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Ancient Thinking for a Green Age


Melissa Lane

The transition to a sustainable society is a profound challenge to ethics and political thought, as well as to humankind. It is comparable to the great transitions of the past, such as the Enlightenment. Yet the distinguished tradition of groundbreaking ideas has not so far been widely invoked in public debates in this area. What can we learn from the history of ethics and political thought to enable us to cope with climate change?
Climate change and sustainability are not just technical problems or problems in applied ethics: they require a new political imagination. Melissa Lane identifies Key messages – on the role of the individual, the household, the nature of citizenship, and the significance of the imagination – which bring the wisdom of the past to bear on the challenges of the present. Using these resources, and building on these insights, she calls for the construction of a ‘new normal’, remaking our imagination of our society and our selves. Drawing on Plato’s Republic as a model while also challenging aspects of Platonic politics, the book sets out the political and psychological challenges that we face in moving beyond the psycho-political settlement of modern commercial society.


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Notes 187


Notes Prologue to Chapter 1: Plato’s Cave 1 Translations of the Republic are, if not otherwise noted, quoted with per- mission from Plato, The Republic, 2nd edn, transl. Desmond Lee, introduc- tion by Melissa Lane (London and New York: Penguin, 2007), a choice made to facilitate readers’ engagement with an easily accessible translation. Other translations of Plato are, if not otherwise noted, quoted under the ‘fair use’ doctrine from Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper with D. S. Hutchinson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997), with individual translators being acknowledged when a work is first cited. 2 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005). A good introduction to the relationship of biology and ecology to climate change is Jonathan Cowie, Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 3 I use this term in the sense coined by Eli Sagan, ‘Citizenship as a Form of Psycho-Social Identity’, in John A. Koumoulides, ed., The Good Idea: democ- racy in ancient Greece (New Rochelle, NY: A. D. Caratzas Press, 1995), 47–60, at 47, elaborated by Danielle S. Allen, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), 333 n. 3: ‘The word “psychosocial” [connotes] the ways in which an individual’s participation in social practices and ideas interacts with the individual psyche (or meets the needs of the individual psyche) and serves to foster social cohesion. The word indicates how social cohesion at once sup- ports...

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