時最高級貴族家庭的男孩組成,他們對戲劇經驗的存在就像歌劇中的音樂一樣重要。的確,當歌劇首次在義大利文藝復興時期出現時,提議者也認為他們是將古希臘悲劇重新包裝介紹。


故事情節的基本架構主要是當時觀眾熟知的神話、傳奇以及與後來形成猶太與基督教截然不同的大量宗教材料,後者以敘事體的方式存在,從未形成明確的宗教形式。當時沒有所謂最卓越的敘事體標準版,沒有官方文本,更沒有希臘神祇的「聖經」。詩人可在有限範圍內改寫故事細節與角色的可能性,但還是得對故事文本的大綱忠實—即使出現不同的版本,故事本身還是神聖的,而對已被接受的故事事件概要的尊敬態度是很重要的。


簡單介紹《奧瑞斯提亞》的故事背景:亞格曼儂和阿特伊斯(Atreus)皆為皮勒波斯(Pelops)的後代,他們的兒子阿特伊斯(Atreus )和賽伊斯特斯(Thyestes)則皆為邁錫尼王國(Mycenae)王位的角逐人。阿特伊斯打敗賽伊斯特斯並將之放逐,後來又假裝原諒他並召他回國,最後還以賽伊斯特斯的名義大宴款曲,賽伊斯特斯被蒙在鼓中,不了解所食的主菜正是自己兒子們的屍體。酒足飯飽後,賽伊斯特斯被囚禁終生。但賽伊斯特斯的其中一個兒子艾吉塞斯(Aegisthus)僥倖逃過一劫,等他長大後,他回來拯救父親,並發誓毀滅阿特伊斯全族。阿特伊斯死後,機會終於來到,他的兒子亞格曼儂遵照眾神之父宙斯的旨意,決定派出大兵征討特洛伊城,報復特洛伊庇護帕里斯(Paris)的行徑。特洛伊王子帕里斯先前誘拐亞格曼儂弟弟米涅勞斯(Menelaus)的妻子海倫並相偕而逃。(不管特洛伊人如何看待這個行為,他們注定得捍衛帕里斯,正如亞格曼儂注定得替誘拐海倫之舉復仇,而賽伊斯特斯注定要替阿特伊斯宴會一事報仇一樣)圍攻特洛伊城長達十年之久,在此同時,阿特伊斯來到邁錫尼並誘惑亞格曼儂的妻子克莉坦那斯塔(Clytemnestra),並和她計畫亞格曼儂凱旋回國後的謀殺陰謀。


克莉坦那斯塔同意協助阿特伊斯,其實另有動機:先前亞格曼儂為了使大軍成功地抵達特洛伊城,必須滿足女神阿爾特彌斯(Artemis)的要求。阿爾特彌斯在艾流伊斯(Aulis)使艦隊無法前進,除非亞格曼儂犧牲自己的女兒伊菲吉妮娜(Iphigenia),才願意起風助航。為了使女神息怒,亞格曼儂說服克莉坦那斯塔將女兒送到艾流伊斯,宣稱會將女兒許配給英雄阿基里斯。克莉坦那斯塔最後屈服並犧牲了女兒。當戲劇開場時,十年已過,破曉時分消息傳來,特洛伊城終於在前晚陷落。

討論主題:

  1. 合唱隊的第一段頌歌描述故事的經過,但對不熟悉故事背景的人助益不大。從這個角度來看,它和民謠《愛德華》(Edward)和《史賓斯爵士》(Sir Patric Spens)相較下如何?在神話的其他版本中,女神阿爾特彌斯阻斷大軍前進航程,因為亞格曼儂曾侮辱過她。此處的理由為何?合唱隊如何表達他們對進攻特洛伊城的態度?

  2. 仔細閱讀合唱隊描述亞格曼儂「將他的頸子套入命運的繫帶中」(Slipping his neck into the bridle of Fate),各家翻譯有異)的詩節,解釋亞格曼儂所面對的其他選擇。他真的別有選擇嗎?人們在面對重要的道德難題時,真能說「我別無選擇嗎?」

  3. 在這篇詩節前,有些詩篇主要用來敘述眾神之父宙斯,他是個什麼樣的人物?

  4. 我們從克莉坦那斯塔與合唱隊的對談中,能探測到克莉坦那斯塔對亞格曼儂觀感為何的暗示嗎?當然,觀眾知道本劇的結局,因此了解劇中說唱時暗藏的第二層反諷意義,但劇中角色卻一無所知。克莉坦那斯塔在描述特洛伊城陷落時,有出現這類的諷諭嗎?

  5. 報仇的動機合理嗎?「血債血還」,死刑是報仇的一種形式,從犯罪者身上尋求「適當性」,替受害者關係人找到「終結」。這些受害者的關係人有義務進行復仇工作嗎?人們有可能繼承這類的義務嗎?當犯罪者逃過制裁,犯罪者關係人必須繼承這類的愧疚嗎?當某人出面妨礙犯者接受制裁(例如,拒絕對警察指出犯罪者的去處),此人也形同犯罪嗎?

  6. 犧牲女兒比犧牲局外人更糟糕嗎?殺害某人比殺害另一人更糟糕嗎?殺害某人比殺害另一人更好些嗎?最後這兩個問題的意義相同嗎?

  7. 克莉坦那斯塔說服亞格曼儂利用公家財產出資,然後踩踏精緻無價的織品(因此毀滅了織品),作為他凱旋勝利的象徵。她如何說服亞格曼儂?他此舉的重要性為何?

  8. 阿波羅是醫療和疾病之神(他在這方面的能力被稱為「擲遠標者」)。他也是預言之神—或許因為被附身時會喧鬧和胡言亂語,類似被疾病所擾。卡桑卓(Cassandra)是他的受害者。為什麼阿波羅要懲罰她?我們沒有看到亞格曼儂被屠殺,但從卡桑卓預言似的亂語中得知,舞台上的人並不了解其意義,觀眾卻心知肚明。卡桑卓被殺時的情況與先前伊菲吉妮娜類似—合唱隊告訴我們,她被封口,預防她開口詛咒這些參與她犧牲儀式的人群。卡桑卓為何如此痛苦?是為了她自己還是亞格曼儂?她會是人類生命情境中哪種決定性的代表?

  9. 在《亞格曼儂》的結尾中,克莉坦那斯塔發表演說敘說她身在血雨中。演說的要旨為何?她如何看待自己和她的行為?合唱隊驚懼地看待她的行為,但不管亞格曼儂作出什麼,從未影響到合唱隊對他的看法。妻子謀殺丈夫,會比父親謀殺女兒更糟糕嗎?

  10. 《奠祭者》(Coephor,英文The Libation-Bearersi)的主要情節是有關奠祭儀式—以倒酒在地為開始的飲酒儀式。這個儀式的重點為何?奧瑞斯特斯(Orestes)復仇的義務和亞格曼儂謀殺女兒伊菲吉妮娜的方式有何不同?又和克里特涅斯特拉擊殺亞格曼儂的方式有何差異?

  11. 《佑護神》(Eumenides,英文為The Blessed Ones)中,有段關於復仇三女神(Erynes,英文:the Furies)與阿波羅辯論有關奧瑞斯特斯罪刑的一節。雅典娜如何說服復仇三女神將本案送交新成立的正義法庭?如果法庭判斷錯誤,接下來會發生什麼?雅典娜賦予這個法庭權力,是否過於冒險?復仇三女神的天性如何?她們自稱為「過往的記憶)」(某些譯者的翻譯),這是什麼意思?尊重過往的記憶很重要嗎?否定對過往記憶的義務很重要嗎?阿波羅的角色為何?他在此的角色是否反映出在《亞格曼儂》(Agamemnon)中,給予卡桑卓受苦預言的角色?

  12. 這個案例最後判定是有關父權的辯論。今天,我們雖然知道這在生物學上並不合理,但我們能接受這樣的辯論嗎?在戲劇中,這被詮釋為宗教原則,而非科學原則,這如何在戲劇主題上加以表現?復仇三女神如何被說服成為佑護神?她們在雅典的職責將是什麼?

演講八:索福克里斯(Sophocles )的兩齣戲劇:《安蒂崗妮》(Antigone)《伊狄帕斯王》(Oedipus Rex)、
幼里匹蒂斯(Euripides)《希波理特斯》(Hippolytus)

替雅典戴奧尼索斯慶典撰寫戲劇的詩人並非工匠,而是貴族家族的成員。他們參與競爭以獲取戲作得以演出的榮譽,並由市民大會選出的委員會挑選演出作品。每位詩人必須呈交三篇作品,並在一天中演出完成;這可能會是三部曲如《奧瑞斯提亞》,或是三部完全不相關的作品。索福克里斯撰寫三部有關伊狄帕斯王的戲作,但他們是三部完全獨立的作品,並在索福克里斯生命中不同的階段書寫完成。《安蒂崗妮》是他年輕時的作品,《伊狄帕斯王》則是中年時期的作品,而《伊狄帕斯在科倫諾斯》(Oedipus at Colonnus)則是在晚年時撰寫,處理年老的伊狄帕斯外型改變與死亡的議題。索福克里斯的戲劇並未依照情節的年代順序排列,例如在《安蒂崗妮》中,劇情是在伊狄帕斯死後才發生的,因此我們無法想像同樣的角色後來又在其他戲劇中出現。在古希臘,這類肉體的神話常成為許多戲劇的基礎;如我們所見,在本故事中不見任何細節描述的版本,因此索福克里斯在生命中不同的期間,可能重新思考相同的主題。


因此,我們該再次注意到描述與表演慣例所形成的某個特色。合唱隊載歌載舞,在戲劇行動出現時出面干涉,唱出對話(recitative),這和今天的歌劇無異。同樣的,在歌劇的獨唱曲中,角色也會加以演說。我們不該視此為真正的對話交談,而是表演儀式中的特色。例如,在《伊狄帕斯王》的中段,伊狄帕斯轉頭對他的妻子卓卡斯塔(Jocasta)說明他的過去的身世與今日情況有關的細節。(「我父親是柯林斯的國王…」)我們不需擔心在兩人漫長的婚姻中,他從未告訴妻子這些真相。當然,這個演說雖然是針對妻子,真正的目標卻是觀眾。觀眾雖然熟悉故事也知道劇情內容,但需要在接下來行動出現前被加以告知,了解英雄的困境與歷史細節即將引導的方向。

討論主題:

(C) 索福克里斯的《安蒂崗妮》(Antigone)

這齣戲劇的主題由希臘字philia所代表,這個字根出現在「哲學」(philosophy)與費城(Philadelphia,全名費拉德爾非亞,譯註:美國賓夕法尼亞州東南部的港市)。大部分的文本都將此字翻譯為「愛」,因此在《安蒂崗妮》的譯本中,「愛」扮演著非常重要的角色。(因此「哲學」(philosophy)的意思該是「對智慧的愛」,因為sophia意味「智慧」,而費城則是以「兄弟之愛」而命名的)但是philia在英文中並無同義字,它意味著你和別人或團體最重要而深刻的聯繫。英文字「忠誠」(loyal )出自拉丁字ligare ,意味聯繫、綑綁住。當克里昂(Creon)提到philien 時,他的意思是「忠誠」或「忠心」(allegiance)。


《安蒂崗妮》的戲劇背景如下:伊狄帕斯被驅逐出底比斯(Thebes)後,他的兩個兒子伊特歐克拉斯(Eteocles)和波里尼可斯(Polyneices)爭吵王位的繼承權,最後伊特歐克拉斯名正言順當上國王,而波里尼可斯則逃到向來與底比斯為敵的阿格斯(Argos),並帶領阿格斯的七個大軍分別進攻底比斯的七座城門。戰爭在黑暗中進行,戲劇開始時是破曉時分,六個城門的敵軍皆已被擊破,將軍也被屠殺。第七座城門的攻城將軍波里尼可斯已死,底比斯的國王兼將軍伊特歐克拉斯也已身亡,因此男性近親克里昂,也就是兩人的叔叔,當上戰爭大勝的底比斯國王。

  1. 戲劇一開始時,克里昂的立場為何?回答前請思考(a)這是在敵軍攻城失敗後的第二天;(b)一般在攻城活動開始前,攻城者通常會和對城內領導者不滿或有二心的人取得聯繫,並在確定得到此人的協助後才會進攻(和今日所稱「第五縱隊」(fifth columnist)或「內奸」(traitors within)相似)因此克里昂擔心城內有內奸也是有道理的;(c)克里昂拒絕埋葬翻臉對付自己親人的姪子波里尼可斯,但埋葬姪子也是他的責任。

  2. 戲劇一開始時,安蒂崗妮的立場為何?埋葬親人是神聖的責任,但她只被允許埋葬的儀式而已(需要灑物的象徵,這也是她所能負擔的)為什麼這個儀式對她如此重要?陷於兩難的伊斯美妮(Ismene)是道德的弱者、騎牆派,還是代表合理的象徵?描述某人同時是答案與問題的一部份,會是個好主意嗎?

  3. 安蒂崗妮代表「家庭價值」,但在同時又與不知開始出現的未成文宗教法有「深刻」(或高深)的聯繫。為什麼這些宗教法不知何時開始出現?探討家庭價值與更「深刻」、非一般價值間的聯繫,舉例來說,生活在現代,出現介於工作職責與宗教規範間的爭論:醫生的責任是解除痛苦、保存生命,但如果基督科學教的雙親拒絕讓醫生進行必要的骨髓移植手術,對雙親而言,信仰即足以診治,而允許手術可能會危害到孩子的生命—這意味信仰不虔誠。(三年前,出現過類似的案例,在此案中,孩子最後死亡,而雙親則被控訴疏忽罪)是這個醫生過於固執、抗拒他的弱點或只是作醫生該作的事?雙親的責任呢?如果想接受「讓他們答應」的勸告,以讓雙方都能受到尊重,妥協後只完成一半的移植手術,最後雙方都一無所成。

  4. 思考下列三類忠誠度:(1)對神的絕對義務。神為了測試亞伯拉罕(Abraham)的信心,要他犧牲自己的兒子以撒(Isaac),而亞伯拉罕也遵照神的旨意去做。他作對了嗎?將他的反應和安蒂崗妮的相比較。(2)對一個團體所代表的價值。你會為美國、民主、家鄉或你的室友而犧牲生命嗎?(3)個人歷史。捍衛自己原來種族的價值觀很重要嗎?

  5. 戲劇結局似乎認可安蒂崗妮的作法。我們是否有可能忽視敘述本體所做出獎勵和懲罰的結論,並建議如此的配置並不代表詩人的正義觀呢?

II. 索福克里斯的《伊狄帕斯王》(Oedipus Rex)

  1. 底比斯發生了什麼事,最後導致對伊底帕斯的籲請?他是以什麼身份行動呢?

  2. 思考神話故事的呈現方式。故事並不以伊底帕斯聽到預言為開端,那全都發生在過去。戲劇過程逐漸開展,你如何描述行動特色的本質?

  3. 為什麼伊底帕斯詢問德爾菲(Delphi)的神諭?伊底帕斯以為神諭和妻子卓卡斯塔有關,他的反應如何?他的行為適當嗎?他有其他的選擇嗎?

  4. 在本劇中,伊底帕斯有別的選擇嗎?他堅決要追查出真相嗎?「知道真相,會使你自由。」查出真相有多重要?在哪種情況下,真相可能會帶來傷害—這層認識不僅會影響到個人,也會影響到其他人?

  5. 卓卡斯塔安撫伊底帕斯別擔心神喻,因為那並非真的。她如此說的原因為何?合唱隊對她的說辭反應為何?

  6. 伊底帕斯藉著擰扭一個老人的手臂而得知真相。「我將說出可怕的事實。」老人叫道。「我要聽,我一定要聽。」伊底帕斯說。他的堅持是正確的嗎?卓卡斯塔想說服伊底帕斯放手,但他卻不肯。如果聆聽她的建議,好處為何?

  7. 提瑞斯厄斯(Tiresias)被召喚後來到,心中卻希望他沒如此作。他不願說清真相,而他的沈默會帶來任何影響嗎?將此處他的勉強和在《安蒂崗妮》中宣布神喻的高潮相比較。他在此的預言可以避免嗎?

  8. 「別審判他人,免得他人審判你。」如果此劇有道德教訓,這會是那個道德教訓嗎?

  9. 在《亞格曼儂》中,可清楚感受到阿波羅的重要存在—亦即卡桑卓的痛苦。在此三部曲的終結,阿波羅和雅典娜終於現形。但在索弗克里斯的兩齣戲劇中,神祇並未現身。如此的差異,是否使觀眾在這齣戲劇中了解到神祇在人類事物中所造成的影響?

演講九:幼里匹蒂斯(Euripides)的《希波理特斯》(Hippolytus)

討論主題

  1. 在幼里匹蒂斯的戲劇中,神祇多半在戲劇的開端和結尾明顯地現身,但不會在過程中出面干涉行動。在《希波理特斯》的開端,有個神祇出面替接下來的行動「佈景」,在結尾時又出面收場並做出結論。在希臘的戲劇中,飾演神祇的演員,多半由某種機械將他們提起或放下,但我們不清楚原來的細節。在《希波理特斯》中的神祇,主要是由拉丁文Deus ex machina(從機械上降臨的神)所命名,這最後成為一種輕視的詞彙,意指當戲劇家無法在劇情結尾做出合理的結論時(就像是廉價電影般)最後所有一切都會消失,觀眾發現這原來只是一場黃粱大夢。《希波理特斯》的神祇為行動的決定因素,這和索福克里斯的作品相較有何差異?在某些版本中,有人認為《希波理特斯》的神祇可被完全除去而仍保持完整劇情。這個觀察合理嗎?將神祇全部刪除對戲劇造成的效果,會產生什麼差異?

  2. 阿爾特彌斯是什麼樣的女神?她的崇拜似乎對性經驗具有敵意—希波理特斯雖然享有特權得以接近她,但只能和她對話,卻無法看見她;這種形式的接觸是和貞節的美德有關。貞節是種美德嗎?誰應該遵守,原因為何?有個老人鼓勵希波理特斯也該膜拜女神阿芙蘿黛提(Aphrodite,譯註:希臘神話中愛與美之神),如此才不會冒犯她,但希波理特斯卻加以拒絕。他為什麼要拒絕?我們不能同時崇拜兩位女神嗎?

  3. 和神聖演說相反的,是不貞節的沈默,所以不該發言說出。菲娥卓(Phaedra)喜歡希波理特斯—但他是她的繼子,這是種「無法說出口的愛」。奶媽堅持沒有什麼事糟糕地無法說出口,但當她猜到事實後卻驚恐逃離。有些事真的該永遠別說出口嗎?如果真說出來,會造成什麼危險?

  4. 菲娥卓抱怨這種熱情嗎?(當然,你能說這是女神阿芙蘿黛提對她的處罰,而任何崇拜阿芙蘿黛提的人會說,這種性熱情主要的來源是女神,但問題本身仍站得住腳:人該責怪自己的熱情嗎?「我的心污穢,但我的雙手仍然聖潔。」菲娥卓在奶媽了解真相前說。比較對心靈的污穢—無實際行動卻有惡劣的想望,和伊底帕斯做出行動卻不知自己在作什麼,「我的雙手污穢,但我的心靈仍是聖潔的。」哪個責備可和伊底帕斯相連?

  5. 希波理特斯曾說過類似的話:「我的口舌發誓。」但在他得知奶媽真正祕密前又說,「但我的心沒有發誓。」這是合理的想法嗎?雖然如此,在面對特修斯(Theseus)的控訴時,他還是遵守誓言。他為什麼如此做?即使某人不了解誓言的內容,他還是得遵守誓言嗎?

  6. 希波理特斯這個角色值得尊敬嗎?他對女性及她們的巧舌有種有趣的奇想,同時對於生養後代必須由男女雙方共同完成一事覺得很遺憾。當他被指控時,他希望有另一個希波理特斯能聆聽這個案例並了解他是無辜的。

  7. 特修斯也說希波理特斯的罪刑是無法明說的,但他還是開口說出。在最後嚴厲的演說中,他被控訴導致他無辜兒子之死。這個有關生命演說的力量為何?只要說出真相,人們就可以改變自己或他人的命運嗎?

  8. 奶媽辯論私下的言論是無害的—一個人在私下和公眾前的所言所行無關。本劇同意她的看法嗎?

  9. 在戲劇結尾,神祇的觀點為何?在特修斯和希波理特斯和解時,所呈現的人性觀點為何?

演講十一:修昔底德(Thucydides)的《伯羅奔尼撒戰爭史》(The Peloponnesian War)

討論重點
Topics for Discussion

  1. 歷史(history)一字來自古希臘字historien,意思是「詢問、探查。」英文字history的意義則模稜兩可,意思包括記錄下發生或已做的事件,也包含事件本身。新字historiography單指史學記錄,讓history來說明historiography的內容,解決一字具雙重意義的問題。這兩者間有無自然地聯繫?某些事件是否「更歷史化」,更適合做為書寫的記錄?書寫歷史該記錄哪類事件?

  2. 修昔底德的先進是「歷史之父」希羅多德(Herodotus),後者記錄下第一個主要事件—希臘與波斯帝國間的戰爭。希羅多德認為那是世間所見最大的戰爭衝突,因此記錄下以「保存希臘和非希臘事件的記憶。」過去事件記憶的價值為何?事件的大小—單憑參與人數的多寡,可被視為歷史事件嗎?希羅多德認為他的歷史是用來榮耀希臘人和他們的敵人。修昔底德對於榮耀他所記錄的事件感興趣嗎?

  3. 希羅多德以憑藉傳言來記錄波斯戰爭的背景與戰爭經過而惡名昭彰。他的紀錄因為精彩地描述參與事件不同的角色、人物習俗的軼事和迷你劇情而得以保存,他的當代人物認為此書冊最重要偉大的章節,可被保存留給未來子孫。修昔底德先對希羅多德加以稱頌,不過僅止於此,因為他和希羅多德的作法和判斷在某些方面大異,其中三點使許多人認為他是「現代歷史之父」。第一,是他對謠傳的態度,第二是記錄歷史的目的,最後則是某些事件比其他事件更有資格被寫入歷史。從修昔底德的開場白及敘述經過,你認為他對以上三點的觀點如何?

  4. 以過去事件的重要性這點來看,修昔底德選出詩人和敘述者的故事,主要是「有關時間的變遷,並消逝在不可靠的神話之河中」。另外,他也想到荷馬,他所引用的希臘句子有點難以翻譯,類似「主要被說故事(story-telling)所形塑」。修昔底德的論述(雖然以我們今天的看法,並非神話)也被「說故事所形塑」嗎?「說故事」形塑或毀壞事件本身呢?

  5. 對這些偏好具戲劇性與清晰型態敘述體的人來說,修昔底德冗長的對話常讓人分散注意力。為什麼修昔底德花很長的時間在演說上?他指出因為很難記得演說內容的精確用字,他儘可能按照一般正常的對話來記錄,依他的看法,這使得演說者按照場合而說。這兩者的標準相符合嗎?一個好的歷史學家該記錄人們真正說出的話,而非自認按照場合所說的話。為何對人們說出的話該有不同的標準呢?「按照場合說話」的意義為何?

  6. 修昔底德說他的作品不容易閱讀,但對這些「想清楚了解過去發生的事件」的人則大有用處。根據這個說法,他說他的作品是設計來得以「永遠流傳」,因為「人性不會改變」,過去會在未來某刻重複,並以類似的方式上演。對這段話加以評論。過去真的會重複嗎?如果真是如此,了解它的好處為何?這個觀點是否告訴我們修昔底德如何挑選和記錄事件?

  7. 描述雅典和斯巴達的特色,利用書中的演說描述兩者間的差異。修昔底德接受對話中所提到的差異嗎?他本身是雅典人,但在戰爭期間,雅典人待他苛刻,這點使他在兩者衝突上是否做出公平或偏心的處理?

  8. 在修昔底德導言部分的最後一段,他指出雅典和斯巴達間控訴對方的理由,以及使雙方進行戰爭的「真正的原因」。這層比較的意義為何?對今天而言,了解歷史事件的意義為何?

  9. 找出兩三段主要的辯論經過:在斯巴達的科林斯人(Corinthian)的對話、有關米特林尼(Mytelene)的辯論和伯里克利(Pericles,編著:古雅典政治家、民主派領導人,其統治期為雅典文化和軍事的全勝期)反對調停的演說以及米萊恩(Melian)的質辯等等。特殊的是,修昔底德為何以對話的形式進行這場辯論?

  10. 比較雅典的瘟疫和可斯瑞(Corcyra)革命與之後發生事件的論述。修昔底德提到在後者的情況下,人性特徵會更加明顯,因環境促使他們做出不想做的事。修昔底德的意思為何?這是人性永恆的特徵嗎?有關可斯瑞人革命的描述,最後被瘟疫的結果所證實嗎?

演講十四:柏拉圖(Plato)的《理想國》(Republic)

討論主題

柏拉圖在中年時寫下對話錄《理想國》(約西元前三六五年),書籍冗長,但充滿驚人的原創力和各類主題。書中主要的對話與敘述者為柏拉圖的精神導師蘇格拉底。蘇格拉底在西元前三九九年被雅典的市民處決,官方理由是因為他的不忠,事實上是因為他在同儕間散播自由開放的探查,並使年輕人疑惑傳統思考方式的美德。對話錄的對話角色包括柏拉圖的兩個兄弟及當時知名的市民,大部分的角色在市民衝突的過程中死在對方手中。在Dikaiosyne(譯為「正義篇」)中,但主要內容卻是倫理,論述如何適當地待人接物—如果你希望表現地具倫理性,該如何付出義務。此字有時被譯為「公義」(righteousness)。

(a) 327a-376c:

  1. 塞弗勒斯(Cephalus)是怎樣的人?他或許是好人,但他很有智慧嗎?他對熱情(passion)的觀點為何?

  2. 從任何詩人那借來有關「何者為對」的定義。詩人是知識正確的來源嗎?當我們想知道何者為正確的事,會希望有個定義嗎?

  3. 正義似乎來自一種實際的知識(希臘語techne),即在某種情況下該如何表現。而問題也從「什麼樣的事是正義」改變為「何類之事才能製造出正義」。這兩個問題是否多少相近?知道正義為何,是否意味知道該如何表現出正義的行為?

  4. 如果危害敵人,會是公正的表現嗎?蘇格拉底說,危害某人或某事意味著使其不再符合原有的「優良標準」,換言之,此已不再是原有的典範。(一隻馬被傷害後,那已不是原有的馬)該如何反駁這類的辯論?即使照顧馬匹後,卻不能牠們復原,這只使原有的情況更糟。以此類推,正義的使用絕不會使人類更糟糕。對這點該如何辯論?為何蘇格拉底認為此符合他的論點?

  5. 色拉斯瑪其塞斯(Thrasymachus)提出異議。蘇格拉底理所當然地認為正義是「人類的優點」。(在古希臘語中,「優點」(excellence)和「美德」(virtue)為同一字)色拉斯瑪其塞斯質疑這個假設。這個論點好嗎?蘇格拉底如何反駁?這個正義並非人類優點(或美德)的結論,不是蠻吸引人的嗎?

  6. 科勞肯(Claucon)提出異議:正義的本質和特色為何?你希望擁有吉集斯(Gyges)的指環嗎?為什麼?他對蘇格拉底提出異議的本質為何?

  7. 阿迪曼特斯(Adeimantus)說葛勞肯(Glaucon)忽略了最重要的一點。那是什麼?

  8. 蘇格拉底在論述社團本質時的重點為何?一個社團存活的本質,如何幫助我們了解正義是個人的特質?

  9. 科勞肯堅持社團不應自限於必需品而已,也該有些奢侈品。對社團(蘇格拉底曾概述它的本質)和社團中個人成員間的寓言,他們的認知為何?

(b) 403d-445d:

  1. 蘇格拉底指出社團的四個「古典」美德—智慧、勇氣、自律(希臘語 sophrosyne)和正義。當蘇格拉底在描述他們時,最後兩者聽起來卻像是同一件事。兩者的差異到底為何?

  2. 蘇格拉底如何將社團中的三個元素(或階級),與所謂的人類的三種精神加以調整安排?希臘字後來也出現在英文中,還有哪些字為同義字?

  3. 蘇格拉底說前兩個元素必須管理第三個元素慾望(appetite),為什麼元素「勇氣」(courage)必須管理「慾望」?蘇格拉底說,慾望是「每個人最重要的一部份,而且天生就貪求無厭。」舉例來說,口渴這個欲求,總是貪求無厭嗎?

(c) 471c-521b, 576c-592a:

  1. 柏拉圖認為理想國類型並不無正當性,因此顯示它不可能存在的論點是否正確?捍衛理想類型(一種「典範」(paradigm),希臘字paradeigma)的正當性是否延伸到其他事件?

  2. 如果慾望是貪求無厭的,蘇格拉底說對各類知識的貪求無厭也是合理的。哲學家追求的不是各種階段或實例,而是典範本身—一種判斷優劣的優秀標準。大部分的人都無法理解這類的標準,因它不會隨時間或情境改變。這些少數、具普遍共通性的知識該如何和多數、隨意可變換的「意見」和「信仰」加以區別呢?世間無普遍的知識,只有相對性信仰的這個假設,具有正當性嗎?

  3. 洞穴寓言在區別出知識和信仰這點是否能成立?如果顯露出分界線,可以成立嗎?在寓言中,為什麼這些從未看過光線來源的人與看過太陽的人為敵,最後還殺死他?

  4. 富有、勇敢和有智慧的人舒服地過完一生,但最後卻是有智慧的人才是正確的,前兩者卻不是。我們如何知道這點?

演講十七:亞里斯多德(Aristotle)《尼各馬科倫理學》(Nicomachean Ethics)摘錄

討論主題

  1. 《理想國》中的科勞肯說世間有三類好事—手段很好的事、本身就很好的事、手段和本身都很好的事。舉例說明。柏拉圖認為何者最優?亞里斯多德認為何者最優?

  2. 亞里斯多德說所有的事最後都會加以累積—在一切良善的終點必然有整體的良善。他的論點為何?他也說如果我們只渴求意圖,等於什麼也不渴求。他說的對嗎?

  3. 倫理學這個科目,只能由這些具倫理特質的人來教導(因此無法由年輕和無法自我控制的人加以教導)這個觀點如何與亞里斯多德一般性的觀點相容嗎?他是對的嗎?如果真是如此,所謂「對改教的人講道」的用處為何?

  4. 亞里斯多德質問,木匠和皮匠各有「功用」(希臘字ergon),但抽象的「人類」一辭並無功用,因此作為人類,是否就沒適當的功用?這是個合理的問題嗎?亞里斯多德認為這是個很好的問題,而且他也知道答案。你同意嗎?

  5. 亞里斯多德說(第一篇,第八節)人若不喜歡作善事,那他一定不是好人。柏拉圖會怎麼說?亞里斯多德舉例說,在競賽中,並非這些真正合格的人贏得比賽。這是個好的例子嗎?他如何使用這個例子?

  6. 亞里斯多德如何詮釋幸福(希臘字eudaimonia)?他所謂的幸福與「獨立宣言」中的「追求幸福」相同嗎?為何亞里斯多德在晚年時摒棄享樂和榮耀(對某些人來說是尊敬)呢?

  7. 美德(柏拉圖稱優點,希臘字arete意味著兩者)是種存在的情境,或是種特質的狀況(ethos ),而且不是天生的。那這不是很不自然嗎?亞里斯多德認為該如何獲得美德?
    Virtue (or excellence; as with Plato, the word arete means both) is a state of being or an aspect of character (ethós) and does not come by nature. Is it unnatural, then? How are the virtues acquired, in Aristotle's view?

  8. 亞里斯多德為何認為美德作為一種特質的狀況,是種採取行動的意向?解釋美德是種介於兩極意圖間的工具?利用你的觀察舉例說明。

  9. 柏拉圖比較關心當我們認為是一件好事,主要因為我們渴望得到它,或我們認為它是好事才產生渴望。亞里斯多德會如何評論?亞里斯多德如何處理(第三篇,第四節)沒人真正希望作壞事,但當他渴望壞的東西,卻會自欺欺人這個觀念?他在此處的觀點和柏拉圖的有何不同?

  10. 亞里斯多德一再重複,我們不會思考結果,只會思考導致結果的企圖。這種特殊思考的用法—是種自主的選擇嗎?他說對了嗎?這個觀點與他整體的觀念相符嗎?

  11. 亞里斯多德說(第六篇,十三節),有所謂天生的美德,也有來自「實用理性」(phronesis)的美德。這和他在書中第一卷所說的相矛盾嗎?他似乎也說過你不可能只擁有一種美德,而缺乏其他的美德。這和他一般性的觀點相符合嗎?這是合理的觀點嗎?

  12. 以亞里斯多德的觀點來看,充滿思慮還是行動的生命是較好的生命?柏拉圖對這點看法為何?如果能任選其一,亞里斯多德的建議為何?

演講二十:《創世紀》(The Book of Genesis)

  1. 描述第一章中上帝造世的順序。這個順序合理嗎?它的主要原則為何?上帝出言造世。演說具有創造力嗎?從何種角度來看?何者為有關創世演說中的創世行動的代表?

  2. 比較第一章與第二章的創世故事。兩者間的差異為何?原書的編輯者為何沒將兩者的差異除去,如此感覺上才不會如此明顯?

  3. 蛇告訴夏娃,吃下知識之果後不會死亡,而且會像神般明辨是非。牠說對了嗎?

  4. 為何神禁止亞當和夏娃吃下知識之果?知識是件壞事嗎?亞當和夏娃吃下知識之果後,發現自己是裸身,因此想法隱藏私處。他們對此知識的反應適合嗎?為什麼直到此刻,他們才知道自己是裸身呢?

  5. 對亞當和夏娃的詛咒為何?這些咒語仍然有效嗎?

  6. 你認為巴別塔(Babel)的故事重點為何?

  7. 比較神造萬物後與洪水過後(第九章,一到五節),神對人類的祝福。兩者的差異為何?

  8. 在文本的前半部,神允許諾言並給予聖約。從文本來看(而非字典),你認為「聖約」為何?

  9. 討論第十八、十九章中,神以三個旅者的身份現身於亞伯拉罕之前,並和他辯論毀滅所多瑪(Sodom)和蛾摩拉(Gomorrah)(譯註:兩古城的居民罪惡深重,最後遭神毀滅)之事。為何亞伯拉罕在看到十這個數字時住嘴?勞特(Lot)妻子的命運有何重要性?

  10. 討論「犧牲以撒」這個主題(第二十二章)。根據不同的翻譯,這段被描述為「測試」或「誘惑」。測試的目的為何?和《奧德賽》中的「測試」相較,雅典娜對奧德賽斯說謊,以測試他的勇氣;另外則是有關奧德賽斯對父親的謊言。艾流伊斯的的祭司告訴亞格曼儂,如果想使他的大軍抵達特洛伊城,必須犧牲他的女兒伊菲吉妮娜,兩者加以比較。在這些情境下,最重要的差異為何?神該如此測試亞伯拉罕嗎?當以撒詢問亞伯拉罕在作什麼,亞伯拉罕答案的意義為何?這個故事的原始觀眾心中清楚以撒不會被犧牲,因為他們都是以撒的後代,在了解這點後,會使得故事本身的意義有所不同嗎?

  11. 雅各(Jacob)的個性如何?他值得以撒的祝福嗎?從文本的角度來看,這個祝福為何?以撒發現自己受騙後,不再背負無知的重擔,他卻不能給予以掃(Esau)祝福呢?

  12. 《創世紀》中,喬瑟夫(Joseph)的故事是最冗長、持續不斷的敘述體,也受到作者慷慨的關注。為什麼本文原來的編輯者在面對第一段神聖的記錄時,會以此故事作終結?這個故事是否多少和先前的故事有種總結的聯繫?

演講二十一:馬太福音

討論主題

  1. 「福音」在希臘文中多半被認為是「好消息」。這個消息為何?為何是好消息?

  2. 為何文本以家譜作開端?

  3. 在曠野中的三個誘惑各有何重要性?耶穌的每個答案的意義為何?什麼是「曠野」?為什麼這是個放置誘惑的適當背景?

  4. 山上的講道引發許多問題。「有靈魂的窮人」將會繼承天堂國度,這是什麼意思?當個「有靈魂的窮人」是件好事嗎?根據此段(不可姦淫,也要避免慾望;不可殺人,也要避免敵意;不僅不要抗拒惡人,反而要像惡人打擊你般慷慨;不僅要愛你的鄰居,也要愛你的敵人),接下來提到耶穌說他來此,不是來廢除律法和先知,乃是要來「成全」它們,此話意義為何?

  5. 在這段期間,耶穌治癒無數病者和傷殘,但卻鼓勵他們別對外公開。耶穌為什麼要他們保持沈默?

  6. 在文本中,耶穌幾次提到有關天堂國度的寓言。根據此點(而非字典),寓言的意義為何?當使徒們詢問此意義時,耶穌總提供不同的答案。在不同的情況下給予不同的詮釋適合嗎?你能提供一個最適合此寓言的詮釋嗎?使徒詢問耶穌(第十三章,第十節),為什麼他以寓言方式說教。解釋他的答案。

  7. 思考年輕富人的寓言(第九章,第十六節)。在山上佈道時,耶穌說不可能同時為財神(Mammon)和上帝服務。此處,他對年輕人說,「如果他希望更完美(或完成)」必須將他所有的財富散發給窮人。比較年輕人與《奧德賽》中阿曼非濃摩斯(Amphinomos)的反應。使徒無法了解駱駝與針眼的意義,為什麼?

  8. 思考葡萄園工人的寓言(第二十章)。這個故事令人滿意嗎?你贊成耶穌的詮釋嗎?

  9. 思考彼得和《伊底帕斯王》(Oedipus Rex)中伊底帕斯,兩者在聽到預言後反應的相似與相異處。在這兩個例子中,誰有可能躲過預言?如果有關彼得的預言沒實現,這會有損宗教預言力量的信譽嗎?和伊底帕斯的預言不同,關於彼得的預言在時間上很精確。彼得能躲過預言嗎?在聖經中的這段,曾引發一些前例的論點。法老不准摩西帶領他的人民離開,因此神替埃及帶來瘟疫,但聖經又告訴我們,神使法老心意堅定,以致於不聽從摩西的話。法老能因此受責嗎?

演講二十二:聖奧古斯丁(St. Augustine)《懺悔錄》(Confessions)

討論主題

  1. 你對懺悔的看法為何(非字典的詮釋)?懺悔在宗教生活的功用為何?奧古斯丁認為懺悔的功用是什麼?(奧古斯丁的定義見第十卷的開端部分)

  2. 奧古斯丁的懺悔對象是神,懺悔方式是祈禱。修辭學(rhetoric)是各種演說或書寫形式的分類,將文本表面特徵和其作為整體和評量效率的功用相連,這是古拉丁教育的重要一環。奧古斯丁在改信基督教前是修辭學的教授—這和今天的文學研究多少類似。對於以個人私生活的冗長公開祈禱為題材,他很清楚這點在當時鐵定非常特殊,甚至有點奇怪。將某人的一生以祈禱的形式呈現,而非自傳體的敘述(不是對神說話)、反省和辯論,兩者間的差異為何?

  3. 今天我們希望藉著了解內在的本性以獲得真理—這個自我不但不會在公眾前出現,有時連我們自己也沒意識到,因此了解內在意味著解放自我,並因找到真我的來源而欣喜。對奧古斯丁來說,內在本質不是救贖的來源,而是恐懼。評論兩者的差異。奧古斯丁對內在的恐懼和今天的世界有關連嗎?

  4. 奧古斯丁主要的懺悔的對象是神,但有兩次例外。第一次的對象是對自己所犯下的罪惡懺悔(第二章,第六節),另外一次則是他自己的靈魂(第四章,第十一節)。對自己的某個行動(罪惡)說話的意義為何?和對自己對話的意義為何?

  5. 做為一本自傳,奧古斯丁的《懺悔錄》被視為未達到應有的標準。自傳的題材集中在公眾前對神懺悔他的罪孽—將最隱密私有的部分公諸於世。他將隱私以強烈的方式公開的動機為何?

  6. 作為一本懺悔錄,奧古斯丁的描述多半為解開有關知識與知識如何超過措辭的謎題。問題是,在整篇懺悔中,奧古斯丁利用各類的問題,不斷對古世界中最重要的思想家嬉笑怒罵,在第一卷中的前兩段中即是很好的例子。在這兩個例子中的問題和答案為何?

  7. 在第二卷中,奧古斯丁將他童年時的惡作劇—從鄰近果園中偷採未成熟、不能吃的梨子,和卡特蘭(Cataline)的罪行相比,後者堅信為了成為羅馬皇帝,必須殘酷暴虐,因此常常做出人神共憤的惡事,以防止自己變得心軟。奧古斯丁對於他的童年惡作劇和卡特蘭惡行的看法為何?你認為奧古斯丁的看法有理嗎?

  8. 在《懺悔錄》中,許多議題來自對罪行(crime)和罪孽(sin)的區別,古希臘字為hamartia,意味著「錯誤」(mistake)。在奧古斯丁的作品中(就像當代其他作品一般)主要的關注是古代哲學,特別是柏拉圖和亞里斯多德。柏拉圖特別將我們所稱的倫理價值歸入正義的系統中,因此給予倫理主題明顯的法律色彩。罪孽這個觀念如何能歸入倫理的概念中呢?你認為罪行和罪孽有何不同?

  9. 在第六卷第八章中,艾里帕斯(Alypius)無法自持,避過不看在競技場中戰鬥致死的羅馬鬥士。這卷的主要議題為何?這段多少處理「不自制」(incontinence)的主題—誘惑擊敗決心。將本段與亞里斯多德在《尼各馬科倫理學》中自制的處理作比較。

  10. 奧古斯丁最關注的主題為自願放棄節制,就像有強迫性暴食習慣的人,說「我一定會節食,不過不是今天,但一定會從明天開始。」奧古斯丁花很長時間思考這點—因先前他不斷延遲皈依基督教的時機—而他在《懺悔錄》中最知名的祈禱則為:「神啊,讓我變得貞節—但不是現在。」「貞節」(chastity)的意思為何?是好事還是壞事?如果不斷延遲已做下的決定,是人類意志的奇異表現,還是只因決心不是固定的,只是人類對自己弱點的欺瞞?或者兩者皆是?奧古斯丁對這點的看法如何?(第八卷,第八章和第九章和此主題相關)

  11. 思考奧古斯丁在第八卷、第十一和十二章描述自己皈依基督教的經過,解釋這是如何表現出書中的主題。奧古斯丁為何利用寓言的角色—康提妮斯(Continence)的影像,對他伸出她美麗的雙手—以描述此刻他心理方面的特徵?你會對「皈依」(conversion)如何描述其特徵?你的想法適合描述奧古斯丁的狀況嗎?

  12. 《懺悔錄》對惡(evil)的本質極為關注:惡到底是什麼?它是從哪來的?如果神造萬物,那祂該對惡的存在負責嗎?對這些問題的其中一個解答是,善與惡並存是好事,神允許惡的存在,是為了測試和強化人類的決心。二元論者(Manichees)的這類觀點,對奧古斯丁極具吸引力。奧古斯丁對二元論的的論述為何?為何他最後拒絕這個觀點?今天的政客對惡所持的概念與二元論中的觀點是否類似?

  13. 奧古斯丁對惡的最終觀點很另類,他認為惡並不存在,雖然他早期的觀點剛好相法。神造萬物,萬物皆善,惡是種空虛、虛無、無效。此看法與當今那些相信假信仰的人,並居住在一個所謂不存在的世界的觀念是否類似?

演講二十五:但丁(Dante)的《地獄》(Inferno)

討論主題

  1. 地獄的概念來自亞里斯多德的《尼各馬科倫理學》第七卷第一章,指出應該避免的倫理境況為不自制、邪惡和殘暴。這些類型是否代表亞里斯多德的論述?但丁所勾勒出的地獄,主要是針對亞里斯多德的主題在外劃圈添加,他為何要新作添加?

  2. 但丁所可能繼承的傳統地獄影像應該是「邪惡之囊」(Malebolge),裡面充滿惡魔和他們的乾草叉。在「邪惡之囊」受刑的罪人,和在其以上與以下區域的人的刑罰有何不同?

  3. 你認為黑木(dark wood)為何?但丁想攀越的什麼樣的山?在詩中,為何但丁必須穿越地獄以抵達天堂?

  4. 在地獄門上的銘刻著「愛創造了我」。地獄對聖潔之愛如何描述?

  5. 地獄中的處罰總是與罪孽相符嗎?在地獄中的人物,是因其罪孽而被安置在所處位置,還是他們具有可被「救贖」的特性,而無法影響到具有罪孽的救贖者?找出三個為後者的案例,並分別描述這些罪人的特點。

  6. 在進入一圈又一圈的旅程中會有轉變,但主要的轉變還是群眾。在Dis城市中,充滿雉堞和防禦,所以地獄是個城市嗎?復仇三女神也在那裡,但丁被加以保護而不需凝視她們。魏吉爾卻被禁止入城,因此覺得憤怒又困惑。你能解釋此處的象徵意義嗎?

  7. 在地獄中的人知道未來和過去,卻不知道當下。這是什麼意思?

  8. 對亞里斯多德來說,惡有兩層意義,這代表什麼?評論暴力三層的地區,他們位居在外圍、高於邪惡區域。這有道理嗎?但丁輕蔑最內圈中不自制的人,對邪惡這區的人發脾氣好幾次,更對通敵者這圈的人殘酷不已。這樣的行為適當嗎?

  9. 顯而易見地,但丁地獄的地貌是根據罪孽的高低排列,從最輕微到最嚴重者。但今天的讀者對這類的安排多少有點困惑,舉例來說,他把放蕩者置於高於奢侈者,殺人者高於高貴的尤里西斯,偽幣製造者就在底層最糟糕者的一旁。你能加以解釋嗎?他對罪孽的判斷,我們也不能苟同。你能解釋對放款者的控訴嗎?(他們用錢養錢)你能解釋對尤里西斯的控訴嗎?(他鼓勵自己人永遠別放棄追尋知識)但丁和荷馬的尤里西斯有何不同?

  10. 在幾個少數的例子中,如失去本性是處罰的一部份。但丁的人物人性刻畫鮮明,但他們應該也是寓言化的—意味著會代表什麼。「代表什麼」意味著什麼?一種象徵?從這個角度來看,你會象徵著什麼嗎?我們很熟悉歷史中某些人物的代表意義,舉例來說,林肯和海爾(Nathan Hale,譯註:美國獨立戰爭殉難英雄)。這個「代表什麼」是種對人個性特徵的評判嗎?

Paper Assignments
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Reading Assignments (Download all assignments listed below: PDF)

Lecture 1: Introductory Remarks.

Lecture 2: Homer, Odyssey. Books I-VI.

Topics for Discussion

Over two and one half thousand years ago, at about 750 B.C., in Ionia, a region on the eastward side of the Mediterranean sea, a Greek-speaking bard, a minstrel or singer of songs, composed a lengthy narrative poem about the difficulties and adventures of a warrior named Odysseus as he struggled to come home from a great war, supposedly (as the bard supposed) the largest war that the world had ever seen. The bard did not write his poem down to begin with or even use writing in its composition, but composed it orally, probably running through several versions over the course of many years. Still, at some point soon after its composition either the bard or someone else put his poem into writing, and we may say that not a year has gone by since, and very probably not a day, when no one has been reading of it. This makes the Odyssey, together with its companion-poem, the Iliad, the world's longest-lived narrative with a continuous history of readership. Parts of the Bible may be older, but the Old Testament did not become a single narrative in anything like the form in which we now have it until long after Homer's time; other lengthy narrative poems went out of readership and were forgotten entirely or had to be revived by scholars, or else they came later, like Virgil's Aeneid and Milton's Paradise Lost, and were modeled on Homer.


Who was Homer? Conjectures abound, of course; for the longest time, no one doubted that there was a single author of both the Iliad and the Odyssey, that he was a man, and that his name was Homer, but more lately, some began to suspect that the two major poems were by different hands, if not by several, and there is always someone about willing to defend Samuel Butler's contention that the author of the Odyssey was a woman. Today, most scholars are of the opinion that the two poems have different authorship, but the evidence for this rests only upon differences between them that might be accounted for by the difference in subject-matter and artistic intention and is therefore far from conclusive. In the light of our ignorance on the subject, one scholar (Eric Havelock) proposes that we simply use the name "Homer" to designate not a person at all but the process of composition and transmission that issued in the poems as we have them.

  1. Homer's poem begins with an invocation to the Muse. What is the point of this opening passage? It seems to provide some kind of summary of the story that is to come. How adequate is this passage as a summary?

  2. Home was conventionally admired in the ancient world for beginning both the Iliad and the Odyssey "in media res" (Latin for "in the middle of things"), plunging his audience into a dramatic episode in a much larger course of action and only subsequently interpolating information about the larger business of which the episode is a part. Thus the action of the Iliad takes place during the last year of the ten-year seige of Troy, when a quarrel breaks out between two rival commanders on the Greek side, which nearly thwarts the purposes of the war; but the chief episodes of the war get mentioned or alluded to, one way or another, during the course of the poem's limited scope of action. And so (it was said) of the Odyssey, which begins in the tenth year of the wanderings of Odysseus, when the gods decide at last to let him come home from the war, but which, nonetheless manages to recall a good deal of the homecomings of all the heroes at Troy. How adequate is this ancient idea to your sense of the Odyssey? Does it beginning in the middle or at the beginning? How conclusive is its ending? Does it induce a sense of closure?

  3. The Odyssey was divided, long after Homer's day, into six sections of twenty-four "books", one book for each letter of the ancient Greek alphabet. Does the division capture anything of the poem's structure? If you were assigned the task of naming each of the six sections, what title would you assign to each?

  4. It has often been said that with some modest rewriting, one could get rid of the gods in the action of the text, letting (for example) Telemachos make up his mind to search for his father rather than by having Athena put the idea into his head. What would be gained or lost by such a revision? What episodes would present particular difficulties in executing this scheme?

  5. What is the situation in Odysseus's household at the outset of the story? Who are the suitors and what are they doing there? Are the circumstances quite clear or have some assumptions at work in story been lost, due to the passage of time, that would make the initial situation more intelligible? What is the point of Athena's inspiring Telemachos to look for his father? (After all, the search is bound to be unproductive; Odysseus, as we learn, is beyond the power of anyone to find him-he is literally at the end of the world.)

  6. Is Odysseus "fated" to come home? If so, why should he struggle to do so? How does Zeus, in the assembly of the gods, justify the notion that human beings deserve what happens to them?

  7. Do you think that Homer believed in his gods? Questions of atheism to one side, does it make any more or less sense to believe in the existence of the Homeric gods rather than in gods or a God of another kind?

  8. Most people are familiar, at least by hearsay, with the part of the Odyssey comprised by the third section of four books-the so-called "Wanderings of Odysseus". This part of the epic is narrated by Odysseus himself. What difference does it make that he tells the story and Homer reports the telling, rather than using his own words. How does the material in this section-filled with creatures of fantasy-differ from the material in the rest of the epic narrative?

  9. Among his other achievements, Odysseus visits Hades, the land of the dead, and returns alive. Here he meets, among others, the specter of Achilles, who could have had a long but obscure life or a brief but glorious one and chose the latter. What does he think of his choice now that he is in Hades? How would you contrast the two great Homeric heroes, Achilles and Odysseus-the great warrior and the great home-comer?

  10. Plato reports that many admire Homer as "the educator of Hellas and say that he deserves to be taken up as an instructor in the management and culture of human affairs, and that a man ought to regulate the whole of his life by following this poet." (Republic, 606E) Does this opinion make any sense to you? (It seemed foolish to Plato.)

  11. The great critic, C. S. Lewis once tried to contrast the Odyssey unfavorably with both the Iliad and Milton's Paradise Lost by arguing that action of these epic poems made a difference to the world, which was changed forever and all its possibilities refigure by the fall of Troy (in the one case) or the fall of mankind (in the other). It made no difference to the world or even to Greece, argued Lewis, whether Odysseus ever got home or not, and therefore, he thought, the poem was not really epic in its implications. (T.S. Eliot held much the same view.) What is your opinion of Lewis's position?

  12. The world of which Homer speaks is not the world of his audience but a world distant in time, where life is lived differently. Here are some of the differences: Homeric figures do not have any iron weaponry, as Homer's contemporaries did; they use only bronze. They have no cavalry, no systems of writing, they live in vast palaces (on this point, Odysseus is more like Homer's audience; he lives in an ordinary-sized house), they do not colonize neighboring territories and they act rather like pirates - the sea-faring hero's occupation in Homer is looting, not trade. In our own time, we are familiar with kinds of stories that take place in a world permanently gone by-for example, in Western movies and pirate films. What is the function of such recreated past in our own day? How important is it for the story to get the details right in describing such recreated pasts? Why does Homer set his story in a time that is gone forever?

Lecture 6: Two plays by Sophocles: Aeschylus. Agamemnon. Aeschylus. The Oresteia.

The major Greek tragedies were written for a festival taking place at Athens about the time of our Easter. The festival was in honor of Dionysus, a god of ecstatic possession, whose celebrants, touched by the spirit of the god, were supposed to behave in frenzied ways-dance madly, see visions, writhe upon the ground, perform various licentious or destructive acts, and generally act in ways that threaten civic order. In actuality, of course, the worshipers of Dionysus only mimicked such things; they perform rituals-closed to the public-which mimed the deeds of the god, who was (like other gods associated with the advent of Spring) a god of resurrection, having been torn to pieces as a child at the instigation of Hera and been reconstituted and brought to life again by his grandparents, who hid him away, safe from Hera's wrath, for many years. Dionysus's early experiences were said to have driven him periodically mad and initiated a period of wanderings, in which he ranged from Egypt and Libya to India, wreaking much destruction in his madness; in this character he is referred to as Bromius, and he can be (hopefully) propitiated by adopting his worship and miming his madness. It was also said of him that he invented wine, unsurprising in a god whose effects upon his worshipers was much like inebriation.


The festival in Dionysus's name was a festival, accordingly, in which the capacity for visionary or ecstatic experience was associated with destruction, and the theater of which the major Greek tragedies were a part was an expression of homage to it. We are sometimes annoyed that the choral odes seem to interrupt the narrative line of the drama, but for the original audience the choral odes were central moments, expressions of ecstatic response to the episodes of the story. They were both sung and danced, by a chorus made up of the sons of the best aristocratic families of the time, and they were as essential to the dramatic experience as music is to grand opera. Indeed, when grand opera was, so to speak, first invented in Renaissance Italy, its proponents thought that they were re-introducing ancient Greek tragedy.


The stories forming the bases of the plots were versions of myths and legends well known to the audience-a vast body of religious materials which differed from the materials that ultimately formed the bases of the Judeo-Christian religion in that they existed only as versions and never assumed a definitive form. There was no pre-eminent version of a standard narrative, no authorized text, no "Bible" of the Greek gods. The poet could juggle detail or revise the implications of character within certain limits, set by fidelity to the general outlines of the story-for the story, despite the existence of differing versions was still sacred and an attitude of reverence for the accepted outline of events was a necessary requirement.


The events in the background of the Oresteia are briefly these: Agamemnon and Atreus were both descendants of the house of Pelops, whose children, Atreus and Thyestes, were rivals for the throne of Mycenae. Atreus defeated Thyestes and drove him into exile, then pretended to forgive him and called him back, giving a great feast in Thyestes's honor, at which, unknown to Thyestes, he was served up his sons as the main course. After the feast, Thyestes was imprisoned for life, but one of his sons, Aegisthus, had escaped the horrors of the feast, and when he came to manhood he rescued his father, vowing to honor his obligation to destroy the house of Atreus. His chance came after the death of Atreus, when Atreus's son, Agamemnon, acting at the behest of the Father of the gods, Zeus, gathered together the great expedition that sailed against Troy. Agamemnon was seeking revenge upon Troy for harboring Paris, the Trojan Prince, who had seduced Helen, the wife of Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother, and run off with her. (Whatever the Trojans thought of this deed, they were bound to defend Paris, just as Agamemnon was bound to revenge Helen's abduction and Atreus was bound to revenge the feast of Thyestes.) The siege of Troy took ten years, during which Atreus came to Mycenae, seduced Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra, and with her plotted Agamemnon's destruction upon his return.


Clytemnestra had her own motive to abet this deed: In order to get his army to Troy, Agamemnon had to appease the goddess Artemis, who had becalmed the fleet at Aulis and would not release the winds unless Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. To pacify the goddess, Agamemnon persuaded Clytemnestra to send Iphigenia to Aulis, allegedly to be betrothed to the hero Achilles. Clytemnestra complied and Iphigenia was sacrificed. When the play opens, the ten years have passed. News arrives at dawn in the form of a beacon of light to announce that Troy had fallen that very night.

Topics for Discussion

  1. The first choral ode recounts much of the material antecedent to the story but not in a manner immediately accessible to anyone not already familiar with it. How does it compare in this respect with the ballads "Edward" and "Sir Patric Spens"? In some versions of the myth, Artemis interrupts the voyage of the army because Agamemnon had insulted her in some fashion. What seems to be the reason here? What sense does the chorus communicate about their attitude towards the expedition against Troy?

  2. Pay careful attention to the stanza of the chorus in which Agamemnon is described as "slipping his neck into the bridle of Fate" (translations may vary). Explain the alternatives facing Agamemnon. Did he have a choice? Are there important moral occasions in which one can truly say, "I had no choice"?

  3. Before this stanza there are stanzas dealing with Zeus, the Father of the gods. What character does he seem to have?

  4. What hints do we get about Clytemnestra's feelings for Agamemnon in her exchange with the chorus? The audience, of course, knows full well how this play will come out, enabling a play of ironies-secondary meanings latent in what is said (or sung), which the audience will catch but of which the characters in the play will be unaware. Are there any ironies of this sort in Clytemnestra's description of the fall of Troy?

  5. How valid is the motive of revenge? "Whosoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Capital punishment is one form of revenge, which seeks adequacy for the offence, closure for those bonded to the victims. Do those who are bonded to the victims obliged to revenge? Can one inherit an obligation of this sort? Can one inherit the guilt that has gone unpunished when those who have committed the crime are not available for punishment? Is one complicit in a crime when one forestalls or impedes punishment (as in not revealing the whereabouts of a malefactor to the police, for example)?

  6. Is it worse to sacrifice a daughter than, say, a bystander? Is it worse to kill one person (in particular) than another? Is it better to kill one person than another? Are these last two questions different questions?

  7. Clytemnestra persuades Agamemnon to expend public wealth by treading upon delicate, invaluable fabrics, thereby destroying them, as a token of his triumph. How does she persuade him? What is the significance of his action?

  8. Apollo is the god of healing and disease (he is called "the far-darter" in this capacity). He is also the god of prophecy-possibly because being possessed means ranting and raving, which is akin to being struck by a disease. Cassandra is his victim. Why is Apollo punishing her? We are not shown the slaughter of Agamemnon but we hear about it through the prophetic ravings of Cassandra, which are not understood by those who hear it on stage. The audience, however, understands it well. Cassandra goes to her slaughter in a way like Iphigenia before her-the chorus tells us that her mouth was stopped, to prevent her from cursing those who took part in her sacrifice. What can be said of Cassandra's display of agony? Is it for herself? For Agamamnon? What can be said of her as a representative of something decisive about the human condition?

  9. Clytemnestra makes a speech near the end of the Agamemnon about standing in a shower of blood. What is the purport of the speech? How does she think of herself and her deed? The chorus regards her with a horror that did not color their regard for Agamemnon, whatever he had done. Is it worse for a wife to kill her husband than for a father to kill his daughter?

  10. Most of the Coephori (English: The Libation-Bearers) is occupied with the central act of libation-a ritual of drinking which is begun by pouring drink upon the ground. What is the point of the ritual here? How does the way in which Orestes carries out the obligation of revenge differ from the way in which Agamemnon killed Iphigenia? the way in which Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon?

  11. Most of the Eumenides (English: The Blessed Ones) consists of a trial in which the Erynes (English: the Furies) debate with Apollo about the guilt of Orestes. How does Athena persuade the Furies to submit their case to this newly-created tribunal of Justice? What will follow if the tribunal judges badly? Is Athens undertaking a risk in empowering such a tribunal? What is the character of the Furies? They refer to themselves as "the mind of the past" (at least in some translations). What do they mean by the phrase? How important is it to honor the mind of the past? How important is it to disavow obligation to it? What is the character of Apollo? How does his character here reflect the character of the god who inflicted prophetic agonies on Cassandra in the Agamemnon?

  12. The case is finally decided by an argument about paternity. Can we accept this argument today, while knowing its biological invalidity? In the play, it is offered as a religious principle, not a scientific one. How does it reflect the themes of the play? How are the Erynes persuaded to become Eumenides-the Blessed Ones? What will their function be in Athens?

Lecture 8: Two plays by Sophocles: Sophocles. Antigone. Sophocles. Oedipus Rex.
Euripides. Hippolytus
.

The poets who wrote the plays performed during the Dionysiac festival at Athens were not craftsmen but members of aristocratic households who competed for the honor of having their work performed. Works to be performed were chosen by a committee appointed by the assembly of citizens. Each poet had to submit three plays to be performed over the course of a single day; these might form a trilogy, in the manner of the Oresteia, or they might be unrelated works. Sophocles wrote three plays about Oedipus but they were each presented as part of a grouping of independent plays and they were written at different points in his lifetime. The Antigone was a work of his youth, the Oedipus Rex of his middle years and the Oedipus at Colonnus, which deals with the death and transfiguration of the aged Oedipus, was written near the end of Sophocles's life. The writing of the plays, therefore, does not follow the chronological order of the episodes that they represent-the Antigone, for example, the first to be written, takes place after Oedipus's death-and one cannot assume that the same characters were conceived in the same way in any plays in which they reappear. This is consonant with the way in which the body of myths upon which the plays were based was conceived in ancient times; as we have noted, there was no received version of the details in any story, and Sophocles may well have rethought the materials at different points in his lifetime.


In this connection, we should also note again a feature that results from the conventions of representation and performance. The chorus sings and dances; the intervening moments of action in play consists of dialogue sung in recitativo, once again like grand opera today. Accordingly, set speeches have something of the character of arias in grand opera. We should not look to them for the realistic exchange that characterizes actual conversation but rather for the kind of exchange that characterizes performance of a ritual-the sort of thing, for example, when recipients for medals of honor are presented to the dignitary who has been authorized to award them. To take a representative instance: mid-way in the Oedipus Rex, Oedipus turns to his wife Jocasta and tells her about the details of his history relevant to the present situation. ("My father was the king of Corinth . . .") We should not suppose that it is important to worry why he has never told her these things during all their years of marriage. The speech is, of course, addressed to his wife, but its real target is the audience, who is completely familiar with the myth and knows how the story will come out overall, but needs to be informed about the play's "take" on the events preceding the action-the way in which the play understands the predicament of the hero and the details of the history leading up to it.

Topics for Discussion

I. Sophocles. Antigone.

The subject of this play is represented in the text by the Greek word philia, whose root appears in such words as "philosophy" and "Philadelphia". Most texts translate it as "love", and so "love" figures prominently in your translation of the Antigone. (Thus "philosophy" is supposed to mean "love of wisdom", since "sophia" means wisdom; and Philadelphia was named in honor of "brotherly love".) But "philia" does not have a direct English equivalent; it means the deepest and most important bonds that tie you to another person or group of persons. The English word "loyal" derives from the Latin "ligare", which meant "to bond, to tie down", and Creon is talking about "philien" when he talks about loyalty (or allegiance).


The background of the play is this: Some time after Oedipus was banished from Thebes, his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices, quarreled over the rightful succession. The kingship went to Eteocles, rightfully; Polyneices fled to Argos, the traditional enemy of Thebes, and returned with seven armies, each of which attacked Thebes at one of its seven gates. The battle took place in darkness; the play begins with dawn, when it is discovered that at six gates, the enemy was defeated and the enemy general killed. At the seventh gate the enemy general, Polyneices, was also killed, but so was the Theban general, Eteocles. As the nearest male kin, their uncle, Creon, is now king of victorious Thebes.

  1. What is Creon's position at the outset of the play? In answering, bear in mind (a) that it is the very next day after an unsuccessful attempt to conquer his city; (b) the usual attempts at conquests always tried to enlist the aid of any group within the city who were disaffected or at odds with the leadership and normally secured this aid before any campaign was launched (modern equivalents are called "fifth columnists" and "traitors within"), so that Creon's fears about traitors within are not entirely unreasonable; (c) the person whose burial he forbids (Polynices) is his own nephew, who has turned against his family, and the duty to bury such a person would normally fall upon him.

  2. What is Antigone's position at the outset of the play? Granted that the ritual burial of kin is a sacred obligation, but only a ritual (it need only be a token sprinkling, which is all that Antigone can supply), why is it so important to her? Is Ismene (caught-in-the-middle Ismene) an ethical weakling, a mere fence-sitter, or does she represent a reasonable position? Is it ever a good idea to say about someone that they are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem?

  3. Antigone represents "family values" but at the same time something "deeper" (if not higher), connected with religion-the unwritten dateless laws. Why unwritten? Why dateless? Explore the connection between family values and "greater", other-than-general values-for example, the way in which Take a modern case of the quarrel between the duties of office and the imperatives of religion: a doctor is devoted to reducing pain and preserving life but Christian Science parents refuse permission to let the doctor give a necessary bone-marrow transplant; in their view, faith alone does the healing and what is more, permitting the treatment would endanger the child's life because it would issue from lack of faith. (A case of this sort was in the papers about a three years ago. In this case, the child died and the parents were tried by the law for criminal neglect.) Is the doctor being stubborn, or betraying weakness, or is he just being a doctor? How about the other side? One wants to follow the precepts of "getting to yes" by giving each side their due, but to compromise here by giving half a transplant would defeat both sides and accomplish nothing.

  4. Consider three kinds of loyalty: (1) To an absolute or transcendent obligation. Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a test of faith, and Abraham proceeded to do it. Did he do well? Compare his response to Antigone's (2) To a group and (perhaps) to the values that it stands for. Would you die for America? Democracy? Your home town? Your dorm-group? (3) And finally: To one's history. How important is it to defend the values of our ethnic origins?

  5. The play ends by seeming to validate Antigone. Is it possible to ignore the way in which any work of narrative distributes rewards and punishments at its conclusion and take a stand against the suggestion that this distribution represents poetic justice?

II. Sophocles. Oedipus Rex.

  1. What has been happening at Thebes that requires an appeal to Oedipus? In what capacity is he supposed to act?

  2. Consider the way in which the mythic story is presented. It does not begin with Oedipus receiving the prophecy. All that is in the past. How would you characterize the general nature of the action as it unfolds during the course of the play?

  3. Why did Oedipus consult the oracle at Delphi? What was Oedipus's response to the prophecy, as he relates it to Jocasta? Did he behave properly? What alternatives did he have?

  4. What alternatives does Oedipus have during the course of the play? Is he resolute in pursuit of truth? "Know the truth and the truth shall set you free." How important is the revelation of truth? Under what circumstances can truth be harmful-not just to oneself but to many affected by knowledge?

  5. Jocasta urges Oedipus not to worry about prophecies, for there is no truth in them. What are her motives for saying this? How does the chorus respond to the idea?

  6. When Oedipus at last comes in sight of the truth, he gains its admission by twisting the arm of an old man. "I am on the point of speaking horrors," cries the old man. "And I of hearing them. But I must hear," says Oedipus. Was he right to persist? Jocasta has urged him to let the matter drop, but he will not. What can be gained by following her advice?

  7. Tiresias has been summoned and arrives, wishing that he has not done so. He is reluctant to speak; would his silence have made a difference. Compare his reluctance here with his announcement of a prophecy at the climax of the Antigone. Could what he prophesies there have been avoided?

  8. "Judge not, lest you be judged." Could this be the moral of the Oedipus play-if the play has a moral?

  9. The presence of Apollo is experienced in the central moment of the Agamemnon-namely, the agony of Cassandra. At the end of the trilogy, he appears in his person, and so does another god, Athena. But in both plays of Sophocles, the gods do not put in an appearance. What difference does this make to the way in which the audience might understand the influence of the gods upon human affairs in this play?

Lecture 9: Euripides. Hippolytus.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Euripides plays are notable for the fact that the gods generally put in an appearance, both at the beginning and at the end of the play, although they do not generally appear during the course of the intervening action. At the outset, as in this play, a god appears to "set the stage" for the ensuing action, and at the end, a god appears to tidy things up or bring them to a sense of conclusion. The actors playing the gods made their appearance in Greek drama, evidently, hoisted and lowered by some sort of machinery whose details have not come down to us, but the use of the gods in this Euripidean way has been designated by a Latin phrase, "Deus ex machina" (English=God from the machine), which has become a term of contempt, designating the unartful way that a dramatist may wind up plot when unable to bring the story to a reasonable conclusion-as in some cheap films, where everything that has gone before turns out to be a dream. What difference do the gods make as determinants of action in this play as compared with the plays by Sophocles? It has been observed of the Hippolytus, in particular, that with some slight revision, you could have the same play and omit the gods entirely. Is this observation just? What difference would the removal of their actual presence make to the effect of the whole?

  2. What kind of a goddess do you suppose Artemis to be? Her worship seems to be hostile to sexual experience-that is, Hippolytus has privileged access to her-he can speak with her but cannot see her-and this access seems to be connected with the virtue of chastity. Is chastity a virtue? By whom should it be practiced and for what reason? The old man urges Hippolytus to worship Aphrodite as well, so as not to offend the goddess, but Hippolytus refuses. Why does he refuse? Can one worship both goddesses?

  3. The opposite of sacred speech, which is silence to the impure, is speech which should not be spoken. Phaedra desires Hippolytus-not her offspring but nonetheless her son (by marriage). This is a "love that dare not speak its name." The nurse insists that nothing can be so bad that it cannot be spoken, but when she guesses the truth she is so horrified that she runs from the presence of her mistress. Are there things that are rightly never to be spoken? What danger is there, if any, in speaking of them?

  4. Is Phaedra to blame for this passion? (Of course, you might say that Aphrodite has inflicted her, but anyone who actually believed in the goddess would say that all sexual passions come from her, and the question would still stand: can one be blamed for one's passions?) "My mind is impure but my hands are still pure," she says before the nurse understands what is going on. Compare the blame that attaches to impurity of mind-to unacted but vile longings-with the blame, if any, that attaches to Oedipus, who acted without knowing what he was doing and who might have said, "My hands are impure but my mind is still pure."

  5. Actually, Hippolytus says something close to this: "My tongue swore," he says, when he promised to keep the nurse's secret before he knew what it was, "but my mind did not." Is this a reasonable sentiment? Despite this expression, he keeps his pledge, even in the face of Theseus's accusation. Why does he do so? Is one bound to a promise when one is ignorant of its import?

  6. How admirable is Hippolytus as a character? He has odd fancies about women and their artful tongues and seems to regret deeply that the only way to reproduce humankind requires females as well as males; when accused he wishes he had another Hippolytus, who could hear his case and know that he was innocent of the charge leveled against him.

  7. Theseus, too, says that Hippolytus's crime is unmentionable, but then he announces it anyway. He is accused at the end of intemperate speech, resulting in the death of his innocent son. What is the power of speech in life? Can one transform a life-one's own or another's-simply by speaking?

  8. The nurse argues that speech in private is harmless-what one says or does in private need not be the same as what one says or does in public. Does the play agree with her?

  9. What view of the gods seems to be expressed by the conclusion of the play? What view of humanity seems to be expressed by the reconciliation of Theseus and Hippolytus?

Lecture 11: Thucydides. Excerpts from The Peloponnesian War.

Topics for Discussion

  1. The word history is based upon the ancient Greek word historien, which means "to look into, to inquire". It is ambiguous in English, since it refers not only to a written account of what happened or was done but also to the events themselves. (A relatively new word, historiography, resolves the ambiguity by referring exclusively to the written account, leaving history to refer to what historiography is about.) Is there a natural connection between the two meanings? Are certain kinds of deeds or events "more historical", so to speak, more suited to a written record, than others? What sort of events should a written history be about?

  2. Thucydides was preceded in his enterprise by Herodotus, the so-called "Father of History", because he wrote the first account of what seemed to him a major event, the war between the city-states of Greece and the Persian empire. Herodotus wrote his book "to preserve the memory of the deeds of the Greeks and the non-Greeks" in what he took to be the largest armed conflict that the world had ever known. What is the value of the memory of past deeds? Does the magnitude of deed-the sheer weight of the numbers of people involved in them-qualify an event as historical? Herodotus clearly meant his history to glorify the deeds of both the Greeks and their adversaries. Is Thucydides interested in glorifying the deeds of those about whom he writes?

  3. Herodotus notoriously relied upon hearsay in detailing the background of the Persian wars and the overall course of the wars itself. His books survives as a repository of exciting or intriguing anecdotes-mini-dramas-illustrating the differing characters and customs of the peoples involved in this extensive event and describing what his contemporaries thought its most significant or remarkable episodes, so that the memory of them would be preserved for future generations. Thucydides pays Herodotus the compliment of beginning where his predecessor left off but he differs in procedure and judgment from Herodotus in some ways, three of which lead many to regard him as "The Father of Modern History." The first has to do with his regard for hearsay, the second with the purpose of written history, the third with the reason why some events are more qualified to be written up as history than others. Judging by Thucydides's opening remarks and also by the course of his narrative, what do you think are his views on these three issues?

  4. In point of the importance of past events, Thucydides singles out poets and tellers of tales who write about subject-matter which, "owing to the passage of time, is mostly lost in the unreliable streams of mythology". Among other things, he is clearly thinking of Homer at this point, and the phrase in quotation marks represents a Greek phrase difficult to translate, for it might also mean "has been largely shaped by story-telling". Is Thucydides's narrative (although not mythological, in our modern sense) "shaped by story-telling"? Does "story-telling" shape or does it mis-shape events?

  5. For those who want a dramatic and clearly-shaped narrative, the lengthy speeches in Thucydides always pose a distraction. Why does Thucydides spend so much time on them? Thucydides says of these speeches that it is difficult to remember the exact words used, and so he has kept as close as possible to the general sense of the speech, while making the speakers say what in his view was called for by the occasion. Are these two criteria compatible? A good historian sticks to what people actually did, not what the historian thinks was called for by the occasion. Why should it be different when it comes to what people said? What is the meaning of the phrase "what was called for by the occasion"?

  6. Thucydides says that his work will not be an easy read, but it will be judged useful by those "who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past." In the light of this claim, he says that it is designed "to last forever", since, "human nature being what it is", the past will be repeated in the future at some time or other and in much the same ways. Comment on this passage. Is the past bound to be repeated and if so, what is the good of understanding it? How does this view inform Thucydides's selection of events and his presentation of them?

  7. Describe the characters of Athens and Sparta, drawing upon the ways in which some of the speeches in the book describe the contrast between them. Does Thucydides accept the contrast as it is drawn in the speeches? Thucydides is an Athenian but was not well-treated by Athens during the course of the war. Is his treatment of the two sides in the conflict even-handed or partial?

  8. In the final paragraph of his introduction, Thucydides draws a contrast between the acknowledged causes of complaint between Athens and Sparta and the "actual cause" or "real reason" which compelled them to go to war against each other. How meaningful is this contrast in Thucydides? How meaningful is it in understanding historical events today?

  9. Track the course of debate in two or three major episodes: the speech of the Corinthians at Sparta, the debate over Mytelene, Pericles's speech against conciliation, the Melian debate, among others. Why did Thucydides, uniquely, write out this debate as a dialogue?

  10. Compare the account of the plague at Athens with the account of the revolution and its aftermath on Corcyra. In the latter, Thucydides says that certain features of human nature are more clearly visible when circumstances force them to do what they do not want to do. What does he have in mind? Are they permanent features of human nature? Are the remarks about the Corcyrian revolt borne out by the description of the plague?

Lecture 14: Plato. Republic.

Topics for Discussion

Plato's dialogue, The Republic, dates from his middle years and was probably written about 365 BC. It is a lengthy work, of striking originality and awesomely rich in themes. Its central interlocutor and narrator is Socrates, Plato's mentor, who was executed by the Athenian citizenry in 399 BC, ostensibly for impiety but actually for practicing a free and open inquiry among his peers and stirring the youth of his day to doubt the virtues of traditional thinking. The participants of the dialogue include two of Plato's brothers and other leading citizens known to Plato's audience, most of whom, in one way or another, had subsequently come to untimely ends, often at each other's hands during the course of civil conflict. The subject of the dialogue is Dikaiosyne, a word usually translated as "justice", but its meaning is less legal than ethical and refers to what is proper and fitting in dealing with one's fellow human beings--what you owe them if you wish to act ethically. The word is sometimes translated as "righteousness".

(a) 327a-376c:

  1. 1. What sort of a man is Cephalus? A good man, perhaps, but is he wise? What is his view of the passions?

  2. A definition of what is right, borrowed from a poet. Are poets good sources for knowledge? When trying to discover what is the right thing to do, do we crave a definition?

  3. Justice seems to come from a kind of practical knowledge [the Greek word is techne], how to act in this or that circumstance. The question has shifted from "what sort of a thing is justice" to "what sort of knowledge produces justice". Are the questions more or less equivalent? Does knowing what justice is carry with it the knowledge of how to act justly?

  4. Can it be just to harm one's enemies? Harming someone or something, says Socrates, means making it to conform less to its "standard of excellence" making it, in other words, less exemplary of what it is. (Harming a horse makes it less of a horse.) What objections can be made to this turn in the argument? The knowledge that goes into caring for horses cannot have as its function making horses worse; in like fashion, the exercise of justice cannot ever function to make human beings worse. What objections can be made to this point. Why does Socrates think it follows naturally from his argument?

  5. Thrasymachus interposes. Socrates takes it for granted that justice is "human excellence" [the word for "excellence" and "virtue" are the same in ancient Greek]. Thrasymachus challenges this assumption. How good are is arguments? How does Socrates defeat them? Is the conclusion-justice is not a form of human excellence, not a virtue"-attractive nonetheless?

  6. The challenge of Glaucon: what is his account of the nature and origin of justice? Would you wish to possess the ring of Gyges? Why? What is the nature of the challenge that he poses to Socrates?

  7. Adeimantus says that Glaucon has left out the most important point. What is it?

  8. What are the essential points in Socrates's account of the character of a community? How will talking about the character of a viable community aid in discovering whether justice is an excellence or not in individuals?

  9. Glaucon insists that a community cannot confine itself only to necessities-it must have some luxuries as well. What does their admission do to the analogy between the community (as Socrates is outlining its nature) and the individual member of the community?

(b) 403d-445d:

  1. How well does Socrates locate in the commuity the four "classical" virtues-Wisdom, Courage, Temperance (or self-control or self-discipline; the Greek word is sophrosyne), and Justice. As Socrates describes them, the last two sounds somewhat alike. How do they differ?

  2. How well does he align the three elements or classes of people to be found in any community with the alleged three parts of the human psyche? The Greek word has got into our language; what other word(s) might be synonymous with it?

  3. Socrates says that two of the elements must be in charge of the third, which is appetite. Why should the element responsible for "courage" be in charge of appetite? How can reason control appetite? Is appetite, as Socrates says, "the greater part of everyone's make-up and naturally insatiable? Is, for example, thirst an appetite; and is it always insatiable?

(c) 471c-521b, 576c-592a:

  1. How good is Plato's argument that it does not invalidate an ideal pattern of a state to show that it cannot possibly exist? Does the defense of the validity of an ideal pattern (a "paradigm"; Greek=paradeigma) extend to other things?

  2. If appetites are insatiable, so (says Socrates) is reason-insatiable for knowledge of all sorts. What the philosopher craves is not instances or examples but the paradigm itself-the standard of excellence by which something is judged to be good or bad of its kind. Most people are incapable of grasping these standards, which do not change with time or circumstance. How is the distinction between the few and the many here correlated with a distinction between universal knowledge and random, changeful "opinion" or "belief". How valid do you think the assertion that there is no universal knowledge, only relative belief?

  3. How does the parable of the Cave fall in with the distinction between knowledge and belief? with the exposition of the divided line? Why, in the parable, do those who have never seen the source of all light turn on the one who has and kill him?

  4. The rich, the brave and the wise each maintain that their way of life is best, but the wise are right and the other two wrong. How do we know this?

Lecture 17: Aristotle. Excerpts from the Nichomachean Ethics.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Glaucon (in the Republic) said that there were three kinds of good things-things good as means, things good in themselves, and things good both as means and as good in themselves. Give some examples of these three kinds. Which of the three do you think Plato values most? Which does Aristotle value most?

  2. Aristotle says in effect that all things add up-that there must be some overall good that is the end of every other good. What is his argument? He also says that if we desire only means, we do not desire anything. Is he correct?

  3. How does the view that ethics is a subject that can be taught only to those who are already ethical (not, therefore, to young or to the incontinent-those who cannot control themselves) fit in with Aristotle's general viewpoint? Is he right? If so, what is the use of "preaching to the converted"?

  4. Is it possible, asks Aristotle, that a carpenter or tanner has a function (Greek=ergon) but a human being, considered just as a human being, has no appropriate function? Is this a sensible question? Aristotle thinks that it a good question and that he knows the answer. Do you agree?

  5. Aristotle says (I, 8) that one who does not enjoy acting well cannot be good. What would Plato say? He employs an example here-in competitions, it is not those most qualified to win who win. Is this a good example to make the point? Why does he use it?

  6. How does Aristotle understand eudaimonia--happiness or well-being? Does he mean by it what the writers of the Declaration of Independence meant when they spoke of "the pursuit of happiness"? Why does Aristotle reject pleasure and honor (the esteem of others) as the end of life?

  7. Virtue (or excellence; as with Plato, the word arete means both) is a state of being or an aspect of character (ethós) and does not come by nature. Is it unnatural, then? How are the virtues acquired, in Aristotle's view?

  8. Why does Aristotle think that virtues, as aspects of character, are dispositions to act? Explain the notion that virtues are means between extremes. Can you give examples from your own observations that would support this view?

  9. Plato was much concerned with deciding whether we think that something is good because we wish for it or we wish for it because we think it is good. What do you think Aristotle would say? How does Aristotle (III, 4) deal with the notion that no one can really wish for what is bad, but one deceives onself about what one wants when one craves bad things? How does his view here differ from Plato's?

  10. Aristotle says repeatedly that we do not deliberate about ends but only about the means to ends. Is this a peculiar use of the notion of deliberating-making a self-determined choice? Or is he right about this? How does the opinion fit into his general viewpoint?

  11. Aristotle says (VI, 13) that there are natural virtues and the virtues appropriate to "practical reason" (phronesis). Does this contradict what he said at the outset of Book I? He also seems to say that you cannot have one virtue without having them all. How does this follow from his general view? Does it seem a valid opinion?

  12. Which is better, in Aristotle's view, a life of contemplation or of action? What was Plato's view on this point? What advice does Aristotle offer us in choosing one or the other?

Lecture 20: The Book of Genesis.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Describe the order of Creation in chapter 1. Does the order make sense? What principle do you think underlies it? God creates by speaking. Is speech creative? In what sense? What might the presentation of the creative act as one of speech imply about the Creation?

  2. Contrast the story of Creation in chapter 1 with the story in chapter 2. How do the two accounts differ? Why, do you suppose, the redactors of the text as we have it did not smooth out the differences so that they would be less notable?

  3. The serpent tells Eve that she will not die if she eats of the Tree of knowledge. He also tells her that if she eats she will be like gods and know good from evil. Is he right or wrong on these points?

  4. Why does God forbid Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Is knowledge a bad thing? Eating, they discover that they are naked and hide themselves. Is their response to knowledge appropriate? Why did they not know until this point that they were naked?

  5. What are the terms of the curse upon Adam and Eve? Are they still in effect?

  6. What do you take to be the point of the story of Babel?

  7. Compare the blessing pronounced by God upon mankind after the Creation with the blessing pronounced by God (ch. 9, verse 1-5) after the Flood. What is the significance of the differences between them?

  8. Throughout the early part of the text, God makes promises and also covenants with his people. On the evidence of the text (not a dictionary), what do you suppose a covenant is?

  9. Discuss chapters 18-19, where God appears to Abraham as three wayfarers and Abraham argues with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why does Abraham stop at the figure of ten? What do you think is the significance of the fate of Lot's wife?

  10. Discuss the "sacrifice of Isaac" (chapter 22). It is described as a "test" or a "temptation", depending on the translation. What is the point of the test. Compare it with "testing" that go on in the Odyssey, where Athena lies to Odysseus to test his mettle or Odysseus lies to his father. Compare it with the injunction given to Agamemnon by the priest at Aulis, that he must sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, if he is to get his army to Troy. What are the significant differences in these occasions? Should God have tested Abraham in this way? What is the meaning of Abraham's reply when Isaac asks him what he is doing? The original audience for this story knew perfectly well that Isaac would not be sacrificed because they were all descendants of Isaac. Does this knowledge make any difference to the way in which the story is understood?

  11. What is the character of Jacob? Is he worthy of Isaac's blessing? What, in the eyes of the text, is a blessing, and why cannot Isaac, after he has discovered that he has been tricked, shake free of an obligation incurred in ignorance and give the blessing to Esau?

  12. The story of Joseph is the longest continuous narrative in Genesis and seems to be the one on which the most careful literary attention has been lavished. Why did the original redactors of the text choose to conclude the first of the sacred writings with this story? Does it have any summative force in relation to what precedes it?

Lecture 21: The Gospel according to St. Matthew.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Gospel is commonplace Greek for "Good News". What is the news and why is it good?

  2. Why does the text begin with genealogies?

  3. What is the significance of each of the three temptations in the Wilderness? What is the meaning of each of Jesus's answers? What is a "wilderness" and why is it the appropriate setting for the temptations?

  4. The sermon on the Mount prompts a series of questions. What is meant by "the poor in spirit" who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Is it a good thing to be "poor in spirit"? In the light of what immediately follows (the injunction not merely to avoid adultery but also to avoid lust, the injunction not merely to refrain from murder but also to avoid hostile feeling, the injunction not to resist the wicked but to offer like the wicked strike you again, the injunction to love not just your neighbor but also your enemy), what does Jesus mean when he says that he has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to "fufill" (or "complete" or "perfect") them.

  5. In pursuing his ministry, Jesus cures a number of people afflicted with ailments and disabilities, and then urges them to say nothing about this. Why does he enjoin them to silence?

  6. Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven in parables at several place in the text. In the light of the text (and not a dictionary), what would you say a parable was? Asked for an interpretation by the disciples, Jesus supplies one. Do they seem appropriately interpreted in every case or are there cases in which you can suggest an interpretation that suits the parable better? Jesus is asked by the disciples (ch. 13, v. 10) why he speaks in parables. Explain his answer.

  7. Consider the parable (ch 19, v. 16) of the rich young man. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that it is impossible to serve both Mammon (the god of money) and God. Here, he tells the young man to give away all he possesses to the poor, "if he wishes to be perfect" (or "fulfilled" or "complete".) Compare the response of the young man with the response of Amphinomos in the Odyssey. The disciples cannot understand the point about the camel and the eye of the needle. What puzzles them?

  8. Consider the parable (ch. 20) of the vineyard laborers. How satisfying is the story? Do you agree with Jesus's interpretation of it?

  9. Consider the similarities and differences in the behavior of the recipient of a prophecy in the case of Peter (ch 26, v 33-5) and of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex. Could what had been prophesied been avoided in either case? If the prophecy fail, does it bring the religious force of prophecy into discredit in the case of Peter? Unlike the prophecy about Oedipus, he prophecy about Peter is specific about time. Can Peter avoid the prophecy? There is a Biblical antecedent for some of the issues raised by this passage. God brought the plagues to Egypt because Pharoah would not accede to Moses request to let his people go, but the text tells us that God had hardened Pharoah's heart so that he would not listen to Moses. Can Pharoah be blamed for this?

Lecture 22: St. Augustine. The Confessions.

Topics for Discussion

  1. What in your view (not the dictionary's) is confession. What is its function in religious life, if any? What function does Augustine seem to ascribe to it? (For the record, Augustine defines it in the opening section of Book X.)

  2. Augustine's confessions are in the form of address to God, that is, largely in the form of a prayer. The classification of various forms of speech (and writing) which links characteristic surface features of a text to its function as a whole and gauges its effectiveness is the province of rhetoric, one of the staples of ancient Latin education, and Augustine made his living before his conversion to Christianity as a professor of rhetoric-something loosely equivalent to the practice of literary studies today. He would have been especially aware of the uniqueness in his time, and perhaps of the oddity as well, of making a lengthy public prayer out of the materials of one's own life. What difference does it make to review one's history in the form of prayer, rather than in autobiographical narrative (not addressed to God), personal reflections or argument?

  3. In our time, it is the case that an attempt to reach the truth about one's inner nature-the self unavailable to the public eye and often unavailable to one's own awareness-is generally supposed to aim at liberating that self and rejoicing in it as a source of authentic being; but for Augustine one's inner nature is not a source of redemption but of fear. Can you comment on the difference? Is Augustine's fear of his inner nature irrelevant to the modern world?

  4. We said that Augustine address God throughout his confessions, but there are two points at which he does not. At one point he addresses a crime that he committed (II, 6), at another (IV, 11) he addresses his soul. What sense does it make to address an action (the sin) and what sense does it make to address one's own agency as a human being?

  5. As an autobiography, Augustine's Confessions might be regarded as a wash-out; the autobiographical materials are absorbed in the act of confessing his sins to God in the presence of other human beings-that is, in making public what should be most intimate and private. What do you think the motives are for making public the intensely and properly private in this way?

  6. As a confession, Augustine's account of his history is mostly concerned with grappling with puzzles about knowledge and about the ways in which knowing can outrun expression. The questions that Augustine teases his way through overtly in his prayers are versions of questions that involved the most important thinkers in the ancient world. The first two paragraphs of Book I are good examples of this. What question does each address and how is the question answered in these two cases?

  7. In Book II, Augustine compares his boyhood prank, the theft of some unripe and inedible pears from a neighboring farmer's orchard, to the crimes of Cataline, who believed that he had to be ever-ready to act with brutality if he wanted to become Emperor of Rome and who regularly committed monstrous deeds simply to prevent himself from lapsing into soft-heartedness-keeping in practice for cruelty, so to speak. What view does Augustine take of the difference between his boyhood prank and Cataline's acts? Can you justify Augustine's view?

  8. Much of the issues raised by the Confessions turn on the difference between a crime and a sin, the ancient Greek word for which was hamartia, which meant simply "a mistake". A good deal of the thinking in Augustine's works reflects (as does the thinking of his time) the concerns of ancient philosophy, in particular the concerns of Plato and Aristotle. Plato in particular subsumed what we would call ethical values into the category of justice, thereby giving ethical issues a marked legal character. How does the notion of sin fit into this conception of ethics? What do you take to be the difference between a crime and a sin?

  9. Consider the pass in Book VI, chapter 8, when Alypius fails in his resolve to avoid looking at a fight to the death between gladiators in the Arena. How does it reflect the major themes of the book? In one way, the passage turns upon the issue of incontinence-an overcoming of resolve by temptation. How does the passage compare with Aristotle's treatment of incontinence in the Nicomachean Ethics?

  10. Much of Augustine's concern with himself turns upon a kind of willful yielding to incontinence, as when someone who eats compulsively says, AI must diet and I will start-but not today. I will start tomorrow." Augustine expends a good deal of thought on this issue-he continually postpones converting to Christianity, and his most famous prayer in the Confessions is "Lord, make me chaste-but not yet." What is meant by chastity? Is it a good thing or not? Is the continual postponement of a fixed resolve an oddity about the human will or is it simply that the resolve is not fixed but only seems to be-one is lying to oneself about one's weakness? Or both? What is Augustine's view of this matter? (Book VIII, chapters 8 and 9 are especially relevant to this issue.)

  11. Consider the passage in which Augustine describes the moment of his conversion to Christianity (Book VIII, chapters 11 and 12) and explain how it reflects the major themes of the book. Why does Augustine resort to an allegorical figure-the image of Continence, stretching out her loving hands to him-to characterize his psychological state at this moment? How would you characterize the idea of conversion? Is your idea suitable to characterize Augustine's in this book?

  12. Much of Augustine's text is concerned with the nature of evil: What is it? Where did it come from? If God created everything, is he responsible for the existence of evil? One answer to these questions turns upon the notion that evil and good are both positive things and that God permits evil to exist in order to test and strengthen human resolve. A version of this was supplied, famously, by the Manichees, to whom Augustine was attracted. What account does Augustine give of Manicheism and why does he finally reject it? Are there any parallels between the notion of evil as it is bandied about by politicians in our day and the Manichean notion of evil?

  13. An alternative account of evil is the one ultimately embraced by Augustine, who was one of its earliest sponsors. In this account, evil does not exist; since God created everything that exists and everything that exists is good, evil must be an emptiness, a lack of being, a nullity. Can you draw any parallels between this notion of evil and the contemporary idea that those who commit themselves to false beliefs live in a world that does not exist?

Lecture 25: Dante. Inferno.

Topics for Discussion

  1. The general scheme of the Inferno derives from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Bk VII, chapter 1, where the ethical states to be avoided are divided into incontinence, viciousness, and mad brutishness. Do the types here represent what Aristotle was talking about? What has Dante added by way of circles in Hell to Aristotle's scheme and why has he added it?

  2. The place most like the conventional image of Hell as Dante inherited it is Malebolge, which comes complete with devils and pitchforks. How are the punishments endured by the damned in areas above and below Malebolge different from the punishments endured within it?

  3. What, in your view, is the dark wood? What is the mountain that Dante is trying to climb? Why, in the poem, is Dante required to pass through Hell to get to Paradise?

  4. "Love made me," says the inscription on the gates of Hell. How is Hell an expression of divine Love?

  5. Does the punishment in Hell always suit the sin? Are the characters in Hell fully defined by the sin that has determined their position in Hell or do they exhibit traits that might be termed "redeeming", were it not for the fact that they did not effect the redemption of the person who bore them? Find three cases in which the latter is true and try to account for the portraits of the sinner in each.

  6. There are transitions in the journey from circle to circle, but major transitions from group to group. One of these is the battlements and defenses of the city of Dis. Hell is a city, then? The Erynes or Furies are there, and Dante is protected from looking at them. Virgil is denied entrance and appears to be angered and perplexed. How would you interpret the symbolism here?

  7. Those in Hell know the future and the past but not the present. What does this mean?

  8. There is a two-fold division within Aristotle's category of the vicious-what does it signify? Comment on the three-fold division of the violent, who occupy the outer and higher half of the realm of the vicious. Does it seem sensible? Dante is moved to scorn in the innermost circle of the incontinent; he displays anger at numerous points in the circle of the vicious; and he is downright cruel in the circle of the treacherous. How would one account for the appropriateness of this behavior?

  9. Dante's geography of Hell obviously admits of a hierarchy of sins, from least to most sinful. However, his arrangement is sometimes puzzling to modern eyes. For example, he places the prodigal higher than the spendthrift, murderers higher than the noble Ulysses, and counterfeiters right next to the bottom, wherein are placed the worst of the lot. Can you explain this? There are also judgments upon sins that we might not share. How would you explain the condemnation of usury-the sin of making money by the use of money? How would you explain the condemnation of Ulysses, who urged his men never to stop searching for knowledge? How does Dante's Ulysses differ from Homer's Odysseus?.

  10. Except for the few cases where loss of personality is part of the punishment, Dante's figures are deeply personified in very few strokes of his pen. Yet they are also meant to be allegorical-to stand for something. What does it mean to say that one "stands for something"-has become an emblem, so to speak? Do you stand for something in this sense? Certainly, we are familiar with figures who stood for something in history-Lindburgh, for instance, or Nathan Hale. Does this "standing for" carry a judgment on features of one's character?

 
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