The Realness of Things Past: Ancient Greece and Ontological History

ISBN : 9780190886646

Greg Anderson
336 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Oct 2018
Send mail

The Realness of Things Past proposes a new paradigm of historical practice. It questions the way we conventionally historicize the experiences of non-modern peoples, western and non-western, and makes the case for an alternative. It shows how our standard analytical devices impose modern, dualist metaphysical conditions upon all non-modern realities, thereby authorizing us to align those realities with our own modern ontological commitments, fundamentally altering their contents in the process. The net result is a practice that homogenizes the past's many different ways of being human. To produce histories that are more ethically defensible, more philosophically robust, and more historically meaningful, we need to take an ontological turn in our practice. The book works to formulate a non-dualist historicism that will allow readers to analyse each past reality on its own ontological terms, as a more or less autonomous world unto itself.

To make the case for this alternative paradigm, the book engages with currents of thought in many different intellectual provinces, from anthropology and postcolonial studies to the sociology of science and quantum physics. And to demonstrate how the new paradigm might work in practice, it uses classical Athens as its primary case study.

The Realness of Things Past is divided into three parts. To highlight the limitations of conventional historicist analysis and the need for an alternative, Part I critically scrutinizes our standard modern accounts of "democratic Athens." Part II draws on a wide range of historical, ethnographic, and theoretical literatures to frame ethical and philosophical mandates for the proposed ontological turn. To illustrate the historical benefits of this alternative paradigm, Part III then shows how it allows us to produce an entirely new and more meaningful account of the Athenian politeia or "way of life." The book is expressly written to be accessible to a non-specialist, cross-disciplinary readership.


Introduction: Retrieving a Lost World of the Past
Part One: Losing Athens in Translation
Chapter One: Our Athenian Yesterdays
Chapter Two: A World of Contradictions
Chapter Three: Missing Objects
Chapter Four: Historicism and its Consequences
Chapter Five: Beyond Cultural History
Part Two: The Many Real Worlds of the Past
Chapter Six: Other Ways of Being Human
Chapter Seven: The Anomalous Foundations of Modern Being
Chapter Eight: Ethnographies of the Present
Chapter Nine: Ontological History
Part Three: Life in a Cosmic Ecology
Chapter Ten: The Metaphysics of Polis Community
Chapter Eleven: Governed by Gods
Chapter Twelve: The Cells of the Social Body
Chapter Thirteen: Living as One Liked
Chapter Fourteen: The Cares of a Corporate Self
Chapter Fifteen: The Circulation of Life's Resources
Chapter Sixteen: Being in a Different World
Conclusion: New Horizons of History and Critique

About the author: 

Greg Anderson holds degrees from the Newcastle and London Universities in his native UK and a PhD from Yale. He is currently Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University, where he has taught since 2005. His primary research areas are ancient Greek history, historical thought, and critical theory.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.