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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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Index 235


accounting, standards of, 177 Achilles, 33 Adams, Robert Merrihew, 209 n.6, 213 n.4 addiction, psychology of, 27, 109, 118, 146 Adeimantus, character in Plato’s Republic, 22, 86, 87, 88, 93, 111, 118–19, 169 advertising, 54, 99, 100, 154 Agamemnon, 33 akrasia (literally, ‘absence of [self-]rule’; typically translated ‘weakness of will’), 117–18, 211 n.20 Alcibiades, 85, 86 Allen, Danielle, 15, 187 n.3, 207 n.8, 210 n.14 on deception in Plato’s Republic, 91–4, 98 Talking to Strangers, 15, 192 n.95 Why Plato Wrote, 91, 192 n.25, 194 n.41, 207 n.6, 210 n.14 anankē (‘necessity’), see necessity Anderson, Ray C., 179–81, 217 n.20, 217 n.21, 218 n.22 appetite, see Plato, Republic, appetite in model of soul Arendt, Hannah, 163, 215 n.1 Aristotle, 23–4, 31, 33, 35, 122, 214 n.9 on akrasia, 117–18 on eudaimonia, 102 definition of the kairos, 146 on particulars, 129 Peripatetic school following, 102 Politics of, 5, 43 Arnold, Matthew, 54 asymmetrical assumption, 97 Athens, Athenians (ancient), 4, 23–4, 36, 37, 44, 92 democracy of, 23, 35, 84–6, 90, 110, 137, 159–62 education in, 159 exercise in, 184 intellectualism of, 90 oligarchic coup in, 85 openness of, 90 ostracism in, 37 Plato and Republic in context of, 84–7, 90–2 pleonexia among, 32–3, 35–6 on public and private, 36–8, 126 reason and desire among, 111–12 slavery in, 35 tension between individual and common good in, 137–8 see also Constant on, 36–7 Augustine, St,...

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