Seminarium i grekiska: Cagnoli Fiecconi, Elpis in Plato’s Laws

  • Date: –16:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 2-1022
  • Lecturer: Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi (UCL, London)
  • Organiser: Grekiska seminariet i samarbette med forskargruppen för filosofihistoria
  • Contact person: Eric Cullhed; Pauliina Remes
  • Phone: 0723042850
  • Seminarium

Elpis in Plato’s Laws

The Greek word ‘elpis’ is often translated as ‘hope’, but this translation is not always appropriate. Elpis, like hope, can be a state of longing for a possible future good outcome. However, we can have an elpis for something bad or painful. This elpis would be more similar to fear than hope. Unlike hope or fear, in addition, elpis may lack an affective connotation, for it can be a mere expectation that something will happen in future. 

In this paper, I aim to show that elpis, in its affective form, plays an important role in the moral psychology of Plato’s Laws. Specifically, elpis shapes the way in which we feel and think about the future without requiring reasoning and calculation. I argue that elpis is a future oriented affective state that does not involve ranking values and reasoning about the likelihood of their realisation. In the Laws’ account of education, in its theology and in its penology, elpis ranges over pleasure, goodness, pain and badness. Elpis presupposes the possibility of the future outcome it concerns, but it neither assesses the likelihood of its realisation, nor does it rank it against other values. These characteristics of elpis explain why it allows one to resist and contrast other emotions and desires and to endure difficult situations even without requiring reasoning and calculation. While it shares some key features with hope, since elpis can be for future bad outcomes, it does not map on to our notion of hope. Conversely, since it is connected with emotions and desires, it does not map on to our notion of expectation. Nonetheless, it plays a key role in shaping our emotional life and guiding our actions overtime without requiring the involvement of reason, in particular with respect to calculation of future probabilities and weighing of goals. This aspect of elpis explains why it can be extremely helpful when used well, and extremely dangerous when used badly.