[A Trio of Seminars—Short Version: Seminar Three 8.iv.2013] A Trio

[A Trio of Seminars—Short Version: Seminar Three 8.iv.2013]
A Trio of Seminars on Sovereignties – Seminar Three
The Third Sovereignty Seminar: The Individual*
Peter McCormick
Individual Sovereignties
§14. Individual Sovereignties
14.1 A Composite Account of Self-Sovereignty
14.2 Immanence and Transcendence
14.3 Evaluating the Composite Account
Discussion Seminar Three §14 and Concluding Remarks
§15. Cycladic Europe: the Marble Lady of Naxos
15.1 Early Cycladic Marble Figurines
15.2 Nature and Provenance
15.3 A Canonical Folded-Arm Figurine
15.4 Another Folded-Arm Figurine
Discussion Seminar Three §15 and Concluding Remarks
*Copyright C 2013 by Peter McCormick. All Rights Reserved.
Draft Only: not authorized for citation in present unrevised form.
§16. Cultural Meanings
16.1 Cultural Meaning
16.2 Religious Contexts
16.3 Meanings: Philosophical vs. Cultural?
Discussion Seminar Three §16 and Concluding Remaks
§17. Philosophical Significance: TBA
Discussion Seminar Three §17 and Concluding Remarks
§18. A Third Set of Interim Conclusions:
Bounded Sovereignties III (TBA)
18.1 Endogenously limited individual sovereignties
18.2 Exogenously limited individual sovereignties
18.3 Religiously limited individual sovereignties
In Brief
A final stage of our inquiry here into the earliest European
backgrounds for an enlarged understanding of today’s overly
narrow interpretations of sovereignty as almost exclusively state
sovereignty focuses now on the idea neither of limited political
sovereignty nor of limited social sovereignty but on that of
individual sovereignty as also necessarily limited.
We begin as earlier with a critical description and appraisal of
another contemporary account of individual sovereignty under
the guise of a so-called composite account of self-sovereignty.
Recalling several salient details of this account will then sharpen
our awareness of what we may be able to retrieve from another
step back into the Aegean Bronze Age historical and conceptual
origins of modern notions of individual sovereignty that are still at
the center of our reflections today.
Proto-European Aegean Cycladic cultures (ca. 3200-2000 BCE
arguably reached one its several highpoints in the sculptured
human forms first developed in the Early Cycladic II Period from
2800 to 2300 BCE.1
The symbolic representations of this highpoint of Cycladic culture
may be found especially in the unprecedented sculptural
creations of what appears to have been a loosely related school
of outstanding artists.
Archeological interpretations of one of these artist’s most
striking creations point to the fundamental salience of a certain
form of individuality. This individuality is very carefully traced in
the sculpturally detailed forms of individual standing persons,
mostly but not exclusively women, called figurines.
I follow here the development charts of K. Iliakis reproduced in Daskalakis 1994 and
Doumas 2000.
The quite particular characterization in these figurines is evident
in the various artistic means chosen not just to stylize but also to
individualize a genuine kind of individual sovereignty.
This individualized sovereignty may perhaps best be illustrated
with the details of the outstanding Folded-Arm Figurine from the
Spedos Phase of Cycladic culture with its sculpted torso, lower
body, and carefully shaped legs together with its lyre-shaped and
upward turned flattened face.
This individualized sovereignty, however extensive, was
nonetheless also clearly limited by at least the creation of other
major figurines in several other competing Cycladic island
workshops such as at Saliagos, Melos, and elsewhere.
§14. Individual Sovereignties
In Seminar Two we focused on the significance of the Middle
Minoan culture’s male statuette, the Palaikastro Kouros, for identifying
representations of several more of the earliest settled European
values. With the help of the reflective work of John Rawls and Jürgen
Habermas we also saw how some artistically represented ethical
values might be taken as provoking second thoughts today about just
what ethical and in particular social values might figure in various
draft preambles to an historically sensitive eventual EU constitution.
We need now in Seminar Three to deepen our reflective concerns
with a larger than exclusively political understanding of sovereignties
in the light of culturally meaningful and philosophical significant
aspects today of some of the most significant artworks from the
origins of European civilization in the Bronze Age Aegean.
After our reflections on political sovereignties in the first part of
our inquiries and then on social sovereignties in the second part, we
now take up in this third and final part related issues concerning
individual sovereignties. Some distinguished work in contemporary
political theory will be our initial guide.2
14.1 A Composite Account of Self-Sovereignty
In her 2005-2006 Gifford Lectures, published in expanded form
under the title Sovereignty: God, State, and Self,3 Jean Bethge-Elshtain
sets out both an historical as well as thematic account of different
kinds of sovereignty. Her perspective, like that of R. Jackson (2007)
whom we took as our initial guide in Seminar One, combines both
political science and the history of ideas.
Unlike Jackson’s perspective, however, Bethge Elshtain is more
concerned with political theory rather than with political science as
such. Moreover, she places much more historical emphasis on the
medieval and pre-modern periods. Still more, unlike Jackson she
explores in great detail both the natural theologies of Augustine and
Aquinas as well as the work of the central Protestant reformers, Luther
and Calvin.
Finally – and it is this aspect of her account that will occupy us
here – Bethge Elshtain’s account of sovereignty pays much attention to
the idea of the self, or what she calls “self-sovereignty,” in the
contexts of personal or individual sovereignty. because the scope of
her treatment of sovereignty is much wider than any exclusively
Note that political theory as a field of inquiry is identical today with neither political
science nor with political philosophy.
New York: Perseus Books, 2008. Unless otherwise noted, further references here to
this book are enclosed in parentheses in the text.
political account or social account, we will find it convenient to refer
to her work hereafter as a “composite account” of sovereignty.4
The first key idea in this composite account derives from the
understanding of medieval political theory in terms of “a bewildering
variety of overlapping jurisdictions, none of which could claim de facto
the kind of absolutism that sovereigns began to embrace from the
sixteenth century or so on” (p. xv). These overlapping jurisdictions,
while requiring today fresh analysis and discrimination, nonetheless
had the virtue of taking sovereignty itself as being an “inclusive” rather
than an “exclusive” notion.
That is, not only political but also religious considerations were
then understood as being part of the basic notion of sovereignty itself.
In this respect, medieval political theory might be said to have imitated
medieval practice where no clear borders stood between the regnum
and the sacerdotum (pp. 40-47).
Now, part of the greatness of Hobbes’s achievements with
respect to delimiting the notion of sovereignty was to eliminate all
such overlaps by taking political sovereignty as absolute sovereignty.
Thanks largely to that extraordinary work, the Westphalians6 in 1648
were able conceptually to mark out absolute state sovereignty in such
clear, if later much disputed, terms that the recurring devastations and
For another composite account see Philpott 2001.
Cf. Jackson 2007, pp. 24-33.
For the Westphalians and “Westphalian sovereignty” see Philpott 2010. Recall that
Westphalian sovereignty is, in Krasner’s 1999 account, the principle that “states
have the right to exclude external authority from their own territory.” Westphalian
sovereignty is to be contrasted with international legal sovereignty, the principle that
“international recognition should be accorded only to juridically independent
sovereign states.”
catastrophes of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) came to an end.
The reverse side of Hobbes’s intellectual achievement, however,
was that no larger notion of sovereignty was left on the table. Neither
any notion of divine sovereignty nor of social sovereignty nor of
individual sovereignty could compete with the absolute political
sovereignty that Hobbes so magisterially laid out against the
backgrounds of his bleak views on human nature in his 1651
masterpiece, Leviathan.7 Only later, when John Locke brought back
into discussion, mainly in his 1689 Essay Concerning Human
Understanding, some of the previously banished connections between
politics and religion, was there a new move set on foot to recapture
some of the earlier breadth of vision that the pre-Hobbesian uses of
sovereignty had already included.8
Besides this idea of the importance of an inclusive understanding
of sovereignty that that the composite account emphasizes, a second
key idea about individual sovereignty in this account also deserves
special attention. That idea is a suggested distinction between hard
and soft versions of self-sovereignty.
Since Augustine’s debates with the Pelagians about whether
human beings could take the first steps towards salvation without
God’s grace, what may be called hard self-sovereignty can be
understood in terms of power. On this view, the self is both “legislator
and enforcer: the self is a kind of law unto itself, taking the form of a
faux categorical imperative, faux in the sense that one could not
See especially N. Malcolm’s Introduction to his recently published three volume
edition of Leviathan in Hobbes 2013.
Cf. Locke 1979 and the discussion for example in Wolterstorff 1995, pp. 261-280.
Note that Locke’s larger discussion is in the Essay and not in either the Two
Treatises on Government and the Letter on Toleration, both published also in 1689
but anonymously. For critical discussion of those texts see Rawls 2007, pp. 103-155.
coherently will that there be no daylight between one’s own will and
universal willing” (p. 172). Thus, the hard version of self-sovereignty is
all about “power, self-encoded, enacted whenever the self sees fit”
(Ibid.). Hard sovereignty is the sovereignty of the Pelagian individual.
By contrast, the soft version of self-sovereignty is all about
relaxing or repudiating “any standards on, or for, the self” (p. 173). On
this version of self-sovereignty, the soft sovereign self “ongoingly
affirms itself, validates itself . . . [for] the only valid rules are those I
make for myself” (Ibid.). Soft sovereignty is the sovereignty of the
Augustinian person.
What is especially important about this distinction between hard
and soft self-sovereignty for our concerns with trying to win a fuller
understanding of necessarily limited individual sovereignties is the
realization that neither of these kinds of self-sovereignty is
satisfactory. For the hard version of self-sovereignty, with its
commitment to the absolute autonomy of the self, rules out any
genuine community of personal sovereignties. And the soft version of
self-sovereignty, with its commitment to the exaggerated fluidity of the
self, leads to the loss of any proper critical distance from community.
On this composite account, then, “each features a monistic,
voluntaristic notion of the self, the self ‘as one’ with its projects” (p.
204). If hard sovereign selves stand alone, soft sovereign selves “are
absorbed in a collective or group project” (Ibid.).
Thus, this composite account of self-sovereignty, or of what we
are calling here individual sovereignty, comprises at least two key
notions. The first is the idea that individual sovereignty must be
properly inclusive, and the second is the idea that properly inclusive
individual sovereignty must be neither a hard nor a soft self-
sovereignty. Rather, a properly inclusive individual sovereignty must be
open to the transcendence of both the state and society, of both
political and social sovereignties.
Individual sovereignty, in short, must finally be construed in such
terms that the relations between transcendence and immanence
determine its proper limitations.
14.2 Immanence and Transcendance
One persisting problem with these two key elements of the
composite account of individual sovereignties is the unresolved
tension between the individual’s necessary participation in a political
and social world and the individual’s necessary critical distance form
any particular political or social world as such.
The participation is necessary in the sense that part of what it
means to be a human being is to be socially and politically part of a
larger whole. And the critical distance is necessary in the sense that
part of what it also means to be a human being is to exercise the
capacities of self-consciousness in such ways as to remain irreducible
to one’s political and social world. Or, in the familiar religious idiom on
which this composite account often relies, one must, so to speak, be in
the world but not of it.
How then can we reconcile this double necessity, the necessity
of belonging and the necessity of critical distancing?
On several of the terms of this composite account, individual
sovereignty is properly a matter of making room for transcendence in
the midst of immanence. Making some sense here of that distinction
will be fruitful for making still more specific our intuition that individual
sovereignties, like political and social ones (even if not “just like”
them), are necessarily limited sovereignties.
Transcendence on the composite account comes into discussion
when one takes a close look at the nature of the absolute monarchy
during the French Revolution. For the theorists of the time, the
absolute monarch was the intermediary between the two realms of the
worldly and the other-worldly, of the immanent and the transcendent.
Indeed, the task of the French revolutionaries, as they themselves
understood it, was “dethroning the semi-sacred body of the one – the
king – the living mediator between heaven and earth, the transcendent
and the immanent – and rethroning [sic], via a ‘religion of reason’ a
collective sacral body, le people, the people, the general will to which
all must pledge ‘Amen’ without reservation” (pp. 141-142).9
On this composite account, the revolutionary program of radically
replacing an individual royal person (the king) with a collective person
(the people) as the intermediary between the transcendent and the
immanent had two central consequences. Together, these two
consequences resulted in changing radically many of the previous
understandings of both the transcendent and the immanent.
Thus, for one, the transcendent lost its consistency. The
transcendent became “remote, gauzy, dematerialized, a vague ‘beyond’
but, in reality, presentist and based on a particular manifestation of the
self” (p. 142). Conversely, the immanent became more substantive. The
immanent, “rather than emerging chastened from the experience of
‘revolutionary virtue’ and less tempted toward sovereign excess and
grandiosity, goes in the other direction and sacralizes a finite set of
temporal arrangements” (Ibid.).
The general outcome of these two consequences was promotion
Note that this in fact controversial reading in the composite account of sovereignty
of one of the main tasks of the French Revolution is Camus’s interpretation in his The
Rebel which Bethge Elshtain cites at some length. See Camus 1956, pp. 106-122.
of the immanent at the expense of the transcendent at both the
political and the individual levels. “Denial of the transcendent and a
correlative divinizing of the experiences of ‘self’ or the state,” Bethge
Elshtain writes in summary, “fuels a self driven to certain sorts of
extreme ‘on the edge’ experiences as a way to feel wonder and awe,
and a state driven to a form of ‘overcoming’ or transcendence that
courts triumphalism: there are markers of monism, even nihilism”
14.3 Evaluating the Composite Account of Sovereignty
There is much that is helpful in this composite account of
individual self-sovereignty. The retrieval of the quite important
medieval backgrounds to the major elaboration of the key notion of
sovereignty today in the seventeenth century as well as the careful
reminders of the relations between politics and religion in some of the
central writings of the Reformers are significant correctives to what
can often be a rather blinkered or overly abbreviated reading of the
origins of modern understandings of sovereignty.
Moreover, as we have seen, the composite account of individual
self-sovereignty usefully reminds us of several crucial distinctions in
trying to understand sovereignty better. The distinctions are between
inclusive and exclusive sovereignties, between hard and soft
sovereignties, and between the vertical sovereignties of
transcendence and the horizontal ones of immanence.
Nonetheless, at least three critical points suggest the need for
still further reflection about the nature of individual sovereignties as
necessarily limited sovereignties.
The first critical point concerns the pertinence of the exclusive-
inclusive distinction with respect to individual sovereignties in
particular. Admittedly, this distinction applies in a fruitful way to our
understandings today of political and even social sovereignties. Still,
its application to the quite different domain of individual sovereignties
is not so evident. For in this domain, unlike in the other two domains,
whether one can speak properly of the exclusive and the inclusive is
Thus, rather than speaking about how individual sovereignty can
be exclusive of other sovereignties such as the political or the social,
perhaps we do better to speak of individual sovereignties not in terms
of exclusive and inclusive but in those of internal and external. Thus,
political and social sovereignties arguably are better understood as
being external to individual sovereignties rather than individual
sovereignties being such as to exclude political and social
A second critical point arises with respect to the usefulness of
the distinction between hard and soft individual sovereignties. For it is
not evident what gains we may realize in terms of better understanding
the necessary limits of individual sovereignties by talking freshly of
hard and soft individual sovereignties instead of continuing to talk
about absolute and relative individual sovereignties. The second,
traditional distinction, for example, arguably renders more service than
the more contemporary one in this composite account between hard
and soft individual sovereignties. This is especially the case when we
try to account for some of the causal mechanisms that mainly bring
about the negative consequences of any exaggerated individual
And a third critical point, the most important one, concerns the
central distinction in this composite account between the
transcendent and the immanent. This distinction, unlike perhaps the
other two, is certainly pertinent to our concerns with understanding
the necessary limitations of individual sovereignty. For it captures a
dimension that the previous accounts of political and social
sovereignty have, perhaps for good enough reasons, underplayed. That
underlying and very important distinction is between the political and
the religious. And as we have noted one of the strengths of the
composite account is its emphasis on the major significance of the
religious. For it is the religious that brings into critical discussion the
ineluctable human tensions between the immanent and the
On reflection, however, what seems still lacking in the composite
discussion of immanence and transcendence is a higher resolution in
the analyses of each of the two central terms.10 That is, if we are to
understand better the limitations of individual sovereignty, then we
need to refine our understanding of both the immanent as such and the
transcendent as such. Restricting our account just to their roles as
correlatives if we have not provided independent account of each of
these notions in particular is insufficient.
There are of course different basic types of transcendence and
different basic types of immanence. Moreover, not all of these different
types can be properly paired as correlatives. Still more, the roles of
these different and polymorphic concepts differ appreciably depending,
to take but one of several factors, for instance on the particular
domains in which we are employing them. Thus, the immanent in the
domain of issues arising in the philosophy of art is not necessarily the
same at all as the immanent in the domain of metaphysics. Similarly,
the transcendent in the domain of the philosophy of religion is not
necessarily the same at all as the transcendent in the domain of social
See for example the entry on “transcendence” in Honderich 2005.
In our continuing inquiries then into the necessity of limited
individual sovereignties we will need to be more careful about
specifying our particular domains of inquiry. Morover, we will need to
take note of some important non-correlations between various senses
of transcendence and immanence than seem to be the case in the
composite account of self-sovereignty we have looked at here briefly.
Concluding Remarks
Among many other virtues, the composite account of selfsovereignty is rich in history and in distinctions. After noting those
virtues and, in addition, having noted as well several critical points
that must be kept in mind, we may now find it useful to take up still
another and here final excursus into the Aegean Bronze Age cultures
where so many of our central cultural notions today first took their
very tentative forms.
Specifically, we will now look at the earliest proto-European
culture in the Aegean Bronze Age, namely the Cycladic culture. Our
concern will be to retrieve if we can, with both sufficient historical and
conceptual care, several almost forgotten insights into the nature in
particular of individual sovereignties as necessarily limited.
§15. Cycladic Europe: the Marble Lady of Naxos
Following on our considerations of symbolic golden embossed
funerary masks dating from the closing centuries of the Late Helladic
Bronze Age on the Greek mainland, and on our reflections on a
symbolic Minoan male statuette dating from the Middle Aegean Bronze
Age on Crete, we now turn still farther back. Here we take up the
appearance in the Early Aegean Bronze Age (ca. 3200-2000 BCE) of the
familiar symbolic white marble female figurines dating from the first
permanent settlements in the Cycladic islands of the Aegean Sea.
15.1 Early Cycladic Marble Figurines
Archeologists and ancient historians tell us, cautiously, that the
singular culture if not civilization in the Greek Aegean of what
Herodotus called the Cyclades
begins with the first Neolithic
permanent settlement known there so far.12 This culture appears
roughly at the middle of the fifth millennium BCE.i The Greek mainland
backgrounds to the Cycladic figurines are to be found in the Middle
Neolithic (ca. 5800-5300) ii double figurines from Thessaly.13
Archeological excavations on the tiny islet of Saliagos in the
straits between the Cycladic islands of Antiparos and Paros have
uncovered evidence for a much later communally organized permanent
settlement in the collectively constructed defensive works and in the
several stone houses these works enclose.14 Other later sites
exhibiting features of the same Saliagos culture have also been found
elsewhere in the Cyclades, notably on Naxos, Mykonos, and Thera.15
By the end of the so-called “Keros-Syros Phase” of Cycladic
For a recent overview of early Cycladic culture see Bintliff 2012, pp. 102-122. The
reference for Herodotus is to his Histories, V, 31.
Doumas 2000, p. 18. For the Late Neolithic see Tomkins 2010, esp; pp. 39-42.
See the drawings in Figure 3.10 in Bintliff 2012, p. 75.
Cf. Evans and Renfrew 1968. See however Doumas 2000, pp. 36-37 on the
significance of the defensive works that appear suddenly at this time.
For the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age see Renfrew 2010, esp. pp. 86-90, Barber
2010a, pp. 128-129, Barber 2010b, pp. 162-166. Cf. Broodbank 2008 and Davis 2001.
culture in the transitions between the Early Cycladic II and III periods
ca. 2300 BCE,iii a great decline occurs in the carving of these white
marble figurines. They are succeeded by much less artistically realized
schematic figurines and “the solid, soulless forms which confirm the
poverty of the period.”
Many scholars currently understand the Late Neolithic Saliagos
settlement as, among other things, a center for preparing the much
prized obsidian, a black, sharp, volcanic, glassy stone, for export and
distribution to many earlier Neolithic permanent settlements on the
Greek mainland.17 There, mainlanders would further work the obsidian
into cutting devices not just for butchering but also for carving marble,
which is a white, soft, crystalline stone.
As imported obsidian remains from the Franchthi cave in the
Argolid and other evidence demonstrate,18 however, long before the
founding of the Saliagos settlement some Neolithic mainlanders were
already braving the seas to visit the Cyclades from roughly 8000-7000
BCE onwards.19 They continued to do so for the next several thousand
years. But only with the later development of more reliable boats and
seafaring skills
of the late Neolithic could mainlanders establish
permanent settlements on Saliagos and on other islands in the
Doumas 2000, p. 36.
See Shackley 1998.
Cf. Jacobsen 1981. For the Franchthi Cave see Bintliff 2012, pp. 33-37; cf. Pullen
2008, pp. 20-21.
Cf. Strasser et al. 2010.
Cf. Broodbank 2000. The citation from Sikelianos at the beginning of Part Three is
anachronistic here since boats with sails appeared later than the figurines we are
examining. Still, the poem may give a sense of the sensations of early mariners.
Cyclades such as on Melos for more obsidian and on Naxos for emery.21
With these settlements the elements for the emergence of one of
the most singular manifestations of Cycladic culture generally were in
“With obsidian,” as one specialist has written, “the prehistoric
islanders could cut the soft marble into shapes.”
And with emery
they then could “polish and smooth [the] marble without leaving behind
any scuffs or colors,” thus imparting to the soft marble “the soft patina
of the stones on the shore.”
This innovative technology made
possible, among other inventions, the creation of the early Cycladic
distinctive artifacts first discovered at the end of the nineteenth
century and now called Cycladic figurines.24
Before, however, trying to discuss the cultural meanings of
several of the most representative of these artifacts, specifying their
nature and their provenance is a priority.25 Indeed, to be thorough, one
would need “to record the location and number of found figurines, the
other objects they are found with, their depositional histories, how
they were made and later broken, the history of their existence, and
their use life from the moment they were formed, through the many
uses and reuses, to their recycling and eventual discard.”
originally many of these figurines displayed tattoos, 27 painted
Broodbank 2008, p. 51.
McGilchrist 2012, p. 31.
Ibid. On marble-carving in the Cyclades see Doumas 2000, pp. 42-43.
See Renfrew’s 1972 typology of figurines reproduced in Bintliff 2012, p. 115. Cf.
Doumas’s later and somewhat different typology in Doumas 2000, pp. 44-45.
“few have been recovered from their original context of deposition rather than via
the antiquities market; there is no clear guide to their function” (Bintliff 2012, p. 113).
Tsonou-Herbst 2010, p. 219.
Broodbank 2008, pp. 48-49;
features,v and jewelry.
Here, we must settle for something much more modest.
15.2 Nature and Provenance
During the third millennium BCE
almost 2000 figurines are now
known to have been produced in the Aegean areas.vi Figurines are
“small-scale representations of humans, animals, and objects,” the
same specialist writes, “that were regularly produced throughout the
Bronze Age in the Aegean, continuing an extant tradition from the
Neolithic period.”
Cycladic and Minoan figurines continue to appear after the end of
the Early Aegean Bronze Age. By contrast “the mainland tradition of
female figurines with exaggerated body features dies out in the Early
Bronze Age.” It is important to remember, however, that the production
of figurines has its high point in the Early Aegean Bronze Age and then
declines afterwards in the Middle Aegean Bronze Age while at the
same time their production increases dramatically in Crete.30
Figurines are handmade, small (between 0.05 and 0.20 m. in
height), rather numerous, and found mainly in cemetery graves and
sometimes in the households of settlements. Materials vary but most
early figurines are made of clay and a good number are also made of
white marble. In some cases details of the early marble figurines are
highlighted in bright colors.31
Cf. Renfrew 1972.
Ibid., p. 211.
Ibid., p. 215.
Ibid., p. 211. Cf. Hendrix 2003.
In these respects figurines are unlike figures. Figures are larger
than figurines; they are between 0.35 to 0.69 m. They are also rarer -only 43 late Minoan and 17 Mycenaean figures are currently known.
Figures, for example the “Palaikastro Kouros,” are similar to small
statues. Figures thus are statuettes. Further, figures are wheel made.
Moreover, they are found perhaps exclusively in sanctuaries and ritual
sites like the ritual site where the “Palaiskatro Kouros” was found.
Well-documented examples are from the excavations at the Phylakopi
settlement on the Cycladic island of Melos and from the so-called
“Keros Hoard” under excavation since the 1950s.33
Figurines from the “Keros Hoard” are notoriously difficult to study
because grave robbers in the 1960s devastated the site where very
many fragmented objects were found. They destroyed the architectural
contexts, and then flooded the antiquities markets with the stolen
goods as well as with fake figurines.34 Although there is as yet no
scholarly consensus regarding the functions of these specific figurines,
whether strictly ritual or not, they have been found mainly in
cemeteries and settlements. Ongoing excavations on Keros are partly
designed to provide much needed further information on this point.
Archeologists have found many figurines (“up to fourteen”) in
individual tombs with the burial. And “both male and female figurines
are interred with many valuable grave goods or none at all. [But] they
are not equally common in all islands.”
The spatial distributions, chronologies, and typologies of the
Renfrew 2010, pp. 89-90; cf. Renfrew 1985, Whitelaw 2004, and Renfrew 2007.
Cf. Renfrew 1985 and Sotirakopoulou 2008.
Doumas 2000, p. 30; Broodbank 2008, p. 50.
Tsonou-Herbst 2010, p. 214.
early white marble figurines are complicated and controversial. 36 We
will thus find it useful here to narrow our focus to one distinctive type
only of the in fact quite various Cycladic white marble female figurines.
This type is the more anatomically detailed, so-called “Folded-Arm
Figurines” which replace the still earlier schematic figurines. In
particular, we will focus on the slender, Folded-Arm Figurines,vii
standing “on tiptoe with the head tilted back and the arms folded over
the stomach” of the Spedos variety.37
Perhaps one of the most important of these figurines is the
female figurine, one of the so-called “canonical” figurines attributed to
a supposedly distinctive styleviii of “the Goulandris Master,”
on view
in the N. P. Goulandris Foundation Collection in the Museum of
Cycladic Art in Athens.ix
15.3 A Description of a Canonical Folded-Arm Figurine
Here is the catalogue description of this piece.
“214. Female figurine
“White marble. Chipped on the shoulders and head.
H. 63.4.
Provenance unknown [possibly southern Naxos].
Coll. no. 281.”
“Lyre-shaped head with large conical nose and pointed chin. Markedly
sloping shoulders. The arms and small breasts are rendered in relief.
The pioneering work is that of Renfrew 1965, 1985.
Ibid., p. 211.
Cf. Getz-Gentle 2001. Note that attributions to individual “masters” on the basis of
unique individual artistic styles while “persuasive” remain controversial. See Renfrew
and Bahn 2012, p. 413.
Slightly concave incisions demarcate the neck and the limbs from the
trunk and emphasize the joints of the knees and ankles. Incisions
indicate the fingers and shallow grooves the toes. The limbs are
distinguished by a shallow cleft and flex slightly at the knees. Traces of
pigment preserved on the chest and the back of the head, where it
evidently coated the coiffure: a curved band runs down from the right
shoulder to the right forearm, two diagonal bands down the head and
neck at the base of which they separate and terminate in two curls,
each reaching low down on the back.”
“Canonical type, [late?] Spedos variety. The largest known intact work
attributed to the ‘Goulandris Master.’”
15.4 Another Folded-Arm Figurine
For comparison and contrast here is another catalogue
description of a similar figurine.
“178. Female figurine
White marble. Badly eroded on the face and right thigh. Pale
incrustation in places. H. 47.2. Provenance unknown. Coll. no. 311. Lyreshaped head with forehead tilted backwards. The arms and breasts are
in low relief. The modeling of the top of the thighs also defines the
pubes. The legs are flexed at the knees and the calves separated, while
the fingers and toes are incised. The figure is distinguished by its
relative slenderness, its curvaceous profiles and the rounded modeling
mainly on the arms and abdomen.
Canonical type, one of the large-scale works of the early Spedos
§16. Cultural Meanings
Doumas 2000, p. 147 and Fig. 214 ; cf. Getz-Preziosi 1987, p. 160, note 27.
Doumas 2000, p. 133.
With these general contexts in mind and with these catalogue
descriptions if not the actual figurines before us, we may take up the
question of the cultural meaningfulness of such figurines.
16.1 Cultural Meanings
We have already discussed briefly in the previous seminars some
of the general definitional problems concerning the very idea of culture
and cultural meanings. There are, moreover, a host of related
interpretive issues that cluster around the cultural meanings of
symbolic, ritual artworks in particular.41 Here, however, we need only
recall that ancient historians and archeologists approach such
artifacts almost invariably with a particular set of interests and
Thus, with respect to the early Cycladic figurines in particular,
“scholars have searched for interpretations based on certain criteria,
and then they [have] questioned whether the archeological record
preserves any clue to help uncover the meaning figurines had for their
makers and owners.”
But, while not uninformative, the results have unfortunately been
meager. Indeed, so far are specialists today from reaching any
consensus about the cultural meanings of these enigmatic figurines,
that even after years of excavation and study the best known of these
specialists and one of the world’s greatest living archeologists has
declared: “We do not know, and we shall probably never know, quite
why they were made.”
See Renfrew and Bahn 2012, pp. 410-416, and Insoll 2011.
Tsounou-Herbst 2010, p. 210.
Cf. Renfrew 2003, p. 77; cited in Tsounou-Herbst 2010, p. 2010.
Even if, as here, we restrict ourselves very greatly just to Female
Folded-Arm Figurines of the canonical types of “The Goulandris
Master” of the late Spedos variety in the Syros Phase towards the end
of the Early Cycladic II Period (2800-2300 BCE), we still must ask many
Were these figurines made “simply and solely to be ‘good to look
at’” as Renfrew himself has suggested?
Was there an important
functional difference between the figurines made of clay and those
made of white marble? Or were they ritual objects to be used at
sanctuaries? Or were they funerary artifacts to be buried with the
deceased? Or were they elite household luxury items? Or, since some
were found near tomb burials of children, were they just made as
educational objects, or even as toys?
Or did their functions vary, and not just from one site to another
but from one time period to another? Or even within a particular
setting, were their functional transformations the same during their
use lives, as in the case of many much later Minoan and Mycenaean
figurines? Why are some figurines apparently unique pieces and others
figurines in a stylistic series?
Or were they made as religious representations? Were they
meant as votive offerings? Or were they household shrine objects?
Were they primarily individual or community possessions? And why
were some buried respectfully and others discarded in trash deposits?
Unlike the meaningfulness then of figures like the Palaikastro
Kouros, the cultural meanings of at least figurines like those of “The
Goulandris Master” that we have focused on here were apparently
much more various.45
The archeological contexts in which archeologists have
unearthed these figurines and the assemblages in which they have
been found are indeed many and varied. That remains the case even
when we restrict our considerations to those archeological contexts in
the Cyclades only, specifically during the Syros Phase,46 and leave out
of account the Early Helladic mainland sites, the Early Minoan sites,
and the still later Bronze Age Aegean sites where similar figurines with
apparently different functions have been found.
None of the Cycladic sites, however, whether taken alone or
together, allow of any definitive assignments of the functions of even
this very narrowly selected subgroup of figurines to any one particular
sphere of human activity. Their cultural meanings would seem to be
almost as various and multiple as the sites in which they have been
found so far. And even such sites where still further discoveries are
being made, as in the Dhaskalio Kavos site on Keros where
excavations are still continuing,47 have yet to provide sufficient
materials to answer these questions satisfactorily.
16.2 Religious Contexts
Still, even our quite limited probings in the vast literature
disclose roughly four main approaches to the cultural meaningfulness
Ibid., p. 217.
“The very wide distribution of the shapes of the Syros phase illustrates that a
single Cycladic Culture prevailed throughout the archipelago. . . .” (Doumas 2000, p.
35. Doumas divides the Early Cycladic Period (2800-2300 BCE) into first the Kampos
phase and then into the longer Syros phase (p. 20).
Cf. Renfrew 2006, Whitley 2007.
of the finest of these pieces. Thus, the majority of specialists in
Aegean archeology today are willing to grant that the great number of
religious contexts in which they have been unearthed does not exhaust
the cultural meaningfulness of the Cycladic figurines. Nonetheless,
they seem to hold that the religious accounts for most of the cultural
meanings of such figurines.48
Others, however, have noted that the religious contexts often
provide much information not just about cult practices and sanctuary
arcana. These religious contexts also provide information about the
groups of people who were the actual users of these figurines.
Accordingly, this second group of archeologists, the minority, believes
that the major cultural meanings here are to be understood more as a
function of mainly ethnic identities rather than of mainly religious
Other archeologists have called fresh attention in particular to
the archeological contexts in which these figurines have been found.
“The find contexts,” one specialist has written recently, “show that
figurines had a varied existence. They were not religious artifacts for
all people at all times. Some considered them religious if or when they
had been made efficacious through ritual. Others recycled, reused, or
threw them in the trash.”
And still another group of archeologists has called attention to
the presence of what they call “a priori assumptions” that lie behind
the almost exclusively religious or almost exclusively ethnic
interpretive approaches. To avoid such methodological pitfalls, these
archeologists hold that less problematic interpretive approaches
should start from the idea that other alternatives must be sought out.
See Whitehouse and Laidlow 2007.
Tzonou-Herbst 2010, p. 219.
“To be able to produce these,” perhaps their most important
advocate writes, “we need to record the location and number of found
figurines, the other objects they are found with, their depositional
histories, how they were made and later [often deliberately] broken,
the history of their existence, and their use life from the moment they
were formed, through their many uses and reuses, to their recycling
and eventual discard. We can then infer the lifestyle of figurine
16.3 Meanings: The Philosophical versus the Cultural?
Some have pursued this critical approach further. “Inevitably,”
one archeologist writes, “archeological interpretation consists of
facts, but it also depends on the imagination and speculation of the
archeologist. The multiple interpretations produced for figurines
demonstrate that. Figurines are enigmatic and will continue to puzzle
us. They have their own idiosyncratic characteristics since they are
creations of landscapes, times, and people that no longer exist. We
attempt to revive their worldview, thoughts, and perceptions as they
portrayed them in these objects.”51
When such an approach is adopted, what then is the outcome?
The basic outcome, the claim here runs, is that figurines are to be
understood as properly supporting no one interpretation; rather,
figurines are to be understood as supporting multiple interpretations.
Two reasons are adduced for this outcome. First, multiple
interpretations are to be sought rather than any one interpretation
These are the methodological principles that I. Tzonou-Herbst makes explicit in
2010, p. 209.
Tsonou-Herbst 2010, p. 2010.
because the cultural meaningfulness of these figurines is “fluid and
variable.” 52 And, second, multiple interpretations are to be sought
because, necessarily, archeologists read into the socio-cultural
environments that these figurines create by themselves producing
“meanings according to their own perceptions and interests.”
The result is that there must be many cultural meanings of Early
Cycladic figurines. How so? Because “their meaning or meaningfulness
is “fluid and variable and because archeologists construct those
interpretations, which reflect their readings of the sociocultural
environment that created the figurines. Archeologists produce
meanings according to their own perceptions and interests.”
One of the most recent of these interpretive approaches that
would seem to espouse such multiplicity while notably taking many
pains to anchor any particular interpretation strongly on evident
empirical evidence runs as follows.
“. . . one reasonable hypothesis would suggest that
Cycladic figurines could represent both real people, as
nodes of social interaction, and divine forces as nodes of
society’s ritual interaction. In the absence of a system of
genuinely large communities acting as a focus for individual
islands, or as centers for a much larger scale of sociability
between several islands, we may be seeing instead an
exaggerated emphasis on chains of smaller-scale
interactions: these would revolve around communal meals,
voyages, marriages, burials, festivals, and acts of group
Ibid., p. 220.
Ibid., p. 220.
worship. . . .”
With these remarks in place on the varied cultural
meaningfulness of such figurines as the Goulandris Master piece and
on their apparently necessary multiple interpretations, we now need to
draw a last series of interim conclusions about sovereignties, this time
about the nature of individual sovereignties. These interim
conclusions, when added to the previous two sets, will then set us the
task in our final section on “Re-Orientations” to make several direct
connections with renewed discussion of different kinds of sovereignty
today in the EU.
We will find that in addition to our concerns with the political
values of order and eventually the rule of law arising from reflections
on several salient artworks of the Mycenaean origins of European
civilization, and the social values of rankings and eventually of
pluralisms arising from reflections on several artworks of the Minoan
origins of European civilization, something further needs consideration.
For an historically representative preamble to any eventual EU
constitution would also do well to make room for incorporating the
moral and political individual values of proportions and eventually
dignity. And these values may be seen as arising from reflections on
several salient features of the Cycladic origins of European civilization
§17. Philosophical Significance (TBA)
Bintliff 2012, p. 116; see also pp. 74-77.
Discussion of Seminar Three §17 and Concluding
§18. A Third Set of Interim Conclusions III:
Bounded Sovereignties
Once again a short case study of the archeological findings of the
canonical Cycladic figurines from the zenith of the Early Cycladic
period when the Cycladic Culture had spread throughout the
archipelago at the beginnings of European civilization in the Aegean
Bronze Age suggests for critical discussion three major points about
the nature of individual sovereignties.
18.1 Individual sovereignties are limited with respect to other
individual sovereignties that exist within the same political and social
18.2 Individual sovereignties are also limited with respect to
individual sovereignties that exist beyond their own political and social
realm in other, quite different political and social realms.
18.3 Individual sovereignties are limited still more with respect
to their subordination to the norms, values, and ideals of religious and
spiritual realms.
After our investigations then of the limited nature at the outset of
European civilization of both political sovereignties at the apogee of
Mycenaean culture, social sovereignties at a highpoint of Minoan
culture, and individual sovereignties at the zenith of Cycladic culture,
we need now to bring our historical inquiries to a conclusion by turning
to the philosophical significance of these disparate but related cultural
Again with simplifications and adaptations, and as above in Chapter
One for the Mycenaean Civilization and in Chapter Five for the Minoan
Civilization, I use here for the Cyclades Bintliff’s 2012, p. 46 calibrated
Carbon 14 dated chronologies and abbreviations as follows (dates give
the approximate beginnings of the BCE periods):
7000: Pre-Ceramic Greek Neolithic
EN, or early phase of Neolithic with generalized uses of ceramics
MN, or middle phase of Neolithic
E-LN, or early-late phase of Neolithic
L-LN, or later-late phase of Neolithic
FN, or final phase of Neolithic
32OO: EBA, or Early Bronze Age
These figurines are “predominantly female, and are relatively
abundant in the Greek (and Balkan) Neolithic, with clear Near Eastern
parallels. However, little can be said about their meaning in any of
these contexts. The natural tendency has been to read the female
class (Figure 3.10) either as a goddess or a series of goddesses, or as
ancestors (in a female-oriented kinship system or matriliny), or, given
the ample proportions of most, as symbolic representations of (female
or general) fertility, which can then be extended to animals whose
fertility is also welcome” . . . Most recently several commentators
suggest that the meaning of figurines depended more on their context,
such as their deployment in different phases of human life or in the
circulation of the objects themselves. It is very unhelpful that their
occurrence in Greek Neolithic burials is little known about, due to the
poverty of such contexts; since the successor figurines from the FNEBA in Southern Greece occur frequently in formal cemeteries, and are
then considered as likely to have religious associations” (Bintliff 2012,
pp. 74-75).
To the Bintliff’s general scheme in endnote ix above should be added
the more particular chronologies for Early Cycladic culture from
Doumas 2000, p. 20 with period, phase, and presence on the islands
indicated as below with small changes. The highpoint is the Early
Cycladic II period from 2800-2300. “The florescence of the Cycladic
Bronze Age art . . . is in the ECI-II period of the third millennium BCE
(Grotta-Pelos and Keros-Syros phases” (Bintliff 2012, p. 114).
[4800: LN as above] / presence on: Antiparos, Thera, Mykonos, Naxos
4500: FN / Kea
3200-2800: Early Cycladic EC I / Successive Phases:
Lakkoudes Phase on Naxos;
[Grotta-] Pelos Phase on Antiparos, Despotikon, Thera, Melos, Naxos,
Paros, Siphnos; and
Plastiras Phase on Antiparos, Despotikon, Thera, Kea, and Paros
2800-2300: EC II /
Kampos Phase on Amorgos, Antiparos, Despotikon, Thera, Koufonisia,
Naxos, and Paros;
[Keros-] Syros Phase on Amorgos, Despotikon, Delos, Thera, Kea, Keros,
Naxos, Paros, Siphnos, Syros, Christiana
2300-2000: EC III /
Phylakapi I on Thera, Kea, Melos, Naxos, and Paros
2000: Middle Cycladic MC / Thera, Kea, Melos, Naxos, and Paros
“The very beginning of generalized settlement on the Cyclades, with
the late Neolithic Saliagos culture, is already associated with marble
figurines . . . but they belong to the Neolithic Greek and Near Eastern
style. In the following Final Neolithic, at Kephala on Kea, both ceramic
figurines and marble vessels show the development of characteristic
Early Cycladic styles, and the formal cemetery here also introduces
the Cycladic form of burials. However the florescence of Cycladic
Bronze Age art . . . is in the EC1-2 periods of the third millennium BCE
(Grotta-Pelos and Keros-Syros phases).
The commonest figurine appears on analysis to be female; with
folded arms, and naked, with a highly schematic appearance. It
appears throughout the islands and on their margins, such as parts of
the Eastern Greek Mainland and in Early Minoan Crete. . . . from the
minute study of the corpus of figurines . . . nearly all seem to have
been painted. . . . It can be suggested that the canonical
‘undifferentiated human,’ till recently forming the accepted reading of
the figurines now appears to be a distinctive individual, very much
affecting the possible meaning of such objects” (Bintliff 2012, p. 114).
There is a realization “from the minute study of the corpus of figurines
[by “ultraviolet reflectography and computer enhancement”: Broodbank
2008, p. 49], that nearly all have been painted. Although the aim was to
highlight detail, the effect dramatically alters their appearance with
hair and eye color and painted designs on the face (resembling
warpaint or tattoos rather than makeup, to my eyes). It can be
suggested that the canonical ‘undifferentiated human,’ till recently
forming the accepted reading of the figurines now appears to be a
distinctive individual, very much affecting the possible meaning of
such objects” (Bintliff 2012, p. 114).
Major collections are to be found in the Goulandris Collection of the
Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (see Renfrew 1991 and Doumas
2010), in the Getty Museum collection in Los Angeles (cf. Getz-Gentle
1995), and in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (cf. Sherratt 2000)
based on the early collections of Sir Arthur Evans. Cf. collections also
in the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Specifically, this type of figurine is called the Early Cycladic II “white
marble figurine, Late Spedos variety.” See Tsonou-Herbst 2010, Figure
16.1 (2), p. 212. This type of figurine corresponds roughly (excepting its
lyre-like head shape) to Renfrew’s 1972 IV.A figurine from the KerosSyros period reproduced in Bintliff 2012, p. 115, Figure 4.12.
“When talking of ‘style,’ Renfrew and Bahn 2012 remark, “we must
separate the style of a culture and period from the (usually) much more
closely defined style of an individual worker within that period. We
need to show, therefore, how the works that are recognizable in that
larger group (e.g. the Attic black-figure style [in the classic
categorizing work of J. Beazley in the mid-twentieth century]) divide on
closer examination into smaller well-defined groups. Moreover, we
need to bear in mind that these smaller subgroupings might relate not
to individual artists but to different time periods in the development of
the style, or to different subregions (i. e. the local substyles). Or they
might relate to workshops rather than to single artists” (p. 412). The
attempt to assign individual figurines to individual “masters” was
pioneered by Getz-Preziosi 1987. Related closely to the figurines
attributed to the Goulandris Master are those of the late Spedos
variety attributed to the so-called “Naxos Museum Master.” Other
masters are “The Copenhagen Master,” named because of a group of
stylistically individualized figurines at the Copenhagen Museum, “The
Steiner Master,” “The Schuster Master,” and “The Ashmolean Museum
Master” at Oxford (see Doumas 2000, pp. 46-48).
Doumas 2000, cat. no. 178, provenance unknown, showing front and
side views of the figurine and providing references to Renfrew 1991.
Cf. the later similar but characteristically larger figure (not figurine) in
cat. no. 222, possibly from Keros, and also of the Spedos variety, with
references to Renfrew 1986a and 1986b.
Philosophers today generally prefer to use the expression
“physicalism” rather than the expression “materialism.” Already
among such Pre-Socratic philosophers as Democritus and the Greek
atomists the idea that everything is composed ultimately of matter
was current. In the twentieth century the Vienna positivists linked the
notion of materialism more precisely with modern scientific
understandings of matter. Materialism became the view that every
existing thing simply is matter. Shortly after the middle of the
twentieth century, however, philosophers began to take over even
more precise scientific understandings of matter as ultimately forces
and energy. To capture this understanding more clearly, they went on
to use instead of the expression “materialism” the expression
“physicalism.” In what then I use the expression “physicalism”
generally as the simple view that everything in the space-time world is
physical, and particularly to denote the compound view that (a) all
mental particulars are physical particulars and that (b) all properties of
these mental particulars are physical properties. Note however that,
pace talk of forces and energy, what counts as physical remains
vague. Consequently, much continuing discussion in the philosophy of
mind concerns to how conceptually to manage such vagueness.