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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Greek Thinking, Fast and Slow. Euripides and Thucydides on Deliberation and Decision-Making


Euripides’ ‘Suppliant Women’ and Thucydides’ account of Pericles’ leadership within the Athenian democracy of 431/430 BCE are good examples of classical Greek texts which ask citizen-audiences to reflect very deeply on the processes by which they come to make political or legislative decisions in a council or assembly. They also stimulate reflection among elite citizens and leaders on their own involvement in such processes. Both texts achieve these forms of reflection by anticipating recent empirical work in sociology, political psychology, ‘behavioural economics’ and cognitive science. These anticipations may reflect an elite ‘paternalistic’ approach to political rhetoric and leadership to an extent. But in the case of the mass art form of Greek tragedy, its dramatization of ‘pathologies’ and ‘errors’ of both mass deliberation and leaders’ responses to them may have contributed to Athens’ relative success as a participatory ‘deliberative democracy’ in which the masses were sovereign.

Insights Volume 10 Article 8