From Antiquity to the New Common Era
Chapter 3: Paranoia and historical interpretation
And you know that a man who is deranged and not right in his mind will fancy that he is able to rule, not only over men, but also over the gods? Plato, Republic ‘Many are the wonders of this world but the most wonder-full of them is man’. Thus spoke the Greeks in days of old but in ways that still ring true today. Of all the wonders of the cosmos – and as far as we know – man alone has such peculiar qualities as self-awareness, knowledge of his history, contemplation of his future and the quest for meaning. Only man has taken his destiny (or has he?) in his hands and has shaped his world according to his needs. And, as William Shakespeare (Craig 1914) wrote: ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!’ As we have already argued, culture is a universal and ubiquitous phenomenon that results from and defines human behaviour. Whether primitive or modern, all cultures share certain characteristics such as a system of hierarchical arrangement that sets the rules of conduct of their members. Even in purely egalitarian societies (if indeed there was ever such an unusual social arrangement), systems exist that rotate authority among the members of the group.
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