When contemporary scholars study the first Greek (and European) thinkers, their most current attitude is to concentrate on their ontological and epistemological theories, paying little or no attention at all to their ethical or political positions.

It is true that ethical and political ideas cover a minor part of the fragments we possess. Moreover, they often take up a peculiar form, which has been characterized as “non- philosophical”, because it isn’t deductive, empirical or clearly founded on rational arguments: they resemble rather some common sense advice offered by the elderly members of a community.

But are these precepts indeed to be taken so lightly?

In my lecture, I intend to make an analysis that hasn’t been undertaken up to now, to my knowledge, of this particular form of ethical and political ideas destined to help people to achieve concretely a life as good as possible (eudaimonia), in order to prove that: a) these concepts are founded on a philosophical method equivalent to the one resulting in the cosmological theories of the archaic period; b) their form, inspired by the oracles, is chosen deliberately in order to astound, to help memorization in a largely oral cultural environment, and to encourage the personal activity of rational interpretation, which may lead to multiple results, underlining the liberty of thought. These precepts become therefore an expression par excellence of protreptic ethics.

I shall finally cite some representative examples of the ethical and political maxims attributed to the “Seven Sages” (of which Thales), to Pythagoras and to Democritus, to illustrate this particular link between theory and practice at the origins of Western philosophy.

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Aikaterini Lefka

Aikaterini Lefka is a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Athens. She obtained her Master’s degree and her PhD, which concerned the relations between religion and philosophy in the works of Plato, at the University of Liège. After a first pot-doctoral research at the University of Luxembourg on the notion of eudaimonia in the Presocratics and Plato, she continues in a second research, which compares the ancient and the modern theories on the «good life» for the citizens of a European democracy.

In parallel, A. Lefka is a member of international and interdisciplinary research groups, as well as of scientific associations, dedicated to subjects of her interests. She participated in international conferences and seminars and was invited to give lectures and university courses in many countries. She published scientific books and articles in different languages; others are under press. She also composed recently a bilingual collection (Greek-French) of historical novels.

A. Lefka is a part-time lecturer at the University of Liège and teaches also philosophy, ethics, Latin, ancient and modern Greek courses at the European School Brussels III, in three languages.



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