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8 Int'l Soc. Work 1 (1965)

handle is hein.journals/intsocwk8 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Proceedings of the Twelfth  International Congress of Schools of Social Work,
                   Athens, Greece,  September  9-12, 1964


                         Evanghelos  Papanoutsos*

T   HE  theses which I would  like to present have been
     drawn  from the simplest and shortest definition of
social work  which  can be  given:  Social work   is a
service rendered by  one  human   being to  another, to
help him  to overcome  the difficulties he encounters in
the course of his life both as an  individual and  as a
member  of a group.  Undoubtedly  this definition, apart
from  its value, suffers from being too general. A logi-
cian  accustomed  to the  catalytic method  of Socratic
dialectic would  have  no difficulty in rebutting it by
invoking  the existence of other kinds of service render-
ed  to members  of the community  with an identical end
in view  without, however,  entering the field of social
work;  for instance, the service which the lawyer offers
his client in settling some family business, or that offered
by  the employee of  a travel agency to a traveller in a
hurry  who  wishes to get as soon  as possible to a dis-
tant country.  I think, however, that it is a definition
which  is clear and indisputably practical and which can
also, at the cost of losing some precision, escape more
academic   subtleties. If we insist, not on  the  help
provided  to overcome   difficulties but on the service
rendered  by one  human   being to another, above  all
if  we give a  special connotation to the term  human
being  then the concept of social work acquires at once
an  overtone which   is completely appropriate and  dis-
tinguishes it as much from  the learned argument of the
lawyer  as from the adroit timetable of the travel agent,
to  adhere to my original examples. In our case, it is the
human   being  who  succours the human  being, and  that
help  is given  in its own  right, independently of the
nature  of  the help  and  the  outcome.  One   human
being   helps another.  What   does the  phrase mean?
This  is the beginning  of the problem  which  we  wish
to  examine.

    Greek  Civilization  -   A Universal   Heritage
    As soon as I pronounce,  in the course of reflections
 like these, the term human being, all those who have
 been  brought up  in a culture such as ours find them-
 selves immediately transported into a definite historical
 climate, on the  soil which nourishes the roots of our
 civilization, ancient Greece. I do  not  say this from
 vanity, or because  my  language  and  my  country  are
 Greek, nor yet because our Congress is being held to-day

on  the spot where  formerly the ancient city shone  in
the brilliance of its learning, and the beauty of its art.
The  heritage of the ancient Greek civilization is a uni-
versal possession and does not belong exclusively to any
one people, not  even to those who  live and die to-day
in the geographical setting where that civilization flou-
rished.  Moreover, our  discussion could develop to-day
in Siam  or  Paraguay and  our thinking  would  not be
the less influenced by Greece, as soon as that term which
compels  respect passes  our  lips - the term  human
being.  Why?

   Because that existential dimension, as contemporary
philosophical  language  terms  it, the  human being
(humanum) made his first historical appearance and
was  established decisively in the heart  of the  social
and  spiritual world of ancient Greece. Man and Greece
are correlates, their grandeur co-extensive. One cannot
be  conceived  or  exist without the  other.  It is not
apparently significant that, before the Greek era, history
had  not yet discovered man and his problems.  It would
appear  as if we  claimed that world  civilization began
with  ancient  Greece, but  this claim would  obviously
be  false. But it is significant that never before had the
human   being  been affirmed and recognised in so much
that  forms life and moral values, with such full aware-
ness  and  such  great pride, as in  the civilization of
ancient  Greece.  It is there that he attains his apogee
and  his triumph.  He  dominated  political life (concept
of  democracy),  poetry  (concept of  tragedy), thought
(concept  of philosophy).  You  will have noticed, when
visiting the  great museums   where  treasures of world
history  have been brought  together and exhibited, that
you   have no  need  of guide  or catalogue  to tell you
when   you  leave the galleries of the most ancient and
remote   civilizations and enter the  world  of Greece:
a  forest of human   beings existing for themselves sur-
rounds   you, sculpted in marble or painted  on the clay
of   vases, and a new  spirit arises within you: you are
in  the kingdom   of man.   Everything here, the natural
elements,   animals, gods, have  become  or  are striving
to   become  men,  because  there is here  the substance
which   henceforward   incorporates the greatest presence
  and the  highest worth  in the heart of  the Universe.
  This is exactly the spirit which classic hellenic thought

* Professor Papanoutsos is Secretary General of the Ministry of Education. Greece.

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