Rationality, Realism, and the Melian Dialogue Open Access

Hervey, David (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/j098zb09z?locale=en


Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War is often cited as the founding work of Realism in international relations and political philosophy, with Athenian speakers (among others) often stating that individuals and states are driven by fear, honor, and interest above all else, with justice being a secondary concern. Many scholars and philosophers who are influenced by Thucydides appear to view states and individuals as perfectly rational in their pursuit of interest. I argue that the Melian Dialogue, a key passage in the text, provides evidence that states and individuals are not, in fact, always rational, and that although they try to act in accordance with their interests, justice is not unimportant.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1 Chapter Two: Literature Review 6 Chapter Three: Models of the Melian Dialogue and Analysis 10 Chapter Four: Analysis of Models 22 Chapter Five: Results 34 Chapter Six: Athenian Decision-Making 39 Chapter Seven: Implications for Thucydides Interpretation 49 Chapter Eight: Significance for International Relations 67 Conclusion: Toward a New Classical Realism 73 References 76

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