First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea

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Oxford University Press, Mar 16, 2006 - Philosophy - 304 pages
17 Reviews
Americans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In this eye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar Paul Woodruff offers some surprising answers to these questions. Drawing on classical literature, philosophy, and history--with many intriguing passages from Sophocles, Aesop, and Plato, among others--Woodruff immerses us in the world of ancient Athens to uncover how the democratic impulse first came to life. The heart of the book isolates seven conditions that are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny , harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willing to invite everyone to join in government. It must respect the rule of law so strongly that even the government is not above the law. True democracy must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people. And it must be willing to pay the price of education for thoughtful citizenship. If we learn anything from the story of Athens, Woodruff concludes, it should be this--never lose sight of the ideals of democracy. This compact, eloquent book illuminates these ideals and lights the way as we struggle to keep democracy alive at home and around the world.
 

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Review: First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea

User Review  - Dustin Simmons - Goodreads

This book does an excellent job of shifting the discussion about democracy and democratic ideals away from its philosophical detractors like Plato and Thucydides towards the ideals and underlying ... Read full review

Review: First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea

User Review  - Kiera Beddes - Goodreads

The book looks at the elements that make up democracy: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge and general education. It was an ... Read full review

Contents

Democracy and Its Doubles
3
2 The Life and Death of Democracy
21
3 Freedom from Tyranny And from Being a Tyrant
61
4 Harmony
81
5 The Rule of Law Nomos
109
6 Natural Equality
127
7 Citizen Wisdom
145
8 Reasoning Without Knowledge
171
Are Americans Ready for Democracy?
211
Notes
233
Dates
258
Cast of Characters
260
Guide to the Peloponnesian War
263
Ancient Sources
265
Scholarly Works Cited
266
Index
273

9 Education Paideia
191

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About the author (2006)

Paul Woodruff is Darrel K. Royal Professor in Ethics and American Society and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of the popular book Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.

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