Homeric Ethics

Roger Crisp

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199545971
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Homeric Ethics

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This chapter provides interpretations of Homeric poems. Homer reflects a view of the nature of human beings and their place in the world, and their reasons for living and acting in that world, but exactly what that view is has been debated for centuries. In the early to mid-twentieth century, Bruno Snell and other classical scholars proposed a developmental view known as ‘progressivism’, according to which the Homeric understanding of the human mind, and consequently morality, is in certain important ways ‘primitive’. There was disagreement about exactly when development took place after Homer, but it was generally agreed that the modern position on such issues was superior. The debate about progressivism led to the adoption of various positions, some more antagonistic to progressivism than others, on the nature of virtue in the poems, the role of shame in Homeric morality, and justice. The chapter discusses each of these positions and debates. It then focuses on shame and guilt, and concludes with a section on virtue, including a sub-section on pity – a highly salient emotion and virtue in Homer that appears not to have received the attention in the literature it might have.

Keywords: Homer; Homeric poems; progressivism; human mind; morality; shame; guilt; pity; virtue

Article.  10505 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy

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