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Enlightened Self-Interest in the Peloponnesian War: Thucydidean Speakers on the Right of the Stronger and Inter-State Peace

Patrick Coby
Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 67-90
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3229632
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Enlightened Self-Interest in the Peloponnesian War: Thucydidean Speakers on the Right of the Stronger and Inter-State Peace
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Abstract

The speakers in Thucydides who give voice to the sophistic thesis that might is right do not generally think that what they are releasing upon the world is a war of all against all. On the contrary, they are hopeful, like the modern utilitarians they anticipate, that their realistic assessment of human motives can serve as the foundation of an inter-state order based not on justice but on clear and certain power relations. The most perceptive of these speakers is Diodotus, who addresses his theory of imperial management to the difficult problem of the rise and fall of states. But the psychology upon which this theory rests points toward confederation in place of empire amd toward constitutional government in place of democracy run by demagogues. It also implies a reasoner, perhaps Diodotus himself, who is master of his own desires. In the end Diodotus seems somewhat at odds with the sophistic rationalism he so ably espouses. /// Les rhéteurs de Thucydide qui soutiennent la thèse sophistique qui veut que la force passe droit ne pensent pas en général que l'application de leurs idées équivaudrait à la guerre de tous contre tous. Au contraire, tout comme les utilitaristes modernes qui les suivront, ils croient que leur évaluation réaliste des motivations de l'humanité peut fonder un ordre inter-étatique reposant non sur la justice mais sur des rapports de puissance lucides et sûrs. Le plus perspicace de ces rhéteurs est Diodote, dont la théorie de la gestion impériale s'attaque au difficile probléme de la grandeur et de la décadence des États. Or, les bases psychologiques sur lesquelles cette théorie se fonde sont orientées vers la confédération plutôt que l'empire, le gouvernement constitutionnel au lieu de la démocratie des démagogues. Elle suppose un maître à pensée, peut-être Diodote lui-même, qui contrôle ses propres impulsions. Au bout du compte, Diodote s'accorde assez mal avec le rationalisme sophistique dont il se réclame habilement.

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