1. Politics and Ethics

In Book Six of the Ethics Aristotle says that all knowledge can be classified into three categories: theoretical knowledge, practical knowledge, and productive knowledge. Put simply, these kinds of knowledge are distinguished by their aims: theoretical knowledge aims at contemplation, productive knowledge aims at creation, and practical knowledge aims at action. Theoretical knowledge involves the study of truth for its own sake; it is knowledge about things that are unchanging and eternal, and includes things like the principles of logic, physics, and mathematics (at the end of the Ethics Aristotle says that the most excellent human life is one lived in pursuit of this type of knowledge, because this knowledge brings us closest to the divine). The productive and practical sciences, in contrast, address our daily needs as human beings, and have to do with things that can and do change. Productive knowledge means, roughly, know-how; the knowledge of how to make a table or a house or a pair of shoes or how to write a tragedy would be examples of this kind of knowledge. This entry is concerned with practical knowledge, which is the knowledge of how to live and act. According to Aristotle, it is the possession and use of practical knowledge that makes it possible to live a good life. Ethics and politics, which are the practical sciences, deal with human beings as moral agents. Ethics is primarily about the actions of human beings as individuals, and politics is about the actions of human beings in communities, although it is important to remember that for Aristotle the two are closely linked and each influences the other.

The fact that ethics and politics are kinds of practical knowledge has several important consequences. First, it means that Aristotle believes that mere abstract knowledge of ethics and politics is worthless. Practical knowledge is only useful if we act on it; we must act appropriately if we are to be moral. He says at Ethics 1103b25: “The purpose of the present study [of morality] is not, as it is in other inquiries, the attainment of theoretical knowledge: we are not conducting this inquiry in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, else there would be no advantage in studying it.”

Second, according to Aristotle, only some people can beneficially study politics. Aristotle believes that women and slaves (or at least those who are slaves by nature) can never benefit from the study of politics, and also should not be allowed to participate in politics, about which more will be said later. But there is also a limitation on political study based on age, as a result of the connection between politics and experience: “A young man is not equipped to be a student of politics; for he has no experience in the actions which life demands of him, and these actions form the basis and subject matter of the discussion” (Ethics 1095a2). Aristotle adds that young men will usually act on the basis of their emotions, rather than according to reason, and since acting on practical knowledge requires the use of reason, young men are unequipped to study politics for this reason too. So the study of politics will only be useful to those who have the experience and the mental discipline to benefit from it, and for Aristotle this would have been a relatively small percentage of the population of a city. Even in Athens, the most democratic city in Greece, no more than 15 percent of the population was ever allowed the benefits of citizenship, including political participation. Athenian citizenship was limited to adult males who were not slaves and who had one parent who was an Athenian citizen (sometimes citizenship was further restricted to require both parents to be Athenian citizens). Aristotle does not think this percentage should be increased – if anything, it should be decreased.

Third, Aristotle distinguishes between practical and theoretical knowledge in terms of the level of precision that can be attained when studying them. Political and moral knowledge does not have the same degree of precision or certainty as mathematics. Aristotle says at Ethics 1094b14: “Problems of what is noble and just, which politics examines, present so much variety and irregularity that some people believe that they exist only by convention and not by nature….Therefore, in a discussion of such subjects, which has to start with a basis of this kind, we must be satisfied to indicate the truth with a rough and general sketch: when the subject and the basis of a discussion consist of matters that hold good only as a general rule, but not always, the conclusions reached must be of the same order.” Aristotle does not believe that the noble and the just exist only by convention, any more than, say, the principles of geometry do. However, the principles of geometry are fixed and unchanging. The definition of a point, or a line, or a plane, can be given precisely, and once this definition is known, it is fixed and unchanging for everyone. However, the definition of something like justice can only be known generally; there is no fixed and unchanging definition that will always be correct. This means that unlike philosophers such as Hobbes and Kant, Aristotle does not and in fact cannot give us a fixed set of rules to be followed when ethical and political decisions must be made. Instead he tries to make his students the kind of men who, when confronted with any particular ethical or political decision, will know the correct thing to do, will understand why it is the correct choice, and will choose to do it for that reason. Such a man will know the general rules to be followed, but will also know when and why to deviate from those rules. (I will use “man” and “men” when referring to citizens so that the reader keeps in mind that Aristotle, and the Greeks generally, excluded women from political part icipation. In fact it is not until the mid-19th century that organized attempts to gain the right to vote for women really get underway and even today in the 21st century there are still many countries which deny women the right to vote or participate in political life).




Aristotle-Ethics II


The Mean


Now this discussion has shown that habit does make all the difference to our lives without being the only thing shaping those lives and without being the final form they take. The same discussion also points to a way to make some sense of one of the things that has always puzzled me most in the Ethics, the insistence that moral virtue is always in its own nature a mean condition. Quantitative relations are so far from any serious human situation that they would seem to be present only incidentally or metaphorically, but Aristotle says that “by its thing-hood and by the account that unfolds what it is for it to be, virtue is a mean.” (1107a, 7-8) This invites such hopeless shallowness as in the following sentences from a recent article in the journal Ancient Philosophy (Vol. 8, pp. 101-4): “To illustrate …0 marks the mean (e.g. Courage); …Cowardice is -3 while Rashness is 3…In our number language…’Always try to lower the absolute value of your vice.’ ” This scholar thinks achieving courage is like tuning in a radio station on an analog dial. Those who do not sink this low might think instead that Aristotle is praising a kind of mediocrity, like that found in those who used to go to college to get “gentlemen’s C’s.” But what sort of courage could be found in these timid souls, whose only aim in life is to blend so well into their social surroundings that virtue can never be chosen in preference to a fashionable vice? Aristotle points out twice that every moral virtue is an extreme (1107a, 8-9, 22-4), but he keeps that observation secondary to an over-riding sense in which it is a mean.

Could there be anything at all to the notion that we hone in on a virtue from two sides? There is a wonderful image of this sort of thing in the novel Nop’s Trials by Donald McCaig. The protagonist is not a human being, but a border collie named Nop. The author describes the way the dog has to find the balance point, the exact distance behind a herd of sheep from which he can drive the whole herd forward in a coherent mass. When the dog is too close, the sheep panic and run off in all directions; when he is too far back, the sheep ignore him, and turn in all directions to graze. While in motion, a good working dog keeps adjusting his pace to maintain the exact mean position that keeps the sheep stepping lively in the direction he determines. Now working border collies are brave, tireless, and determined. They have been documented as running more than a hundred miles in a day, and they love their work. There is no question that they display virtue, but it is not human virtue and not even of the same form. Some human activities do require the long sustained tension a sheep dog is always holding on to, an active state stretched to the limit, constantly and anxiously kept in balance. Running on a tightrope might capture the same flavor. But constantly maintained anxiety is not the kind of stable equilibrium Aristotle attributes to the virtuous human soul.

I think we may have stumbled on the way that human virtue is a mean when we found that habits were necessary in order to counteract other habits. This does accord with the things Aristotle says about straightening warped boards, aiming away from the worse extreme, and being on guard against the seductions of pleasure. (1109a, 30- b9) The habit of abstinence from bodily pleasure is at the opposite extreme from the childish habit of yielding to every immediate desire. Alone, either of them is a vice, according to Aristotle. The glutton, the drunkard, the person enslaved to every sexual impulse obviously cannot ever be happy, but the opposite extremes, which Aristotle groups together as a kind of numbness or denial of the senses (1107b, 8), miss the proper relation to bodily pleasure on the other side. It may seem that temperance in relation to food, say, depends merely on determining how many ounces of chocolate mousse to eat. Aristotle’s example of Milo the wrestler, who needs more food than the rest of us do to sustain him, seems to say this, but I think that misses the point. The example is given only to show that there is no single action that can be prescribed as right for every person and every circumstance, and it is not strictly analogous even to temperance with respect to food. What is at stake is not a correct quantity of food but a right relation to the pleasure that comes from eating.

Suppose you have carefully saved a bowl of chocolate mousse all day for your mid-evening snack, and just as you are ready to treat yourself, a friend arrives unexpectedly to visit. If you are a glutton, you might hide the mousse until the friend leaves, or gobble it down before you open the door. If you have the opposite vice, and have puritanically suppressed in yourself all indulgence in the pleasures of food, you probably won’t have chocolate mousse or any other treat to offer your visitor. If the state of your soul is in the mean in these matters, you are neither enslaved to nor shut out from the pleasure of eating treats, and can enhance the visit of a friend by sharing them. What you are sharing is incidentally the 6 ounces of chocolate mousse; the point is that you are sharing the pleasure, which is not found on any scale of measurement. If the pleasures of the body master you, or if you have broken their power only by rooting them out, you have missed out on the natural role that such pleasures can play in life. In the mean between those two states, you are free to notice possibilities that serve good ends, and to act on them.

It is worth repeating that the mean is not the 3 ounces of mousse on which you settled, since if two friends had come to visit you would have been willing to eat 2 ounces. That would not have been a division of the food but a multiplication of the pleasure. What is enlightening about the example is how readily and how nearly universally we all see that sharing the treat is the right thing to do. This is a matter of immediate perception, but it is perception of a special kind, not that of any one of the five senses, Aristotle says, but the sort by which we perceive that a triangle is the last kind of figure into which a polygon can be divided. (1142a, 28-30) This is thoughtful and imaginative perceiving, but it has to be perceived. The childish sort of habit clouds our sight, but the liberating counter-habit clears that sight. This is why Aristotle says that the person of moral stature, the spoudaios, is the one to whom things appear as they truly are. (1113a, 30-1) Once the earliest habits are neutralized, our desires are disentangled from the pressure for immediate gratification, we are calm enough to think, and most important, we can see what is in front of us in all its possibility. The mean state here is not a point on a dial that we need to fiddle up and down; it is a clearing in the midst of pleasures and pains that lets us judge what seems most truly pleasant and painful.

Achieving temperance toward bodily pleasures is, by this account, finding a mean, but it is not a simple question of adjusting a single varying condition toward the more or the less. The person who is always fighting the same battle, always struggling like the sheep dog to maintain the balance point between too much and too little indulgence, does not, according to Aristotle, have the virtue of temperance, but is at best selfrestrained or continent. In that case, the reasoning part of the soul is keeping the impulses reined in. But those impulses can slip the reins and go their own way, as parts of the body do in people with certain disorders of the nerves. (1102b, 14-22) Control in self-restrained people is an anxious, unstable equilibrium that will lapse whenever vigilance is relaxed. It is the old story of the conflict between the head and the emotions, never resolved but subject to truces. A soul with separate, self-contained rational and irrational parts could never become one undivided human being, since the parties would always believe they had divergent interests, and could at best compromise. The virtuous soul, on the contrary, blends all its parts in the act of choice.

This is arguably the best way to understand the active state of the soul that constitutes moral virtue and forms character. It is the condition in which all the powers of the soul are at work together, making it possible for action to engage the whole human being. The work of achieving character is a process of clearing away the obstacles that stand in the way of the full efficacy of the soul. Someone who is partial to food or drink, or to running away from trouble or to looking for trouble, is a partial human being. Let the whole power of the soul have its influence, and the choices that result will have the characteristic look that we call “courage” or “temperance” or simply “virtue.” Now this adjective “characteristic” comes from the Greek word charactÍr, which means the distinctive mark scratched or stamped on anything, and which is apparently never used in the Nicomachean Ethics. In the sense of character of which we are speaking, the word for which is Íthos, we see an outline of the human form itself. A person of character is someone you can count on, because there is a human nature in a deeper sense than that which refers to our early state of weakness. Someone with character has taken a stand in that fully mature nature, and cannot be moved all the way out of it.

But there is also such a thing as bad character, and this is what Aristotle means by vice, as distinct from bad habits or weakness. It is possible for someone with full responsibility and the free use of intellect to choose always to yield to bodily pleasure or to greed. Virtue is a mean, first because it can only emerge out of the stand-off between opposite habits, but second because it chooses to take its stand not in either of those habits but between them. In this middle region, thinking does come into play, but it is not correct to say that virtue takes its stand in principle; Aristotle makes clear that vice is a principled choice that following some extreme path toward or away from pleasure is right. (1146b, 22-3) Principles are wonderful things, but there are too many of them, and exclusive adherence to any one of them is always a vice.

In our earlier example, the true glutton would be someone who does not just have a bad habit of always indulging the desire for food, but someone who has chosen on principle that one ought always to yield to it. In Plato’s Gorgias, Callicles argues just that, about food, drink, and sex. He is serious, even though he is young and still open to argument. But the only principled alternative he can conceive is the denial of the body, and the choice of a life fit only for stones or corpses. (492E) This is the way most attempts to be serious about right action go astray. What, for example, is the virtue of a seminar leader? Is it to ask appropriate questions but never state an opinion? Or is it to offer everything one has learned on the subject of discussion? What principle should rule?–that all learning must come from the learners, or that without prior instruction no useful learning can take place? Is there a hybrid principle? Or should one try to find the mid-way point between the opposite principles? Or is the virtue some third kind of thing altogether?

Just as habits of indulgence always stand opposed to habits of abstinence, so too does every principle of action have its opposite principle. If good habituation ensures that we are not swept away by our strongest impulses, and the exercise of intelligence ensures that we will see two worthy sides to every question about action, what governs the choice of the mean? Aristotle gives this answer: “such things are among particulars, and the judgment is in the act of sense-perception.” (1109b, 23-4) But this is the calmly energetic, thought-laden perception to which we referred earlier. The origin of virtuous action is neither intellect nor appetite, but is variously described as intellect through-and-through infused with appetite, or appetite wholly infused with thinking, or appetite and reason joined for the sake of something; this unitary source is called by Aristotle simply anthropos. (1139a, 34, b, S-7) But our thinking must contribute right reason (ho orthos logos) and our appetites must contribute rightdesire (hÍ orthÍ orexis) if the action is to have moral stature. (1114b, 29, 1139a, 24-6, 31-2) What makes them right can only be the something for the sake of which they unite, and this is what is said to be accessible only to sense perception. This brings us to the third word we need to think about.



Manolis Anagnostakis/translated by Manolis Aligizakis



Η αγάπη είναι ο φόβος που μας ενώνει με τους άλλους
Όταν υπόταξαν τις μέρες μας και τις κρεμάσανε σα δάκρυα
Όταν μαζί τους πεθάνανε σε μίαν οικτρὴ παραμόρφωση
Τα τελευταία μας σχήματα των παιδικών αισθημάτων
Και τί κρατά τάχα το χέρι που οι άνθρωποι δίνουν;
Ξέρει να σφίγγει γερὰ εκεί που ο λογισμός μας ξεγελά
Την ώρα που ο χρόνος σταμάτησε και η μνήμη ξεριζώθηκε
Σα μίαν εκζήτηση παράλογη πέρα απὸ κάθε νόημα;
(κι αυτοὶ γυρίζουν πίσω μια μέρα χωρὶς στο μυαλὸ μία ρυτίδα
βρίσκουνε τις γυναίκες τους και τα παιδιά τους μεγάλωσαν
πηγαίνουνε στα μικρομάγαζα και στα καφενεία της συνοικίας
διαβάζουνε κάθε πρωὶ την εποποιία της καθημερινότητας.)
Πεθαίνουμε τάχα για τους άλλους ή γιατὶ έτσι νικούμε τη ζωὴ
Ἢ γιατὶ έτσι φτύνουμε ένα-ένα τα τιποτένια ομοιώματα
Και μία στιγμὴ στο στεγνωμένο νου τους περνά μίαν ἡλιαχτίδα
Κάτι σα μια θαμπὴ ανάμνηση μιας ζωικής προϊστορίας.
Φτάνουμε μέρες που δεν έχεις πια τί να λογαριάσεις
Συμβάντα ερωτικὰ και χρηματιστηριακὲς επιχειρήσεις
Δε βρίσκεις καθρέφτες να φωνάξεις τ᾿ όνομά σου
Απλὲς προθέσεις ζωής διασφαλίζουν μίαν επικαιρότητα
Ανία, πόθοι, όνειρα, συναλλαγές, εξαπατήσεις
Κι άν σκέφτομαι είναι γιατὶ η συνήθεια είναι πιο προσιτὴ ἀπὸ την τύψη.
Μα ποιος θα `ρθει να κρατήσει την ορμὴ μιας μπόρας που πέφτει;






Love is the fear that connects us with others

when they take control of our days and hang them like tears

when along with them our days die in a wretched disfiguring

the last schemes of our childish emotions

and what does the extended hand of people holds?

It knows how to squeeze tightly where logic fools us

when time stops and memory is uprooted

in a pointless search beyond logic?

(and one day they return without any wrinkle in their mind

they discover their wives and children have grown

they frequent the little stores and cafes of the neighborhood

they read the epic routine of each and every morning).

Do we truly die for the others or this way we avenge our lives

or this way we spit all the measly resemblances

and at some time a sunray goes through our dried up minds

something like a vague memory of our lively prehistory.

We have reached the days when you don’t know what to measure

erotic events and stock market companies

you can’t find a mirror into which to cry out your name

simple intentions of life secure the current affairs

boredom, lust, dreams, business dealings, cheating

and if I think it’s because custom is better than guilt.

However who will come to stop the momentum of falling rain?


ΑΝΘΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΝΕΟΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΟΙΗΣΗΣ, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, φθινόπωρο, 2017

ANTHOLOGY of NEOHELLENIC POETRY, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstsis Editions, Victoria, BC,  autumn 2017





Ο Φρειδερίκος Νίτσε (Friedrich Nietzsche) γεννήθηκε το 1844 στο Ρένκεν κοντά στη Λειψία και πέθανε στη Βαϊμάρη το 1900, ήταν δε από τους πιο σημαντικούς Γερμανούς φιλοσόφους αλλά και σπουδαίος φιλόλογος. Αναφέρεται δε συχνά ως ένας από τους πρώτους «υπαρξιστές» φιλοσόφους. Σπούδασε κλασική φιλολογία στη Βόννη και τη Λειψία και καταγόταν από μια βαθιά θρησκευόμενη οικογένεια και προοριζόταν για την επιστήμη της Θεολογίας. Ωστόσο, η πορεία του άλλαξε κατά τα μετεφηβικά του χρόνια με αποτέλεσμα να στραφεί στον χώρο της φιλοσοφίας.

Μόλις στα 25 του χρόνια διορίστηκε καθηγητής στο πανεπιστήμιο της Βασιλείας, στην Ελβετία και από τότε ξεκίνησε το πολύμορφο συγγραφικό του έργο. Ο Νίτσε υπήρξε δριμύτατος επικριτής των κατεστημένων σκέψεων και τάξεων, ιδιαίτερα του Χριστιανισμού. Πληθώρα συγγραμμάτων του γράφτηκαν με οξύ και επιθετικό ύφος, χρησιμοποιώντας ευρέως αφορισμούς. Το φιλοσοφικό του έργο εκτιμήθηκε ιδιαίτερα κατά το πρώτο μισό του 20ού αιώνα, περίοδο κατά την οποία εδραιώθηκε η θέση του και αναγνωρίστηκε ως ένας από τους μείζονες φιλοσόφους.

Οι προσπάθειές του να ανακαλύψει τα ελατήρια που βρίσκονται κάτω από την παραδοσιακή θρησκεία, την ηθική και τη φιλοσοφία της Δύσης άσκησαν βαθιά επίδραση σε γενεές θεολόγων, φιλοσόφων, ψυχολόγων, ποιητών, μυθιστοριογράφων και δραματουργών.

Αναλογίστηκε τις συνέπειες του θριάμβου της εκκοσμίκευσης του Διαφωτισμού, εκπεφρασμένες με την παρατήρησή του ότι «ο Θεός πέθανε», κατά έναν τρόπο που προσδιόρισε τα θέματα καθημερινής συζήτησης των πιο διάσημων διανοουμένων της Ευρώπης, μετά το θάνατό του το 1900.

Αν και ήταν σφοδρός πολέμιος του εθνικισμού, του αντισημιτισμού και της πολιτικής ισχύος, εν τούτοις ο Χίτλερ και οι εθνικοσοσιαλιστές επικαλέστηκαν αργότερα το όνομά του για να προωθήσουν εκείνα ακριβώς τα πράγματα που απεχθανόταν.




Τα έργα του Νίτσε διακρίνονται σε τρεις με ακρίβεια προσδιορισμένες περιόδους. Στα έργα της πρώτης περιόδου κυριαρχεί η ρομαντική αντίληψη με επιδράσεις του Σοπενχάουερ και του Βάγκνερ.

Τα έργα της δεύτερης περιόδου ανακλούν την παράδοση των Γάλλων αφοριστών. Τα έργα αυτά, στα οποία ο Νίτσε πλέκει το εγκώμιο της λογικής και της επιστήμης και πειραματίζεται με τα φιλολογικά είδη, εκφράζουν την χειραφέτησή του από τον νεανικό του ρομαντισμό και της επιδράσεις του Σόπενχαουερ και του Βάγκνερ.

Στα έργα της ωριμότητάς του ο Νίτσε ασχολήθηκε με το πρόβλημα της καταγωγής και της λειτουργίας των αξιών στην ανθρώπινη ζωή. Εφόσον, κατά τον Νίτσε, η ζωή παρά το γεγονός ότι ούτε διαθέτει ούτε στερείται αξίας εγγενών, αποτελεί πάντοτε αντικείμενο κριτικών εκτιμήσεων, τότε οι εκτιμήσεις αυτές δεν μπορούν να αναγνωστούν παρά ως συμπτώματα της κατάστασης εκείνου ο οποίος διατυπώνει τις εκτιμήσεις.

Κατά συνέπεια, ο Νίτσε προχώρησε σε μία κατά βάθος ανάλυση και εκτίμηση των θεμελιωδών πολιτιστικών αξιών της φιλοσοφίας, της θρησκείας και της ηθικής της Δύσης και κατέληξε να τις χαρακτηρίσει ως εκφράσεις του ασκητικού ιδεώδους.

To ασκητικό ιδεώδες προκύπτει, όταν ο πόνος προσλαμβάνει την έννοια τού υπέρτατου νοήματος. Κατά τον Νίτσε, ο ιουδαϊκο-χριστιανικός πολιτισμός, π.χ., οδήγησε στην αποδοχή τού πόνου, ερμηνεύοντας τον ως πρόθεση τού Θεού και ως αφορμή για εξιλέωση. O θρίαμβος τού χριστιανισμού, κατά συνέπειαν, οφείλεται στο εξωραϊσμένο δόγμα της προσωπικής αθανασίας, δηλαδή στην υπερφίαλη άποψη ότι η ζωή και ο θάνατος κάθε ανθρώπου έχουν κοσμική σημασία. Κατά τον ίδιο τρόπο, η παραδοσιακή φιλοσοφία εξέφρασε το ασκητικό ιδεώδες δίνοντας το προβάδισμα στην ψυχή έναντι τού σώματος, στον νου έναντι των αισθήσεων, στο καθήκον έναντι της επιθυμίας, στο πραγματικό έναντι τού φαινομενικού, στο αιώνιο έναντι τού πρόσκαιρου.

O χριστιανισμός υποσχόταν την σωτηρία τού αμαρτωλού ο οποίος μετανοεί, ενώ παράλληλα η φιλοσοφία προσέφερε την ελπίδα της σωτηρίας, έστω και εγκόσμιας, για τους σοφούς της. Κοινό στοιχείο της παραδοσιακής θρησκείας και φιλοσοφίας ήταν η υπόθεση, η οποία δεν διατυπώνεται ξεκάθαρα,αλλά παρέχει ισχυρό κίνητρο, ότι η ύπαρξη χρειάζεται αιτιολόγηση, δικαίωση ή εξιλέωση. Τόσο η θρησκεία όσο και η φιλοσοφία εκφράζονταν εις βάρος της εμπειρίας και υπέρ κάποιου άλλου «αληθινού» κόσμου. Και οι δύο μπορούν να θεωρηθούν ως συμπτώματα μιας ζωής παρηκμασμένης, εξαθλιωμένης.

H κριτική τού Νίτσε προς την παραδοσιακή ηθική επικεντρώθηκε στην τυπολογία τής ηθικής τού «κυρίου» και τού «δούλου». Ο Νίτσε υποστήριξε ότι η διάκριση μεταξύ καλού και κακού είχε αρχικά περιγραφικό χαρακτήρα, ήταν δηλαδή μία μή ηθικής φύσεως αναφορά στους προνομιούχους, στους «κυρίους», σε αντίθεση με εκείνους που ήταν κατώτεροι, τους «δούλους».

H αντίθεση καλό-ηθικώς κακό προέκυψε, όταν οι δούλοι εκδικήθηκαν μετατρέποντας τα διακριτικά γνωρίσματα των κυρίων σε ηθικά ελαττώματα. Εάν οι προνομιούχοι, οι «καλοί», ήταν ισχυροί, θεωρήθηκε ότι οι ταπεινοί θα κληρονομήσουν την γη. H υπερηφάνεια θεωρήθηκε αμαρτία. H ευσπλαχνία, η ταπεινοφροσύνη και η υπακοή αντικατέστησαν τον ανταγωνισμό, την υπερηφάνεια και το αυτεξούσιο. To αποφασιστικό επιχείρημα το οποίο οδήγησε στην επικράτηση της ηθικής τού δούλου ήταν ο ισχυρισμός ότι αυτή ήταν η μόνη αληθινή ηθική. Αυτή η επιμονή στο απόλυτο αποτελεί ουσιώδες στοιχείο τόσο της φιλοσοφικής όσο και της θρησκευτικής ηθικής. O Νίτσε, παρ’ όλο που έδωσε την ιστορική γενεαλογία της ηθικής τού κυρίου και τού δούλου, υποστήριξε ότι επρόκειτο για μιαν ανιστορική τυπολογία χαρακτηριστικών τα οποία ενυπάρχουν σε κάθε άνθρωπο.

Το νιτσεϊκό έργο ήταν μια κραυγή μέσα στη βαθιά νύχτα των ανθρώπων. Ο ίδιος παρατηρούσε πως για να σε ακούσει κάποιος πρέπει να του σπάσεις τα αυτιά. Γι αυτό άλλωστε και πολλές φορές βρίσκουμε στα έργα του έκδηλη την περιφρόνηση για πρόσωπα και πράγματα. Δεν ήταν κακία ή μικρότητα, αλλά μια φωνή που ήθελε σφοδρά να ακουστεί στα αυτιά και τις συνειδήσεις όλων.

Ο Νίτσε κάποτε έγραψε ότι μερικοί άνθρωποι γεννιούνται μετά το θάνατό τους και αυτό ασφαλώς ισχύει στην περίπτωσή του. Η ιστορία της φιλοσοφίας, της θεολογίας και της ψυχολογίας του 20ου αιώνα δεν νοείται χωρίς αυτόν.

Περνώντας στη θεωρία του Νίτσε, πρέπει να πούμε πως γι’ αυτόν η θέληση για δύναμη είναι η μόνη δύναμη πάνω στη γη, αυτή που κινεί όλα τα όντα και τα κάνει να αλληλοσυγκρούονται, να συνδυάζονται, να ενώνονται, να ανακατεύονται αέναα. Όπως λέει ο ίδιος στο Πέρα από το καλό και το κακό, «η ζωή είναι κατ’ ουσίαν ιδιοποίηση, παράβλαψη, καθυπόταξη του ξένου και του ανίσχυρου, καταπίεση, σκληρότητα, εκμετάλλευση… δηλαδή θέληση για δύναμη».

Επειδή τα όντα δεν έχουν την ίδια δύναμη (δεν είναι ίσα), ο κόσμος είναι μια τάξη ιεραρχίας από το ανώτερο στο κατώτερο, μια τάξη όμως ρευστή και επιδεχόμενη συνεχείς αμφισβητήσεις και ανακατατάξεις. Στην κορυφή της πυραμίδας αυτών των θελήσεων για δύναμη βρίσκεται φυσικά ο άνθρωπος, ο οποίος έχει επιβάλλει και θα επιβάλλει πάντα την εξουσία του πάνω στη φύση και στους ομοίους του. Αυτό που διέπει τις ανθρώπινες σχέσεις είναι ο ανταγωνισμός (ο αρχαίος ελληνικός αγών, αυτό που δεν άφηνε τον Θεμιστοκλή να κοιμηθεί όταν σκεφτόταν «το του Μιλτιάδου τρόπαιον»). Ας θυμηθούμε στο σημείο αυτό ότι ενώ πολλοί θεωρούν τον οστρακισμό που λάμβανε χώρα στην αρχαία Αθήνα εκμηδένιση του ατόμου, αντίθετα, ο Νίτσε υποστηρίζει ότι ο θεσμός του οστρακισμού ήταν θετικός: όταν ένα άτομο ξεπερνάει όλα τα άλλα, παραμερίζεται από την κοινότητα «προκειμένου να ξαναρχίσει το παιχνίδι των ανταγωνιζόμενων δυνάμεων».

Για τον Νίτσε, η πιο ισχυρή θέληση για δύναμη είναι η πιο πνευματική, δηλαδή εκείνη που χαρακτηρίζει τους «μεγάλους εφευρέτες καινούργιων αξιών» ή δημιουργούς. Τέτοιοι άνθρωποι προβαίνουν, μαζί με τους μαθητές/οπαδούς τους, σε καινούργιες αξιολογήσεις των ανθρώπινων αξιών, ιδεών και πραγμάτων και έτσι προτείνουν ένα καινούργιο «αγαθό» για την πλειονότητα των ανθρώπων (για τον λαό), αναπόσπαστο από έναν πίνακα «υπερνικήσεων», δηλαδή έναν πίνακα που περιέχει όλα εκείνα που πρέπει να ξεπεραστούν τη δεδομένη στιγμή.

Οι δημιουργοί μπορούν να εκφράζουν μια «θετική» ή μια «αρνητική» θέληση για δύναμη. Θετική είναι κάθε θέληση για δύναμη που είναι καταφατική προς τη ζωή, που «ευλογεί τα πράγματα και τον άνθρωπο», και αρνητική κάθε θέληση για δύναμη που δεν σέβεται, δεν εκτιμά και δεν αναδεικνύει την αξία της ζωής.

Για παράδειγμα, ο χριστιανισμός, η πανίσχυρη αυτή θρησκεία, υποτιμά και δυσφημεί τη ζωή και τον κόσμο εδώ κάτω εν ονόματι ενός «επέκεινα», ενός άλλου κόσμου τιμωρίας ή ανταμοιβής (κόλαση και παράδεισος). Με τις έννοιες της αμαρτίας και της τιμωρίας ταπεινώνει και κουτσουρεύει το ανθρώπινο σώμα και πνεύμα. Με τον χριστιανισμό ανεβαίνουν στην εξουσία οι αδύναμοι, οι αρνητές της ζωής. Ο Χριστός ήταν βέβαια ένας μεγάλος δημιουργός, εξέφρασε όμως την ηθική και επέβαλε την κυριαρχία των «αδύναμων», των «δούλων», δηλαδή των αρνητών της ζωής.ί-ί-ύ-ka/









Individuality, Autonomy, “Freedom of Spirit”

From the earliest reception, commentators have noted the value Nietzsche places on individuality and on the independence of the “free spirit” from confining conventions of society, religion, or morality (e.g., Simmel [1907] 1920). This strand of thought continues to receive strong emphasis in recent interpretations—see, e.g., Nehamas (1985), Thiele (1990), Gerhardt (1992), Strong ([1975] 2000: 186–217), Reginster (2003), Richardson (2004: 94–103), Anderson (2006, 2012a), Higgins (2006), Schacht (2006), Acampora (2013), and the essays in Young (2015)—and there is an impressive body of textual evidence to support it (UM III, 2, 5–6, 8; GS 116, 117, 122, 143, 149, 291, 335, 338, 347, 354; BGE 29, 41, 259; GM I, 16, II, 1–3; TI IX, 41, 44, 49; A 11). Salient as Nietzsche’s praise of individuality is, however, it is equally obvious that he resists any thought that every single human person has value on the strength of individuality alone—indeed, he is willing to state that point in especially blunt terms: “Self-interest is worth as much as the person who has it: it can be worth a great deal, and it can be unworthy and contemptible” (TI IX, 33). Scholars have advocated quite different explanations of what makes a person’s individuality valuable in the privileged cases. Some hold that certain given, natural characteristics that admit no (or not much) further explanation entail that some individuals are “higher men” manifesting genuine value, whereas others have no such value—Leiter (2002) offers a strongly developed naturalistic version of this approach—whereas others take the ”true” or “higher self” to be a kind of ideal or norm to which a person may, or may not, live up (Conant 2001; see also Kaufmann [1950] 1974: 307–16). Still others attempt to develop a position that combines aspects of both views (Schacht 1983: 330–38), or hold that Nietzsche’s position on the “overman” or “higher man” is simply riven by internal contradiction (Müller-Lauter [1971] 1999: 72–83).

A different approach takes its lead from Nietzsche’s connection between individuality and freedom of spirit (GS 347; BGE 41–44). As Reginster (2003) shows, what opposes Nietzschean freedom of spirit is fanaticism, understood as a vehement commitment to some faith or value-set given from without, which is motivated by a need to believe in something because one lacks the self-determination to think for oneself (GS 347). This appeal to self-determination suggests that we might explain the value of individuality by appeal to an underlying value of autonomy: valuable individuals would be the ones who “give themselves laws, who create themselves” (GS 335), who exhibit self-control or self-governance (TI, V, 2; VIII, 6; IX, 38, 49; BGE 203), and who are thereby able to “stand surety” for their own future (GM II, 2–3). A variety of scholars have recently explored the resources of this line of thought in Nietzsche; Anderson (2013) surveys the literature, and notable contributions include Ridley (2007b), Pippin (2009, 2010), Reginster (2012), Katsafanas (2011b, 2012, 2014, 2016), and especially the papers in Gemes and May 2009.

Tasos Livaditis/translated by Manolis Aligizakis





Η φτωχή Ραχήλ, ωχρή, με ανίατα όνειρα, θεραπευόταν τώρα

ανάμεσα στα μαύρα δέντρα, όπως ένα τυφλός που με το φλάουτο

κάνει ν’ανθίζει το σκοτάδι ή όπως τα παιδικά παιγνίδια που μια

μέρα εξαφανίζονται σα να τα πήρε μαζί του το παιδί — καθώς

πέθαινε, περίλυπο, μέσα στον άντρα.






Poor Rachel, pale, with incurable dreams, now healing herself

among the black trees like the blind man who with his flute makes

the darkness bloom or like the childhood games that one day

suddenly vanish as though a child took them along — as it was dying

sorrowfully into adulthood.



TASOS LIVADITIS-SELECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, Vancouver, 2014

Arc Poetry Magazine Review



Harold Rhenisch


Love and War and Oranges

Philip Resnick. Footsteps of the Past. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2015.

Nick Papaxanthos. Love Me Tender. Toronto: Mansfield Press, 2015.

Dimitris Lianinis. Hours of the Stars. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015.

Tzoutzi Matzourani. Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015


Classicism is the belief that adherence to past models recreates their successes. It’s why art students draw from the nude, formalists write sonnets, and Germany is structured on Goethe’s Faust. It’s also why Canadian poets write in a series of stances called, variously: self-actualization, emotional honesty, imagism, verse, activism, English and French, surrealism, glosas, villanelles, open fields, vers libre, academic deconstruction, and that juggling trick Leonard Cohen did with the oranges. Most commonly, classicism references the artistic works of ancient Greece—usually to foster humanist values. In this review I look at four Canadian poetry books that reference classical Greek modes.


Philip Resnick’s Footsteps of the Past is exquisite. Poems such as “West Coast Mythis-torema” and “Paris on a Sunday Afternoon” are tours de force of Greek metrics: mus­cular objects like Greek statues in marble: “limbs and flesh so dear / that words, you feel, are puffs of hollow air, / and images of love / Pygmalions carved in sandstone or in wax” (“Paris on a Sunday Afternoon”). Most of the other poems are satires. My work­ing model: back in the day, such jibes were sung by drunkards caught up in moonlit orgies in the Aegean hills; in civic life, satirical dramas stripped off the masks of power in dances of violence and forgiveness. Resnick’s are elegiac: “faces in a sullied looking glass / that must be digitalized / before they turn to dust” (“Cuarentena”). Often, they sound like pulpit work: “what is familiar becomes with time / a parasite in the intes­tinal flora” (“The Crown in Canada”). Resnick’s honoured dead aren’t the heroic dead of Homer and Alice Oswald, who fight in eternal battle on the scorched plains of the Middle East. They’re ghoulish. In Resnick’s reckoning, classical Greece was a wellspring of Western ideals; its citizens lived in common society, united with land and its spirits. In his Canada, this spirit lingers on in decaying fragments. The millions of people of his Vancouver, whose intellectual traditions honour Daphne and Apollo, have washed up on the shores of Raven’s sea. They have jettisoned classical unity in favour of the ability to live in tall glass rectangles. This is not courage. Reflecting the city’s ennui, many of Resnick’s poems fizzle away, as if a god has been filled with power but then, when fate hangs in the balance, slips down to the pub for a beer and to watch the Canucks lose the Stanley Cup. Classicism here grits its teeth to reveal a broad gap between realities and professed ideals, in beautiful but sad models of civic, occasional and funereal verse.


Nick Papaxanthos’ Love Me Tender draws on the oracular tradition of the priestesses of Apollo, who breathed sulfuric vapours to predict the future—in riddles that would ex­cite any neurolinguistic programmer today. His Love Me Tender is like a bomb of dada lobbed into an opposing trench in the Somme: “avocados fudge / blimps to raisins / the inning, lungs / in the fatso and / braids toothpaste.” It’s a bit blunt. Bombs are. Dada is. The sections “The Next Arrangement of Molecules” and “Chairlift to Hell,” though, are classic surrealist games. They just go by at warp speed, that’s all—like fanning a deck of tarot cards instead of laying them down one by one. Here’s one, to give you a taste: “the yo-yo panorama looks out gently / then returns, tinged with blood” (“At the Peak of Mt. Murder”). Fun, or what!? It’s language interrogating itself using a random­ness generator. No, wait: it’s René Char redux, differing only from the original in that Char learned his poetics in the 1940s Resistance, which certainly beat the heroism of running into machine gun fire or its contemporary equivalent, the randomness gener­ator. In Papaxanthos, the resistance continues—just faster than human sight, that’s all, and through the global universalism of surreal imagery. What was originally a group of exiles aggrandizing their verbal powerlessness during WWI by replacing art with nonsense (as the war had replaced civilization with destruction) is now Papaxanthos aggrandizing the hurlers of Molotov cocktails (rather than hurling them.) Have a look at one of his glorifications: “The Meadow of Dents // Light slams the flowers on its way out.” It’s clever stuff. Like the Dadaists, its topic is its own cleverness. It is display and a desire to disappear all at once. That can’t be healthy. For the Dadaists, a gesture like that was violent. Here the violence is turned inward. This is dangerous territory. Another example might help: “In the Atmosphere // of headlight beams and floral bedsheets, / voices trade hellos / from faces turning shyly away.” (Both examples are from “The Next Arrangement of Molecules.”) The text here has replaced “self” identity. Now the text is lobbing the IEDs. The self? The poor thing is embarrassed. Maybe that’s how a poet has to survive in Resnick’s anti-culture: a strong, victorious book is obscured to survive within the culture it tries to replace. That’s the necessary work of a clown. It’s sad that such a ruse is needed. These surreal sequences would be stronger if not vacuum-packed into a container of a size and shape better suited to hold the ashes of Bliss Carman. Such a nod to the norms of Canadian book editing dulls the revolution within these devices. It aestheticizes them. It makes them “safe,” just another turn within a potpourri of verbal gymnastics, compressed to fit. They aren’t the aesthetic objects the book shape—and the Canadian sensibility behind it—makes them to be, and they sure aren’t safe. They deserve their own launch vehicles.


Dimitris Liantinis’ Hours of the Stars draws on Greek culture from within. Where Papaxanthos manipulates Greek oracular tradition through secular surrealism, Liantinis uses similarly bizarre imagery within an unbroken connection with the Greek panthe­on. Where Papaxanthos’s Canadian postmodernism employs psychology and industrial identity severed from the earth to view its roots as flotsam left over after a tsunami, recombined into steam punk bangles such as “A sink washes the air’s hands / A detour around a candle darts” (“The Vaccinated Dawn”), Liantinis’ imagery is the oracle: “mem­oirs will be written only / on the edge of the sword / that cracks the cheekbones of the night like walnuts” (“Hercules”). Liantinis lacks Resnick’s and Papaxanthos’s sense of loss, tragedy, romance and bathos. His references to the gods fill the space their emp­tiness fills. In “Aquarius,” for example, an un-named god unearths “the viscera of the desert,” but then miracle—not a burning bush but “Suddenly water drops shone / on the weight of its tiredness and / filled the sun with passengers.” It is a warning against see­ing Greece as the root of the Western tradition, which shows the material faces of God and uses art to create archetype. After all, it’s also the source of Eastern tradition, which apprehends God as archetype and uses art to arrive at material presence. This is a book to set with Seferis, Cavafy and Ritsos. It’s the real deal.


Of course, classical tradition isn’t just a high testosterone phalanx of monks and sui­cide bombers battling to see who has the better bronze sword and who the best desert in which to watch the mind writing on silence. It also contains Sappho, writing of her lesbian lover so passionately that no love poem has surpassed hers in 2600 years. In Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover, Tzoutzi Matzourani makes direct nods to her: “The agony, the heart ache, the pain in the guts, the longing the yearning each felt for the other, the match, the writhing, the complete surrender” (“The Road to Hell”). She discards many parts of classical tradition. She keeps precision: “What you loved of me, you killed” (“What You Loved”). She sidesteps Plato’s annoying questioning by directly addressing her beloved. She keeps elegy: “Because simply you can’t grasp onto anyone’s hand you can’t grasp onto anything” (“The Lost 1%”)—like Heraclitus and the river you can’t step into twice: “My dry lips still had the taste of watermelon we ate at lunch time, and now, evening already, my glance was glued high up in the sky” (“A Slice of Moon With the Scent of Watermelon Fragrance”). Classical metrics are eschewed for simple stanzas built around exquisite semantic rhythms and the ebbs and flows of prose. These are the sea’s tides, so present they need never be mentioned. Don’t be fooled, though: these letters gradually reveal themselves as notes to: Matzourani’s ex-lovers, the things she has loved, and poetry’s passions and devotions. There is no oracle. This is a real woman, exploring the day-to-day triumphs and pains of love in all of its particulars, consciously aware that she is replacing an entire classical tradition of men jabbering about politics, sociology, religion, architecture, literature, philosophy, etc., with an alter­nate lens: love, and its devotions and attentions. Out of the four books here, all steeped in Greece, it’s hers that extends humanism, and with fused passion, wit and intellect. If an entire century were built on her model, we would do well.


        Hours of the Stars and Hear Me Out are poetic triumphs.



Yannis Ritsos/translated by Manolis Aligizakis




Ο ήλιος δε λογαριάζει τίποτε απ’ τους δισταγμούς σου—

γυμνόν σε θέλει και γυμνόν σε παίρνει,

ώσπου έρχεται η νύχτα να σε ντύσει.


Μετά τον ήλιο είναι η μετάνοια.

Μετά τη μετάνοια πάλι ο ήλιος.




The sun doesn’t think of your hesitations –

it wants you naked and it takes you naked

until the night comes to dress you


After the sun there is repentance

after repentance the sun again


Γιάννη Ρίτσου-Ποιήματα, Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη

Yannis Ritsos-Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Tasos Livaditis

 Tasos Livaditis_Vanilla



Και τα τζάμια με τις πεθαμένες μύγες το φθινόπωρο, σαν τις

μεγάλες σελίδες των βιβλίων, τότε που δεν ξέραμε ακόμα να


Κύριε, εξήγησέ μας.





And the windows with the dead flies in the autumn like the long

pages of books when we didn’t yet know how to read

Lord, explain to us.


Cloe and Alexandra




Χθες βράδυ σ’ ονειρεύτηκα.

Με τα φώτα της πόλης για μάτια,


το σώμα γυμνό,


μυρωδιά ανοιξιάτικης λεύκας

και για μόνο κάλυμμα


το σκοτάδι.





Last night I dreamed of you.

Under the city lights


your body naked


scent of spring poplar

and for cover


only darkness.


~CLOE and ALEXANDRA, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Libros Libertad, 2013