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Herodotus in the Anthropocene$
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Joel Alden Schlosser

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226704708

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226704982.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 08 May 2021

The Nature of Things

The Nature of Things

(p.19) 1 The Nature of Things
Herodotus in the Anthropocene

Joel Alden Schlosser

University of Chicago Press

This chapter canvasses the multitude of forces involved in political life. “Politics” includes human and non-human agents and influences. Focusing on Herodotus’s implicit account of historical causation allows one to untangle “all things” that form the “one” that Heraclitus identifies: things, both human and non-human, that play vital roles in the formation of political communities. This expansive understanding of political things also has implications for the organization of political institutions. Across the Histories, Herodotus shows how singular rulers—what the Greeks called tyrants and what today might be called autocrats or despots—fail to appreciate and respond to the complexity of political life. This is one reading of Sophocles’s Oedipus Tyrannos. Tyrannies seek control and mastery when the nature of things resists such grasping. The nature of things demands political institutions more capable of attention and responsiveness; it also creates an opening for the kind of complex and ample counsel that Herodotus models in the Histories and that other thinkers of this period take up in different ways.

Keywords:   political things, political institutions, tyranny, complexity, historical causation

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