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

By Douglas L. Cairns | Go to book overview

Epilogue

Full rehearsal of the issues raised and conclusions drawn in the Introduction and subsequent chapters of this work would be inappropriate here; I hope, rather, that the reader will see the individual chapters as fulfilment of the general approach set out in the Introduction, and thus feel no need for an exhaustive summary and conclusion. Nevertheless, some valedictory remarks are clearly in order.

Our study began by identifying the aidōs as a prospective, inhibitory emotion focusing on one's idea of oneself, especially as that idea is affected by or comes into contact with others, and, despite the changes which take place in usage, in values, and in social forms, this focus on self vis-à-vis others remains constant. From the earliest period, too, Greek ideas of selfhood are mediated through the concept of honour, and at every stage development of the sense of self on which aidōs rests is promoted and maintained by focus on the status of self and others as bearers of honour. Thus I think it is true to say that study of aidōs is a study in the psychology and ethics of honour; but this statement would be misleading if it suggested that aidōs is concerned with nothing more than that concept of prestige, of external validation of one's own status and achievements, which is conveyed in Greek by the concepts of timē, kleos, eukleia, and so on. The link between aidōs and timē is, of course, fundamental, but the crucial point is that aidōs includes concern both for one's own timē and for that of others. As a result, part of the function of aidōs is to recognize the point at which self-assertion encroaches illegitimately upon the timē of others, and this means that aidōs, while always responding to a situation in which timē is relevant, is concerned not only with one's own prestige, but also with the concepts of moderation and appropriateness in the pursuit of prestige.

Behind the idea of one's own timē, moreover, lies a subjective claim to honour and an internalized self-image that is not wholly dependent on the opinions of others; to be concerned for one's self-image in Greek is to be concerned for one's timē, but at no stage does this necessarily imply concern for one's outward reputation to the exclusion of one's image in one's own eyes. The code of honour to which aidōs relates demands individual determination actually to possess an excellence, not merely that one should seem to others to possess it.

-432-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Aidōs in Homer 48
  • 2 - From Hesiod to the Fifth Century 147
  • 3 - Aeschylus 178
  • 4 - Sophocles 215
  • 5 - Euripides 265
  • 6 - The Sophists, Plato, and Aristotle 343
  • Epilogue 432
  • References 435
  • Index of Principal Passages 459
  • General Index 472
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