Ἀνθρωπολόγοι, knowledge of man and “human nature” in the democratic polis
Ἀνθρωπολόγος occurs only as a hapax in Greek literature, namely in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Lexicographers, translators and, most of all, commentators have been repeatedly at pains to render its precise meaning. At any rate, one must admit that the word is interwoven with gossip, whence its undoubtedly pejorative overtone. In the context of this study, ἀνθρωπολόγος’ semantics is reconsidered as regards both the denotative and the connotative values of the word. Moreover, Aristotle’s deprecation of gossip is scrutinised in terms of a philosopher’s contempt for the trivial attributes of an “average person” or the demos, as revealed and expressed in the actual circumstances of the polis. Democracy, with its unprecedented open character, is alleged to have provided ample material for justifying this claim on the part of an elite of thinkers, in their quest of a thorough “knowledge of man”, eventually the knowledge of “human nature”.
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