Moses I. Finley

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The Athenians made mistakes. Which governmental system has not?

Sir Moses I. Finley CBE FBA (May 20, 1912June 23, 1986) was an American and English classical scholar.

Sourced[edit]

Democracy Ancient And Modern (Second Edition) (1985)[edit]

  • In the western world today everyone is a democrat.
    • Preface, p. ix
  • Perhaps the best known, and certainly the most vaunted, "discovery" of modern public opinion research is the indifference and ignorance of a majority of the electorate in western democracies.
    • Chapter 1, Leaders and Followers, p. 3
  • Ideal goals are a menace in themselves, as much in more modern philosophers as in Plato.
    • Chapter 1, Leaders and Followers, p. 6
  • We must consider not only why the classical theory of democracy appears to be in contradiction with the observed practice, but also why the many different responses to this observation, though mutually incompatible, all share the belief that democracy is the best form of political organization.
    • Chapter 1, Leaders and Followers, p. 10-11
  • Political leaders, lacking documents that could be kept secret (apart from the occasional exception), lacking media they could control, were of necessity brought into a direct and immediate relationship with their constituents, and therefore under more and direct and immediate control.
    • Chapter 1, Leaders and Followers, p. 18
  • The Athenians made mistakes. Which governmental system has not? The familiar game of condemning Athens for not having lived to some ideal of perfection is a stultifying approach.
    • Chapter 1, Leaders and Followers, p. 33
  • From Aristophanes to Aristotle, the attack on the demagogues always falls back on the one central question: in whose interest does the the leader lead?
    • Chapter 2, Athenian Demagogues, p. 43
  • Faction is the greatest evil and the most common danger. "Faction" is the conventional English translation of the Greek stasis, one of the most remarkable words to be found in any language.
    • Chapter 2, Athenian Demagogues, p. 44
  • If I had to choose one which best characterized the condition of being a political leader in Athens, the word would be "tension".
    • Chapter 2, Athenian Demagogues, p. 60
  • " for it is conflict combined with consent, not consent alone, which preserves democracy from eroding into oligarchy."
    • Chapter 2, Athenian Demagogues, p. 73
  • What is good for a country? What is the national interest?
    • Chapter 3, Democracy, Consensus and National Interest, p. 76
  • What I am arguing, in effect, is that the full democratic system of the second half of the fifth century B.C. would not have been introduced had there been no Athenian empire.
    • Chapter 3, Democracy, Consensus and National Interest, p. 87
  • " man is by nature designed to live in the polis, the highest form of koinonia, community; that is man's end or goal if he achieves the full potentiality of his nature.
    • Chapter 3, Democracy, Consensus and National Interest, p. 90
  • Historical explanation is not identical with moral judgment.
    • Chapter 3, Democracy, Consensus and National Interest, p. 96
" man is by nature designed to live in the polis"
  • A genuinely political society, in which discussion and debate are an essential technique, is a society full of risks.
    • Chapter 4, Socrates and After, p. 140
  • In Rome much pamphleteering took the form of verses and songs, circulated orally, or of libelli , defamatory placards or broadsheets (whence our word "libel").
    • Chapter 5, Censorship in Classical Antiquity, p. 150
  • And nothing inhibited fourth-century orators in the assembly and the law-courts from indulging in savage slander, without a touch of humour in it.
    • Chapter 5, Censorship in Classical Antiquity, p. 171-172

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