Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Greek Models of Mind and Self

Greek Models of Mind and Self

A. A. Long

ISBN 9780674729032

Publication date: 01/05/2015

Request exam copy

This lively book offers a wide-ranging study of Greek notions of mind and human selfhood from Homer through Plotinus. A. A. Long anchors his discussion in questions of recurrent and universal interest. What happens to us when we die? How is the mind or soul related to the body? Are we responsible for our own happiness? Can we achieve autonomy? Long asks when and how these questions emerged in ancient Greece, and shows that Greek thinkers’ modeling of the mind gave us metaphors that we still live by, such as the rule of reason or enslavement to passion. He also interrogates the less familiar Greek notion of the intellect’s divinity, and asks what that might mean for us.

Because Plato’s dialogues articulate these themes more sharply and influentially than works by any other Greek thinker, Plato receives the most sustained treatment in this account. But at the same time, Long asks whether Plato’s explanation of the mind and human behavior is more convincing for modern readers than that contained in the older Homeric poems. Turning to later ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism, Long concludes with an exploration of Epictetus’s injunction to live life by making correct use of one’s mental impressions.

An authoritative treatment of Greek modes of self-understanding, Greek Models of Mind and Self demonstrates how ancient thinkers grappled with what is closest to us and yet still most mysterious—our own essence as singular human selves—and how the study of Greek thought can enlarge and enrich our experience.


  • Where did the notion of the mind or self as a separate entity come from? A. A. Long’s splendid book, Greek Models of Mind and Self, suggests that to answer such questions one could return not to Descartes or the Christian tradition, long regarded as the Western origins of the modern self, but instead to antiquity, where are to be found not only sources for modern ideas, but also alternative ways of imagining ourselves as conscious physical beings.

    —Emily Wilson, The Nation


  • A. A. Long is Emeritus Professor of Classics, Irving G. Stone Professor of Literature, and Affiliated Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 248 pages
  • 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press