Aidos: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature

Synopsis

This is the first study in English to examine across the range of Greek literature one of the most crucial terms in Greek ethical and social discourse, aidos. Commonly rendered `shame', `modesty', or `respect', aidos is also notoriously one of the most elusive and difficult Greek words to translate. In this book Dr Cairns discusses the nature and application of aidos and other relevant terms in a number of authors, with particular emphasis on their manifestations in epic, tragedy, and philosophy. He shows that the essence of the concept is to be found in its relationship with Greek values of honour, in which context it can recognize and respond to the honour of both the self and others. It thus involves both self- and other- regarding behaviour, competitive and co-operative values. Despite this crucial relationship with systems of honour, however, the possession of aidos at no stage rules out the sort of commitment to internalized standards or ideals which we might associate with conscience.

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