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The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures) Paperback – 22 Jun 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (22 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520242300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520242302
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"An exciting and fundamental subject; profound learning illuminated by imaginative insight and controlled by a modest and balanced judgment; a literary style of exceptional clarity, vigour, and elegance; the combination of these ingrediants produces a book which it would be difficult to over-praise."--"Oxford Magazine"

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First Sentence
SOME YEARS ago I was in the British Museum looking at the Parthenon sculptures when a young man came up to me and said with a worried air, "I know it's an awful thing to confess, but this Greek stuff doesn't move me one bit." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Marcus Horatius on 16 April 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, based on a series of lectures, first appeared in the early 1950s, but it remains a standard reference for anyone looking to discover more about the "irrational" beliefs of the ancient world. Curiously, its subject becomes ever more relevant, as New Age beliefs gain ground in the supposedly rational West -- our modern society seems to be turning the clock back to a time when magic and superstition still ruled people's hearts and minds. But that's one of Dodds' central contentions: that such beliefs never actually disappeared, despite the intellectual enlightenment of Plato, Aristotle and the other great thinkers of the ancient world. The same is true today it seems.
One caveat for the general reader: there is a profusion of learned notes and untranslated Greek terms which can be off-putting. But the text itself is clear and not over-stuffed with jargon, as is too often the case with more modern academic writing.
I would also recommend Georg Luck's "Arcana Mundi" (Amazon ASIN: 0801825482), which collects many relevant texts on these subjects in new English translations.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M.I. VINE VOICE on 6 April 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a book that can't fail to grip. Specialist or non-specialist, or just interested in our culture, Dodds' course of lectures will haunt you. We do our cultural ancestors, the Ancient Greeks, a disservice by thinking of them as the last word in rational thought at all times. They too had their psychic side, upon which their philosophy and art developed. For them, madness or possession (mania)could be positive as well as negative - a god-sent gift to the favoured. There is a thoughtful, attention-gripping, examination of the treatise of Hippokrates on the Sacred Disease (epilepsy). Here too, possibly the first description of an 'out-of-body experience' - to be found in Pindar, c.460 BCE.
When you've read this book, you can't forget it - for the Irrational of the Greeks is with us still, not so very far below the surface.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback
Eric Dodds was sometime professor of Greek at Oxford. This book created a certain amount of a stir in its time both within and outside the arena of classical studies by either addressing, or being believed to address, up-to-date-issues of anthropology and psychology. It consists basically of the Sather Classical Lectures that Dodds was invited to deliver at the University of California in 1950, and as it has been reissued in paperback in 1997 it's fair to assume that the publishers intend it to reach a wider readership than the dwindling band of classical initiates.
I very much hope it does that, but a word or two would probably be in place regarding what to expect and what not to expect to find in the book. The author's preface warns us not to look in the book for a history of Greek religion, and more pertinently recognises that modern scholarship is a worlds of specialists, and Dodds reiterates right at the end that he is 'a simple professor of Greek'. Amateurs, dilettantes and bluffers will find plenty of material to suit them I don't doubt, but Dodds is not one of their number. This work is best read as a standard piece of classical scholarship, not as breaking down any moulds or enclosures. The most casual glance at the daunting catalogue of references in the notes appended to each chapter will show what a vast amount of writing on the topics covered here was in situ before Dodds, and how could it be otherwise? Any commentary on, say, Plato or Empedocles or Greek history by and large had to do its best with issues of religion and trends in thought. There are numerous references to other cultures, and Dodds is certainly better versed in such matters than other classics dons that I knew. By my standards he shows wide reading and deep interest in anthropology and human behaviour.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My five stars are for the book, not the edition, which needs correcting. There are many missing words and letters, and some wrong letters - e.g. 'a' for 'c' in this transfer.
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Milo on 16 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
"The Greeks and the Irrational" takes the reader back to the 1950s and a time when classical Greek math was reported as taking large steps to improve older Egyptian mathematics. The 1950s was a golden era that European and US universities shut down their Egyptian math departments , with the retirement of Prof. Reisner, Harvard was the last to close its department. Irrational numbers were reported as only known by Greeks like Archimedes.

The 1950s was the time that I worked as a military code breaker, assigned to Germany and Lebanon to decode Russian and Arabic texts.:

Last year fragments of Greek square root were reassembled by the request of a researcher. Several surprises came into view.

Unresolved aspects of Archjimedes' ESTIMATION OF PI problem were reported by Kevin Brown and E.B. Davis with upper and lower limits;

(1351/780)^2 is greater than PI is greater than (265/153)^2

A. Archimedes calculated the higher PI limit(1351/780)^2 by:

1. step 1. guess (1 + 2/3)^2 = 1 + 4/3 + 4/9 = 2 + 3/9 + 4/9, meant 2/9 = error1

2. step 2 reduced error1 2/9

by dividing 2/9 by 2(1 + 2/3)

steps that meant

2/9 x (3/10) = 1/15

such that

(1 + 2/3 + 1/15)^2, error2 (1/15)^2 = 1/225 = error2

knowing (1 + 11/15) = 26/15

3.
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