Diodotus Questions

InF_headerKeep your answers brief for easy reference.

  1. In his opening paragraph, Diodotus turns the tables on Cleon. Cleon said earlier that anyone in favor of more debate had to be either arrogant or corrupt. In reply, Diodotus says anyone against debate must be either wandering in a mental fog or making a wrong argument on purpose for partisan reasons. Looking at section 43, paragraph 1, explain what is wrong with Athens’ political culture, according to Diodotus.
  2. In section 43, paragraph 2, Diodotus says that despite the poisonous political atmosphere, speakers must come forward when the Assembly considers issues vital to the state. Summarize his view of the different responsibilities of speakers and voters.
  3. The vote on how to deal with the Mytilenes is a vote about the future of the Athenian empire, says Diodotus. Reviewing section 46, paragraph 1, explain the future effects of Cleon’s policy, as foreseen by Diodotus.
  4. What alternative to the death penalty does Diodotus propose? Look at sections 46.2 and 47.1 to explain why it would be to Athens’ advantage to punish as few rebels as possible.
  5. Review section 47, paragraphs 1 and 2, to explain the value Athens gains from its reputation as the champion of democracy.

PnC_headerIn any controversy, both sides are likely to make one or two good points. It is your job as a voter to decide whether these points are decisive or secondary.

  1. Citing the failure of the death penalty to end all serious crime, Diodotus concludes in section 45, paragraph 2, “that fear of punishment is not a deterrent.” This is an “all or nothing” error. Give one or two examples from your own experience to show that fear of punishment has different effects on people at different times and in different situations.
  2. “It is human nature to misjudge the odds we are facing,” says Diodotus in section 45. While speakers often make broad statements about human nature, in this case the claim is confirmed by scientific studies of optimism bias. Optimism bias is an inner certainty that we will be okay, despite the fact that we face the same hazards as everyone else. In psychological tests, healthy individuals  consistently report  they are at low risk for divorce, cancer, and automobile accidents, even when they are reminded of statistics for these events. Review section 45 for other broad assumptions about human nature. Identify two or more that ought to be proved rather than accepted as common sense. For example, is there evidence to show poverty drives people to crime? Or that people are driven to crime by too much wealth?
  3. In section 47, paragraph 1, Diodotus identifies two negative consequences of a mass death-sentence, but he does not say which should be considered more important: 1) the deaths of a certain number of innocent Mytilenes or 2) alienation of the common people in other Greek cities. Consequence 2 involves many thousands of people and possibly a serious loss of popular support for Athens. Consequence 1 involves relatively few people but causes drastic harm, to families as well as the condemned men. Clearly, leaders whose job it is to make decisions “in the best interests of the state” need guidelines. If you were a speaker in the Athenian Assembly, what general guidelines for punishment would you propose? Briefly address these three questions:
  • What consequences are unacceptable?
  • What kinds of “fairness” measures (before or after) can make harsh decisions acceptable?
  • When are harsh decisions morally acceptable, even without fairness measures?

RnW_headerLook for answers to questions raised in your reading.

  1. Create a timeline that extends from Diodotus to Ai Weiwei, including 10 other persons or events that were important in the history of free speech. Write a short paragraph for each of the free-speech heroes (or villains), illustrating how the issue of free speech has evolved.
  2. Checks and balances prevent one branch or one party from dominating government in the United States. In Athens, rewards and punishments were meant to encourage speakers to offer ideas of value to the state. But even the best-designed system may have unforeseen problems. In a 500-word paper, summarize the problems with rewards and punishments, as described by Diodotus. Identify any lessons learned that could be applied in the US to improve debates and voting in Congress.
  3. While we think of ourselves as mainly rational beings, human psychology is subject to errors called cognitive bias. See the Introduction to Cognitive Biases page, and search online for further information about the types of cognitive bias listed below. Write a 500-word paper identifying examples of these biases in the speeches by Cleon and/or Diodotus. Show the relevance of your research by citing an example of a cognitive bias in a speech by a modern politician.
  • Optimism bias
  • Overconfidence effect
  • Anchoring
  • Confirmation bias
  • Framing effect
  • Hindsight bias

Cognitive Biases page: https://ancientvoter.wordpress.com/cognitive-biases

What Happened Next

Although many Athenians regretted voting for the mass death-sentence against Mytilene, the second vote was still close. The mass death-sentence was revoked by a slim majority. Athens sent a trireme to catch up with General Paches, who had already set sail to carry out the previous order. The rowers in the second trireme stayed at their benches all day and night, taking turns sleeping and taking meals at their oars. They earned a bonus for arriving just in time. They sailed into the harbor at Mytilene just as Paches was reading aloud the fatal decree.

Athens took control of Mytilene’s navy and all towns under its control. The 1,000 leaders judged guilty by the Athenian Assembly were put to death. Many landowners involved in the rebellion were reduced to tenants, paying rent on their former estates to newly arrived colonists from Athens.

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