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Frank Speech and the Will to Freedom

Thursday Lecture Series

dateOctober 25, 2012 timeThursday, 12:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Columbia University

Dr. Fields's talk looked at Greek writings of the Roman Imperial period and the use of frankness (parrhe¯sía) as a term freighted with the history of classical Athens and its participatory democracy. The strong associations between frankness and the free status of the citizen endured even in the political environment of the Empire, which saw the Greek world dominated by both a foreign power and an autocratic leader.

At the same time, however, the close conceptual connections between frankness and freedom form part of a larger development in ethical philosophy, starting in the Hellenistic period but continuing into the Roman Empire, transforming highly valued characteristics like freedom and happiness into features determined internally by force of will, rather than by conventional external determinants such as law or wealth. Literary sources provide evidence not only for the prevalence of this notion of the will in popular philosophy but also for its broader cultural relevance, as connected with the practice of frankness.