In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Shorter Reviews135 of "life" may be ill-advised: even those predisposed to accept Ortega's originality will be troubled to read Silver's acknowledgment that "I have simply replaced Heidegger with Ortega in Cruz Velez's version in my reconstruction of what must have been the steps that carried Ortega beyond Scheler and Husserl in 1914" (p. 85, n. 49). But perhaps this is really a secondary matter. Silver's project and point of view shed valuable new light on a host of otherwise obscure pre- 19 14 essays, as well as on the Meditations. Above all, he shows Ortega's substantive kinship with the phenomenological movement, especially in its basic drive beyond idealism to a recovery of the world in its primordial presence. In light of this inner bond, both the long-standing superiority of anti-Ortegan Germanists and Ortega's own rather incongruous defensiveness seem beside the point. Vassar CollegeMitchell H. Miller, Jr. The Greek Concept ofJustice: From its Shadow in Homer to its Substance in Plato, by Eric A. Havelock; ix & 382 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978, $16.50. Classical scholars have long worried over the ways in which the Greek words that are generally translated by justice, dike and dikaiosuriê, are used. They have not for the most part given much thought to the Greek concept of justice. That state of affairs has not been altered by the appearance of Havelock's book. In spite of its title, it is not an analysis of the Greek concept of justice, but a history of the meaning of the words dike and dikaiosuriê from Homer to Plato. The Iliad and the Odyssey are the subject of the first half of the book. The rest of the work is made up of chapters on justice in Hesiod, Solon, the Pre-Socratics, Aeschylus, Herodotus, and Plato on the differences between the spoken and the written word, and on the verb "to be." I shall try to summarize the argument: Plato was the first to make dikaiosuriê a concept. This he did in the Republic when he gave an abstract definition of the term. Such a definition only became possible in Plato's time, because the Greeks had lacked the necessary vocabulary before that. The verb "to be" could not be used to make the statements of identity that are called for in definition, since it did not yet function as pure copula. The reason for this was that until Plato the range of meanings that belonged to the verb in oral epic still lingered on. The two great epic poems of the Greeks, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were "storage mechanisms," composed to pass on in oral performance the values of the pre-literate society of early Greece. They were composed in the rhythm of verse- to aid memorization, but that rhythm influenced the way in which they relayed their message. Rhythm involves bodily movement. When 136Philosophy and Literature it occurs in conjunction with words, the brain will tend to select words which describe actions and bodily movements. Hence, rhythmic verse is inimical to the verb "to be" used purely as copula. In the epics and for a long time afterwards, the verb carried "the notion of a presence limited to particular circumstances, valid 'now' or 'sometimes,' 'somewhere' or 'somehow' " (p. 244). Since the verbal means to formulate general principles of conduct did not exist, there is no appeal to such principles in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The poems teach by indirection, by narrating tales that illustrate which actions are proper and which are not. In Homer, then, there is no question of dike being the principle of justice. It means "due legal process" or "propriety." Those are the meanings, along with "retribution," that dike and the later form, dikaiosuriê, continue to have until Plato's time. Havelock's account of the matter is a singular one for a classicist, insofar as it invokes Marshall McLuhan's aphorism that the medium is the message to explain the origin of abstract thought amongst the Greeks. It is hardly to be denied that discussions of an abstract nature about what justice is are not to be found in Greek until the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 135-137
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.