Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Thucydides on the Problem of History: The Past and Future of the Human

Borden Flanagan.

Thucydides offers his account of the Peloponnesian war as a comprehensive and permanently correct account of to anthropinon, "the human," while at the same time indicating his awareness of the problem that his account is historically contingent. He grounds his claim that his war represents a privileged moment in a manner that suggests a middle way between an essentialist and an historicist approach to political theory.
He indicates his awareness of the "historical problem" in the Archaeology, the "methodological" section of his history. He suggests a provisional solution to this problem by way of a developmental account of political psychology; political psychology has a history, and this history has an end or culmination in the rise of love of glory. Love of glory completes the principle active in the other political motives Thucydides describes. Love of glory is also the "final" political passion in that it radically undermines politics itself, leaving us finally in the transpolitical stance of the theorist Thucydides. Finally, the challenge posed to liberalism is considered.


Borden Flanagan  (United States)
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Government
American University

MA, ABD Committee On Social Thought, University of Chicago. Dissertation: Thucydidean Rationalism and Periclean Love of Glory. Interests: classical, modern and post-modern political theory. Studied in Chicago, came to Washington to teach, write my thesis, escape the snow. Generally disgusted by politics.

  • Thucydides
  • Archaeology
  • Love of glory
  • historicism
  • essentialism
  • classic liberal thought
  • privileged moment
  • Peloponnesian War
  • The human
Person as Subject
  • Thucydides

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)