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 While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyMon 24 Dec 2018, 10:46

Hi Tim - will discuss the Logos when I've done the sprouts!


Merry Socratesmas doesn't have the same ring about it, does it?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 02 Jan 2019, 09:35

I'm sure the very notion of a 'mas day for the guy would have had Socrates in tears (though probably ones of laughter).

I sincerely hope this thread doesn't deteriorate into a discussion of the early Christian "take" on "logos". It would be an awful shame, having introduced Socrates into the topic, to then so cruelly dismiss his rather more studied and intelligent examination of the concept in favour of its bowdlerisation by those who simply made it all up as they went along, having borrowed the word from rather more logical thinkers without obviously having ever troubled themselves to actually understand the notion that accompanied the word (sic), or even to vaguely familiarise themselves with the discussion regarding "logos" up to that point.

I abandoned the notion of sprouts this year. In Oslo they were selling as "luxury food" - about six quid a pop for a small packet of sad little shrivelled specimens that wouldn't even generate a small and sneaky subliminal odour-zephyr, let alone a full-blooded yuletide post-prandial fart!
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 02 Jan 2019, 14:48

@nordmann wrote:


I abandoned the notion of sprouts this year. In Oslo they were selling as "luxury food" - about six quid a pop for a small packet of sad little shrivelled specimens that wouldn't even generate a small and sneaky subliminal odour-zephyr, let alone a full-blooded yuletide post-prandial fart!

You sound just like Martin Luther in his Table Talk. We'll make a good Protestant of you yet, nordmann!

MM has spoken (privately) of a similar dearth in France of the devilish little vegetables. Marks and Spencer have been doing chocolate sprouts - in little green (alas, plastic) nets. I'm sending MM some. You can have a net too. Happy New Year


@nordmann wrote:
I sincerely hope this thread doesn't deteriorate into a discussion of the early Christian "take" on "logos".  

I shouldn't worry. It's hard enough to get a discussion going at Res His on Larry the Cat these days, let alone the Greek v. Christian take on logos.

EDIT: Can't get sprouts to copy - sorry. Done it!

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 02 Jan 2019, 16:21

@Temperance wrote:

You [Nordmann] sound just like Martin Luther in his Table Talk. We'll make a good Protestant of you yet, nordmann!

Agreed, although Luther would surely have used Latin - not to curry favour with Rome but just to reach as big an international audience as possible - and so he would perhaps have used 'bumbulum'. This is a delightfully evocative Latin word that I only recently learned while reading about Roland the Fartere and Henry II ... but it is one that I certainly now intend to use as often as possible.

Have you really sent me some M&S chocolate sprouts? Oooo yum, je suis bien gaté! I hope you got the address, or rather my name, right (my omission, mea culpa) ... because I rather doubt my neighbours would understand green-coloured chocolates, shaped like mini cabbages. As I said, they are Belgians. Rolling Eyes
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 02 Jan 2019, 21:45

@Temperance wrote:
We'll make a good Protestant of you yet, nordmann!


I'm already so exemplary a Protestant I protest against received religion, period.

Can we bring this back to philosophy maybe, and Socrates' tears after the Spartan imposition of the junta (which we've chosen to ignore up to now)? Please?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 03 Jan 2019, 06:24

I cannot speak for MM, of course, but I am perfectly happy for you to remove all my posts which appear on this page.

In fairness though, you should also remove your own message, with its idiotic and inappropriate references to sprouts and farting, subjects which (presumably) have nothing more to do with a serious discussion of Socrates and the Spartan imposition of the junta (whatever that was - it would have been nice to have found out more) than my own.

If everything is deleted from this page, leaving Tim's post on the logos (21st December) as the last entry, you and he can then resume your usual erudite, serious and dignified discussion into which I shall intrude no further.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 03 Jan 2019, 08:16

I only asked for the discussion to steer back to topic. The farty sprout comment can remain - it was festive. And I would not be perfectly happy to see any posts deleted, including your own.

Socrates had made a huge personal investment in Attican patriotism - his military conduct and record speaks for itself in that regard, and his involvement in the protracted siege of Potidæa at which he observed huge suffering on the part of those trapped within the citadel that he himself had helped bring about was a major factor in both his later definition of personal worth and happiness as well as his staunch refusal to enter political life in Athens upon his return. His motivation for this huge investment was an absolute belief that the Periclean principles of democracy, which included a citizen's right to freedom of speech of which he availed more than most, were worth dying for, even committing war crimes for, and that he best served these principles after re-entering civilian life by remaining aloof from complicity in formulating political policies that by definition must compromise these rights on a personal level in order to maintain them in some form for the majority. He maintained this belief even when the war against Sparta turned against Athens after his military retirement, resulting in a catastrophic siege of his own city which led to Pericles' sacking, a plague that decimated the population, and ultimate Spartan victory.

So upset was he with what followed - Sparta imposed a rule by a junta of its allies over the city which maintained the appearance and structure of Periclean democracy but was in every other respect a murderous tyranny - that he even abandoned his stance on political activism and briefly entered public life as a representative of the "demos" who now had become effectively slaves of Sparta, at least in his eyes. This was a huge step for Socrates - and one he regarded as a personal tragedy on top of all the other tragedy that he and his fellow Athenians had already experienced. It meant compromising his own philosophical principles and an abandonment of the "question everything" approach to ascertaining truth, and at least according to Plato was a brief departure from his core beliefs from which he never really recovered. This was when he was also at his most publicly vulnerable, open to ridicule and outright assault on his character, as Aristophenes' "Clouds" had established, and after which he became "fair game" for any politically motivated character assassination afterwards - a change that he rather stoically accepted as inevitable and was fully aware would likely result in personal tragedy, as it ultimately did.

Yet at no point did he apparently bemoan his lot, or even work to correct the many false impressions and slanderous misrepresentations of his motives or actions in later life. His only regret, and one that he carried with him to the end, was the grievous loss of the Periclean democratic freedoms, the main one in his view being the absolute freedom to be contrary and quizzical. Plato, in his "Symposium" in fact has Socrates crying when contemplating this terrible blow to Athenian freedom of thought, which rather contradicts Tim's allegation in the thread title.

Those chocolate sprouts look even more dubious than the real thing ...
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 04 Jan 2019, 14:48

According to Xenophon, Socrates declared 'Gentlemen, I am your grateful and devoted servant but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you.'  I feel that both Jesus and John would have shared at least the second half of that sentiment.

Concerning John's take on Logos.  I heard John 1 v 1 - 14 read out twice during the Christmas period and it was certainly read out at many other churches all around the world.  I am afraid that nowhere have I heard Socrates take on Logos, whether reported by Plato or Xenophon (I doubt if 'The Clouds' covers it) read out to an audience.  Certainly in terms of getting his 'words' across, John has been far more successful; despite Socrates having a several hundred year start on him.

Just back from Paris, but I am afraid that I failed to check in any of the many greengrocers we passed, unfortunately no greengrocers where we live, as to whether or not they were selling sprouts.

I hear though that Brexiters are demanding that after 29th March there should be no further reference to Brussels Sprouts and that they should instead be referred to as British Sprouts.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 04 Jan 2019, 16:14

Well, this thread makes me realise how scant my knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy is.  I've heard of the names of course.  But forgive me for digressing just a tiny-winsy bit, nordmann and then I will allow the thread to carry on its merry way focused on the correct subject.  Thinking of nordmann's "happy new year" picture - about keeping warm, does the spinach have a similar effect to sprouts then? I had thought perhaps spinach fulfilled a similar function to mistletoe - that the little boy in the picture was perhaps holding up a sprig of spinach in the hope of a little girl kissing him so that he would have his love to keep him warm.  Right, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - cessation of material not pertinent to the thread (from me at least) will start - now.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 04 Jan 2019, 16:23

Tim wrote:
I am afraid that nowhere have I heard Socrates take on Logos ...

Nor will you, as Socrates operated within the logos rather than espoused or explained its use (which had long been done to everyone's satisfaction at the time by Heraclitus, at least to the point that even Socrates knew the difference between it and "mythos"). Logos as "reason" was a starting point for Socrates, not something he ever needed to question, embellish with extra meaning, or dissect further - its presence was self-evident in its application to any aspect of reality through the simple means of thinking intelligently. A far cry from where the early Christians ran with the concept.

Your quote from Xenophon is somewhat disingenuously presented when stripped of its full context, as in isolation it looks like Socrates is engaging in some form of religious "credo" statement. It is of course one line from a famous challenge reportedly made by Socrates to those who have just sentenced him and which relates specifically to the charge of having "corrupted" students by leading them away from devotion to the gods. Socrates, in this quoted part of his statement at the trial, quite cleverly illustrates which of them, accused or accuser, can make greater claim to nurturing the soul according to accepted spiritual standards and beliefs of the day. His use of a singular "god" (which he was quoted frequently as having used in his discourses) would have antagonised those opportunistically "holier than thou" political agents who were condemning him - and designedly so - as it overtly referred to the guiding dæmon which he claimed inspired him, and which itself had been brought up by his accusers as "evidence" of his blasphemy. Yet he and his personal "god", to which as he said he stubbornly owed obedience, between them had produced a more moral and honest philosophy than his accusers, for all their adopted piety, could pretend to emulate.

Hypocrisy was one thing that Socrates loathed and often targeted in his discourses as reported by his students, and there's nothing quite like religion to promote such speciousness. Far better to adopt a personal dæmon and take it from there - a circumspect and intelligently cautious approach to received faith in fact not a million miles away from core Protestant Christian theology.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 04 Jan 2019, 19:44

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
According to Xenophon, Socrates declared 'Gentlemen, I am your grateful and devoted servant but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you.'  I feel that both Jesus and John would have shared at least the second half of that sentiment.

Concerning John's take on Logos.  I heard John 1 v 1 - 14 read out twice during the Christmas period and it was certainly read out at many other churches all around the world.  I am afraid that nowhere have I heard Socrates take on Logos, whether reported by Plato or Xenophon (I doubt if 'The Clouds' covers it) read out to an audience.  Certainly in terms of getting his 'words' across, John has been far more successful; despite Socrates having a several hundred year start on him.

Just back from Paris, but I am afraid that I failed to check in any of the many greengrocers we passed, unfortunately no greengrocers where we live, as to whether or not they were selling sprouts.

I hear though that Brexiters are demanding that after 29th March there should be no further reference to Brussels Sprouts and that they should instead be referred to as British Sprouts.


Tim,

"I hear though that Brexiters are demanding that after 29th March there should be no further reference to Brussels Sprouts and that they should instead be referred to as British Sprouts."

Yes, yes British Sprouts first. A bit as the slogan from our extreme right nationalistic Flemish party: "Eigen Volk Eerst" (Own Folk First)... There is quite a fuss in Ninove, where the "Forza Ninove" (far right Vlaams Belang) (analogy with Forza Italia, which backed them) during the latest municipalities became the biggest party with 40% of the votes and they claimed the post of mayor, but now there is a coalition of other parties winning the mayorship. And now there was a march for "democracy", because the Forza Ninove with 40% is pushed into the opposition. This march is attended by the far right Vlaams Belang, the Schild en Vrienden that I mentioned in my "back to the thirties" thread and further far right thugs...
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Not sure if the brown skirts in the thirties dared to march behind a SOS democracy banner...

Kind regards from Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptySat 05 Jan 2019, 14:10

In a way, Paul, your seemingly way-off-topic reference to modern Flemish neo-fascism in a thread supposedly addressing our received view of Jesus and Socrates' relative rates of lachrymosity in response to perceived deterioration of standards in their respective municipalities, is actually quite an important one if we are to at least attempt to appreciate what Socrates might have been lamenting.

The "democracy" whose dismantling Socrates allegedly witnessed with some dismay, and which is still championed as the forerunner of all that is good and great in its modern manifestations, would actually have been one at which even modern neo-fascists might probably shudder with nervous disdain for its extremely inhumane disregard for basic rights (though might admittedly be the stuff of wet dreams for the most psychotically right-wing amongst them). Athenian democracy not only tolerated but legislated to uphold a form of slavery that even the Romans saw as inhuman (and coming from the Romans this is probably all one needs to know regarding just how reprehensible Athenian slavery could be). It is reckoned that within Attica the ratio of slaves to "free citizens" could have been as high as three to one, and within the city itself two to one. Unlike in Rome, slaves in Attica were not considered human in any sense (manumission being illegal and enforced "sterilisation" a universal practice), being defined in law exactly the same as any other property regarded as war booty, which was exactly how they had been acquired too.

Likewise, any Flemish females marching behind the "SOS DEMOCRATIE" banner might be appalled to learn that democracy's first allegedly "beautiful" flowering forbade audible use of personal names outside the home for members of their sex, insisted their faces be veiled in public, forbade them entry to any public area where men conducted politics, business, or sport (50% of the citadel), and though allowed own property in their own right were forbidden from profiting from it by way of rent and from disposing of it - having first to gift it to a male relative in order for its transfer of ownership (and profits accruing therefrom) to be conducted.

When it came to the "demos" on which the execution of law and policy depended this was therefore an exclusively male body. But even then some modern democrats might wonder at how it was ever "democratic" in that this body still excluded males who were deemed too young or too old to participate (only those still able to wield arms could be considered for public office). It also excluded all males whose realisable assets were deemed too paltry or non-existent to merit their consideration as being "useful" to the city if push came to shove and contributions or compulsory liquidation of these assets were required for the "common good". Views vary as to what the total population of Athens might have been in Pericles' time, but most agree that "democracy" as practised under his enlightened reforms still probably meant that only about 15% of its inhabitants had any active stake in the process at all.

Finally, Athenian democracy shared a feature with early Roman republican politics in that it actively militated against meritocracy. The ballot system as understood by Athenians was a lottery in which members of this 15% very frequently were appointed to public office using a "kleriterion" (a device designed to achieve absolute randomness in selection of candidates for specific temporary administrative appointments) and as a result were almost guaranteed to assume critical roles for which they were often very poorly suited, the only saving grace being that their terms of office were also extremely short and rigorously enforced as such. It was, in classical times, the equivalent of the modern British "muddling through as a virtue" mentality, but enforced with such a vengeance that non-muddlers who actually managed to survive such a system and, through generally perceived merit (normally in times of national crisis) rose to a position of sustained power and influence by the standards of the day, can be counted on one hand and have all gone down in history as archetypal statesmen. It is also worth noting that the same "democratic" system resulted in almost every case in their exile or execution once their usefulness was deemed over.

To be fair to Socrates, the plus side of this atrociously inept and barbaric early experiment in social organisation along lines of representation, was its absolute requirement for disagreement and debate to be fostered among its contributors - the system made no sense at all if these elements were suppressed. And it was this feature that he, and later Plato, concentrated almost exclusively upon when extolling its virtues. It was this that led to an explosion in philosophical debate, after all. It also led to an idea that "everything was up for grabs" regarding definition, not just how power should be wielded, for whom and by whom, but also religion (Socrates was allegedly so articulate at dismantling perceived notions of religion that it led ultimately to the trumped up charges that resulted in his demise). And while none of the philosophers of his age or instruction seemed to be able to fathom how best to define in human terms those deemed non-contributors to the democratic process (every one of them guilty of the most sexist, racist, and xenophobic dismissal of "lesser" people), Socrates at least encouraged the notion that in questioning everything then even these taboo subjects deserved something a little more cogent than simple scorn in their contemplation, the beginning of what would emerge later philosophically in the region as "humanism", a theme that Plato and Aristotle developed to a point where it began to filter into belief systems and philosophies otherwise owing next to nothing to any Greek origin.

My own belief is that what Socrates lamented most, and saw his own trial as evidence of this, was not so much that he found himself suddenly in fatal opposition to people who disagreed with his views (a life-long contrarian would hardly have known anything else), but that he recognised the huge loss of potential the new Athens represented. His reported conversations with his friends and pupils before he committed suicide on state orders all seem to have been designed to make sure that they, each in their own way, continued to safeguard the potential for discovering natural truths, not by accepting his conclusions but by continuing to question them, along with everything else. This is why we know about Plato - the one pupil who rather pragmatically attempted to square philosophical conjecture with harsh political realities, and in doing so inadvertently made himself indispensable to the re-emergent post-bellum Greek society of his day. Athens' "golden dawn" that Socrates thought he had witnessed at first hand descend into political nightmare and resurgence of dangerous ignorance, in fact a failure of all that represented any chance of human advancement (he died believing the dream of absolute freedom of thought forever expunged), actually led to a rather more pan-hellenic flowering of philosophical interpretation of human behaviour (led by Plato, amongst others), that in turn led to its exportability into other cultures and in forms that have stood the test of time. It also led to Greek philosophy's susceptibility to being hijacked and bowdlerised to multiply diverse ends, some very nefarious indeed as your picture illustrates too, but at least also meaning that even today, over two millennia later, we wish to associate with the terms and principles these guys established and still have yet to find a better broad definition of what makes us all tick. I lump Christianity into that historical body of movements and beliefs that owe much of whatever eloquence and sense they may possess, whether they acknowledge it or not, to Socrates having been ultimately wrong in his assessment of that potential's demise and the continued flowering of intelligent analytical thought in that region at that time. Without the language they developed between them (and I don't mean Greek) to articulate contemplation of the human condition and the universe that contains it, we'd still be living in a society where fundamentally sensible concepts such as "logos" and "democracy" can be so arrogantly, deviously and subjectively appropriated incorrectly for less than noble ends.

Oh, wait a minute ....
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptySat 05 Jan 2019, 19:50

nordmann,

"oh, wait a minute..."  If I suppose it well Wink ....someone is knocking at the door...

nordmann, thank you very much for your thought-provoking survey of Athenian "democracy" and the further elaboration of Socrates' thoughts.
I read it word for word, sentence for sentence....learned even after looking in my Collins paperback that "paltry" is "worthless"...the least one can say about you is that you let the people "think"...is that in honour of Socrates?...yes I learned again a lot this evening...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 09 Jan 2019, 21:43

nordmann,

"oh, wait a minute..."  If I suppose it well While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 Icon_wink ....someone is knocking at the door..."

nordmann, excuses for hijacking again this very interesting thread, but due to LiR (it isn't my fault!) I searched for Mr. Hoffnung (German name for "hope") I came to "just a minute"...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_a_Minute
And again to a subject that we have recently spoken about: "quant" and "quanting"



As I read it I saw no potential for my own me...I only able to speak before a public with half sentences and hiates...

Kind regards from Paul.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyTue 19 Mar 2019, 13:33

I thought I would put forward a different view of Socrates from that put forward by Nordmann for, like Jesus, Socrates did not leave any writings and so, also like Jesus, we are dependent on the writing of others.  Nordmann’s portrait is, I believe, largely drawn from Plato and it is a problem to decide when one is dealing with the historical Socrates and Socrates as a literary character in Plato’s dialogues.  One could again compare this with the problem of the ‘historical Jesus’.  Plato’s view of Socrates is also not the only one.  For example the play ‘The Clouds’ paints a picture of him as somewhat of a buffoon.  The Socrates of Xenophon is, by comparison, ‘platitudinous and banal, sometimes a downright philistine’ (and not the type that so troubled the Israelites either).  There are also the references to Socrates in Aristotle who does not treat him with the sort of idolisation that Plato does.  

Based on both Plato and Xenophon it would seem that Socrates was totally opposed to Athenian ‘democracy.  It was certainly limited, but it at least allowed those who were citizens to debate and vote on decisions that affected him.  According to Aristotle the citizens ‘take turns to govern and be governed’.  By comparison, Socrates was neither a democrat nor an oligarch but rather looked towards the polis being ruled by ‘the one who knows’.  Socrates ideas reminded me of Charles I ideas of kingship “Kings are not bound to give an account of their actions but to God alone.”  Socrates saw the citizens of Athens as a herd that needed to be shepherded and while Xenophon saw Cyrus as his ideal shepherd, Socrates seemed to look towards the fictional Agamemnon as his role model for marshalling the folk.  .  Plato has Socrates telling ‘noble lie’ to justify the class system that Plato considers necessary in the Republic.  The workers would be taught to accept their subservient place as they were made of ‘base metal’ compared to the ‘philosopher kings’, who were divinely forged with ‘precious metal’.  

On the two occasions that democracy was overthrown, Socrates largely stood apart.  He neither sided with the autocrats who seized power nor with the democrats that they either killed or drove into exile.  Socrates failed to raise his voice in the assembly and Pericles might well have described him as ‘idiotes’ – a citizen who took no part in public affairs.  Socrates, defending himself at his trial as a ‘gadfly’ to a horse, stinging the horse into action, but he seems not to have done much stinging when most needed.  Socrates voice was also notable for its absence in the debate within Athens over what should be done concerning the cities of Melos and Mytilene.  In 416BC Athens destroyed Melos after it had already surrendered, if Socrates ever acted like a gadfly’ to question the justice of this action then Plato and Xenophon are silent on it.  12 years earlier though the Athenian demos had stepped back from destroying the city of Mytiline due to an otherwise unknown citizen called Diodotus arguing against it – and Socrates?

Another major difference between Socrates and the Athenian ‘democrats’ was on the question of virtue.  The nearest that Socrates could come up in his many attempts to define virtue was to equate it with knowledge.  I remember playing one of Socrates’ stooges in one of Plato’s carefully crafted dialogues, great fun but ultimately fruitless.  Socrates is very good at picking apart other peoples’ opinions on things, but generally not so good at putting forward his own.  Even having been a soldier, and a brave one apparently, he could not seem to decide what courage was although he was certainly able to pick apart the ideas of others on what constituted courage, even that of Athenian generals.  When it came to virtual and knowledge, he did though declare that one could only understand something if one could define it absolutely and even he, Socrates, was unable to do this and so what hope did lesser mortals have.  It followed then that, as virtue was knowledge and knowledge was unobtainable, the citizens of Athens had neither the necessary virtue or knowledge to rule themselves.  Aristotle though considered the vast majority of citizens to possess sufficient ‘political virtue’ of logos to make the polis sustainable.

Socrates never accepted the title of teacher and was scathing of the sophists for accepting a fee for teaching virtue and knowledge, something that Socrates considered unteachable, especially to the masses.  Jesus did not seem to have a problem with being addressed as teacher or rabbi although he did query someone who addressed him as “good teacher”.  Socrates, teacher or not, still had pupils including the brilliant but erratic Alcibiades and the tyrant Critias; neither of which would have endeared Socrates to Athenian democrats.  Alcibiades left Athens in favour of first Sparta and then Persia, both enemies of Athens; it would be not unreasonable to describe him as a traitor.  Critias was a leader of the oligarchical ‘Thirty’ that overthrew Athenian democracy and was noted for his brutality; the ‘Thirty’ were said to have murdered 1500 Athenians during their eight month rule.  Socrates is somewhat less out defiant of them than he was to be of the democrats during his trial.  Plato, who was a cousin of Critias is notable for his silence in his writings concerning the rule of the Thirty.  

The traditional Athenian laws allowed for free association.  Plato’s own proposed justice, as set out in his Laws, included the death penalty for membership of societies that Plato deemed to be opposed to his ‘ideal city’; something totalitarian rather than just.  In fact in prosecuting Socrates it could be said that the Athenians were being more in line with Plato’s ideas than their own democratic ideals.  It could also be claimed that Socrates could have saved his own life by appealing to those Athenian ideals but refused to do so because he despised them.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 21 Mar 2019, 07:29

Tim (of Aclea) wrote:

Another major difference between Socrates and the Athenian ‘democrats’ was on the question of virtue.  The nearest that Socrates could come up in his many attempts to define virtue was to equate it with knowledge.

Did he equate it with knowledge, Tim, or intelligence, or "wisdom"? The difference in definition is surely important. I wish I knew Greek. What word does Socrates  actually use for "virtue"?  Is it "sophia", or something else - "arete" (moral excellence)? The Roman idea of virtue was quite different from the Greek concept, I think (but I'm not sure) - arete rather than sophia? But the latter word is how the Hebrew word "chokma" is usually translated, isn't it - wisdom or "sophia" - yet the Hebrew has many subtle meanings: "learned", "able to judge", or, confusingly, "ruler" and, even more confusingly, "artificer". What did Jesus - or those who wrote about him - say about "virtue" and/or "wisdom"? Was the Jewish teacher in agreement with the Greek sage?

PS I would be the first to admit I don't really know what I am talking about, so clarification would be most welcome!
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 21 Mar 2019, 09:38

Socrates, at least according to Plato, believed in "the unity of virtue" - which he called "αρετή", the word still used in modern Greek to denote moral superiority, either as a human quality or simply as point of comparison when judging the lesser of two evils (often as close to virtue as most of us get) - so not quite the same as in English, no.

It is incorrect to say that the "nearest thing" Socrates managed when defining "virtue" was to equate it with "knowledge", or even to suggest that he made "many attempts" at defining it. He certainly had many views on how virtue is manifest in human behaviour, some of which even contradict the others depending on whose reporting of his views you trust, but what sort of philosopher would he have been if he didn't? The alternative to holding various definitions as equally potentially plausible and then attempting to potentially unify them within one concept (philosophical reasoning) is to unilaterally declare them to be simple and unified without even having to think about them at all (theological edict).

Also, it is worth remembering that Socrates (and many other contemporary philosophers) never confused "knowledge" with "wisdom". Aesara for example, one of the more colourful and contrarian members of what we now call the "Pythagorean school" (Socrates was probably their biggest fan), came up with a theory regarding the "soul" which many modern Christians would immediately recognise as a neat summation of the "Holy Trinity" (four centuries before a theological requirement to phrase the concept was even imagined to exist). In his version of the Trinity that exists within each individual one finds intellect (reason, logos and the appeal of truth), spirit (instinct, supposition and religious belief) and desire (love, sociability and altruism), none of which is master of the other. However wisdom and all other sophistries, which we often confuse with expressions of intellect and evidence of "knowledge", are really only possible when all three members of the "personal trinity" are fully present, correct and functioning.

Which is why, according to Aesara, the possession of wisdom doesn't make life easier for one, or even guarantee one to be right when making judgement calls (ignorance dulls pain while wisdom makes it acute - Brexiteers please note). However without wisdom or the desire to attain it then one is failing to accommodate the trinity of purpose behind one's very existence, and therefore one may as well be dead.

These lads when it came to intellectual sophistry, as you can see, never took any prisoners .... (and veered politically always towards what we would call dictatorship). A bit like the Jesus character, in fact.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 21 Mar 2019, 19:19

nordmann and Temperance, one learns here every day something new...
And I, who, in the time, walked always with a wide bow around the row of bookcases about philosophy and religion in the local library Bruges Belgium.
Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 22 Mar 2019, 15:10

@nordmann wrote:
 

Aesara for example, one of the more colourful and contrarian members of what we now call the "Pythagorean school" (Socrates was probably their biggest fan), came up with a theory regarding the "soul" which many modern Christians would immediately recognise as a neat summation of the "Holy Trinity" (four centuries before a theological requirement to phrase the concept was even imagined to exist). In his version of the Trinity that exists within each individual one finds intellect (reason, logos and the appeal of truth), spirit (instinct, supposition and religious belief) and desire (love, sociability and altruism), none of which is master of the other. However wisdom and all other sophistries, which we often confuse with expressions of intellect and evidence of "knowledge", are really only possible when all three members of the "personal trinity" are fully present, correct and functioning.

Wasn't Aesara a woman? I find her version of the Trinity fascinating.

But Jesus of Nazareth was no "dictator" - surely quite the opposite - whatever was later done in His name? I genuinely do not understand that comment in an otherwise enlightening post.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptySun 24 Mar 2019, 09:04

Aesara can be a woman if you want - and can even have lived as late as 100CE, such is the problem with someone whose views (and assumed biographical detail) come to us via probably one of the most tortuously circuitous philological routes for any ancient philosopher, and these can be circuitous indeed, ancient encyclopaedists and commentators for some reason daring to think that it was the thought of the originator that most deserved to be recorded, not necessarily detail about that person at all.

Socrates, by the way, is quite the opposite - we tend to have quite a lot of biographical detail in his case, to the extent that most people these days can quite readily cite reported incidents from his life and career whereas they might struggle trying to expound or expand upon any of his philosophical principles. In fact this rather slanted reportage from classical times is indeed one of the aspects to the claim for historicity on his behalf when the false equivalence in that respect between him and Jesus is trotted out (less frequently these days than a few years ago admittedly, but still a trope that's "out there", I notice).

My point regarding Jesus and dictatorship was not meant to convey that "Jesus was a dictator", and nor did I say this. It was completely apposite to my previous point regarding where philosophy and theology might be said to differ and yet overlap, one huge area in which they certainly overlapped in the era of which we speak being when one retrospectively applies political analysis to either and uses knowledge of the elements of discourse employed by the protagonists to deduce where either may stand in the context of political ideology as understood today. Not quite as pointless an exercise as it may sound - especially when one acknowledges that the more durable protagonists in either field have tended to leave in their wake certain principles and interpretations of those principles which have certainly been employed to political ends afterwards. When doing this in relation to Plato, for example, one finds strong evidence of political principles entertained by the protagonist which, these days, would certainly veer to the "extreme far right" of the political spectrum.

But this is probably unavoidable, and one reason why such analysis is probably not ultimately very helpful at all when attempting to understand the protagonist in his (or her - with a nod to Aesara) own contemporary terms. When an idea is distilled to deduce a principle, whether for philosophical or theological purposes, it becomes very often almost indistinguishable from the most strictured political ideology, which also has as a common trait the tendency to strip away anything that obfuscates or detracts from the central core "message" it contains.

For Jesus's theological constructs to be accepted in principle then one has to accept that which is also, to be fair, repeated within them quite often - namely that life, and our role and raison d'etre within that broad definition, are all predicated on knowing our place within a very strictly defined hierarchy of power and authority. In a theology which places a divine source of everything at the top of this structure, then that structure quickly adopts many of the same characteristics of very human political systems which also depend on the imposition of autocratic rule from above, along with all the inducements, conventions and threats employed within that system to ensure that those at the various points beneath within that hierarchy do not question their role, do not pursue "advancement" except on the leader's very strict terms, and most certainly must never even think about contributing intellectually or practically towards re-designing that structure, even for highly principled and sometimes socially just reasons, if such a re-design "demotes" the authority of the top dog. This, in political terms, is dictatorship - and almost all theologies as well as quite a lot of influential philosophies from that era unquestioningly adopted that model too when distilling principle and asserting truth.

But back to Aesara - and I'm happy to go along with the "woman from Lucania" idea, even if most people who study the Pythagorean school actually find it a little bit of a stretch to include an Oscan of any hue within those ranks (and suspect later Roman re-writing of history a little to enrol one of their number among them) - but I think her "tripartite" soul idea is indeed very interesting, and I mean from a purely historical perspective as much as from the philosophical (which is also worth pursuing). It is part of the traditional view on the Christian church's early history that the notion of the "Holy Trinity" came about as a form of solution to a theological dilemma in which Christianity's Jewish monotheistic roots had produced something of a problem when assigning grades of divinity to the expressions of "god" contained within the core doctrine of the emergent faith. This was leading ultimately to rampant and diverse "heretical" theories which threatened to undermine the logic and effectiveness of the core doctrine, and as a result some kind of "unifying theory" had to be agreed and imposed which might help snuff out such heresies thereafter. And even though it became a central plank on which orthodox Christian doctrine could then be developed and protected, it also has always retained an element of "convolutedness" which later theologians have addressed by either making even more convoluted epistemological claims on its behalf, or have simply declared it a "mystery", which in itself "proves" it correct in a faith that values mysticism as a trademark trait.

However what this notion of the idea's history fails to acknowledge is that "tripartite" solutions to apparent dichotomies and inherent contradictions in human thought and behaviour were anything but new. Plato, and later Aristotle, both had versions of the solution which applied to our accommodation of a soul (Plato) and to the universe itself (Aristotle), which when combined together give us a requirement to acknowledge our own cognitive dissonance as we "receive" life from three "sources". Which is really the Holy Trinity as recommended to be understood in Christian doctrine too.

What Aesara seems to demonstrate, whether her "tripartite soul" is a genuine 5th century BCE concept or one which was being struggled with as late as 100 CE and being granted antiquity that it may not have deserved, is that at least as late as the very early Christian period, people were aware that this accommodation of dissonant explanations in that form had been knocking about for ages, and had a philosophical rather than theological root. Pythagorean principle included the quaint notion that the answers could be found from within, and that all the best paths to truth lay ultimately in introspection. Aesara's "personal trinity" encapsulates that notion quite well, which is why she gets lumped into that school (even though she would have been culturally and geographically most unlikely ever to have met, let alone discussed matters with, a fellow Pythagorean).

So for me at least what's important is not whether Aesara was an Oscan woman (or even a man), a misplaced Greek, or a later Romano-Greek invention, but that she presents philological evidence that - like many other core Christian principles which that church claimed to have originated or "received" from divine source - even a principle as complex and apparently theologically inspired as the Holy Trinity has a long and venerable philosophical history pre-dating its assumption into that faith which traditional church history simply ignores, though this may in fact have been exactly why such intricate and fit-for-purpose theory could so readily have been understood, applied and then so quickly and generally accepted within the religion's doctrine and core beliefs in the first place. I have written at length here already as to why it was prudent for the church to ignore the true heritage of many of its stated original beliefs, so I won't repeat myself now.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyTue 09 Apr 2019, 17:35

'It is incorrect to say that the "nearest thing" Socrates managed when defining "virtue" was to equate it with "knowledge"'

Not according to L.F.Stone.  I will go with Stone.

'Did he equate it with knowledge, Tim, or intelligence, or "wisdom"?'

With Knowledge Temperance.

I am afraid that I probably have the same view as to the benefits of philosophy as Nordmann does of the benefits of religion.  

In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates demonstrates that a horse-trader is unable to define what ‘a horse’ is, but the trader is still able to deal in horses.  ‘Everyone knows what a horse is … except a philosopher’.  
Tim

ps sorry for the delay in responding but been writing essays on the Samanupassana Sutta.  I wonder what Socrates would have made of it, assuming he could lay his hands on a decent translation.  Also work on Jerome's letter to Paulinus as the preface to the Gutenberg Bible.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyTue 23 Apr 2019, 08:00

Having looked at Socrates sorry record on politics, I thought I would add something concerning a brief 'political statement' from Jesus.  This is the version in Mark which is accepted as the earliest gospel.

'13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[b] to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.'

What the Herodians and Pharisees failed to ask Jesus, as a follow up question, was "And what belongs to God?" to which he would have replied "everything".  

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyWed 24 Apr 2019, 12:34

@Tim of Aclea wrote:


What the Herodians and Pharisees failed to ask Jesus, as a follow up question, was "And what belongs to God?" to which he would have replied "everything".  


Which by definition would therefore also include the very coinage that he'd just said belonged to the emperor. Probably not as moot a point in theology as in philosophy, but then ...

I'm surprised anyone would expect anything other than that an accomplished philosopher would be rather disastrous as a political analyst, let alone as a political adviser or influencer of any note. They have the same handicap as theologians in that respect, especially those specimens from either discipline who might also harbour ethical standards, but essentially just about any philosopher or theologian who understandably confuses the ambition of remaining consistent in thought and deed with the bowdlerised version of the same sentiment as usually expressed by politicians, and that's even without any attempt to apply moral standards. Machiavelli was probably the nearest thing to someone who successfully applied from the outside a hard to refute philosophical analysis to political reality (as he observed it), Marcus Aurelius probably the best insider to achieve a similar goal, and both probably succeeded each in their own way mainly through being as consistently amoral as possible in their deductions. But both philosophy and theology are littered with those who have failed miserably at the effort, especially those who even imagined they could judge politics as an exercise in ethics. And history itself is littered with examples of powerful political systems having adopted these poor attempts within an ideology that then worked to many people's general detriment (fascism and Plato, the Christian church and Aristotle, etc). So ticking Socrates off for falling into a rather obvious political trap analytically even before he fell head-first into an actual one, or even citing Jesus's poor philosophical/ethical stab at ownership definitions as a platitude worth repeating as a "political" statement, is all rather pointless - personally I don't distinguish much between someone advocating "philosopher-monarchs" and someone advocating "divine monarchs". Either seems to suggest someone floundering on the philosophical front, rather suspect on the political front, and rather self-servingly disingenuous on the theological front.

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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyThu 25 Apr 2019, 17:23

Oddly enough, the role of Seneca as adviser (and probably speechwriter) to the young Nero came up in "In Our Time" on Radio 4 this morning.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 26 Apr 2019, 09:48

For over a millennium poor old Seneca was used to "enhance" St Paul's credentials somewhat, a series of letters between the two lads - now dismissed as forgeries and "apocrypha" - during all that time forming a revered and important part of the church's literary lore.

While there is no doubt that they were indeed forgeries - both the content and simplistic style in which both correspondents praised each others' intellectual prowess somewhat undermined any reason to believe either possessed such a thing - their inclusion in canon for so long is still a rather telling clue as to how the church, especially in its early period of "state-sponsored recruitment", attempted to co-opt existing philosophical movements (and, I assume their adherents and students) into its own theology. It also shows which of these philosophies (and students) it considered most readily disposed to conversion, which in Seneca's case was a form of stoicism that was peculiarly Roman and tended therefore towards austerity, very little introspection beyond that which confirmed the adoption of some very explicitly defined precepts such stoics felt obliged to adopt, and in general departed from more traditional Greek stoicism in that it was predisposed to accept, rather than challenge, state authority.

During the Renaissance, and especially as the church veered towards internal reform that would soon erupt into the Reformation, theologians began to veer away from any such sentiment (though both austerity and absolute obedience to authority continued within monasticism for a long time still), no matter its venerability through traditional adoption. The evidence for stoicism having played such an important role in early Christian theological theory therefore began to disappear from the canon, either dismissed as forgery (as with Seneca/Paul) or simply dropped quietly in favour of the more Aristotelian content that could be used to promote inquiry and debate.

An important time, in my view, as it left Jesus (whose ascribed quotes in the official documentation had become way too sacrosanct to edit by that time) with some curiously stoic expressions that now seemed a little out of kilter with others attributed to him, and with little or no theological support that might help explain them. The important thing for me is not whether the inclusion of stoic content in the canon was based largely on forgery (I suspect the canon retains quite a lot of scripture that could be so described, if a little unfairly given how it has been compiled), but that for over a thousand years it represented much more of a theological pillar of the faith than could ever be imagined nowadays, and given what the church got up to during that millennium with respect to its establishment as a "world faith" something that merits a lot more appreciation and study than it tends to receive.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyFri 26 Apr 2019, 21:30

I remember thinking the grouping implied in "la venue de Jésus, Platon et Sénèque aidant." was yoking incompatible creatures to a single ard.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyMon 29 Apr 2019, 08:25

Tim wrote:



What the Herodians and Pharisees failed to ask Jesus, as a follow up question, was "And what belongs to God?" to which he would have replied "everything".  

@nordmann wrote:

Which by definition would therefore also include the very coinage that he'd just said belonged to the emperor. Probably not as moot a point in theology as in philosophy, but then ...

And had he been so unwise as to reply as you suggest, Tim, such bluntness would surely have provoked his immediate arrest - without time for further debate, philosophical, theological or political? Mind you, the business about money - and the Temple officals' attitude to it - was what did for him in the end.

Like many people, I have always rather naïvely assumed that the usual translation of "Render unto Caesar..." etc. is a rather Buddhist view that attachment to wordly things is foolish. However, Reza Aslan, in his 2013 book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth", thinks otherwise, and suggests the translation "render" is inacccurate. (I acknowledge, however, that Aslan is probably not considered to be a serious biblical scholar, despite several degrees and the ability to do his own translations of the Greek texts.) Aslan finds it astonishing that centuries of biblical scholarship have taught that these words are simply an appeal by Jesus to put aside the "things of this world" - taxes and tributes - and think about the things that really matter to God. Such an intepretation, claims Aslan, perfectly accomodates the perception of Jesus as a detached celestial spirit wholly unconcerned with material matters, a "curious assertion about a man who not only lived in one of the most politically charged periods in Israel's history, but who claimed to be the promised Messiah, sent to liberate the Jewish people..."

Aslan claims that Jesus's answer is unequivocally political, and is no "milquetoast compromise" but is "as clear a statement as one can find in the gospels on where exactly he fell in the debate between priests and zealots" (not to be confused with the Zealots - the political party who came later) - not over the issue of tribute, but over the far more significant question of sovereignty over the land. The word apodidomi, often translated as "render" actually means "give back" (apo =back again, didomi= to give) and is used specifically when paying back property to which someone is entitled: the word implies the person receiving payment is the rightful owner of the thing being paid. Caesar gets his coin, not because he deserves tribute, but because it is his coin: his name and image (see below) are on it - God has nothing to do with it, but God is entitled to be "given back" the land the Romans have seized, because, as every Jew knew, Israel belonged to God: "The land is mine says the Lord" - Leviticus 25:23. This crucial point would have been lost on any Roman who happened to be listening!

But, perhaps even more important, the answer was, from the Jewish point of view, a profoundly religious as well as a political statement. Having anything to do with the imperial currency - which displayed the image of a foreign god, Caesar - was a terrible infringement of the Law. Even touching a Roman coin was to break the commandment about graven images, but was, as Jesus was pointing out here, something the rich Jewish religious leaders did all the time. His answer was a condemnation of the very men who considered themselves to be the spiritual advisors of the people. His answer pointed out their corruption and their lack of obedience to, and respect for, everything the Torah taught and represented. No wonder they hated him.

The answer - whatever one's interpretation of it -  was a brilliant piece of linguistic adroitness, displaying a subtlety worthy of anything Socrates or Seneca could have come up with?


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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyMon 29 Apr 2019, 08:33

I am not surprised that you disagree with me.  View me as that gadfly stinging an Irish steed into action. I am afraid though that I found that your response was poor on analysis and strong on prejudice.  Actually it was 'poor old Seneca's' credentials that were enhanced by his association with Paul.  Seneca would get far more of a mention these days if any of the correspondence had been genuine or even if there had been a recorded meeting between the two.  I am afraid that the recent book 'Paul and Seneca in Dialogue' will do little to raise 'Seneca's credentials'.  Nothing to do with the quality of the book, but more to do with the price at over £100.  This is 4 times the cost of my book, which actually came out at the same time and is well above it in the Amazon list of 'best sellers'.  Somewhat more assessible is Karen Armstrong's 'St Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle' which I did a book review of for a magazine and so a free copy.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens - Page 4 EmptyMon 29 Apr 2019, 10:26

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
I am not surprised that you disagree with me ...

Though I am certainly surprised you think I had in fact disagreed with you at all, or that I might be championing Seneca over Paul - in fact I have an equal ambivalence with regard to either as consistent or dependable when attempting to deduce their actual philosophy (or theology for that matter). My point was more to do with the values of the compilers of early canon and what the forged correspondence indicated about them, not the two individuals whose "authorship" was claimed for the correspondence in question.

I hope you find time to address Temperance's interesting post about the possibility of rather more phlegmatic, secular and quite political commentary that may also have found its way into canon at that early stage of its composition. Aside from the overlooked philosophical content evident in much of that early Christian scripture, it is also often overlooked that the Jesus character is set within an extremely volatile and politically charged period and place, in which protagonists - in order to retain any credibility, whether actual people who lived and were later being cited or imaginative composites and inventions created to prosecute a religious point - would have been expected by contemporaries to at least occasionally acknowledge the political realities of the day, if simply in order to be seen to exist and function as people of the context into which their stories had been insinuated, neither function of their character lending credibility to their biographical sketches if simply omitted.

Ehrman ("Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew") has reckoned that the forgery was devised in the 4th century (possibly earlier but this is difficult to prove) to assuage Christians who wondered why the "great thinkers" of their faith received no contemporary acknowledgement from eminent and well recorded equivalents of their day outside of the faith, and Seneca's correspondence was duly written by persons unknown to address this deficiency. This seems to be a general consensus among students of scripture these days too, which of course begs an obvious question regarding how disingenuous the process actually was whereby scripture was "assembled" at a crucial point in the nascent religion's formation into an organised theology, and also which contemporary challenges to the validity of their faith were considered crucial at the time, so crucial in fact that fictional provenance required to be invented to meet those challenges. In light of this I think it is completely justified to examine (just as Reza Aslan does in Temp's post above) any surviving elements within the product of such disingenuous compilation and at least ask, if it isn't fiction or total invention, could it have been inserted with a view to being interpreted wholly differently than theologians today might favour, with assumed contexts that might in fact have been overtly political rather than devised to suggest the theological niceties they are currently assumed to have been designed to convey? For a thousand years the same theologians were happy to adopt Seneca's fraudulent "endorsement" of Paul, a view that lost popularity as the organisation and social context of the religion changed, not necessarily its ethos, so one really cannot adopt any particular theologian's interpretation at any one time as being of equal value as rather more rigorous historical inquiry when attempting to answer the question, at least in my view.
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