Friday, September 06, 2019


Classical Values

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 67-68, with notes on p. 328:
In Bowra's mind, classical values were not dead or merely academic. Rather, they still retained a relevance in the twentieth century. In fact, they were to inform the lives of himself and his contemporaries, if civilization, in any recognizable form, was to survive. Four months before his death, in almost his last public speech, he addressed an audience in the Cambridge Arts Theatre on the occasion of the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Greek war of independence. He took this opportunity to articulate once more what western Europe owed to Greece: 'Greece has done more than any other country to make men believe in themselves. She has established principles which later generations have often reviled and rejected, but which nonetheless thrive in our innermost thinking and in our conception of what a complete life ought to be.'2 In Bowra's view, the Greeks were the only people in the ancient world to make the individual and his dignity the centrepiece of all art and thought.
The essence of Greek political thought is that a man is an individual, who lives among other men in his own right and for his own worth, that he is entitled to be himself as he would wish to be, and that in this he realises natural endowments, which vary from person to person but are all the gift of the gods and not to be thrown away. The individual must be given the freedom to exert his full capacities, to be an end in itself, not a means for the use of others.3
2. C.M. Bowra, Speech Given at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, 21 March 1971.

3. Ibid.

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