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Paideia : the ideals of Greek culture [Unknown Binding]

Werner Wilhelm Jaeger
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Werner Jaeger's classic three-volume work, originally published in 1939, is now available in paperback. Paideia, the shaping of Greek character through a union of civilization, tradition, literature, and philosophy is the basis for Jaeger's evaluation of Hellenic culture.
Volume I describes the foundation, growth, and crisis of Greek culture during the archaic and classical epochs, ending with the collapse of the Athenian empire. The second and third volumes of the work deal with the intellectual history of ancient Greece in the Age of Plato, the 4th century B.C.--the age in which Greece lost everything that is valued in this world--state, power, liberty--but still clung to the concept of paideia. As its last great poet, Menander summarized the primary role of this ideal in Greek culture when he said: "The possession which no one can take away from man is paideia."
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


"[Paideia] is intended for the general reader, and it is probably God's gift to educators, because it conveys to the reader, in a clear and attractive form, covering the ground comprehensively, a conception of the central point of view in Hellenic society and culture."--Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker

"The most illuminating work I have ever read on Greece."--Edith Hamilton, The New York Times Book Review.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Werner Jaeger is formerly of Harvard University and the Institute for Classical Studies. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B00005WK34
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,873,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lights up the western world November 13, 2000
By david
The book shows how the greek people were the first to concentrate their attention on the perfection of MAN and his place in society. Jaeger traces this fact from Homeric times through Plato and explains it through many outstanding writers such as Hesiod, Solon, Sophocles, and many more. He shows the powerful Ideals of the greeks in all their beauty which continue to live on in the world today. He reveals how Poetry, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Politics, Medicine, etc. have their basis in the quest to reach the highest standard imaginable for man and society. The space contributed to Plato is subtantial and the first volume is really only an intro to Plato by the authors own admission. That's a four hundred page intro! But it all leads to the greatest of inventions...Philosphy. I enjoyed the whole book, but the second volume "the search for the divine center" was the best part explaining many things about Plato. To understand in greater depth the influence of these ideals on the western world I recommend reading a book (which I read first) called "The Classical Tradition" by Gilbert Highet whom is also the translator of this book. That book reveals how most of the surviving great works throughout western history were written by authors who were well aware of the greek world and their ideals including many writers in the Christian tradition. Jaeger wrote a short book called "Greek Paideia and Early Christianity" which shows that connection very well. He has convinced me beyond doubt of his statement that the ancient greeks are the educators of the western world.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is excellence? December 31, 2003
That is the question that burned in the hearts of those Greeks, who by their own excellence, or ARETE, made lasting contributions to humanity's imagination about being fully human. Just to add a few words to those reviews below:
This is one of those books that simply cannot go out of print as all who have read it and learned from will not let that happen. It's that important! No study of anything Greek would be complete without reading this book. The mesmerizing power that the ancient Greeks continue exert on all intelligent persons everywhere is summed up in their formulation of PAIDEIA, and the manner of their ASKESIS (discipline involved in forging one's true self) in embodying it. Read it well and this book will cleanse you of the muck of modern education, especially of the public kind, and help you think more nobly. That is to say, clearly.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The changing nature of arete in Ancient Greece May 5, 2005
Chalk me up as another mesmerized reader. Paideia will take you back to the beginnings of Western Civilization to examine how the Greeks conceived of excellence or arete and the disputes that arose as the new definition ran into the old definitions. Plato is the anchor of the three volumes, and Jaeger treats him with a sense of awe, while I found his ideas as listed in "The Republic" unnerving.

The find of the books for me was Isocrates, the master of rhetoric and a hypochondriac who almost lived to 100. The stories of Isocrates and Demonsthenes renewed by interest in the study of rhetoric. Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Socrates, they are all here. Overall a fantastic trilogy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview of Greek philosophy May 26, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really like the way Jaeger presents the philosophy of especially Socrates and Plato along with Aristotal and other notable Greek philosophers in context of their times and culture. Jaeger does an excellent job of analyzing the main points of Socrates and Plato including his own insights as well as the thoughts of and influence on other historical philosophers. I especially liked how Jaeger brought Plato's works into focus as a whole with common philosophial questions being developed by the works as a whole. The book is fasinating if you are interested in questions like, "How should men be governed?" and "What part does virtue have in politics and education?" It is amazying to see how much careful thought went into questions like these in ancient times and how they are still being debaited today. You can sence an historic split between the spiritual and material views of life.

The concepts presented are well explained for those casually interested in philosophy but done so with a large vocabulary, lots of Greek words and assumes that you read the first book (which I did not). I found that a good dictionary and a bit of research online (for Greek words)was sufficent to allow a rewarding understanding of the material presented.
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