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Edinburgh University: Prof Dame Mary Beard – Gifford Lectures – #4/6 – The Ancient World and us – Then and Us

18/10/2019

 

Professor Dame Mary Beard opened her fourth lecture by speaking positively about classical Athenian democracy. She mentioned that widespread admiration of Athenian democracy in the West has only been the case for the past couple centuries. As she stated, “before that, you wouldn’t have found many admirers of universal male suffrage anywhere in the West.”  However, she noted that popular admiration of Athenian democracy has somewhat reductively focused on the notion of “voting” without paying adequate attention to other dimensions (good and bad) that made Athenian democracy what it was. As she stated, “as the Athenian debates remind us there’s a lot more to democracy than voting” and as she continued to explain “Athenians rightly focused just as strongly on how people make up their minds on what to vote, what information they have, who persuades them, and by what means.” Furthermore, she noted that Athenians had no problem voting on the same issue twice (a point worth acknowledging in our current political discussions).

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