parrhesia and isegoria

Critics like the Old Oligarch may have been exaggerating for comic effect, but they also had a point: as its etymology suggests, isegoria was fundamentally about equality, not freedom. In the democracy of Athens, this idea of addressing an informal gathering in the agora carried over into the more formal setting of the ekklesia or political assembly. Its competitor, parrhesia, was more expansive.

Athenian orators celebrated the willingness to speak unpopular truths as a defining mark of the democratic citizen. According to the fourth-century orator and patriot Demosthenes, the Athenian constitution was based on speeches (politeia en logois) and its citizens had chosen isegoria as a way of life. (Disqualifying offenses included prostitution and taking bribes.).

As such, it would become the hallmark of Athenian democracy, which distinguished itself from the other Greek city-states not because it excluded slaves and women from citizenship (as did every society in the history of humankind until quite recently), but rather because it included the poor. The practitioner of parrhesia (or parrhesiastes) was, quite literally, a “say-it-all.”.

Speech which is not believed to be valuable is protected, in order to ensure that valuable speech is not suppressed by the powerful through the instruments of government. Among these was Diogenes the Cynic, who famously lived in a barrel, masturbated in public, and told Alexander the Great to get out of his light—all, so he said, to reveal the truth to his fellow Greeks about the arbitrariness of their customs. But the paradigmatic parrhesiastes in the ancient world were the Philosophers, self-styled “lovers of wisdom” like Socrates himself who would confront their fellow citizens in the agora and tell them whatever hard truths they least liked to hear. WordPress

Here again, the common English translation “freedom of speech” can be deceptive. Entries (RSS) Despite the common translation “freedom of speech,” the Greek literally means something more like “equal speech in public.” The verb agoreuein, from which it derives, shares a root with the word agora or marketplace—that is, a public place where people, including philosophers like Socrates, would gather together and talk. The level of ethnocentrism and militarism even of Athenian political culture would choke them pretty hard. The issues at universities is partly about this, and partly about something else. The term dates back to the fifth century BCE, although historians disagree as to when the democratic practice of permitting any citizen who wanted to address the assembly actually began.

Demosthenes and other orators stressed the duty of those exercising isegoria in the assembly to speak their minds. Posted in Linguistics, Policy | 1 Comment ». Parrhesia could have a political aspect. In theory, isegoria meant that any Athenian citizen in good standing had the right to participate in debate and try to persuade his fellow citizens. [...] Of the two ancient concepts of free speech, isegoria is the older.

But for its critics, this was a bug, as well as a feature. In ancient Athens, isegoria described the equal right of citizens to participate in public debate in the democratic assembly; parrhesia, the license to say what one pleased, how and when one pleased, and to whom. The herald would ask, “Who will address the assemblymen?” and then the volunteer would ascend the bema, or speaker’s platform.

As a basic human right, the right to free speech is vital, but equally vital is that nobody is under any obligation to listen. Although Athens was not the only democracy in the ancient world, from the beginning the Athenian principle of isegoria was seen as something special. Athenian orators celebrated the willingness to speak unpopular truths as a defining mark of the democratic citizen. The Greek means something like “all saying” and comes closer to the idea of speaking freely or “frankly.” Parrhesia thus implied openness, honesty, and the courage to tell the truth, even when it meant causing offense.

In practice, the number of participants was fairly small, limited to the practiced rhetoricians and elder statesmen seated near the front. Both isegoria and parrhesia have the meaning "free speech", which seems to have been indispensable to the Greeks, especially the Athenians The aim of this paper is to inquire into the relationship between isegoria and parrhesia, two ways of realizing free speech at meeting It is noteworthy that the parrhesia, which came into being about the last third of the fifth century BC, came to be used widely in a short … In the theater, parrhesiastic playwrights like Aristophanes offended all and sundry by skewering their fellow citizens, including Socrates, by name.

If these folks want to revert to classical republican modes of politics, I’ll have a few additional concepts for them to incorporate. The historian Herodotus even described the form of government at Athens not as demokratia, but as isegoria itself. The term dates back to the fifth century BCE, although historians disagree as to when the democratic practice of permitting any …

Today, both terms are often translated as “freedom of speech,” but their meanings were and are importantly distinct.

One critic, the so-called ‘Old Oligarch,’ complained that even slaves and foreigners enjoyed isegoria at Athens, hence one could not beat them as one might elsewhere. From the ancient Greek for equality in freedom of speech; an eclectic mix of thoughts, large and small, two, very different concepts of free speech. Parrhesia was certainly seen as important in the Athenian democracy.

Well, don’t give up your name after all these years.

The Left and the Right have two, very different concepts of free speech, which, Teresa M. Bejan argues, hark back to the ancient Greeks’ two, very different terms for what we now call “free speech”: The conflict between what the ancient Greeks called isegoria, on the one hand, and parrhesia, on the other, is as old as democracy itself.

Obviously I thought isegoria made a perfect name for a semi-political blog at the dawn of blogging, 15 years ago. In contrast, free speech is legally protected. Parrhesia was never formalised as isegoria was, since isegoria was a political privilege while parrhesia was merely a mode of expression.

In ancient Athens, isegoria described the equal right of citizens to participate in public debate in the democratic assembly; parrhesia, the license to say what one pleased, how and when one pleased, and to whom. Isegoria is proudly powered by

Athens even took positive steps to render this equality of public speech effective by introducing pay for the poorest citizens to attend the assembly and to serve as jurors in the courts. Bejan goes on to make a tortured argument for Leftist suppression of free speech as really a form of isegoria, because it’s an attempt to achieve equality of speech, while the Right and the old-fashioned Liberal Left can only see free speech as parrhesia. As a form of free speech then, isegoria was essentially political. Of the two ancient concepts of free speech, isegoria is the older.

and Comments (RSS). But the concept applied more often outside of the ekklesia in more and less informal settings.

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