Eco-Republic: Ancient Thinking for a Green Age
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The transition to a sustainable society is a profound challenge to ethics and political thought, as well as to humankind. It is comparable to the great transitions of the past, such as the Enlightenment. Yet the distinguished tradition of groundbreaking ideas has not so far been widely invoked in public debates in this area. What can we learn from the history of ethics and political thought to enable us to cope with climate change?
Climate change and sustainability are not just technical problems or problems in applied ethics: they require a new political imagination. Melissa Lane identifies Key messages – on the role of the individual, the household, the nature of citizenship, and the significance of the imagination – which bring the wisdom of the past to bear on the challenges of the present. Using these resources, and building on these insights, she calls for the construction of a ‘new normal’, remaking our imagination of our society and our selves. Drawing on Plato’s Republic as a model while also challenging aspects of Platonic politics, the book sets out the political and psychological challenges that we face in moving beyond the psycho-political settlement of modern commercial society.
and social challenges, from rainforest destruction to desertification and pressure on water supplies – is urgent and unequivocal. 2 From Greed to Glory 43 The present purpose is rather to argue that the current Western social model can be saved from itself, by moderating it with a set of ideas against which it was forged but in light of which it can be reinvigorated. (Compare the way that Aristotle argues, in Politics, Book 5, 1309b–1310a, that each kind of distorted regime can be
oligarchic coup caused Plato a personal crisis. He had as a very young man become a pupil of the philosopher Socrates. Socrates was, as the Roman statesman Cicero later described him, the first person to bring philosophy down from the heavens to the earth (Tusculan Disputations 5.4.10), meaning that he reoriented its concerns from cosmos to ethos, from what there is to how to live. He did not seek political inf luence by trying to inf luence his fellow citizens in the Assembly or law courts,
desire, though Socrates unusually makes the bodily appetites rather than a more general passionate love the focus of the latter), Glaucon shows himself inclined to assimilate spiritedness and anger to the bodily appetites and desires (439e). That is, the ordinary Athenian conception, which he thinks he accepts, has no place or way to account for the tendencies of his own character, as if spiritedness and the desire for honour were just another desire alongside 112 5 The City and the Soul
without disrupting some of our cherished assumptions and habits about how the social world works and how we ourselves should be entitled to work. 5 The City and the Soul 121 Socrates goes so far as to say, in his next intervention, that: ‘… love of money and adequate self-discipline in its citizens are two things that can’t coexist in any society; one or the other must be neglected’ (555c–d). Notice that what Socrates says here is ‘love of money’ (emphasis added). It is not money per se,
advantageous to the soul. This structuring of the dialogue suggests that the summit of its ambition will be an understanding of justice, and indeed, such an understanding seems already to have been achieved with the account of justice as one of the four virtues of city and soul in Books 2 to 4, as discussed above in Chapter 5. For these reasons, Socrates’ eventual answer to Glaucon’s puzzled question as to whether there is anything more important than the virtues, produces even more astonishment