[OPE-L:8429] Re: Idiots

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 11:57:29 EST

Cologne 04-Feb-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8425]

Christopher Arthur schriebMon, 3 Feb 2003 23:52:26 +0000:

> >Re Michael E's [8421]:
> >
> >> Individualism should not be confused with egoism or capriciousness,
> >> which often  happens. In the West, the notion of the individual has
> >> deep historical  roots which  go back further than the modern age
> >> of human subjectivity to -- you  guessed it --   to the Greeks. The
> >> distinction between the _idiotaes_ (private  individual,  'idiot', some
> >> who 'owns himself') and the _politaes_ (member of the  polis) is
> >> fundamental for Greek thinking on social life. _idios_ means 'one's own,
> >> pertaining to oneself, peculiar to oneself, private'. An _idiotaes_ is
> >> someone who  is 'his own person', independent, who belongs to
> >> him/herself and not to  another or  others.
> >
> >As you know, the modern meaning of the term 'idiot' is quite
> >different from the ancient Greek meaning of idiot.  Indeed, there
> >even seems to be an inversion in the meaning of the term to the
> >extent that one who is independent, critical, and thinks for him or
> >herself  is only identified by the dominant culture as being 'idiotic'
> >in the modern sense if she or he puts forward a perspective or
> >embraces a way of living that stands apart or is in  radical opposition
> >to mainstream culture.   Thus, mainstream thought often fails to
> >recognize the logic of opposing perspectives and instead dismisses
> >those perspectives as idiotic.  This raises the question (why I do not
> >know the answer to): when, where and how did this change in meaning
> >of 'idiot'  take place?
> >
> >LaFargue defended the right to be lazy; should we defend the right
> >to be idiotic?
> >
> >Solidarity, Jerry
> The change was relatively recent. Marx (in the CM?) refers to rural idiocy.
> There was a discussion once about this (Draper? Carver?) when it was argued
> Marx had in mind not stupidity but the separation of those in rural
> isolation from what was going on in the world. I assume the city dwellers
> introduced the prejudicial use.
> Chris A
> 17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

The pejorative connotation was also there in the ancient Greek world.

Liddell and Scott has under _idiotaes_:

[I] a private person, an individual, _xumpheronto kai polesi kai idiotais_
Thuc., etc.
[II] one in a private station, opp. to one taking part in public affairs, Hdt.,
attic; opp. to  _strataegos_, a private soldier, Xen.
[2] a common man, plebeian, Plut.
[3] as adj., _id. bios_ a private station, homely way of life, Plat.
[III] one who has no professional knowledge, as we say "a layman,"  _iatroj kai
idiotaes_ Thuc.; opp. to _poiaetaes_, a prose-writer, Plat.; to a trained
soldier, Thuc.; to a skilled workman, Plat.
[2] c. gen. rei, unpractised, unskilled in a thing, Lat. expers, rudis,
_iatrikaes_ Plat.; also, _id. kata ti_ Xen.
[3] generally, a raw hand, an ignorant, ill-informed man, Xen., Dem.
[IV] _idiotai_ one's own countrymen, opp. to _xenoi_, Ar.

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