Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Is there a plausible outcome in the Melian Dialogue situation in which the Melians ‘win’ in any sense? I’m starting to think about developing the second half of my “choose your own adventure” version, and obviously this is a crucial issue; is the point of the exercise that players should try every possible approach and gradually recognise the bleak reality of their fate, or that there should be a way out, however obscure and improbable? This question was actually brought into focus this week by the spectacle of Yanis Varoufakis offering advice to Theresa May on negotiating with the EU: the man who knew he was in a Melian Dialogue situation, but still tried to force it to a different outcome. Yes, that went well… (more…)

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What Holds Us Together

This was, to put it mildly, an interesting week in which to find myself offering commentary on the theme of ‘Was uns zusammenhält’ for a “fish bowl discussion” as part of the Berliner Stiftungswoche. The event itself was extremely interesting (for ancient Chinese proverb values of interesting); representatives of six different Berlin charitable projects taking it in turns to give a 60-second summary of their work, followed by me (in my capacity as Einstein Visiting Fellow) hastily improvising some thoughts on wider themes, followed by more general discussion led by the very impressive moderator, journalist and presenter Jörg Thadeusz, who seemed determined to force me to talk more about Thucydides even when I was trying to waffle about ancient attitudes towards poverty instead. (more…)

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Once upon a time, a mouse decided to cross a great river, because it looked sunnier on the other side, and she didn’t like some of the other mice in her neighbourhood. Unfortunately there was no bridge and no ferry, but there was a large crocodile thrashing about and making angry noises. “If that crocodile will help me,” thought the mouse, “this will be very straightforward, and I’ll be on the other side enjoying the sunshine in no time.” And so she went across to talk to him.

“I’ve got the biggest teeth,” yelled the crocodile to no one in particular. “Simply huge. Magnificent teeth. And don’t forget the jaws. And my hands are great. Really great hands.”

“I think we have many common interests, and are both at the start of programmes of national renewal,” said the mouse, and climbed onto his back to make the journey across the river. And was of course eaten, possibly by accident.


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See Part One here.

July A month of very conflicted emotions. On the one hand, back in Berlin; on the other hand, Brexit. On the one hand, the remarkable pleasure to be gained from the Ablehnung of a Ruf, and an opportunity to reflect on the sheer weirdness of German academic appointment processes; on the other hand, Brexit, and the thought that a job in Germany might be no bad thing. On the one hand, some actual research into cheap translations of Thucydides (though not in a REF-able publication, unless the rules change dramatically in the near future); on the other hand, my most-read post of the year on, you guessed it, Brexit(more…)

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Europa Delenda Est

In yesterday’s Grauniad, Martin Kettle turned to the Roman Republic for an anti-Brexit blueprint:

Those of us with only a smattering of knowledge about the ancient world know one thing about Cato the Elder. During Rome’s long wars against Hannibal, Cato ended every speech in the senate with the same words: “Carthage must be destroyed.”

“Brexit must be stopped” is unlikely to last as long as Cato’s catchphrase has managed to. But it focuses the mind. Those who think Brexit must be stopped are not the majority. But they have a case and a cause, and they are right. So how might stoppage be achieved?

Be clear whom you need to be talking to, play the long game and keep chipping away (“Remember Cato”); “the prize is immense – and Hannibal was not defeated in a day.”

Classical Allusion Fail Klaxon! (more…)

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Brexit Paradoxes 2

Today’s headlines suggest the discovery of a new fragment from the philosophical works of Zeno of Elea (as discussed here a couple of months ago), perhaps from an ancient commentary on Aristotle’s Politics:

On the impossibility of making policy. For in order to pursue a course of action – setting aside any of that voting nonsense – the state must have a plan for that action. But first it must plan for the development and discussion of that plan, and before that there must be a plan for the planning, and so forth.

This may help to explain a passing remark (in italics in the quote below) on Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, which has previously puzzled commentators:

Hence it does not follow that a thing is not in motion in a given time, just because it is not in motion in any instant of that time. Nor that there is an absence of thought, simply because there is no appearance of thought at any given moment. Honestly. Well, you never know.

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The next generation of politicians, all as mediocre as one another, and competing with one another for primacy with little concern for the good of the state, abdicated the control of affairs to the whims of the people. They concentrated on their personal intrigues and ambitions instead of exercising any sort of leadership; they undermined any influence they might have had overseas, and plunged their own societies into factional conflict.

(Thucydides 2.65, very loosely adapted)

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