Early questions

It could easily be argued that all the fundamental questions which are still with us today find their starting point in ancient Greek thought. We may have new ways to address them, new technologies to handle and new concepts at our disposal, but the questions are essentially the same as those first raised by the various schools of ancient thought, drama and poetry.

The early ancient questions pushed European culture on the tracks it has been steaming down over more than 2000 years. The irresistible claims of science on questions of natural origin, development and description; the organisation of social life and the nature of the state according to rights, duties and the interplay between public and private; the starting and ending point of freedom; the introspective exploration of the self and the demands of ethics on human behaviour; the subjection of humanity to transcendent realms of being, if any; beauty and the response to art.

And many more.

Every book in the non-fiction section of your local bookshop is a late reformulation of an ancient question, put in simple but razor-sharp language. The tragedy, so to speak, of late modernity is that for many of us, the lines stretching over 2000 years are broken or dimmed. The dire consequence of this form of myopia is not one of mis-placing credit, but that we tend to make the same mistakes again and again.

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