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What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living
Melissa Lane

Honorable Mention for the 2012 Green Book Festival, General Non-Fiction
A New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Honor Award for 2012

Paperback | 2013 | $21.95 | ISBN: 9780691162201
Hardcover | 2011 | $52.50 | ISBN: 9780691151243
256 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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An ecologically sustainable society cannot be achieved without citizens who possess the virtues and values that will foster it, and who believe that individual actions can indeed make a difference. Eco-Republic draws on ancient Greek thought--and Plato's Republic in particular--to put forward a new vision of citizenship that can make such a society a reality. Melissa Lane develops a model of a society whose health and sustainability depend on all its citizens recognizing a shared standard of value and shaping their personal goals and habits accordingly. Bringing together the moral and political ideas of the ancients with the latest social and psychological theory, Lane illuminates the individual's vital role in social change, and articulates new ways of understanding what is harmful and what is valuable, what is a benefit and what is a cost, and what the relationship between public and private well-being ought to be.

Eco-Republic reveals why we must rethink our political imagination if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and other urgent environmental concerns. Offering a unique reflection on the ethics and politics of sustainability, the book goes beyond standard approaches to virtue ethics in philosophy and current debates about happiness in economics and psychology. Eco-Republic explains why health is a better standard than happiness for capturing the important links between individual action and social good, and diagnoses the reasons why the ancient concept of virtue has been sorely neglected yet is more relevant today than ever.


"To deploy Plato may seem one of the more desperate strategies for saving the planet. Classical Athens had no inkling of environmental catastrophe, and Plato hated democracy. But in Eco-Republic Melissa Lane succeeds wonderfully not only in separating the useful in Plato from the useless, but also in demonstrating that the useful contains a surprising amount of what we need if we are to survive. . . . Lane demonstrates that the humanities, so far from being negligible, can play a vital role in averting environmental catastrophe."--Richard Seaford, Times Literary Supplement

"Lane makes a compelling case that the Greek vices of pleonexia (overreaching desire for more than one's share) and hubris (arrogance against natural order) need to be disparaged with the same vigor today as they were by the ancients. . . . Eco-Republic offer(s) important intellectual provocation to reevaluate current inertia on environmental policy. Whether or not Plato may be our guide on these matters, the roles of science and the humanities in grappling with ecological urgency deserve to be deliberated."--Saleem H. Ali, Science

"Lane's intriguing implication is that sustainability leadership is as much about fostering a new mindset as it is about adopting cleaner technologies or more equitable social policies. Leaders in the ancient world thought and made decisions differently. They understood that they were embedded in an interdependent social web and they knew that their decisions had to take into account not just self-interest but the collective interest as well."--Gregory Unruh,

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