Canadian Journal of Political Science
The speakers in Thucydides who give voice to the sophistic thesis that might is right do not generally think that what they are releasing upon the world is a war of all against all. On the contrary, they are quite hopeful, like the modern utilitarians they anticipate, that their realistic assessment of the motives of men can serve as the foundation of an inter-state order based not on justice but on clear and certain power relations. The most perceptive of these speakers is Diodotus, who addresses his theory of imperial management to the difficult problem of the rise and fall of states. But the psychology upon which this theory rests points toward confederation in place of empire and toward constitutional government in place of democracy run by demagogues. It also implies a reasoner, perhaps Diodotus himself, who is master of his own desires. In the end Diodotus seems somewhat at odds with the sophistic rationalism he so ably espouses.
© The author
Coby, John Patrick, "Enlightenment Self-Interest in the Peloponnesian War: Thycydidean Speakers on the Right of the Stronger and Inter-State Peace" (1991). Government: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.