Monday, May 24, 2004



It's a dirty word and an unpopular idea these days, but it wasn't to the ancient Greeks. C.M. Bowra, The Greek Experience (New York: New American Library, c1957), p. 83, writes:
Their acquaintance with animals taught them the virtues of breeding, and they believed that their own descent was a guarantee of excellence and gave them a title to rule on the principle that 'it is natural that the best counsel should come from the best men.' [Herodotus 3.81.3]
The guarantee is not absolute. It happens exceptionally that degenerates spring from eminent forebears, just as good stock sometimes unexpectedly arises from unpromising antecedents. But as a general rule we would do well to follow the example of livestock breeders and pay closer attention to the qualities we choose in a mate. For more on the subject, read Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, volume 2, chapter 42 (The Hereditary Nature of Qualities).

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