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Why the Iliad matters

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Since so many of our students are also readers of classics, I thought they might be interested in this interview with Caroline Alexander, whose new edition of the Iliad is “saying something true about a dimension of our life that will always matter, and that dimension is mortality, and particularly mortality as it is most exposed, which is in times of war.” Read about or hear the interview here.



  1. Alex says:

    Here are the differences between some famous translations of the first lines of the Iliad:

    Wrath, sing goddess of the ruinous wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles (Alexander)
    1. Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
    2. Anger be now your song, immortal one,
    Akhilleus’ anger, doomed and ruinous,
    3. Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
    murderous, doomed
    4. Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
    of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
    5. Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
    far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.
    6. Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
    driven time and again off course

    Seems like there’s a big difference between “anger” and “wrath” and “rage” for the word μῆνιν, which has connotations of “vengeance.” For example, I get angry in traffic. Anger simmers. Gods have wrath, which is often righteous. Rage is blind, uncontrolled and short. Lots of implications in one word!


  2. Huenemann says:

    Interesting! But aren’t 4, 5, and 6 from the Odyssey? “Sing to me, pretty lady, of the man so righteously pissed off in traffic…”


  3. Alex says:

    Right, right…”the man of honks and gestures”


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