Boundaries in Ancient Thought

Blurring, Crossing, Reshaping


António de Castro Caeiro (New University of Lisbon) []

Paulo Alexandre Lima (University of Lisbon) []

Fábio Serranito (University of Leeds) []

Hélder Telo (University of Coimbra) []

The problem of boundaries is a core problem of our time. Recent events such as the Arab Spring, the European refugee crisis, Donald Trump's presidency and Brexit, have brought this problem to the forefront of contemporary concerns, highlighting differences between political regimes, ways of life and types of knowledge. 

In social and human sciences, exact sciences, sciences of the mind, and more recent areas of study (such as cultural and media studies), the concept of boundaries – in the wide sense of demarcation of limits, determination of identities, circumscription of regions of reality and history – fulfils an undeniable role as a fundamental operative category. 

But the concern with boundaries in their different aspects is not limited to the contemporary age. Ancient literature in the broad sense of the word was also deeply concerned with boundaries. 

This panel will focus on this concern and explore how boundaries were thought and discussed in Antiquity. The panel will discuss the concept of boundaries in Ancient thought in three main dimensions: politics, ethics and epistemology. It will also discuss how the Ancient thought on boundaries relates to (or is influenced by) the fundamental political structures in which it is based (Archaic monarchy, democratic city-state and empire). Chronologically speaking, the goal is to cover the whole of Antiquity, while giving special attention to fundamental milestones of the Ancient thought on boundaries. 

More precisely, the panel will consider the way in which the Ancient thought on boundaries questions the already established conceptions regarding boundaries, thus promoting political as well as ethical and epistemological changes. Special attention will be given to three main categories: 1) the blurring of boundaries, i.e., the process of questioning that suspends the validity and rigidity of already established boundaries; 2) the crossing of boundaries, i.e., the moment of lack of definition of the outlines of the boundaries to be established and the movement of enquiry that seeks to reshape and establish new boundaries; 3) the reshaping of boundaries, i.e., the redefinition of boundaries through an effort of positive argumentation and justification. 

In exploring these issues, this panel will encompass a variety of subjects as well as many tendencies in classical studies and ancient philosophy. The purpose is to carry out up-to-date research that gathers and connects a variety of subjects whose study has been until now scattered and unrelated. Contributions from specialists, early career researchers and PhD students in philosophy, classical studies, political studies, and other related fields are welcome. Contributions that explore the connection between issues related to the concept of boundaries in Antiquity and their contemporary expressions are also welcome. By discussing the concept of boundaries in Antiquity, the panel expects to make a useful contribution to a contemporary problem that has deep (and yet still unacknowledged) roots in ancient thought. 

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