Archives for category: Existence

political_world_map_1200The modern state, which was born from the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, gave unrestricted control of the state to its rulers. This was the beginning of the concept of state sovereignty which is still dominant today. The most potent shaping forces in the contemporary world are the interactions of states when enforcing their interests, capabilities and goals. However, during the latter half of the twentieth century the supremacy of the state is under challenge. Global affairs are now dominated by intergovernmental organizations that transcend national boundaries. Global international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union have become independent global actors which implement their own foreign policies. Also groups of people carrying on various enterprises, such as multinational corporations, are examples of nongovernmental organizations which also transcend national boundaries and exert their influence globally.

Post Cold War, the United States has dominated world politics with the political scientist Francis Fukuyama even suggesting that it signaled ‘the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government’. However because of the ascendance of other great powers such as China, Japan, Russia and India others such as the journalist and foreign policy advisor Fareed Zakaria arguing that a ‘post-American’ world has arisen through which many other state and nonstate actors direct and define global society’s responses to global challenges. While the United States remains the greatest military power, other dimensions are emerging industrially, financially, educationally, socially and culturally that are moving the globe away from American dominance.

Although some suggest that competition between states could be renewed as they jostle for power in commercial relations, they also manage their security relations collaboratively which can be seen through their cooperation in fighting terrorism. The danger of the polarization of these states into two antagonistic camps could be managed through newly developed international rules and institutions that can manage these mixed-motive relationships. Rather than a quest for hegemony, these great and emerging powers are active trading partners and the question arises will these commercial relationships reduce the potential for future military competition?

Multilateralism could be the approach that these great powers take to cooperate to achieve global solutions to problems that affect all of their citizens. In an ever shrinking global environment in which all actors are increasingly reliant upon each other, a new global system of power and responsibility is more widely distributed. How these great powers will make their choices about war and peace will affect all people and determine the fate of the humanity.

A new concept of responsible sovereignty is emerging which requires states not to protect only their own people but also to cooperate across borders to protect global resources and address transnational threats. This entails intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) providing a greater role which ‘differs from the traditional interpretation of sovereignty being non-interference in the internal affairs of state’. Global problems require global solutions and an increasingly greater number of non-state actors have arisen on the world stage to engineer adaptive global changes.

The United Nations is the most prominent IGO to have emerged in the last sixty years. Its Charter sets its agenda as the maintenance of peaceful and amicable relations between states based upon humanitarian values and the attainment of common ends through the harmonization of state actors (143). Although it is challenged by persistent financial troubles it is an adaptable and reforming institution that remains the forum of choice for negotiation and promotion of humanitarian concerns. Through its claim to represent ‘the collective will of humanity’ it is in the position to act on issues of global relevance such as shaming human rights violators, combating global pandemics, and promoting conflict-prevention measures.

Increasingly, NGOs are becoming more influential in global politics through their ability to lobby and influence international decision making. This activism is able to transcend the traditional distinctions between what is local and what is global. Five of the most visible types of NGOs are non-state entities that comprise of ethnic or indigenous peoples, transnational religious groups, transnational terrorist groups and multinational corporations. However, while these groups have a strong participation in world affairs some of their influence can often be minimized by differing groups pushing policies in opposing directions.

With the world being far more interdependent than ever before and transactions across state borders increasing through the movement of people, information and trade, non- state actors are becoming more important to the shared concepts of people across the globe. The centrality of the state as an insular actor is declining. Although our constructed images of global politics are resistant to change, change is possible through the reshaping of our insular perceptions. By ridding ourselves of false assumptions about other people we can reshape the future of world politics so that it does not rely on the insular attitudes of singular states but on the basis of a global people. As the philosopher Martin J. Siegel observes: “War for survival is the destiny of all species. In our case, we are courting suicide [by waging war against each other]”. It is the realisation of this by state leaders that will finally lead to the end of the concept of the sovereign state.


Antti Laitinen, It’s My Island. Δράση κατασκευής νησιού, 14 – 25 Ιουνίου 2009.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

In the above poem John Donne articulates poetically the argument that Charles Taylor puts forth in his description of the self as being dialogical. Individualism is a modern concept based in the humanist perspective of the Renaissance. Modern philosophy, economic theory and political thought are all bound to uphold the rights of the individual. Such a concept has created political freedom, economic prosperity and self-expression. However, it is also responsible for an egotism and self-centredness which results in alienation and an unwillingness to contribute to the common good[2]. Taylor argues that ‘we see ourselves as selves, because our morally important self-descriptions push us in this direction’. However, a human being also exists within an ethical environment that must be assessed in accordance with some standards. To not have this environment would be totally disorientating and cause a crisis of identity[3]. To assess whether individual identity and agency can be accounted for sufficiently by a concept of a social or dialogical self, this essay will explore Taylor’s concept of the dialogical self and its ability to sustain agency.

Taylor contends that while we speak of ‘self’, our ancestors or other cultures might say ‘soul’. This shift in thinking has led to radically reflexive practices in the modern world. While thinking about one’s health or welfare is not radically reflexive, the active examination of subjective experience, such as scrutinizing one’s own thinking, is radically reflexive. Also, while the concept of the self is a notion of modern Western culture, even earlier societies had a sense of reflexivity. This can be seen through linguistics, as reflexive pronouns exist in all sorts of languages. This reflexivity can be seen as post-Cartesian thinking where one disengages from embodied prejudices and thinks outside the embodied self. Another form of reflexivity is the creative imagination, especially in the arts, which is a principle form of self-expression and individual identity in post-Romantic times[4].

A human being’s sense of self is established in the context of their ethical space. The concept of identity is related to ‘who I am’. I situate myself in a contextual environment that may include my relationships with family and friends, and my abilities and the occupations in which I am, or have been, engaged. This identifies what is ultimately important to me and how that relates to where my identity is in relation to this. It is not just a bare sense of self-awareness, which has no ethics attached. It is the concept of identity which is attached to this thick concept of the self involved in a moral situation that is a product of the disembodied perspective that has shaped the modern self. A crisis of identity results from this environment being disrupted, or becoming uncertain, where you may not know who ‘you’ are. Therefore the sense of self and its ethical space can also be profoundly culturally relative, with each sense of good having its own telos and standard of law[5].

In the modern world each individual has been expected to be a thinking mind that is self-reliant for their judgements. Yet, this thinking has recently been questioned with globalisation bringing new worldviews and cultural resources from non-Western societies into the debate. There is now a more intercultural understanding of global society[6]. The disengaged first person singular view can be found in the foundational works of Descartes and Locke, and this view of the self is made up of representations of the outside world and the fears and desires that accompany them. For Taylor, this is the basis of monological consciousness[7]. However, this notion of monological consciousness leaves out the body and the other.

Emmanual Levinas considered contact with the face of another as primarily ethical[8]. For Jean-Paul Sartre, it is when one is aware of another’s gaze that one becomes reflectively conscious. Through another’s gaze one becomes aware and recognises itself as the object[9]. Philosophers such as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein see the agent not essentially as a receptor of representation but as a being who acts in and on the world. What distinguishes its agency from something that is inanimate is its capacity for inner representations[10]. Through its body an agent reacts to the world and acts within it, recognizing patterns of appropriate action and the norms that accompany them. Pierre Bourdieu uses the word habitus for this level of social understanding[11].

The other plays its role in the encoded understanding of the rituals played between the self and the other. These rituals between people are coordinated action that sustain integrated agency, such as two people sawing or playing a duet, or in an orchestra or ensemble, or dancing. For Taylor, an important feature of human action is rhythm or cadence. It is crucial for these actions that they are shared. We must place ourselves in a common rhythm for them to work. When gesture is coordinated it has a flow. However, it falls into confusion when the flow is lost and becomes inept and uncoordinated. Therefore, the acts of a single agent can be called monological acts, while the acts of two or more can be called dialogical acts[12].

As an action is dialogical when there is a sharing of agency, these shared actions require a shared understanding and make up a common agent. Integration into a common rhythm is one of the features that this form of understanding can take. It s found in political and religious movements whose members are scattered but brought together in a common purpose, such movements as those Occupy Wall Street[13] or Anonymous are examples of movements that are scattered but have a common purpose to redress global injustices, and whose agents work together for this common purpose. They use the satyagraha or non-violent resistance method advocated by M.K. Gandhi.

As no man is an island, the monological subject is inadequate as an understanding for human life. An individual agent can only operate in the world effectively as a constituted part of a ‘we’, whether that be family, tribe, community, society, etc.. Taylor argues that ‘much or our understanding of self, society, and world is carried in practices that consist of dialogical action.’ Therefore our identity does not consist only in our individual properties, as we are also aligned with some social space and we define ourselves within this space through our dialogical actions [14]. Being able to understand the actions of another through putting oneself in their shoes, so to speak, is an important feature of maturity and prevents egocentricity [15].

Taylor extends Dennet’s concept of a narrative self and states that human beings are not only constructed of their own narrative but also of conversations with others. Alexis de Tocqueville asserted that democratic individualism posed an obstacle to civil society through its propensity for each person to withdraw into their own family/friend circle, leaving society to degenerate into ‘downright selfishness’. Individualism tends to predispose humans ‘not to consider their fellow creatures’[16]. Schopenhauer contends that as all malevolence is grounded in the idea that one is absolutely separate from other beings (‘someone else’s pain is no matter of mine’), so kindness is grounded in the unconscious knowledge that there is no ultimate reality in individuality. As this silent awareness grows, kindness passes into altruism or the subordination of self-interest to those of all other beings[17].

How can the dialogical self account for identity and agency when the self appears to be such a subjective concept? How can individuals work together as a common agent? For the exercise of agency, individuals must rely on social recognition in order to be able to form and sustain a self that has agency and identity. In the process of maintaining a stable self the exercise of agency depends upon social infrastructure which provides the framework for an individual’s identity to be formed. Once identity is formed agency can follow in the form of personal autonomy[18]. In the path to a mature personal autonomy that allows us to rely upon our feelings and intuitions, develop our sense of belief and to consider our projects and accomplishments worthy, we are constantly vulnerable to autonomy-undermining injustices, such as material deprivation or disruption to the social nexus[19]. The central idea, put forth by Honneth and Axel, is that the agency that comprises autonomy requires that an individual is able to sustain certain attitudes to oneself such as self-trust, self-respect, and self-esteem, and that these self-conceptions are dependent on the attitudes of others[20].

In her response to David Velleman’s claims that an individual’s self-image is made reflexive by some association to another that represents it as a subject, Catriona Mackenzie contends that this is like saying a person’s self-image is like a third-person representation of the person. While Velleman’s analysis of identity tends to ignore the perspective of others in relation to how these perspectives are used in our own summation of ourself, this third-person perspective, argues Mackenzie, is what allows an individual to recognise themselves as an individual[21].

A good example of the consequences of a breach of mutual recognition that comprises our dialogical self, are practices and institutions that express attitudes of denigration and humiliation. They erode an individual’s self-esteem and agency through a process that results in feelings of shame and worthlessness. Therefore, this example of identity and agency eroding effects of denigration make it clear how important an individual’s social environment is, since the autonomous self appears reliant on the establishment of relationships based upon mutual recognition[22]. Taylor also recognises this relationship between individuals and mutual recognition, stating that dignity is bound to the notion of ‘self-worth’ and that this notion probably exists in every culture[23]. It is reflected in such international documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)[24].

The UHDR is an instance of the establishment of legally institutionalized relations of universal respect for the autonomy and dignity of human beings, which is central to self-respect. Self-trust is reliant upon close relations of love and friendship. Also, networks of shared values within which community members can be acknowledged are central to self esteem[25]. These three relationships and their social contexts are significant in their contribution to autonomy[26]. The revolution in the seventeenth century of the theory of law began this expression of universal moral norms, of the right to life and liberty. What is different about modern concepts of morality is that they are bound in rights[27]. That these rights were decided by a group of people representing the demands of other people from across cultures shows that a dialogical understanding of the self is not only sufficient but necessary for human identity and agency.

Perhaps the most important concerns that we have about the autonomous rights bound in such legislation is its respect for the life, integrity, well-being and the flourishing of others. We infringe them when we steal or kill, maim or terrorise them, or even refrain from helping them when they are in distress. People may differentiate who they owe this moral concern to, but most contemporary thinking would say that they are universal to humanity and many would say to other animals as well[28]. The contribution that identity makes to being a morally accountable agent arises out of our concern for our own self. Such contributions may be a sustained interest in our future and, through a dialogical perspective, we present ourselves in social exchange with others to further the interpersonal enterprise of moral accountability and the realisation of a possible future for us all[29].

What is needed for an identity was explored by one man, Neill Ansell, recently. After a life of wandering he settled on becoming a hermit in a small cottage in Wales for five years. He lived self-sufficiently and so remotely that he hardly saw another person for weeks on end, and had no neighbours, vehicle or phone. He writes that in the first year he kept a diary of reflections on day to day events. By the second year the diary had become a nature journal on what birds he had seen or a record of the weather. By the third year it was a mere almanac recording any significant event within that year. Rather than solitude leading him to protracted self-reflection and self-awareness, as Ansell thought it would, he notes that he began to forget himself with his focus being turned completely to the world around him. Ansell writes: “It was as if we gain our sense of self from our interaction with other people; from the reflection of ourselves we see in the eyes of another. Alone, there was no need for identity, for self-definition… I am an absence, a void, I have disappeared from my own story.” This appears to confirm Dennett’s description of how human animals use narrative to construct a protective shell of identity around themselves.

Dennett describes his concept of a narrative self in this way: “We are almost constantly engaged in presenting ourselves to others, and to ourselves, and hence representing ourselves in language and gesture, external and internal…Our human environment contains not just food and shelter, enemies to fight or flee, and conspecifics with whom to mate, but words, words, words.” Interestingly, it was when Ansell felt a compulsion to have children that he decided to leave his isolated life and go back to live in the city. Taylor’s concept of the dialogical self appears to correlate with Ansell’s need for other human life. In an addition to Dennett’s concept of the narrative self, Taylor states that human beings are not only constructed of their own narrative but also of conversations with others. Conversation can move beyond simple coordination and attain a common rhythm. With one acknowledging being the listener as the other one speaks and vice versa. The self-interested bore is impervious to this rhythm and so convivial atmosphere is lost.

Perhaps the most important concerns that we have about the autonomous rights is its respect for the life, integrity, well-being and the flourishing of others. We infringe them when we steal or kill, maim or terrorise others, or even refrain from helping others when they are in distress. People may differentiate who they owe this moral concern to, but most contemporary thinking would say that they are universal to humanity and many would say to other animals as well. The contribution that identity makes to being a morally accountable agent arises out of our concern for our own self. Such contributions may be a sustained interest in our future and, through a dialogical perspective, we present ourselves in social exchange with others to further the interpersonal enterprise of moral accountability and the realisation of a possible future for us all.

Therefore, of the many accounts of selfhood, the dialogical self stands out as one that explains a human being’s position as part of the world. We are indeed clods of earth that are parts of the main, as Donne elicits so beautifully. When another human is violated, so is our own humanity. Our identity is bound inextricably with our place amongst others and within the greater world. We are involved in humanity through being human and it is in the protection of this identity that we must act, for a breach of humanity does not simply happen to another it happens to us as well.



Abelsen, P. (1993), “Schopenhauer and Buddhism”, Philosophy East and West, 43. 2 Anderson,J.& Honneth, A., (2005), “Autonomy, vulnerability, recognition, and justice” in Autonomy and the Challenges of Liberalism: New Essays , Christman, John Philip; Anderson, Joel , 2005

Ansell, N. (2011), “My Life as a Hermit”, in The Observer, 27 March 2011

Chaibong, H. (2000), “The Cultural Challenge to Individualism”, in Journal of Democracy, 11.1 (2000)

Dennett, D. C., (1991),”The reality of selves” in Consciousness Explained , Dennett, Daniel C.; Weiner, Paul , 1991

Donne, J. Meditation XVII, No Man is an Island, Souvenir Press Limited, 1988

Kühler, M. & Jelinek, N. (2010), “Autonomy and the Self”, in Preprints for the Advanced Study in Bioethics, Münster 2010/10

Levinas, E. (1961), “Totality and Infinity” , trans. Alphonso Lingis, Martinus Nihoff, Dordecht, (1987)

Occupy Wall Street (n.d.), accessed 18/11/2013

Oshana, M. (2013), “Self Identity and Moral Agency” in Autonomy and the Self, Philosophical Studies Series, Vol 118

Sartre J.P., (1943), Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, trans. Helen Barnes 1956, Routledge Press

Taylor, C. (1989), “Inescapable frameworks” in Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity , Charles Taylor

Taylor, C. (1991), “The dialogical self” in Interpretive Turn: Philosophy, Science, Culture , Hiley, David R.; Bohman, James; Shusterman, Richard , 1991

de Tocqueville, A. (1838), Democracy in America, 2.2.2, trans. Henry Reeves, (Kindle Edition)



Amatya Sen claims that ‘capabilities’ provide the relevant evaluative space for understanding equality. However Sen’s theory has been criticised on the grounds that it does not provide sufficient specification of which functionings and capabilities are valuable. This essay investigates the capabilities theory with reference to this kind of criticism and finds that, on the basis of its reliance upon universal values of liberty and autonomy,  Martha Nussbaum’s development of capabilities theory could provide a possible framework for specifying valuable functionings and capabilities.
The capabilities approach is dependent upon the evaluation of those particular functionings that are concerned with the value of life. In the study prepared for the United Nations, Amartya Sen put forward the argument that the capability approach is an improvement on other theories of justice, such as utilitarianism, Rawlsian egalitarianism and libertarianism because it uses other informational focuses to consider social advantage (p.30). The main criticism of Sen’s approach is that it is considered vague in that it does not provide sufficient specifications as to what he thinks are valuable. Martha Nussbaum has taken Sen’s capability approach and put what she argues are universal and concrete values upon it, allowing it to become a theory of justice rather than simply an evaluative space for reckoning what values we should hold.


Sen posits that his approach relies upon the functional states through which one can achieve quality of life. These include such functionings as being adequately nourished, having good health, and are functionings which would be obviously considered values by all. However, other functionings may be more complex but just as widely valued, such as belonging to a social group.  Sen stresses that, although individuals may differ in what they assess as valuable, it is important that these differences are acknowledged when assessing the capabilities that can be derived from these varied functions (Sen, 1993, p.31).

Therefore, Sen (1993, p.32) states that two necessary questions must be asked to evaluate these differing values:

1)      What is the object of the value?

2)      How valuable are the respective objects?

To identify the object of the value entails specifying what Sen terms as ‘the evaluative space’. For utilitarians this is usually defined as happiness or pleasure, whereas the capabilities approach entails identifying the evaluative space in terms of an individual’s capability to function. In this way the capability approach uses evaluative space to allow for a variety of human actions that are ends in themselves rather than means of living or freedoms, such as amounts of income, wealth, or resources etc. (1993, p.33). For Sen, when it comes to questions of freedom of choice then the criteria to be assessed must be linked to the evaluation of the range of capabilities that are open (1993, p.35).

An interesting point that Sen makes about the association of an evaluation of capabilities with freedom is that a person may have the advantage of more freedom than another but it may still result in her achieving less. For example, a person may have access to a capability such as a good education system but for reasons of personal characteristics, such as laziness or distraction, still not bother to achieve their best within it (1993, p.34). Therefore, Sen breaks down these associative values of human advantage as being:

1)      well-being achievement through the promotion of a person’s well-being;

2)      individual achievement through the pursuit of one’s goals; which result in:

3)      well-being freedom

4)      individual freedom (1993, p.34)

For Sen, the well-being of a person becomes an evaluation of the ‘wellness’ of that person rather than an evaluation of their contribution to the state or their success in reaching their goals. In this case, the functionings of the person will be comprised of the four elements above. With regard to this, the functionings of a person appear fundamental to the nature of their well-being, even if they are sourced externally from the person themselves, such as through the fulfilment of helping someone else (1993, p.36).

The functionings that assist well-being vary from the elementary, such as life-expectancy, to the complex, such as being a valued member of the community. The success of the agency of a person requires a broader assessment that can be narrowed to the evaluation of a standard of living to the broader sense of political freedom. It can even be said that the broader sense includes injuries to others, especially loved ones. These things all contribute to the success of someone developing an ability to be happy or the development of their well-being (1993, p.37).

An important thing to note is that, in Sen’s concept of evaluative space, capabilities are derived from functionings. The concepts of well-being and living standards belong to the assessment of functioning rather than capabilities. Therefore a capability is set in the space of functionings (1993, p.38). This calculus model can be used to assess basic needs and is crucial to the identification of capabilities. Sen states that an income-derived concept of poverty can be quite misleading when evaluation allows discrepancies in functionality. This is because the ‘poverty line’ in a developing nation may be quite distinct from that of developed nations (1993, p.40). Sen sees the most advantageous role of the capability approach being the ability to assess varied objects of value, rather than the utility-based approach of happiness or desire fulfilment as being the only value. It also does not place primary goods or resources as value objects, as do the Rawlsian and Dworkinian models (1993, p.44).

Sen (1993, p.49) thinks that it is in its plurality of purpose that that the capability approach works best, especially with regard to well-being and agency. This is especially relevant when judging standards of living and its particular usability lies in its egalitarian calculus that is dependent upon the truth of seeing individual advantages in capabilities and therefore its relevance to other sorts of social evaluation. In having the ability to assess the particular space for the evaluation of opportunities and successes of individuals, Sen asserts that the capabilities approach is an important addition to other theories of justice (1993, p.50).


Nussbaum takes Sen’s abstract mathematical calculus of functionings and put them into concrete terms through which constitutional guarantees can be drawn in civil society. This is Nussbaum’s universal approach (Nussbaum, 2000, p.70). Through applying concrete concepts Nussbaum breaks down standard theories of justice into questions that show how the capabilities approach can change someone’s life. The central question for Nussbaum is: “What is Vasanti actually able to do and to be?” The answer to this question is sought rather than the utilitarian approach: “How satisfied is Vasanti?”; or the  Rawlsian/ Dworkinian: “How much in the way of resources is Vasanti able to command? (2000, p.71)” For Nussbaum, the priority is to measure quality of life so that capabilities can match functionings. The next thing to do is to argue that if people fall below a functioning threshold that is necessary for justice then it should be considered urgent in terms of the injustice it creates (2000, p.71).

Nussbaum’s criteria is based upon the intuitive concept that particular functions are universal in human life and that it is these functions that separate us from other animals. Using the philosophy of Marx, she argues that humans need to be cultivated through education, leisure and self-expression, and also through socialisation with others. Nussbaum adds to this liberty of thought and association, as well as freedom of religion or worship, being fundamental to human autonomy (2000, p.72). A person has activities, goals and projects that are above the needs of nature and need support to fulfil these ideas. The essential element of this is that capabilities are sought for the individual, not groups or states or corporations. These entities can be valuable as means to ends but the well-being of the individual is the end itself (2000, p.74).

Nussbaum states that a list of concrete functionings cannot be a theory of justice however it does advise on what will be a minimum of social justice. She also adds that they could be adjusted to suit the various cultures that they encompass (2000, p.75). Nussbaum’s list of capabilities is a list in which all of the elements are distinct and equal in importance. She gives the example of the absence political rights not being able to be compensated by great economic growth (2000, p.81). Nussbaum states that the capabilities that go with these functionings are of three different types:

1)      Basic capabilities- innate equipment necessary for developing more advanced capabilities and morality, such as the capability of love, gratitude, reason and work;

2)      Internal capabilities- maturity, language, political reasoning, socialization, freedom of speech or religion; and

3)      Combined capabilities- where the environment is prepared so that individuals are able to exercise their major functionings (2000, p.85).

There is also a distinction between internal and combined capabilities in that when there is a sudden alteration in the environment in which the individual is placed, perhaps they have had to flee or migrate to another country, then they may not be able to enact their functionings. Nussbaum gives the example of a child who has never experienced freedom of speech or thought and is not able to develop the same capabilities as someone who was raised in a nation that protects these liberties. Nussbaum focuses on a social minimum of these capabilities as suitable for a system of justice (2000, p.86).

With regard to individual liberty and autonomy being safeguarded in such a system, Nussbaum states that it is important to note that ‘capability not functioning is the appropriate political goal (2000, p.87)’. This appears to coalesce with Sen’s evaluative space, where capabilities are derived from functionings. Nussbaum points out that the capabilities approach is much like Rawls’ notion of primary goods, but the difference between the capabilities approach and Rawls theory of justice is that it does not consider wealth and income as goals or ends, more a reliance upon Rawls’ natural goods such as ‘health, vigour, intelligence and imagination’ (2000, p.89). Capabilities are the things needed for functioning such that any rational being would want them. Even if one does not make use of all of them then no harm has been done if they had the choice (2000, p.88).

However, Nussbaum also states that it is important that capabilities such as bodily integrity may be regulated so as not to undermine the functionings of an individual. Although this may be seen as paternalistic it is perhaps synonymous with illegal contracts in that health and bodily integrity are so important to capabilities and functioning that there can be legitimate interference with choice up to a point (2000, p.95). This does seem to call into question whether Nussbaum would allow such choices as being a sex worker in her system of justice, but she does state that such decisions can be left to the democratic process in each nation (2000, p.95). Nussbaum also states that her list is not meant to be an exhaustive account of what is worthwhile in life and is a facilitation list rather than a tyrannical one (2000, p.95). Nussbaum contends that the political purpose of these capabilities is human well-being. She quotes Sen: ‘Political rights are important not only for the fulfilment of needs, they are crucial also for the formulation of needs. And this idea relates, in the end, to the respect that we owe each other as fellow human beings.’ (Sen, 1994, p.38)

Therefore Nussbaum sees her list of functioning capabilities as being closely aligned with universal human rights. They are quite similar to those initiated and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was ratified in 1948, and have been used by many different peoples to assert justice. One of members of the drafting subcommittee of this document stated: “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality”.(U.N. n.d.) Nussbaum’s list is intended to give fundamental access to capabilities in order to provide a stable society, which was also the intent of the UDHR. Nussbaum argues that these are not only Western notions of rights: “Ideas of activity and ability are everywhere, and there is no culture in which people do not ask themselves what they are able to do, what opportunities they have for functioning (2000, p.100)”. Considering that what differentiates humans from other animals is their need to realise their ideas, whether they be social, creative, technological, or scientific, it seems that Nussbaum’s argument about the universality of her functional capabilities is valid.

Rather than being a strict theory of justice, Sen’s capability approach has the ability to allow a framework that is both accommodating and adaptable. It has the ability to assess individual well-being and evaluate social arrangements so that policies may be designed that can enact just social change. Through being a practical guide it can inform citizens and governments of the directions that may provide desirable outcomes. While criticisms of Sen’s approach state that it is unclear about how it can be extended into a theory of justice, his non-commitment to single distributive rule allows his notions of functionings and capabilities to be a formula for an evaluative space through which justice may be approached. Nussbaum’s transfer of Sen’s evaluative space into a concrete list of functioning capabilities is comprehensive and is not limited to single-types of social systems but holds true for all human beings. Therefore both Sen’s formulaic approach and Nussbaum’s sufficient account of social justice could be used together to provide a constitutional guarantee of human rights.


  1. Nussbaum, M 2000, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, University of Chicago pp. 70-101
  2. United Nations (n.d.), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, viewed 5 April 2013,
  3. United Nations (n.d.), Universal Declaration of Human Rights: History of the Document, viewed 5 April 2013,
  4. Sen, A 1993, ‘Capability and Well-Being’, in M. Nussbaum & A. Sen (eds),The Quality of Life, Clarendon Press, Oxford pp. 30-52
  5. Sen, A, 1994, ‘Freedom and Needs’, The New Republic, January 10/17, pp. 31-38




The Sacred Ibis (Threskionis aethiopicus) once lived in Egypt and is depicted in many ancient Egyptian wall murals and sculptures. It is also found as mummified specimens at many burial sites and played a significant religious role, in particular during the Late and Ptolemaic periods. The ibis represented the god Thoth, god of wisdom, knowledge and writing, and was considered the herald of the flood[1]. It was of practical use to villagers as it helped to rid fish ponds of water snails that contained dangerous liver parasites[2]. However, it is now extinct throughout Egypt because of gradual aridification through swamp drainage and land reclamation[3].


Ibises are waterfowl found in swamps, marshes, riverbanks and coastal lagoons on almost all the continents. They eat grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and water beetles. They also eat worms, molluscs, crustaceans, fish, eggs, carrion and refuse[4]. They are large birds measuring up to 76cm in length with long legs and a thin downward-curved beak which is used by the bird to look for food in mud and shallow water. It has white feathers covering most of its body and black plumes on its lower back. The head and neck are featherless but covered in a black scaly skin. They are generally silent other than making a harsh croaking sound. Ibises have a gregarious nature and build colonies of up to 300, along with other species such as spoonbills, in trees and bushes[5]. Both parents attend a clutch of 2-4 eggs for about 3 weeks and then take turns feeding the nestlings. The young leave the nest at 14-21 days old but continue to be fed until they grow flight feathers at about 35- 48 days old[6]. However breeding success is generally very low, with an average of 0.01 young fledged per nest.


At the archaeological site at Saqqara, about 1.75 million ibis remains were interred and at Abydos there are thousands more. Another four million were found in the catacombs of Tuna-el-Gebel[7]. Organs were not removed from the mummies however, in 2006, an excavation of a Late Period tomb discovered a mummified ibis with snails in its bill. Other mummies with similar foodstuffs placed within them were also found within the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Peabody and Redpath Museums[8]. This suggests that food was placed there during the mummification process as a source of food in the afterlife[9]. Various radiographic findings of these collections have described the head and the bill being placed between the tail feathers. A layer of resin-impregnated linen surrounds the birds followed by further layers of plain linen[10]. Some of the birds have their body cavities emptied of organs but have small packets of rocks with perhaps some fish and a feather within them and some grains of wheat[11]. The ibises vary in age-at-death, and their position, resin treatment and ornamentation, with one hatchling being stuffed with grain. However, they all contain foodstuffs placed in the body cavity. It is suggested that the original contents were returned to the body[12].

A radiographic study from the Peabody Museum of the Abydos Sacred Ibis mummies showed that there were variations on positions, similar death (spinal fracture), and a similar mummification process, such as complete evisceration and replacement of gizzard and contents[13]. Other studies have shown that some birds were prepared for mummification by dessication through natron without evisceration[14]. These studies also show that the birds were covered in linen decorated with appliquéd images of Thoth, the god whom the ibis represented, painted features and appliquéd eyes, sometimes with the pupils made of glass[15]. Although a blue faience wadjet-eye amulet was found in an ibis from Abydos most birds were buried without funerary jewellery[16]. Radiographic analysis of mummified ibises from the Ancient Egyptian Tissue Bank found a frequency of skeletal pathologies that showed that the birds were mummified at a young age. Research is now being done into soft-tissue samples to see if there are any pathological disease markers because it is considered that diseases would have been prevalent in the ibiotropheia (the ibis feeding places) due to overcrowding, in-breeding and dietary factors[17].


The use of birds in cultic activities reached its zenith from the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty (664-525 BCE) to the Roman Period when the sanctuaries dedicated to the cult of the ibis were scattered throughout Egypt[18]. Birds for the cult were both raised in captivity and found in the wild. Royal subsidies of fields allowed the cultic administrations to feed the birds and raise capital by leasing land for cultivation[19]. It is not known how the expenses were covered for the operation of such an exhorbitant proposition as the processing of 10000 birds per year but some suggest that it could have been funded by a pilgrimage industry that used the votive offering of the mummified birds[20]. The cost of the cult would have been enormous in feeding and caring for the birds, with a separate pottery industry attached for making the vessels within which the birds were interred. However, it is considered that the royal subsidies showed that the royal house was particularly interested in the sacred animals[21].

Although ibises have a low breeding success in the wild, it is said that the sacred ibis is easy to rear if the eggs are removed and incubated[22]. The archaeologist, Sami Gabra, discovered not far from the Great Temple a garden excavated with a large reservoir which may have been a place to rear house birds. It is described in the Tebtunis Papyri[23]. Priests were to care for the flocks and incubate the eggs, and eggs have been found at ibis burial sites in Egypt[24]. Individuals may also have played a part in raising a large amount of birds as inscriptions on some bird mummy vessels show that not all of them were locally produced[25].


In Ancient Egyptian the ibis on a perch was the heiroglyphic for the god Thoth. Thoth is often referred to as ‘Lord of the Divine Words’ and recognised as the god of writing, scribes and wisdom. The Egyptians ascribe to him the invention of letters with the first letter of the Greek alphabet being hb or an ibis[26]. In the “Contendings of Horus and Seth”, Horus-Re emerges victorious to claim the throne but, in the process, loses an eye. Thoth reassembles the eye and accounts for it in The Eye of Horus: “I came seeking the eye of Horus,/ that I may bring it back and count it./ I found it [and now it is] complete, counted and sound, /so that it can flame up to the sky and/ blow above and below…”[27]. Thus the Eye of Horus becomes a counting tool used by scribes in their accounting calculations and known as the Horus Eye fractions[28]. An interesting inscription revealed scribal students and their life of continual study: “So he says namely, The one-who praises-knowledge, he says, “The ibises who are here, difficult is their food, painful is their mode of life.”[29].

The Book of Thoth is a modern title for a text from the Greco-Roman period which dealt with initiation into the House of Life[30]. It was used for training scribes and is structured as a dialogue between a Master, perhaps Thoth or a priest playing the role, and a Disciple[31]. At line 420 Jasnow suggests that it describes Thoth destroying an enemy of the sun-god: ‘I shall raise my hand to the great, great, great one [Thoth], and jubilate to the ibis who tramples the turtle’[32]. At line 412 Jasnow suggests it describes the weighing of the dead’s heart against the feather of Maat, a symbol of truth: “Let me hurry to the ibis who is at the top of his brush, he who has ordered the earth with his scale plates”[33]. A letter, preserved on papyrus known as IM E19422 and rolled and stored within the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel during the time of the Persian rule of Egypt in the period of Darius I (522-486BCE), was written by an administrator of the cult of the ibis at Hermopolis. The letter was a plea to Thoth listing injustices committed against the man[34]. These texts characterise Thoth in his form as an ibis being an administrator and minister of justice.




Because of its importance in its representation of the god Thoth, the ibis is depicted in many forms of Egyptian art, from appliqué to large three-dimensional sculpture. In the earliest times it was depicted as an ensign of the provinces and later became the hieroglyphic sign[35]. In the Middle Kingdom it featured on gold amulet necklaces and later frequently as faience, finely glazed ceramic beads or decorated wooden inlays. In the Late Period it was frequently found as a votive figure in ibis burial grounds. It is also rendered many times as a life-size figure in painted wood or bronze[36]. Ibises are also featured as an ibis-headed human on stone reliefs at the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Horus at Edfu, the Philae Temple of Isis[37] and on wall paintings at Beni Hasa and Thebes[38]. In 2010, archaeologists unearthed two large four metre granite statues of the god Thoth as an ibis-headed human from the New Kingdom Period in the city of Luxor at the temple of Amenhotep III[39].

Ashmunei has revealed a faience ibis which was put in a group of inlays decorating a wooden shrine. The multicoloured glaze of these inlays are produced by inlaying pastes of colours into hollows cut into the base before firing and polishing the surface. They are also found on the appliqués sewn onto linen-covered mummified bird remains[40]. The Thoth Rebus is a post New Kingdom amulet made of carnelian. It depicts a striding ibis crowned with a moon. The hieroglyph of Thoth is inscribed where it holds the feather of Maat in its beak. The amulet can be interpreted as ‘Thoth, Lord of Truth’ and highlights the primary aspects of Thoth as a moon deity and the healer of the eye of Horus, and also in his position as scribe in the underworld court of Osiris[41]. An ibis coffin made of gessoed wood, silver, gold leaf, rock crystal and pigment from the Ptolomaic period is a manifestation of Thoth and depicted with its silver legs bent as if brooding[42]. The coffin was found at Hermopolis which was the chief sanctuary of Thoth where the Temple was used for ceremonies and festivals[43]. The coffin itself retains the remains of an ibis within a cavity made from a covered hole in its back. It is also covered in such details as a necklace incised at the base of the neck, carefully rendered scaly skin and creases on the legs, with rock crystals outlined in gold inserted for the eyes[44].


Animals played a significant role in ancient Egyptian religion. In hieroglyphic script animals signify a quarter of the hieroglyphs. Humans did not play the central role in life as they did in other near East and Mediterranean religions. Hornung contends that humans were not considered the lord of the animals but more like partners[45]. Animals were seen as living beings like humans and gods. In the Shabaka text it states that creative forces are in ‘all gods, all people, all cattle, all crawling creatures, all that lives[46].

In Egyptian ethics it was necessary to morally consider animals in much the same way as humans. In a text of the first millennium BCE it reads: “I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked. I have given food to the ibis, the falcon, the cat and the jackal’[47]. As humans and other animals were considered living beings, gods could be represented in human and animal form as well as hybrid form[48]. Thoth was seen as the moon-god and the healer of the sacred eye of Horus-Re between whom there was a close connection[49]. Thoth prepares the way for Re to travel. Consequently Thoth is seen standing in the prow of the sun-boat and, in the Book of the Dead, it relates Thoth saying of himself: “ I have knotted the rope of the ship, I let the ferry sail, I bring the East nearer to the West”[50].

Thoth is also known as the god of wisdom who is capable of reconciling demoniacal and unpredictable gods such as Seth and Tefnet with more rational and ordered mortals[51]. In the Pyramid Texts it is Thoth that the other gods turn to for assistance. Thoth is the dreaded avenger of injustice (pyr. 2213)[52]. In two funerary texts Thoth acts as legislator and judge: “I, Thoth, am the eminent writer, pure of hands…the writer of the truth (maat) whose horror is the lie…the lord of the law…I am the lord of maat, I teach maat to the gods, I test (each) word for its veracity…I am the leader of the sky, the earth and the netherworld”. “I, Thoth, am protector of the weak and of him whose property is violated”[53]. Thoth is the word of the creator in the Shabaka Text and through this is the guardian of the regulations of creation[54].


The Sacred Ibis held a significant role in ancient Egypt in its representation of Thoth, god of writing, scribes, wisdom, time, justice and deputy of the sun-god Horus-Re. It was bred, nurtured, and mummified with the same attention to ritual given to many humans of that time. There is a large amount of archaeological evidence for the birds in Egypt, being the burial grounds at Saqqara, Abydos, Tuna el-Gebel and Hermopolis. The use of ibises in cultic activities meant that they played a major role in daily life helping to keep water clean and cleaning up refuse. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs featured the ibis as the first letter because of Thoth’s association with writing and scribes. The ibis, as the human hybrid form of Thoth and in its own form, occurs across art forms in Egypt, especially due to its  significance from the New Kingdom period onwards.   Although it is extinct in modern Egypt because of aridification, it is now found throughout the world where it successfully cohabits with humans in places such as parklands and wetlands.



  1. Bailleul-Le Seur, R., (2012), “From Kitchen to Temple: The Practical Role of Birds in Ancient Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 23-32
  2. Bailleul Le-Suer, R. (2012), “Birds as Protection in Life (Catalogue No.7)”, in Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.143-146
  3. Bailleul Le-Suer, R., (2012), “Demotic Letter to ‘The Ibis, Thoth’: (Catalogue 29)”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed.) Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 189-200
  4. Bailleul Le-Suer, R. (2012), “Coffin for an Ibis (Catalogue no.28)”, in Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, p.189-200
  5. BBC, (2012), “Sacred Ibis”, Science and Nature: Animals, viewed 4 February, 2013
  6. Bleeker, C.J. (1973), Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion,Volume 26, E.J. Brill, Leiden
  7. Christian Science Monitor, Archaeologists unearth statue of Egyptian god “Thoth”, 16 March 2010, viewed on 15 February 2013,
  8. Clark, R. & Rundle, T., (1978), Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt , Thames and Hudson, 1991
  9. Eichorn, G., (n.d.), Thoth: God of Wisdom and the Scribes- Travel Pictures from Egypt, viewed on 15 February 2013,
  10. Ezzamel, M., (2009), Order and accounting as a performative ritual: Evidence from Ancient Egypt, Accounting, Organisations and Society, Vol 34, Iss.3-4,  (2009), Cardiff University pp. 348-380
  11. Gabra, S., (1971), Chez les derniers adorateurs tu Trismégist. Biblioteque Arabe 119. Cairo: al-Hai’a al-Misrîya li’t-Ta’lîf wa’n-Našr
  12. Ikram, S., (2012), “An Eternal Aviary, Bird Mummies from Ancient Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 41-48
  13. Jasnow, R. & Zauzich, K., (2005), The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth, 2 volumes, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz
  14. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, (2013), Animal Facts: Sacred Ibis, viewed 4 February 2013,
  15. McKnight L.M., (2012), “Studying Avian Mummies at the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology: Past, Present, and Future”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp.99-106
  16. Scalf, F., (2012), “The Role of Birds Within the Religious Landscape of Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago,p.33-40
  17. te Velde, H. (1980): ‘A few remarks on the religious significance of animals in ancient Egypt’, Numen 27 (1980), 76-82
  18. Wade et al., (2011), “Food placement in ibis mummies and the role of viscera in embalming”, Journal of Archaeological Science 39, (2012) 1642-1647
  19. Wade et al., n.d., Backroom treasures: CT scanning of two ibis mummies from the Peabody Museum Collection, viewed on 7 February 2013,

[1] BBC, (2012), “Sacred Ibis”, Science and Nature: Animals

[2] ibid.

[3] Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens (2013), Animal Facts: Sacred Ibis

[4] BBC, (2012), “Sacred Ibis”, Science and Nature: Animals

[5] Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens (2013), Animal Facts: Sacred Ibis

[6] ibid.

[7] Wade et al., (2011), “Food placement in ibis mummies and the role of viscera in embalming”, Journal of Archaeological Science 39, (2012) p.1642

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid., p.1643

[10] ibid., p.1644

[11] ibid., p.1645

[12] Wade et al., (2011), p.1646

[13] Wade et al., n.d., Backroom treasures: CT scanning of two ibis mummies from the Peabody Museum Collection

[14] Ikram, S., (2012), “An Eternal Aviary, Bird Mummies from Ancient Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, p. 45

[15] Ikram, S., (2012), p.46

[16] ibid., p.47

[17] McKnight L.M., (2012), “Studying Avian Mummies at the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology: Past, Present, and Future”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, p.105

[18] Bailleul-Le Seur, R., (2012), “From Kitchen to Temple: The Practical Role of Birds in Ancient Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.30

[19] ibid., p.37

[20] ibid., p.39

[21] Bailleul-Le Seur, R., (2012), “From Kitchen to Temple: The Practical Role of Birds in Ancient Egypt”, p.39

[22] Ikram, S., (2012), p.43

[23] Gabra, S., (1971), Chez les derniers adorateurs tu Trismégist. Biblioteque Arabe 119. Cairo: al-Hai’a al-Misrîya li’t-Ta’lîf wa’n-Našr pp. 59, 156-58

[24] Scalf, F., (2012), “The Role of Birds Within the Religious Landscape of Egypt”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.33

[25] Ikram, S., (2012), p.43

[26] Gaudard, F. (2012), “Birds in the Ancient Egyptian and Coptic Alphabets”, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, p. 65

[27]Clark, R. & Rundle, T., (1978), Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt , Thames and Hudson, p.225

[28] Ezzamel, M., (2009), Order and accounting as a performative ritual: Evidence from Ancient Egypt, Accounting, Organisations and Society, Vol 34, Iss.3-4,  (2009), Cardiff University, p.356

[29] Jasnow, R., (2012), Birds and Bird Imagery in the Book of Thoth, in Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (ed), Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.73

[30] Jasnow, R., (2012), p.71

[31] ibid.

[32] ibid. p.72

[33] ibid.

[34] Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (2012), “Demotic Letter to ‘The Ibis, Thoth’: (Catalogue 29)”, in Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.192

[35] Clark, C.R. (n.d.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Sacred Ibis, viewed on 12 February 2013, p.181

[36] Clark, C.R. (n.d.), p.181

[37] Eichorn, G., (n.d.), Thoth: God of Wisdom and the Scribes- Travel Pictures from Egypt

[38] Clark, C.R. (n.d.), p.184

[39] Christian Science Monitor, (2010) Archaeologists unearth statue of Egyptian god “Thoth”

[40] Clark, C.R. (n.d.), p.184

[41] Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (2012), “Birds as Protection in Life (Catalogue No.7)”, in Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt,p.143

[42] Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (2012), “Coffin for an Ibis (Catalogue no.28)”, in Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, p.189

[43] ibid.

[44] Rozenne Bailleul Le-Suer (2012), “Coffin for an Ibis (Catalogue no.28)”, p. 189

[46] ibid., p.77

[47] ibid., p.78

[48] ibid., p.79

[49] Bleeker, C.J. (1973), Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion,Volume 26, E.J. Brill, Leiden, p.121

[50] Bleeker, C.J. (1973), p.121

[51]ibid., p.130

[52] ibid., p.134

[53] ibid., p.136

[54] ibid., p.137



The Captives, 2010, egg tempera, pigment and mixed media on board

Look, Glaucus, the broad-backed combers

are running high, storm clouds black out

Gyrae’s peak, and around my heart

a fear that rises from the unforeseen.  




In his novel Freedom and Death, Nikos Kazantzakis describes the revolutionary war fought against the Ottoman Turks in late 19th century Crete. He wrote about a small iconographic image of an emaciated woman, covered in blood, with her children clinging to her legs. It was this imagery that initially inspired the central figure in this nine panel granite frieze. However, I did not want my hero to be pitied; I wanted her to be feared. So I went back to the description of Athena- the warrior goddess, and clothed her in all her ‘daedalic’ glory. Her breasts are confrontational; her gun, a replacement for the sword; a belt of shot placed around her hips. This woman is not emaciated, she is an emancipator.

To Axion Esti is Odysseus Elytis’ evocation of eternal Greece, his experience of the Second World War and its aftermath, and his celebration of human life. Elytis won the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his poetry which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts the sensuous strength and intellectual clarity of a modern human’s struggle for freedom and creativity. It was the poem To Axion Esti that was an essential element in the work Anakronos. 

Finally, the composer Mikis Theodorakis, one of the giants of contemporary Greek arts, has been the mainstay of my work. His choral symphony of To Axion Esti is a sublime interpretation designed to urge humans to be their greater selves. The primal link between each of these great people is one that reaches back to the ancient past of Euripides, Socrates and Pythagoras, and endeavors to propel us into the future. Anakronos, therefore, is a message for the individual to resist totalitarianism of any kind. 

Nicholas Georgouras 2010

Nicholas Georgouras, 2005, Carrara marble, 250cm x 100cm

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Native American proverb


JE Thomas (2007), Invocation, 250 x 150 cm, oil on canvas


2006J.E.Thomas. “Lament”, (2006), 160cm x 120cm, oil on canvas