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Selfhood and the SoulEssays on Ancient Thought and Literature in Honour of Christopher Gill$
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Richard Seaford, John Wilkins, and Matthew Wright

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777250

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777250.001.0001

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The Psuchē from Homer to Plato

The Psuchē from Homer to Plato

A Historical Sketch

(p.11) 1 The Psuchē from Homer to Plato
Selfhood and the Soul

Richard Seaford

Oxford University Press

‘The Psuchē from Homer to Plato’ proposes a historical explanation of the development of the concept of the inner self or psuchē as an immortal organ of comprehensive consciousness. There is no word for such a concept in Homer, but in Plato it is denoted by psuchē. This fundamental development cannot be explained without attention to history. On the basis of various texts it is suggested that a crucial factor was the monetization of the Greek polis in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Coined money was revolutionary not only as a universal means of exchange but also as extremely convenient—far more than any other forms of wealth—for possession by the individual, whom it tends therefore to isolate, because it can in principle fulfil all his needs. The individual is accordingly in a sense constituted by money, and the new inner self (psuchē) is in some respects modelled on money.

Keywords:   Soul, self, monetization, individualization, Homer, Herakleitos, Plato

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