Costruire l'umano in termini vegetali: φύω e φύσις nella tragedia greca

Alessandro Buccheri


The words φύσις and φύω allow for several translations in modern languages, "nature" and "to be by nature" being the most common. Assumed modern equivalents of φύσις and φύω seem nevertheless to obliterate most of the Greek notions’ distinctive traits. This paper is aimed at achieving a more "emic" understanding of their meaning through the analysis of works of Greek tragedy. I propose a prototypical model for the lexical meaning of φύω and φύσις, with "vegetal growth" as its central sense. I consider usages of the terms φύω and φύσις in relation to human beings as evidence for conceptual metaphors that structure in vegetal terms some aspects of Greek speakers’ understanding of human beings. This metaphor endowed humans with traits that they did not "literally" possess, participating in the construction of certain ideal models of humanity widespread in ancient Greece.

Buccheri_Costruire l_'umano.pdf463.58 KB