The readings for the first day are from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, and Giles of Rome. My mentor Hannah Arendt in her political thinking referred often to these works to comment on the problems of our own American democracy. The main problem is the collapsing and disordering of private and public realms, i.e. the economy and politics. Other problems that follow this one are truth in politics, politics and violence, politics and culture (including art and religion), politics and labor, and politics and democracy.
The ancients were using observation, thinking, and dialogue or reason in their own historical situation or context, but still have important lessons for us moderns. They certainly influenced the European Renaissance, the resulting Enlightenment, into modern life, culture, and the political economy. Here are some excerpts from the Politics of Aristotle that are most relevant in our Dark Times.
Polis is the Greek name for city, state, political community. It is the place where a human person can achieve and exercise the highest of values: power or, as Arendt defines it, "the ability to act in concert." It is also where a person can pursue and realize the greatest of happiness: public happiness. That is the top rung of Aristotle's and Arendt's hierarchy of needs (pace Mazlow). Mine too.
Economia or economy is the Greek name for household. It is the place where humans secure their basic needs to live. It is the place of private ownership, i.e. property for shelter, security, health, and the production of goods to consume and to market. It is the place for the management and exchange of goods for life. It is also the place for having and raising children for the continuation of the family and the species.
Two realms: private and public, each required by the other. Reduce one and reduce the other. The purpose of economy is living and so fulfilling the needs of the organism. It is the realm of necessity. The purpose of politics is living well and so fulfilling the highest desires of the soul, wisdom, respect, meaning. It is the realm of freedom. In my parlance, "liberty" is the freeing from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.
Of course, in ancient Greece and Rome and carried down into modern times, barbarians, slaves, women, and children belonged to the household concerned only with the needs of living. Only the freemen, their needs taken care of, could enjoy the public space where the decisions about the city were made, its boundaries, its protection, its monuments, its academies, and its markets.
According to Aristotle, this distinction of household and city is based on nature in the human capacity to speak, or in modern scientific terms, in the evolution of the organism for symbolic communication and collaboration. This is what defines the human species, unlike all other known species, as a political animal. This distinction and maintaining the priority of polis over household, politics over economy is fundamental. It underlies the problem of our dark times where political freedom is subordinate to economic desires, public welfare to the wealth of the few.
Next: How this disorder can be rectified.