Advertisement

Leisure in Classical Greek Philosophy

  • Thanassis Samaras
Chapter

Abstract

The concept of leisure plays a significant part in the ethical and political thinking of the Greek philosophers of the classical era. For both Plato and Aristotle leisure, in the sense not of inactivity but of freedom from the need to work in order to secure the necessities of life, is a prerequisite for the achievement of the highest form of human flourishing, eudaimonia. But what kind of leisure is necessary for eudaimonia, and which social groups may possibly attain it, is a question to which Plato gives, generally speaking, two different answers in his career. The first one, proposed in the Republic, represents a more demanding and elitist idea of human perfection, according to which involvement in any productive economic activity, including farming, makes it impossible for a human being to achieve virtue and eudaimonia. The second one, found in the late dialogue called Laws, allows for a lowest kind of virtue and flourishing which is achievable by practising farmers, though not by anyone engaging in craftsmanship or commerce. Aristotle appears to be closer to the earliest Platonic concept of the connection between leisure on the one hand and virtue and eudaimonia on the other, although some passages may suggest that citizens who are in some way engaged in farming may become virtuous. This understanding of leisure involves revisiting the ideal of the Homeric hero so that activities like fighting in war and hunting remain compatible with virtue, while at the same time promoting a notion of virtue that fits the framework of the classical polis. It also involves the repudiation of an alternative ethos which emphasizes the moral value of physical labour. This ethos is expressed in the poems of the major archaic Greek poet Hesiod and is adopted by the “middling” class, a class that rejects the aristocratic standpoint and, in the fifth and fourth century BC, becomes the social bedrock of classical Greek democracy.

Keywords

Plato Aristotle Hesiod Middling ideology Slavery Prometheus Protagoras Pericles 

References

  1. Adkins, A. W. H. (1972). Moral values and political behaviour in ancient Greece. New York: Norton and Company.Google Scholar
  2. Anastasiadis, V. I. (2004). Idealized Scholê and disdain for work: Aspects of philosophy and politics in ancient democracy. Classical Quarterly, 54, 58–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blundell, S. (1995). Women in ancient Greece. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bobonich, C. (2002). Plato’s Utopia recast: His later ethics and politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brunt, P. A. (1993). Studies in Greek history and thought. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bryant, J. M. (1996). Moral codes and social structure in ancient Greece: A sociology of Greek ethics from Homer to the Epicureans and Stoics. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  7. Buford, A. (1972). Craftsmen in Greek and Roman society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Destrée, P. (2013). Education, leisure, and politics. In M. Deslauriers & P. Destrée (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Aristotle’s politics (pp. 301–323). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donlan, W. (1973). The origins of Kalos Kagathos. American Journal of Philology, 94, 365–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hansen, M. H. (2010). Democratic freedom and the concept of freedom in Plato and Aristotle. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, 50, 1–27.Google Scholar
  11. Hanson, V. D. (1995). The other Greeks: The family farm and the agrarian roots of western civilization. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hunnicutt, B. (1990). Leisure and play in Plato’s teaching and philosophy of learning. Leisure Sciences, 12, 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jameson, M. H. (1977). Agriculture and slavery in classical Athens. Classical Journal, 73, 122–145.Google Scholar
  14. Keyt, D. (1995). Supplementary essay. In R. Robinson (Trans.), Aristotle, Politics: Books III and IV (pp. 125–148). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lis, K. (2009). Perceptions of work in classical antiquity: A polyphonic heritage. In J. Ehmer & K. Lis (Eds.), The idea of work in Europe from antiquity to modern times (pp. 33–68). Furnham: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Merriam-Webster online. [Definition of] ‘Leisure’. Available from: www.merriam-webster.com. Accessed 29 Jan 2016.
  17. Miller, F. D., Jr. (1995). Nature, justice and rigths in Aristotle’s politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Morris, I. (1996). The strong principle of equality and the archaic origins of Greek democracy. In J. Ober & C. Hedrick (Eds.), Dêmokratia: A conversation on democracies, ancient and modern (pp. 19–48). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Morrow, G. R. (1960). Platos cretan city: A historical interpretation of the Laws. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Newman, W. L. (2010 [1902]). The politics of Aristotle (Vol. 3). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ober, J. (1998). Political dissent in democratic Athens: Intellectual critics of popular rule. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Raaflaub, K. A. (1983). Democracy, oligarchy, and the concept of the free citizen in late fifth-century Athens. Political Theory, 11, 517–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Roochnik, D. (2010). The serious play of book 7 of Plato’s Laws. In G. Recco & E. Sanday (Eds.), Plato’s Laws: Force and truth in politics (pp. 144–153). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rose, P. W. (2012). Class in archaic Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Samaras, T. (2012). Leisured aristocrats or warrior farmers? Leisure in Plato’s Laws. Classical Philology, 107, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Samaras, T. (2015). Aristotle and the question of citizenship. In T. Lockwood & T. Samaras (Eds.), Aristotle’s politics: A critical guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Saunders, T. J. (1970). Plato, The Laws. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  28. Stalley, R. F. (1983). An introduction to Plato’s Laws. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  29. Stocks, J. L. (1936). Scholê. Classical Quarterly, 30, 177–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Taylor, C. C. W. (1976). Plato, Protagoras. Translated with notes. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Vlastos, G. (1991). Socarates contra Socrates in Plato. InSocrates: Ironist and moral philosopher (pp. 45–80). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Whitehead, D. (1977). The ideology of the Athenian metic. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society.Google Scholar
  33. Wood, M. E. (1988). Peasant-citizen and slave. London: Verso.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thanassis Samaras
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations