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Response to Athens Dialogues: Quality of Life; Scheidel and Rubidge


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Response to Athens Dialogues: Quality of Life; Scheidel and Rubidge

So, my task is to respond to the papers of Walter Scheidel and Sarah Rubidge. I would like to start with Walter Scheidel’s observations which concern groups and provide a macro view of the human condition. More specifically, Professor Scheidel said: “It shows that the problems we currently face in determining quality of life are not new: we also encounter them in engaging with the distant past. They are not merely empirical problems – of how to find out or how to measure – but methodological ones, of how to weigh different aspects of the human existence”.

Sarah Rubidge, however, suggests that: Quality of Life is addressed from the ‘subjective’ level of an individual’s lived experience and that this lived experience is situated in an embodied response to the world . Her approach is a micro view of the human condition, focused on individuals.

Although the approach for these two papers is from a different perspective what we can extract is that: a mixing of quantitative and qualitative methods in a single research design would provide the researcher with a multi-viewpoint regarding the process and the outcome which can lay the foundation for an integrated data discussion. This approach is linked directly and can be supported by the two basic modes for the brain : strong feeling versus thinking dominant, sensory/ cognitive, here and now/ past present, external /fantasy, environment/ internal personality and I am not going to refer to all of them, as Baroness Susan Greenfield refers too extensively, yesterday in her presentation.

At this point, I will draw mainly from the qualitative and not the quantitative methodologies which can contribute to collecting information on the subjective human experience.

Neuroscientists have long been using methods and tools such as brain imaging techniques to study emotional behavior. Antonio Damasio (1994) emphasizes the need of scientific studies on emotions and feelings, and not just only on cognition and rational appraisal of what causes the emotion. He also stresses that the study of the process of judging and decision making has enlightened the chain of deliberation-choice-action in contemporary life.

Sarah Rubidge implies the above in her use of Deleuze’s notions of “sensation” and “affect”. As Reid (1986) suggests the direct concrete experience of an individual, in the arts, always involves feeling which is the immediate awareness from the inside of a conscious human experience both somato-sensory and cognitive. I would like to emphasize here that this process, both for the creators and the audience, is not an irrational response, or a work of genius, as David Elmer, in the second day, mentioned in his response. Instead it is a logical process which accommodates degrees of consciousness. According to Sifakis, these notions are directly linked to Aristotle’s Rhetoric (the treatise on “the art of shaping the opinion of political and juridical decision makers”) and to his method of logical reasoning. Aristotle discusses the complex correlation between emotions on the one hand and understanding and learning on the other; he also ties deliberating and decision-making, emotional temperance and moral excellence.

Logic and emotion are interrelated in Rhetoric and are used to arrive at the definition of the ergon (function duty). For Aristotle, to be able to deliberate ( vouleuesthai ), we need prudence - practical wisdom ( phronesis ); deliberation precedes choice ( prohairesis ); choice results in decision-making and leads to action.

But to be able to deliberate properly and in order to make the right choice, we also need virtue or “moral excellence” ( aretê ). Aristotle trusted that by arousing the proper kind as well as measure (degree) of emotion in his listeners, speakers could and should facilitate their deliberation and their arriving at the right decision with truth and justice (Sifakis 2001:115-129).

However, we cannot re-live the ancient Athens experience. As Ryan Balot said yesterday, we cannot always develop monological rhetories. Our modern openness gives us the opportunity, right now, to borrow fragments from Greek past in order to explain our selves to our selves and rich for new methods to achieve highest human potentiality.

After considering all of these approaches, the question we can ask is whether we can achieve a higher quality of life in today’s changing and disparate societies. It is a matter of fact that we can continue to develop teaching methods and research strategies through an increasingly interdisciplinary approach by investigating the individual’s lived experience , in various art expressions, science and cultures that will make us fully understand the nature of human happiness, “ eudemonia ”, and its relationship to virtue, “ aretê ” and consequently their potential value in deliberation, choice and action in today’s life.

I suggest that this is a possible way that we can begin to bridging the gap created by a fragmented perception of the world, and thus arrive at unity and harmony, through shared knowledge which will offer us the bases to develop.



Damasio, A. 1994. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness. London.

Fortenbaugh, W. 1975. Aristotle on Emotion. London.

McKeon, R. 1941. The Basic Works of Aristotle. New York.

Reid, L. A. 1986. Ways of Knowing and Understanding. London.

Rossman, G. B. and B. L. Wilson. 1985. “Numbers and Words: Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in a Single Large-Scale Evaluation Study.” Evaluation Review 9:627–643.

Ross, W. 2010. Aristotle. Rhetoric. New York.

Sifakis, G. 2001. Aristotle on the Function of Tragic Poetry. Crete.

Solomon, R. 1993. The Passions, Emotions and the Meaning of Life. Indianapolis and Cambridge.