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The Melian Dialogue

Melian Dialogue is known as one of the influential dialogues in the field of literature. It can be considered a prominent indication of the facets of history and the evolution of political philosophy. This particular dialogue was written by Thucydides, who was also known as the first realist in the world.

An interesting fact about Thucydides is that he wrote only one literary work related to the features of war (Lebow, “Thucydides the Constructivist”). He explains the different aspects of the war between the two influential forces of Athens and Sparta. He successfully comprehends the idea of this particular war, which he considers a terrifying war. This specific dialogue is the proper and effective explanation of the war known as the Peloponnesian War. It is notable to mention that the main facet of the dialogue is to highlight the feature of power in a detailed manner. The main theme of the dialogue is the consideration of many crucial elements. Here, the focus is to distinguish the two main features of the Melian Dialogue, which can be identified as justice and self-interest.

Both the features of justice and self-interest can be categorized as the main themes of the Melian Dialogue presented by Thucydides. It is crucial to understand that both the aspects of justice and self-interest are differently explained with the consideration of the particular Peloponnesian War. The dialogue provides the necessary indication of the aggressive struggle of the two influential Greek groups, Athens and Sparta, to attain the features of power and self-interest. History witnessed the brutal approach of the people to gain their self-interest. There was an indication of peace in the case of Nicias, but the two groups continued indulging in the severe form of war, and the intensity expanded just due to their self-interest.

The particular and prominent philosophies of the Athenians and the Melians can be effectively identified through their particular approach toward justice. According to the Athenians, their self-interest is closely related to their particular definition of injustice. Their particular behavior with the Melian people was not the approach of injustice or the paradigm of forcing others. They consider all the aspects justified concerning the ultimate salvation of the city (Monten). They came up with the approach of surrendering people to their supremacy and form of power without any objection from the other concerned groups. On the other hand, the definition of justice is entirely different in the case of the Melians. They particularly connect the concept of justice with the facet of fairness. They effectively oppose the idea that actions can only be considered as a feature of justice if they come up with the proper and true reason. They explain the particular prospect related to the element of justice, which is that there should be proper consideration of fairness and justice in the particular paradigm of the danger of war. The main difference in the philosophical approach between Athenians and Melians is the proper understanding of their different approaches related to the aspect of aggression. The Athenians were all ready to use the form of power to suppress others with their consideration of self-interest and the particular approach of justice, which was entirely different from the Melians’ definition of justice.

Self-interest is another prominent feature of Melian’s Dialogue, which is presented by Thucydides. The particular feature of self-interest is defined by the author with the particular approach of “Realistic.” It explained the argument of Athens, which believed that it was their ultimate right to force themselves due to the necessary features of honor and interest. Athenians followed the direction of overcoming all the elements that appeared with the consideration and desire of the kingdom. They connect the paradigm of self-interest with the approach of justice. They believe it ethical and realistic to adopt the facet of power, which is not unjust as it determines their self-interest. They adopt the necessary approach to particular and different forms of belief. They formulated their approach with the particular argument that the feature of self-interest has the capacity to push towards powers, and it is absolutely justified. They present the particular argument that self-interest behavior cannot be criticized when it comes to the attainment of power and authority.

The particular consideration of justice and self-interest in the case of Athenians only comes up with their consideration of power. They want to dominate Melians and consider it as their fundamental right because of their strong position. They adopt the facet of power to define both the terms of justice and self-interest. They believe that as they are strong, they can do everything they want, and it is completely justified to fulfill the paradigm of their self-interest (Lebow, “Power, Persuasion, and Justice”).

To conclude the discussion about this particular dialogue, it is crucial to mention that it immensely highlights the issue of the problem of justice as it is defined and explained differently by the groups of Athenians and the Melians. The Melians request the Athenians to show some flexibility and humanity when it comes to the dispute between them. The problem of justice immensely occurs because Athenians had different interpretations of justice as they believed it morally correct to sustain their feature of power and self-interest. They forcefully rejected the offer of the alliance as the ruling was their ultimate interest. This particular dialogue provides different interpretations of both the terms of justice and self-interest on the basis of the difference in philosophies.

Work Cited

Lebow, Richard Ned. “Power, Persuasion and Justice.” Millennium, vol. 33, no. 3, 2005, pp. 551–81.

—. “Thucydides the Constructivist.” Richard Ned Lebow: A Pioneer in International Relations Theory, History, Political Philosophy and Psychology, Springer, 2017, pp. 87–113.

Monten, Jonathan. “Thucydides and Modern Realism.” International Studies Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 1, 2006, pp. 3–26.



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