In his Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Clarendon Paperbacks),Richard Seaford traces a shift from Homeric interpersonal reciprocity to the impersonal cult of the Greek polis. Seaford believes this transition in the sources of power and legitimacy are reflected in the development of early Greek philosophy. He writes (p. 221-2):
“The cosmology of Herakelitos reflects the polis and its economy at a later stage of development [than Anaximander]. Anaximander’s cosmic process driven by the reciprocity of relatively autonomous substances is replaced, in the thought of Herakleitos, by a cycle of transformation effected by a single element, fire. This transformation of the elements into each other by fire involves strife, but strife is ‘justice’ in contrast to the ‘injustice’ perpetuated on each other by the substances in Anaximander.” One of the models Herakleitos draws on is the “written polis law, the universal (within each polis) regulator which must persist in its (relatively abstract) identity throughout the concrete cases it evaluates.” This in contrast to the pre-political cosmology of Anaximander, who thinks “in terms of reciprocal relations between autonomous powers.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, July 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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