Understanding Ancient Societies

Geoffrey Lloyd

in Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780199270163
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602276 | DOI:
Understanding Ancient Societies

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How far is it possible to arrive at an adequate understanding of ancient societies? In contrast to those who have invoked the notion of 'incommensurability' in order to cast doubt on whether proper understanding is possible, this study argues that the problems do not differ in any radical way from those presented by attempts to understand our own contemporaries although we must allow for the bias and lacunae in our sources and be particularly careful to avoid anachronism and teleology. However, to invoke an unqualified principle of charity in interpretation (such as is proposed by Quine and Davidson) runs into difficulties in doing justice to the possibility of deliberate deception and does not pay enough attention to how we may adapt our own conceptual framework as we learn about others' viewpoints.

Keywords: anachronism; charity in interpretation; Davidson; deception; incommensurability; learning; Quine; teleology; translation

Chapter.  4958 words. 

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