Harvey Mansfield, a leading Straussian who taught political science at Harvard and who wrote a book called “Manliness” (he’s for it), gave the Jefferson lecture recently at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington.
It was an ode, as his book is, to “thumos,” the Greek word that means spiritedness, with flavors of ambition, pride and brute willfulness. Thumos, as Philip Kennicott wrote in The Washington Post, “is a word reinvented by conservative academics who need to put a fancy name on a political philosophy that boils down to ‘boys will be boys.’ ”...
With cold realism, Thucydides captured the Athenian philosophy in the 27-year war that led to its downfall as a golden democracy: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
What message can we take away from Thucydides for modern times?
“To me,” Professor [Donald] Kagan [of Yale] said, “the deepest message, the most tragic, is his picture of civilization as a very thin veneer. When you punch a hole in it, what you find underneath is hollow, the precivilized characteristics of the human race — animalistic in the worst possible way.”
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
How We’re Animalistic — in Good Ways and Bad - New York Times: