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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture

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Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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Ciarán Benson - Fault-Lines of Allegiance in Contemporary Ireland: What Should the Irish Love and Fear to Act More Wisely in the Twenty-First Century?

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CIARÁN BENSON

Fault-Lines of Allegiance in Contemporary Ireland: What Should the Irish Love and Fear to Act More Wisely in the Twenty-First Century?

It seems to me that if the atomic physicists who succeeded him (i.e. Lucretius) two thousand years later had written in verse as he did, they would have seen that knowledge is only the beginning of wisdom. It is not safe in the hands of those who are not sensitive, as he was, to the beauty of the earth and the fragility of all we value.

— HUBERT BUTLER (1987)

Wisdom, Authority and Nation: A Preamble

As for individuals, so for nations: Wisdom must grow from what is already there. From the ancient Greeks onwards, the most interesting kind of wisdom – phronesis – is practical wisdom, wisdom that motivates, guides and shapes action. Such wisdom is essentially moral in the sense that it must know what to choose from an array of paths that can be chosen, and it must do so in a clear-sighted way. Wise nations, like wise people, must know what they are doing and why. And they must try to open up the best array of choices that they can. Such wisdom has sources, moral sources, and these can be traced just like a palaeontologist can reconstruct a whole creature, and its way of life, from a bone. In the case of wisdom, be it of persons or of nations, it...

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