Citizenship and the Good Life

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


    This chapter examines the concepts of citizenship and the good life
    as they were understood in the ancient world, both East and West. It
    begins with the writings of Cicero, which stress political engagement,
    and compares them with the non-engagement of Epicureanism, in which
    living lathe biosas (λάθε βιώσας, ‘the obscure life’) was seen as the surest
    way to achieve ataraxia (ἀταραξία, ‘tranquillity’). It then examines Plato’s
    and Aristotle’s writings. Plato was concerned with how to conduct the
    good life, but asked ‘what is good?’ He tried to answer this by positing
    ideals that are too unattainable. Aristotle, on the other hand, thought
    that humans could indeed lead a good life and sought how this could be
    achieved, formulating his famous ‘doctrine of the mean’. The chapter ends
    with a brief look at Confucius, particularly his concept of the junzi (君
    子, ‘gentleman’). One thing all of these philosophers had in common was
    their pragmatism. They were all studying the good life from a practical
    standpoint, because they understand that the human being is basically a
    zoon politikon (ζῷον πoλιτικόν, ‘political animal’) and therefore the good
    life is politically engaged, active, and full of social contact. Good citizens
    have to cultivate this political and social engagement if they want to enjoy
    a fulfilled existence and lead a good life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAncient and Modern Practices of Citizenship in Asia and the West
    Subtitle of host publicationCare of the Self
    EditorsGregory Bracken
    PublisherAmsterdam University Press
    Number of pages26
    ISBN (Electronic)978-90-4853-831-7
    ISBN (Print)978-94-6298-694-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Publication series

    NameAsian Cities
    PublisherAmsterdam University Press


    • citizenship
    • ancient Rome
    • ancient Greece
    • ancient China
    • philosophy

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