Thucydides 's ' The On The ' Of The Street ' And ' Intellectuals ' Essay

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Essay 2 In the passage describing the Mytilenian Debate, Thucydides explains the duality between the “man in the street” and “intellectuals.” Thucydides places the man in the street and intellectuals in opposition through the phrase “better…by the man in the street than by intellectuals,” suggesting that there is a fundamental difference between the two; most importantly, the difference in their intelligences. By pitting the man in the street against ‘intellectuals,’ Thucydides suggests that the common man does not possess intelligence; yet, the common man’s lack of intelligence is not a decidedly negative aspect. Thucydides compares the intellectuals’ use, or abuse, of knowledge to the “worst thing” that could happen, casting a negative light on the intellectuals. In fact, the “common sense” of the common man is “more helpful” and “better” than the cleverness of the intellectuals. This opposition between the “man in the street” and the “intellectuals” further demonstrates the pervasive and dangerous nature of cleverness. Cleverness is connected to a state of being “constantly” fluid, as the good laws set by the intellectuals are “constantly being altered.” The intentional choice of the word ‘altered,’ rather than ‘improved’ or ‘enhanced’ suggests that the laws are not improving in their quality or changing for the better. In this sense, the citizens’ lack of “abidance” to these ever-changing laws, as good as they may be, appears to be more important than the quality of
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