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

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 23:09

Not jargon, Paul. It just meant that for Lucian, who had such difficulty liking his living contemporaries, the long dead Plato was a safer option for him to admire. His admiration did not extend however to Plato's followers during Lucian's own time, for whom he reserved particularly satirical bile, probably because they were in his view traducing the great man's character and name with their "fresh" and "free" interpretations of what the guy had actually been going on about philosophically. Lucian liked originals, but distrusted emulators. He also liked philosophy deep down (he described himself as a student stoic), which is why he made a particular target of what he saw as "modern" philosophers who, in their often fanciful misrepresentations of the ideals of whichever school's founder they pretended to "follow" in order to impress and ingratiate themselves with gullible rich people, were almost indistinguishable from religious crackpots, soothsayers, astrologers and everyone else he (rightly) lampooned as charlatans and con-men.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 25 Aug 2018, 00:03

@nordmann wrote:
Not jargon, Paul. It just meant that for Lucian, who had such difficulty liking his living contemporaries, the long dead Plato was a safer option for him to admire. His admiration did not extend however to Plato's followers during Lucian's own time, for whom he reserved particularly satirical bile, probably because they were in his view traducing the great man's character and name with their "fresh" and "free" interpretations of what the guy had actually been going on about philosophically. Lucian liked originals, but distrusted emulators. He also liked philosophy deep down (he described himself as a student stoic), which is why he made a particular target of what he saw as "modern" philosophers who, in their often fanciful misrepresentations of the ideals of whichever school's founder they pretended to "follow" in order to impress and ingratiate themselves with gullible rich people, were almost indistinguishable from religious crackpots, soothsayers, astrologers and everyone else he (rightly) lampooned as charlatans and con-men.

nordmann, thank you very much for the immediate respons.

And now it is all crystal clear to me, especially with the additional comments. and I learned more than previously was foreseen...

Kind regards from Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Wed 29 Aug 2018, 19:29

Surely nordmann is right when he says this, Tim? And surely the evidence is easily to be found...?

@nordmann wrote:
That this first took off as an activity also within a Hellenistic ethos is historically attested (as opposed to a "Roman" one, which in truth is much harder to define anyway because of their adoption and active encouragement of Hellenistic ethics within their own political milieu), and therefore it is simply silly to assume that we should be looking only at Jewish theological and/or philosophical influence as a primary mover in the development of the new faith and not in fact taking the more obvious Greek philosophical content much more seriously than we tend to do, or at least have been encouraged to do in the past.


From what I have read, the attitudes of early Church Fathers to pagan literature varied from enthusiastic support for what it could do for Christianity to deep suspicion that it might subvert the Christian message. But the important point surely is that in the second, third and even fourth centuries, the influence of Greek thought on Christianity was acknowledged -  discussed, debated, argued over, worried about - a healthy and invigorating thing? And having what Diarmaid MacCulloch (not one of nord's favourite commentators, I know, but I love MacCulloch's dry humour especially when he writes about the history of Christianity) likes to call "a Greek cast of enquiring mind" was surely still regarded as a good and necessary thing for a seeker after truth? Would, ironically, many of the early Church fathers perhaps actually have agreed (well, in private at least) with the 20th century philosopher, Karl Popper:

Quote :


 Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth...

 Origen of Alexandria made the suggestion, in a letter to his disciple Gregory, that Christians should make use of pagan learning because it was like the gold of Egypt taken by the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, an idea repeated by Augustine:


Quote :
I wish to ask you to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and astronomy what will serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of the philosophers are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, as fellow-helpers to philosophy, we may say about philosophy itself, in relation to Christianity. Perhaps something of this kind is shadowed forth in what is written in Exodus from the mouth of God, that the children of Israel were commanded to ask from their neighbours, and those who dwelt with them, vessels of silver and gold, and raiment, in order that, by spoiling the Egyptians, they might have material for the preparation of the things which pertained to the service of God.

Am I right in thinking that the idea of turning it to the service of true religion purifies pagan philosophy occurs many times in the early Church? Here is Augustine of Hippo, the most influential theologian in the Latin West, agreeing with Origen about the importance of pagan writers. In On Christian Teaching he writes:

Quote :
If those who are called philosophers, especially the Platonists, have said things which are indeed true and are well accommodated to our faith, they should not be feared; rather, what they have said should be taken from them as from unjust possessors and converted to our use. Just as the Egyptians had not only idols and grave burdens which the people of Israel detested and avoided, so also they had vases and ornaments of gold and silver and clothing which the Israelites took with them secretly when they fled, as if to put them to a better use.

When then did the approval of Greek thought - having "a Greek cast of enquiring mind" - become dangerous heresy within the Christian world? Was it after Justinian shut down the Platonic Academy in 529? The Justinian Code was formulated by Christians who seemed to have shared something analogous to todayʼs fundamentalist mindset or is that an unfair thing to suggest?  I read this on the internet - is it accurate?

Quote :
The Justinian Code incorporated the earlier Theodosian Code from the century before that legalized and institutionalized intolerance of Thought for centuries, something the Romans had never done (they restricted their intolerance to rituals, not thought). Calvin and Luther and the Catholics all cited the Theodosian (and subsequent Justinian which incorporated the Theodosian) code of laws regarding religious differences in thought, to justify their own intolerant excesses in the realm of religious belief, like executing people, most prominently, the Anabaptists and members of smaller Christian sects that were neither Calvinist nor Lutheran. As for the other laws of both of those Christian codes, the basic laws that regulate interpersonal relations, they were already in use by the Romans, and many of them resembled common sense laws and restrictions from other civilizations on earth in the past and present.


The opening of the Justinian Code certainly is a bit worrying...


Quote :
The Code Of Our Lord The Most Sacred Emperor Justinian. Second Edition. Book 1. Title 1. Concerning The Most Exalted Trinity And The Catholic Faith And Providing That No One Shall Dare To Publicly Oppose Them.



EDIT: I know little about Justinian and his times, but it was obviously an era when all the old "certainties" were disappearing. Is it  more acceptable to question and to challenge - to be "a Greek thinker"? - when society is basically secure: when things are collapsing all around (as in our own times and in the fifth/sixth centuries) the fundamentalist mindset and its rigid need to claim ownership of indisputable "truth" -  can be very tempting to many. Such a mindset does indeed go beyond what satire - even that of a master like Lucian - can reach. How would Lucian have coped had he lived around 518 - or 2018?

Lucian was Thomas More's favourite satirist - hard to square that with the Mantel version of More as a rigid, inflexible and humourless Catholic so-and-so.


Last edited by Temperance on Sat 01 Sep 2018, 17:25; edited 1 time in total
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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   Fri 31 Aug 2018, 17:43

Do not dispute that the NT was written in Greek as were a great many other works written in the Roman Empire.

Cannot say that Lucian's fondness for Plato comes over very well in 'Philosophers for sale, or at least the version I have.

Agree that Lucian mocks Christians for their ignorance and credulity although he credits them with a certain level of morality.

Christ he described as 'that crucified sophist'.

Still looking for some evidence for your post 22nd August, rhetoric as good as ever.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 31 Aug 2018, 18:00

Hi Temperance, 

do not dispute the that Greek philosophy had some influence on Christianity including on Jesus' thinking; however, that is not all that Nordmann is claiming and I do not consider his level of knowledge of the New Testament, as distinct from his excellent knowledge of Greek Philosophy, to be good enough to arrive at the conclusions he does.  In the New Testament Moses is referred to about 80 times, Abraham about 70 times, and David around 60 times.  Not too many references to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle though!  If one compares that Plato thought about God with what Jesus taught about God, as recorded in the gospels, then there is quite a difference.

regards

Tim

ps even more do not dispute the impact on the medieval church
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 01 Sep 2018, 17:24

Sorry, Tim, it's only me again - although I do hope nordmann does eventually rejoin the conversation to answer your points. Always interesting and informative when you two get going!  Smile


Tim wrote:
...however, that is not all that Nordmann is claiming and I do not consider his level of knowledge of the New Testament, as distinct from his excellent knowledge of Greek Philosophy, to be good enough to arrive at the conclusions he does.  In the New Testament Moses is referred to about 80 times, Abraham about 70 times, and David around 60 times.  Not too many references to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle though!


Well, I can compete with neither your NT knowledge nor nord's (I do rather think he has had some exposure to Christian texts and dogma, you know) understanding of Greek philosophy, but I shall still be bold enough to add my thoughts - hopefully not thereby revealing an ignorance too abysmal.


The Gospel writers had the enormously difficult task of trying to reach out to not one, but several, different target audiences: the Jewish community (both those who were already followers of "the Way" and those whom they wished to convince that the long-awaited Messiah had indeed appeared in Jesus of Nazareth); the Hellenised Gentiles; and, of course, the Romans. The Jewish community would surely have expected numerous references to the important figures of their Scriptures and would have understood - and hopefully been convinced by - the authors' use of Midrash, but would not have been impressed had numerous direct references to pagan philosophers appeared in the writings of the Evangelists! Lengthy quotations from Plato and others would possibly have gone down like a lead balloon among the Jerusalem Jews! The Hellenised Gentile community, however, would have recognised and appreciated Paul's mystic - Gnostic? - thinking which certainly Matthew, Luke and John subtly (or not so subtly?) wove into their apparently Jewish text. Not many people know - though of course you do - that Paul's letters came first: his theology and approach influenced everything that came later, including, most importantly, the theology of the Gospels. The order of things in the New Testament is so deceptive: things did not unfold nicely - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; then Acts; then the Letters, but rather the other way round - and Mark came before Matthew! The Romans too would have recognised the Greek influence on the Jewish Paul's mysticism, and his Dying-Rising-Saviour-God-Man was not an idea new to them - and would the idea of drinking and being strengthened by "the Saviour's blood" have impressed and resonated with the followers of Mithras? The NT criticisms of the extremely conservative Jews and their arrogant insistence that the Jewish "Law" was superior to everyone else's religious or social structures would surely have been approved too, as would the Gospel exoneration of Pilate, who was - according to the Gospels - no insensitive military brute, but a reasonable and intelligent chap at his wits' end who was reluctantly prevented by the intransigence of the Jewish religious leaders from doing the decent Roman thing: i.e. administer impartial Roman justice.

But I'm still intrigued as to what happened to the study of the Greek language and Greek Philosophy after the fall of Rome. Didn't both decline drastically once Constantinople became the official centre of what was left of the Empire? We all learnt at school that the Renaissance and its interest in the "New - actually very old - Learning" - that took off during the 16th century all began after the Fall of Constantinople. Was the study of Greek philosophy deliberately kept forbidden after Justinian I? And who in Byzantium actually did have access to the manuscripts that were discovered after the Fall?

And a random question - about Boethius and his Greek learning. Was he the great saviour of Greek philosophy? I've just read this snippet about him, and I am intrigued:

Quote :


Past Classical and Medieval historians have had a hard time accepting a sincere Christian who was also a serious Hellenist. Arnaldo Momigliano argues that "many people have turned to Christianity for consolation. Boethius turned to paganism. His Christianity collapsed—it collapsed so thoroughly that perhaps he did not even notice its disappearance." However, this view does not reflect the majority of current scholarship on the matter. The community that he was part of valued both classical and Christian culture...
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 02 Sep 2018, 08:02

Tim wrote:
that is not all that Nordmann is claiming

In this you are correct, but I think you presume incorrectly that which I claim and which was not stated in my earlier posts on this topic - an oversight that I can hopefully and happily set straight for you.

By remarking on what you see as a telling absence of acknowledgement to earlier philosophers by name within any set of theological documents (whereas theologically important figures receive numerous name-checks) you simply reveal that you struggle to distinguish between the two very distinct aims and methods employed in each intellectual discipline. In much the same way that theological proposition found its way into philosophical discourse with little or no acknowledgement within that discourse to specific individuals as originators of such proposition, philosophical method and proposition also inevitably found its way (and still does) into theological discourse. One can readily see how it did so in terms of ethics, reason and the nature of what can be perceived as metaphysical "realities", but probably more importantly it should be acknowledged that this could only occur if the sense of such proposition presents itself even to a theological mind, and that since the only contribution individual philosophers make by which they tend generally to be name-checked themselves is assembling such sensible propositions into logically coherent bodies of thought, then it is far more reasonable and logical itself to assume that is their take on the "logos" which will inevitably influence religious thinking, not their personality or human status as individuals. Put simply, one can of course have fully subscribed through an intellectual process to the body of thought identified with any one eminent philosopher, without of course really ever needing to acknowledge either the process or the philosopher in question, let alone feel a need to name-check them.

Add this to a theological aversion to introducing uncertainty into an ethos built as much on assertion as upon any coherently demonstrable logical deduction and then it is obvious that name-checks within such discourse will inevitably be reserved anyway solely for those who are seen to have helped further the assertion in question without equivocation, but not those who also question some fundamental assertions while seemingly supporting others (the hall mark of how philosophy is conducted as a discipline and the reason why its study tends to group such lines of reasoning under certain individuals' names at all - the famous philosophers are nearly always those who identify dichotomy as the basis of hypothetical resolution and not those who claim to actually "solve" it).

For example, based on your contributions to this and other discussions over the years I could with some justification assume you to be a Heraclitian at heart, and indeed that your philosophical reasoning - such as it is - is much more at home within those pre-Socratic schools of thought within which Heraclitus was a leading light, even if he is not now nearly as well remembered as other Greek philosophers of his time and later. This is not to call you a pessimist (even if you subscribe to a theological belief in which pessimism plays a major role), and certainly not that you are a "follower" of Heraclitus (philosophers, unlike theologians, only attract "followers" among those who lean towards the cult of personality and away from intellectual critique anyway). However in ontological terms this label for your beliefs retains enough logical function as to apply at least in conversational short-hand, as would be my suspicion that should one examine to what extent your Heraclitian reasoning influences your theological belief one could in fact also aver that you are positively Hegesian in the assertions you make as a consequence of your beliefs.

I could of course assume much the same for the authors of the earliest Christian theological tracts that survive - Paul, for example, would also fit quite comfortably into such an analysis of his beliefs, and in fact Paul might even have been rather more au-fait with both schools of philosophical reasoning than we tend to give him credit for. However whether Paul would apply that analysis directly to his own reasoning is a moot point indeed, and in fact probably not even so moot if one acknowledges that he was at heart a theologian and therefore extremely uninclined to allow any logical deduction detract from the principal assertion within his theology, based on a "logos" of very much his own devising, which trumped all reason anyway. So unsurprisingly there is no mention of Heraclitus to be found in his writings (though admittedly some nods towards the tenet within Ecclesiastes that we are "hevel" - literally "vapour" - with no substance unless invested in belief in his God, which but for the assertion bit at the end is very Heraclitian indeed).

So you're in good company being a Heraclitian, at least by the theological standards of good company you yourself apply. However if you see an absence of Heraclitus's name in a theological tract as evidence that his reasoning is therefore also absent from its content and did not influence its authorship, then I am afraid you are probably Heraclitian but without that lad's willingness to at least acknowledge the Milesian School in the development of his own deductions. Anaximander's other pupils apparently didn't approve of Heraclitus's rather gloomy adoption of pessimism as the main thing to come out of Milesian philosophy, preferring instead to concentrate on the scientific methods it also endorsed and encouraged as avenues towards establishing truths. You see, even in pre-Socratic times that debate was going on too!
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 02 Sep 2018, 10:32

@Temperance wrote:

But I'm still intrigued as to what happened to the study of the Greek language and Greek Philosophy after the fall of Rome. Didn't both decline drastically once Constantinople became the official centre of what was left of the Empire? We all learnt at school that the Renaissance and its interest in the "New - actually very old - Learning" - that took off during the 16th century all began after the Fall of Constantinople. Was the study of Greek philosophy deliberately kept forbidden after Justinian I? And who in Byzantium actually did have access to the manuscripts that were discovered after the Fall?

And a random question - about Boethius and his Greek learning. Was he the great saviour of Greek philosophy? I've just read this snippet about him, and I am intrigued:


Several questions mixed together there, I'd say, and at least one presumption (of the power of theological edict) that may be overstated.

In terms of Greek philosophy (and indeed its conduct in the Greek language) it is fair to say that, despite Christian restrictions placed on it as a socially approved and encouraged activity, it never really "went away" - at least in the simplistic sense that is often used when proclaiming its "re-introduction" into Western thought during the Renaissance. The Byzantines did of course place quite severe restrictions on its facilitation, and the Western Church certainly promoted rather stilted and truncated versions of certain Greek philosophical concepts (while ignoring or even declaring as blasphemy others) through its monopolistic control of practically all forms of official education that it enjoyed for centuries. But while both of these obviously attestable historical measures can be readily seen to have occurred, it is generally less appreciated that neither were successful in stopping the development of Greek philosophical principles throughout this time, and neither did they succeed in physically eradicating philological proofs of earlier philosophical discourse (though both at different times did their best in this regard too).

The incursion of Islam into the previously Hellenistic Eastern Mediterranean region was a huge catalyst for the continued development of Greek philosophy, often in a manner that acknowledged a duty to stay within the theological precepts insisted upon by the religion, but due to a lack of central theological control within that religion often also in a manner which allowed great latitude (especially during the so-called "Golden Age" of pre-Ottoman dominance), and often also indeed with a latitude that even the old classical Greek philosophers might have envied in their own time and political circumstances.

The Renaissance re-emergence of philosophy (and especially natural philosophy) as an undisputedly necessary inclusion in study of "humanities subjects" was more an Italian re-acquaintance with the sources as they survived than with the discipline of philosophy as a study itself, which to varying degrees of theological interference had of course continued as an essential tool within Christian-sponsored education in the broader sense all through the so-called Dark Ages. It is a mistake to assume that Rome, for example, ever wielded absolute control over Christian thought (despite its claims), and the monastic orders - especially those with a heritage dating back at least as far as the papacy as an expression of official rule, if not further - were the most visible conduits for the transmission of Greek philosophy, the retention of its value as an analytical tool, its role in the teaching of rhetoric, and ultimately therefore its development through theoretical reasoning. Universities assumed this mantle later. They may not often have realised they were part of that continuity of an ancient "pagan" system, or they may indeed have attributed its nature to quite a different ethos than that to which the writers of their source material had subscribed, but then this misattribution of historical continuity too can be levelled as a charge against any powerful secular or religious authority which has happened to preside over any point in the development of philosophy from the moment it was first classified as a discipline in its own right and worthy of recognition as such. As long as you engage in the process you're "in", however much you may wish to distance yourself theologically from the ethos of the sources you employ.

One reason this slight misperception of the history of philosophy occurred was, ironically enough given what the guy actually set out to accomplish having identified the major dichotomy of "being" versus "perception of being", poor old Aristotle himself. Aristotle had never "gone away" - in fact in both the Christian and Islamic spheres of influence he had not only survived as a dynamic source of philosophical hypothesis but (as happens in such cases) in many wildly divergent ways. Aristotle, right up to the late Middle Ages, seems to have been just too useful to drop, even within giant theocratic empires. In fact his own biographical association with the leaders of such an empire and his consistent use of a language that would be understood by such leaders while addressing issues they above all needed to establish some clarification about, seems to have guaranteed his survival and even promoted him over time to probably the "most important" Greek philosopher. Certainly deemed "most relevant" for many centuries, both within Christianity and Islam. Islam also enjoyed the added bonus of having actively endeavoured to preserve as much source material related to Ari as they could at a crucial time when the Byzantines were seemingly allowing it to be destroyed through neglect and the Western Church had only fragments to preserve anyway, and are therefore doubly credited with not only keeping "philosophy alive" but allowing its re-introduction to Western society later in less adulterated form than that in which it had survived there. Both of these claims are only partially true, and when other ancient philosophers' philological track records in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary source material besides those of Aristotle & select Co are traced back over time, often far from the truth. Aristotle survived pretty well thanks to official approval. Others survived equally well, if not sometimes better, due to their being deemed "irrelevant", to being deemed "marginal", or simply sometimes through dumb luck when it came to the preservation of material related to them as a source (Abelard was free to interpret Porphyry with access to good source material simply because Porphyry had been deemed "too late to matter" by later theologians and had been lumped in with the "neo-Platonists" by an early church that tacitly encouraged such philosophy at the time, even if Porphyry himself was often at loggerheads with the nascent church flexing its newly acquired political muscle and had seen some of his published theory declared "forbidden reading" - proof as much of his lack of Neo-Platonic credentials philosophically as the relative inadequacy of religious edict in controlling the philosophical process).

When it comes to then using access to these sources in order to philosophically assess the observable present and even having the freedom to theoretically advance the received hypotheses, then it is undoubtedly true that the Renaissance saw a relaxing of the rules in the West (often a painful and hard-earned one for some of those who engaged in such activity), and historically this happened to coincide with a period when the Islamic world was largely back-tracking on its previous latitude and belatedly attempting to absorb philosophy, or at least selected elements, within severe theological restrictions on the definition of philosophical theory and how it should be applied. Boethius (and probably his successor John "Duns Scotus") might have identified completely with the epistemological plight of Islamic philosophers such as the "Brethren of Purity" who found themselves marginalised and ultimately outlawed by various Muslim authorities, but who represented a school of Aristotelian natural philosophy that had earlier come to the (philosophically and empirically) established conclusion of a Heliocentric Universe centuries prior to Copernicus & Co based on a logical extension of Aristotelian method, and who had previously enjoyed huge academic status and freedom of expression when people like Boethius were still sailing dangerously close to the wind in the blasphemy stakes for employing Aristotle to even a fraction of the extent that the Brethren had done. But then the Brethren of Purity, along with all their contemporary Islamic schools of philosophy in the region, enjoyed much more access to source material preserved from Graeco-Roman culture - extending beyond simply those related to Aristotle - than the dwindling Greek and the theocratic Roman West could even dream about. If anything this magnifies the tragedy of them being ultimately silenced by the Islamic authorities, and magnifies also the achievement of Boethius working with far more limited resources to advance the same method while a threat of accusations of blasphemy which eventually crippled the Brethren School hung over his head throughout. Both could be considered "saviours" of Aristotelian philosophy (largely from their respective church's theological clutches) but in truth it was a victory for the philosophical process which proved itself not so easy to subdue by purely religious decree. Neither Boethius nor the Brethren in truth "saved" Greek philosophy, but both demonstrated that the process has an inevitability about it which is up to the religious authorities to decide if they wish to tackle and how in the knowledge that it will simply turn up somewhere else if it is violently subdued in any particular instance.

So the answer to your question is "yes". Or maybe "no". Depends on which one you actually asked Smile
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 02 Sep 2018, 14:09

@nordmann wrote:

So the answer to your question is "yes". Or maybe "no". Depends on which one you actually asked Smile

Oh dear, I'm not sure myself - but I did admit I was being random. I feel very ignorant indeed after reading your two excellent posts above. Not to worry - asking questions - even random ones - is never a bad thing (is it  Smile ?).

No time now, but what about Augustine - he was a philosopher turned theologian who remained devoted to Plato and of course to Aristotle too - as was the later Aquinas: these two giants certainly managed to combine Reason with Faith - didn't they? As you note above, Aristotle certainly never really went away: the medieval Church (as Tim also pointed out) was actually steeped in Aristotelian philosophy - had been since City of God? Oh, the irony!

Luther loved Augustine, but loathed Aristotle - confusing. But Luther was not one to compromise. Reason was just the arrogant and foolish human will run wild: revelation was all. But "revelation" can be a dangerous thing - God's grace, or our own unconscious?

I suspect I am being really random now, but what the heck. Back later if I can cope with all this - I want to cope, but honestly feel rather out of my depth here.

Genuine thanks for taking time and trouble to respond in such interesting and erudite detail - just wish I could keep up with you. Not having a grovel - I mean it.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 03 Sep 2018, 08:01

One of the absolutely worst ways of getting a grip on Aristotelian philosophical theory as a beginner student is to approach him via Christian theology - poor lad has been right mangled in their hands for two millennia now and the process is still ongoing. The full extent of the bowdlerisation started coming to light in the late Middle Ages when a trickle of "new" source material filtering into the west from Islamic sources (normally via Venice) slowly grew into a "flood" (by the standards of philological research), peaking during French and British colonial expansion into North Africa, the Levant, and Asia. "Proper" analysis (ie. agenda-less appreciation) of the material is normally dated back to Hume & Co, who were the first philosophers of the modern era to realise that they now had access to better material of a secondary and tertiary nature than their earlier counterparts in Western Europe who had been almost exclusively reliant on what might be charitably called quaternary material but which in effect was theological treatment of very selective portions of Aristotelian theory. The more good material that came to light the less inclined people were to regard Augustine's  theological theory based on Aristotle, for example, as completely valid and error free in its reasoning. Likewise for just about any theologian who had done the same.

Luther, if we're going to be really really charitable, may in fact have been one of the earliest to suspect that Aristotle as examined and presented by theologians wasn't worth the paper it had never been written on anyway, and decided it represented simply an obfuscation and hindrance to theology per se, a view that was certainly echoed among later reformation theologians. I may be crediting him with too much foresight, but he certainly lived just at that moment when the West was first reeling under the impact of having found out the extent of source material to which they had been denied access - a feature of which was that while theology was still seen as a "good" academic discipline and its earlier practitioners still respected, all bets were off concerning where those practitioners had rooted theology in philosophical theory, at least until all the "new" data was in.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 03 Sep 2018, 13:08

Martin Luther wrote:
The universities also need a good, thorough reformation — I must say it no matter whom it vexes — for everything which the papacy has instituted and ordered is directed only towards the increasing of sin and error. What else are the universities, if their present condition remains unchanged, than as the book of Maccabees says, 2 Macc. 4:9, 12: Gymnasia Epheborum et Graecae gloriae, in which loose living prevails, the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith are little taught, and the blind, heathen master Aristotle rules alone, even more than Christ….It grieves me to the heart that this damned, conceited, rascally heathen has with his false words deluded and made fools of so many of the best Christians. God has sent him as a plague upon us for our sins.

[An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate, 1520 by Martin Luther (1520)]

You've got to love Martin Luther - well perhaps not, but his passionate sincerity and exasperation make me warm to him - I can't help it. Wonder what Erasmus had to say about all this? I read the Luther v. Erasmus argument about free will ages ago - got the book somewhere - Augustine must have been mentioned. And what did Aristotle have to say - if anything - about free will? Daren't ask about Platonic ethical determinism - it is a bog in which I could easily lose myself. I had better go to Sainsbury's instead.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 03 Sep 2018, 14:14

Spoken like a true theologian - he never stopped to think that maybe his take on Aristotle had been somewhat "coloured" by previous theologians getting the lad wrong, and anyway what bloody right had a long-dead heathen to contribute to defining a person's relationship with his God, the only real point to theology anyway according to Marty - who I guess was equally unimpressed with Thomas Aquinas's musing that led to the infamous mathematical conundrum of just how many "angels could dance on the head of a pin". Hard to know what would have offended him most there - the time-wasting by Aquinas, the angels, or even the dancing probably.

But my point above is genuinely made - if you want to study Aristotle as a philosopher you really have to begin by simply forgetting absolutely everything you "learnt" about the guy through theology. Ari wasn't formulating theory to assist religious belief, but employed theory regarding religion to illuminate problems with reason, and to ditch that last crucial bit and pretend his primary concerns lay elsewhere (as theologians of all hue tended to do) was to do that lad a huge disservice. Still, he did manage to come up with a pretty logical assessment of how religion and power are linked, so one can see why he retained his popularity among the dancing angel contingent and beyond.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 04 Sep 2018, 07:31

Wonderful rhetoric as ever but still no evidence.

Just been going through 'The NT - A Literary History' by Gerd Theissen prof of NT Studies at Heidelburg, or at least those chapters concerned with the development of the gospels (written between 70 and 100AD).  No multiple stages of redaction within each gospel and a lack of mention of either Aristotle or Plato.  Chapters though on 'Q' and on the oral pre-history of the Christian literature.  
Would also mention 'Jesus' by Marcus Borg who manages to construct a quite fascinating account of the human Jesus as shaped by the 'Imperial Domination System', by growing up in a peasant village, by the Jewish social world including the practice of Judaism, the Hebrew bible, and the Temple; and by his experience of God, which was quite different from Plato's.

Temperance, recently had to write an essay on the transmission of medical knowledge from the Hellenistic world to the Islamic world.  There developed in Baghdad a huge translation movement to have documents written in Greek and other languages into Arabic.  this was in part driven by the belief that as God had revealed Himself to Mohammed in Arabic, the language of God should also be the language of humankind.  Later there was to be a transmission of that Greek medical (and other) knowledge to Christendom through Spain.

Have also just completed an essay on Roman villas and the Roman concept of leisure, this site would fit into the Aristotelian rather than Epicurean concept of leisure.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 04 Sep 2018, 09:23

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
Wonderful rhetoric as ever but still no evidence.


Evidence for the predominance of Hellenistic culture in the Eastern Mediterranean and in early bible texts?

Evidence that Cilicians spoke Greek?

Evidence of philosophical tropes within any theological scripture?

Kρατήστε πατημένο σε ένα άχυρο, why don't you? Smile

Rhetoric over ...
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 04 Sep 2018, 09:43

@nordmann wrote:

Rhetoric over …


No! No! No! You must keep up the rhetoric, nordmann - really.

@nordmann wrote:

Kρατήστε πατημένο σε ένα άχυρο

That's not that quotation about sock-washing shepherds again, is it? I remember being enormously impressed by that.

Tim - I've read nearly all of Marcus Borg's books - he is (was - shame he's dead now) excellent, but of course the book you mention I haven't got. Very liberal and progressive  - a man after my own kidney. Good mate of Spong and Crossan, I believe. Mind you, I had an argument with a chap from Birmingham University about Borg - he was doing a higher degree of some sort in theology and he put me well in my place - told me Borg was "populist rubbish". pale
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 04 Sep 2018, 11:38

@Temperance wrote:


That's not that quotation about sock-washing shepherds again, is it? I remember being enormously impressed by that.

 

Alas no, this one required the help of Google as the earliest instance of its use etymologically goes back only as far as our old mate Thomas More in English * (who I am sure would have come up with a far classier rendition in Greek, and probably indeed did so).

I'm laughing at the notion that theological study still entertains the notion of a "higher degree" without any hint of irony or οξύμωρος. But then irony, and indeed a proper appreciation of the contribution of Greek thought, seems to be a blind spot for these people anyway.

Populist or not (I've no problem with intelligence becoming popular, all for it in fact), Borg wasn't put off by a sack of bombastic bamboozlement masquerading as a "reverent theologian". In this debate from 2001 about whether the Jesus lad did indeed do the zombie thing or not the picture quality is poor, and the verbal quality is even poorer when Craig opens his reverent gob. But Borg has a nice take on "evidence" here which Tim might well criticise (and thereby probably prove that he too is of "higher degree" theology credentials).



* Sir Thomas More, in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, 1534: A man in peril of drowning catchest whatsoever cometh next to hand... be it never so simple a stick.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Thu 06 Sep 2018, 13:34

Thank you for posting the YouTube link. You see why I like Marcus Borg so much: he is (was) a sane, humble and erudite man. I agree with everything he says in the video - and I find he has expressed so well everything I believe - and clarified that which I struggle to believe. I am aware that this means  Christians such as William Lane Craig will tell me I am therefore lost, and that I am heading straight to the everlasting bonfire, but so be it.

I listened to Craig's contributions with mounting frustration and irritation. I always start foaming at the mouth when I encounter his ilk. He is obviously a very clever and enormously learned man, but erudition does not always make for understanding. He seemed in the presentation to be incapable of grasping what Borg was suggesting. "We do not know" is something men like Craig cannot admit. They insist they do "know". We yearn for truth and they offer their dubious certainty. No, they do not offer it: they demand that we accept it.

What indeed is "evidence"? Is the New Testament "evidence"? Evidence of what? What does any of it mean or matter? The emptiness or not of the tomb "doesn't matter" says Borg, but he discusses so much that does. For me, the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is about the life of the spirit in this life, not the fate of my body after its death. And spirits can be "dead and buried" in this life - be "descended into hell" (or wandering around with the shades in Hades, if you prefer) - even if the body is alive and "well" and clearly present on earth. But that's another story. No doubt you and Tim have been through all the argument about NT as evidence before, but Tim's comments on the video would be welcome. I'm not egging you on to have a "spat"; it's just the discussion is so interesting.

I'm still greatly agitated by Craig. Here is a Guardian article by Richard Dawkins - disturbing stuff about the man's admiration for a God who is apparently all in favour of a spot of judicious genocide now and again. Men like Craig come across as pleasant, polite and reasonable to many, but some of their views are horrifying. Think Handmaid's Tale and shudder.  

Why I Refuse to Debate With William Lane Craig



Craig's supporters claim he is a distinguished philosopher as well as theologian (note the first reply beneath the Guardian article). He is certainly a learned one. I believe Craig studied for some time at the University of Birmingham here in the UK. - same university as the chap who dismissed me for reading and admiring Borg. Is Birmingham a hotbed of conservative Christianity then? God help us. I looked through Craig's publications on Amazon and I see that one is "God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism". Apparently Craig says that "the strongest challenge to the coherence of the traditional doctrine of divine aseity comes from the philosophy of Platonism." One can "Look Inside" the book on Amazon - it was beyond me, but maybe you and/or Tim could comment - if this is relevant to the thread.

The more I drive myself mad with all this stuff the more I realise the wisdom of my heroine, Elizabeth Tudor, who famously declared: "There is but one Lord Jesus Christ...The rest is dispute over trifles." She knew her Greeks too - just wish I did a bit more.


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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 11:00

Have I been unfair to William Lane Craig in my above post? Have I simply revealed how little I understand? Here is Craig speaking at Oxford. I do not for one moment pretend to follow all (any pale ) of this, but his remarks (around 9.45) about the author of John's Prologue, Philo and Middle Platonism are very interesting. I need a "populist" interpretation, please.

Don't suppose anyone out there is in the least bit interested, but here is the YouTube link:

God and the Platonic Host

PS I found his jumper very distracting and his Greek incomprehensible.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 12:05

PS

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198786887.001.0001/acprof-9780198786887



God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism

William Lane Craig


God Over All is a defence of God’s aseity and unique status as the Creator of all things apart from Himself in the face of the challenge posed by mathematical Platonism, which holds that there are abstract objects which, like God, exist eternally, necessarily, and a se. After laying out the biblical, theological, and philosophical basis for the traditional doctrine of divine aseity, it explains the challenge presented to that doctrine by the Indispensability Argument for Platonism. That argument holds that we are ontologically committed to the existence of abstract objects by our assertion of sentences involving singular terms referring to such objects or quantifiers ranging over such objects. A wide range of responses to that argument, both realist and anti-realist, are examined in detail, with a view towards assessing the most promising options for the theist. Realist options include absolute creationism and divine conceptualism. Anti-realist options which challenge the criterion of ontological commitment underlying indispensability arguments include free logic, neo-Meinongianism, and neutralism. Anti-realist options which treat abstract object talk as not literally true include fictionalism, figuralism, and pretence theory. A synoptic work in analytic philosophy of religion, the book engages discussions in philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, metaphysics, and meta-ontology in order to construct a plausible anti-realist position.


Of course - I get it now! And Dancing Mania suddenly makes complete sense.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 13:47

He writes his own abstracts (I mean summaries of his book content, though he redefines "abstract" in all its senses anyway for good measure). You'd never guess, would you?

What a deceitful little turd he is ... the abstract alone quoted above contains at least a dozen sesquipedalianisms, none of which survive translation back into logical speech or are simply misapplied.

First sentence:

"Aseity and unique status" - redundant bullshit as anything aseitic is of course by definition unique, though neither infers the power to create anything, let alone "all things" (a "thing" by the way is also aseitic, but don't tell Craig that)
"the challenge posed by mathematical Platonism" - can never be directed against a god, aseitic or not as that god may be asserted to be. Mathematical Platonism is simply a mathematical device to allow expression of a numeric abstract. It challenges Craig's God with all the same relevance and vehemence as an integer might. It is also missing a capital M at the start, presumably to make it look like the liar is discussing a philosophical concept.

"abstract objects which, like God, exist eternally" - a confusion (probably deliberate) between the mathematical concept of infinity and the theological assertion of eternity ascribed to its other assertion, God. In Mathematical Platonism an abstract is not actually abstract in the ontological sense that Craig dishonestly (or stupidly) implies - it is defined and as real as any number or argument, plays a major part in calculation of outcome, and in fact is probably even more aseitic than Craig's god on that basis (though of course it, like anything else, can never completely be such a thing anyway) - it at least doesn't just exist because it was asserted; evidence can be found for it, mathematically.

"necessarily, and a se" - since in Mathematical Platonism the necessity of an abstract is established and defined by its proven function then it most certainly isn't "a se", or if it is to be held up as an example of "a se" then Craig should at least complete his point by providing the objective proof of god's existence that allows Him to share the quality and maybe even take part in an equation or two (or an infinite number of course, if He wants, even if He thinks like Craig that this makes Him "eternal").

One could do the same with every sentence in the passage he supplied to flog his book and convince lesser lights that he was a clever git.

Arrogant lying scumbag - selling his god using estate agent tactics ...
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 13:56

Temperance 

Borg was also friends with N.T.Wright and wrote a book about Jesus together.  

In his book on Jesus, he did say that it would probably be his last on Jesus.  When discussing the resurrection in his book on Jesus, he does also refer to Wrights book (extensive as usual)on the resurrection although Borg himself explains Jesus' disciples belief that Jesus rose from the dead as being a case of God 'vindicating' what Jesus taught.  The last chapter is called 'Executed by Rome, Vindicated by God'.

Nordmann I am afraid that your 'evidence' as is vague as it always is.  I keep hoping for a line by line comparison of what Jesus said and Plato/Aristotle wrote.  

Temperance, if you would like a more liberal and also shorter take on Paul then there is Karen Armstrong's 'St Paul, the misunderstood apostle'. I got my copy for free as I was sent to do a book review for a magazine.  She defends him from misogyny, not something I think she would be able to do with Aristotle who considered women as being able to make rational choices but poor at acting on them.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 14:08

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
  I keep hoping for a line by line comparison of what Jesus said and Plato/Aristotle wrote.  


Why? How does that help establish Paul's penchant for a nice moussaka now and then?

From a philosophical discussion viewpoint there is little value in trying to use Jesus as a source for any one point of argumentative comparison with an actual person who did write philosophical stuff. That's the problem - his authors had a field day inventing the words and actions attributed to him, and I'm afraid they weren't - as Plato might have said - consistent in their "recollection". Mind you, Plato forgave bad conclusion based on intrinsic knowledge, or as we might call it, "guesswork", what with him believing that knowledge was simply remembering that which we're born knowing anyway. So on that basis he would have heartily approved of Jesus as an invention. I'll give you that much ....
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 14:43

Quote :

Temperance, if you would like a more liberal and also shorter take on Paul then there is Karen Armstrong's 'St Paul, the misunderstood apostle'

I've read it, Tim!

Actually Aristotle was probably right. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 07 Sep 2018, 14:53

Post deleted - off-topic.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 08 Sep 2018, 09:32

@nordmann wrote:
@Tim of Aclea wrote:
  I keep hoping for a line by line comparison of what Jesus said and Plato/Aristotle wrote.  


Why? How does that help establish Paul's penchant for a nice moussaka now and then?

From a philosophical discussion viewpoint there is little value in trying to use Jesus as a source for any one point of argumentative comparison with an actual person who did write philosophical stuff. That's the problem - his authors had a field day inventing the words and actions attributed to him, and I'm afraid they weren't - as Plato might have said - consistent in their "recollection". Mind you, Plato forgave bad conclusion based on intrinsic knowledge, or as we might call it, "guesswork", what with him believing that knowledge was simply remembering that which we're born knowing anyway. So on that basis he would have heartily approved of Jesus as an invention. I'll give you that much ....





I am not qualified to have a "philosophical discussion" about any of this, but I do wonder whether, for all your learning, both of you have missed the point. "It doesn't matter" - Borg said of arguments about the empty tomb - so what does matter about all this, please? What would Plato, Aristotle and the "inventors "of Jesus agree on about what "matters"?  What have we learned from these sages and from the Jewish writers whose "fiction" was so brilliantly inspired by them? Why have the fiction writers' words lasted, while the wisdom of the Greeks is now little studied or known outside the circles of the intellectual élite? And has any of it done humankind any real good? Are we any the wiser now than when all this started ? (Not talking about material/scientific progress - or is that actually all that really matters?) If the "character" of Jesus did not exist at all, why was it so necessary to invent him? Why has this figment of someone's Hellenised Jewish imagination captured the imagination of so many others over the two millennia since someone "came up" with the idea of "Jesus"? (Perhaps the Scorsese clip I deleted above was actually relevant here). Who had the "Jesus" idea first? Sounds like something from a Jewish episode of Upstart Crow. But the idea certainly took off, surely even nordmann must admit that - not bad going for a figment. Why didn't one of the Greek tragedians come up with him - they must have been kicking themselves.

Someone (who I wish would join in this conversation) has asked:

"So who are all the folk who invented Jesus? To what end? And how did they manage to spread these concocted words so efficiently and widely?"

"To what end"? That is indeed the heart of the matter - so why on earth did those early Jews bother? Why did/does the Figment matter so much?


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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 08 Sep 2018, 11:50

@Temperance wrote:
Why have the fiction writers' words lasted, while the wisdom of the Greeks is now little studied or known outside the circles of the intellectual élite?

That's an easy one to answer. If you have (and based on your stated outlook I assume you indeed do have) an attitude, for example, towards the apparent moral bankruptcy discernible in how the ideals of early communism led inevitably to the amoralistic and bloodthirtsy policies of Josef Stalin indistinguishable from even the most prosaic definitions of evil, then I could assume that you have either honed this view through careful study of the religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev's seminal post-revolutionary analysis of Russian society and its inevitable totalitarian results, "The Philosophy of Inequality", or on the other hand I could probably more safely assume that you weren't even aware that Berdyaev (let alone his books) existed and instead came to exactly the same conclusions through having read, among other less esoteric sources, Orwell's "Animal Farm" (based completely on Berdyaev's political philosophy, as Orwell acknowledged) and recall what you thought about Napoleon the pig and that which you have deduced from interpreting this exemplar's behaviour as described in the fiction. In a sense you could say that Berdyaev did the hard work in the role of initial analysis and formulation of theory, Orwell did the hard work in the role of communicator, and you then had an easier job assimilating the theory as presented through a fictional pig. It doesn't make the theory, or your attitude, any less valid or relevant. But that's how these things are often done (though not so often with regard to claims that talking pigs should then themselves be regarded as being as real as Berdyaev - it takes theology to go that extra mile).
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 08 Sep 2018, 12:00

Do you mean Boxer wasn't real either? I'm not having that: I still get a lump in my throat when I think about him (and Benjamin).

Honestly!




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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 08 Sep 2018, 12:24

But seriously, why does it all matter? Why do we humans need these ridiculous tales - these myths? Why do they - about the Christ archetype, or the lovable horse, or a stupid black general who loved "not wisely, but too well", or whatever - matter so much to us? They "work" in a way all the philosophy textbooks in the world do not.

So why, please, do these "stories" - these metaphorical narratives -  make us weep, make us experience/feel something in a way that the brilliantly intellectual writings of Plato or Aristotle or Berdyaev (you are right - I had never heard of him, but I've never claimed to be anything but a simple soul) do not? Perhaps Aristotle himself, with his theory of tragedy was right. The catharsis - and our human need for catharsis - is all: without it, how dry and meaningless our experience of life is. But whence comes the need? What is it we are experiencing? What is it we are reaching for? I shall mull over this as I wander down the fruit and vegetable aisle at Sainsbury's.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 08 Sep 2018, 13:11

Vicarious experience is of huge importance in the learning process, and what better way to generate this than through narrative? And what better narrative is there than one that imparts on several levels at once? We've spoken about this before here, and I offended some people by suggesting that the Jesus narrative actually isn't the best example of this and needed quite a lot of extraneous help to keep its telling going, but it does address some fundamental philosophical issues (in the original sense of the term "philosophy" in which the pursuit of wisdom is assumed and love for it encouraged) as well as some quite important moral arguments which, if not iterated in some way socially, tend to be conveniently ignored by less than honest individuals who will thoroughly exploit their fellow creatures to no common end. Philosophy at its driest can analyse this type of tendency, and indeed its immorality, and caution society logically to strive to minimise its adverse effect, but more dynamic transmission and communication methods are always required to ensure that more people accept the presence of these arguments than ignore them, if not all the time then at least often enough to keep the requirement to be decent to each other as a default fresh in the collective memory. Jesus was one way of doing this, but other effective tropes exist too. People who never heard of the Jewish guy aren't short of exemplars who do the job just as well or even better within their own cultural contexts.

I reckon what we're "reaching for" is simply a tolerable existence and collective survival, and there are probably umpteen evolutionary reasons to explain this desire. But for my own part I actually relegate this mundane fact  in terms of the human experience way below that we as humans so beautifully and emphatically employ fantasy and imagination to this end. This makes life worthwhile almost in itself. A good narrative doesn't actually have to be artificially elevated to "sacred scripture" or "required belief" to do its job, at least not if it's well composed and fantastic enough (in the archaic sense of course).
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 10:08

@nordmann wrote:
... then I could assume that you have either honed this view through careful study of the religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev's seminal post-revolutionary analysis of Russian society and its inevitable totalitarian results, "The Philosophy of Inequality", or on the other hand I could probably more safely assume that you weren't even aware that Berdyaev (let alone his books) existed...



One of the really excellent things about Res Historica is that, from a casual reference a poster (in this instance, nordmann) uses to make a point, one is led on to discover exciting new things - and thinkers.

Alas, I had indeed never read anything by Nikolai Berdyaev; in truth, I had never heard of the man; I even had to go to "How Do You Pronounce?" on YouTube to learn how to say his name correctly. But no matter. I am fascinated by the little I have read about this Russian since yesterday - what a life the man led: it is like something straight out of a Pasternak novel! He lived through - and survived -  some of the most exciting - and dangerous - events in Russian history. And how courageous he was!

In 1920, Berdyaev became professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow. In the same year, he was accused of participating in a conspiracy against the government; he was arrested and jailed. The feared head of the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky, came in person to interrogate him and he gave his interrogator a solid dressing-down on the problems with Bolshevism. Novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago recounts the incident as follows:


Berdyaev was arrested twice; he was taken in 1922 for a midnight interrogation with Dzerjinsky; Kamenev was also there.... But Berdyaev did not humiliate himself, he did not beg, he firmly professed the moral and religious principles by virtue of which he did not adhere to the party in power; and not only did they judge that there was no point in putting him on trial, but he was freed. Now there is a man who had a "point of view"!


I have read some quotations from and about Berdyaev and this one (from Berdyaev's Autobiographical Essay, published in 1949, a year after his death) struck me as following on quite nicely from the posts above:


I see myself immersed in the depths of human existence and standing in the face of the ineffable mystery of the world and of all that is. And in that situation, I am made poignantly and burningly aware that the world cannot be self-sufficient, that there is hidden in some still greater depth a mysterious, transcendent meaning. This meaning is called God. Men have not been able to find a loftier name, although they have abused it to the extent of making it almost unutterable. God can be denied only on the surface; but he cannot be denied where human experience reaches down beneath the surface of flat, vapid, commonplace existence.


I found this, too - alas only from Wikiquote and rather long. I offer it because I am very, very interested in Jung's ideas about "the Shadow", and how blind, unthinking religion - rigid adherence to "the Law" (of whatever faith) - can lead to the dangerous repression which can (usually does) then lead on, ironically, to all sorts of mischief, no, worse than mischief - to misery and spiritual death, not to mention , in some, the unleashing of terrible violence against others. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jungian before Jung...


Berdyaev attempts a development of Christian symbols that is parallel to Jung's in order to give a place to human freedom and creativity in this sphere of Christian spirituality. Much of the creative self-expression, which ought to have been given a spiritual-religious meaning, had to emigrate out of the domain of ecclesiastic Christianity into the secular sphere, even though it had its origin within it. Both of these elements which Jung and Berdyaev address, that of soul and that of human freedom and creative self-expression, could not be fully accommodated within traditional Christianity and as a consequence found a home in the "pagan" rebellion since the Renaissance and its progressive push towards secularization. The spirituality that had initially been shaped by ecclesiastic Christianity has burst its container and has in turn given shape to the underlying meaning-structures of modern secular society. Jung and Berdyaev share an awareness of these underlying historical dynamics.

We have learned and are still learning very bitter lessons about the link between claims of absolute truth and violence. For good reasons contemporary thinkers are more or less unanimous in their suspicion towards all "meta-narratives" which end up justifying the violation of individual freedoms. Any return to a serious consideration of spirituality will have to remain mindful of this persistent danger. Jung's psychology offers an abundant wealth of insights about the need for remaining consistently mindful of the ways in which the shadow operates most forcefully where the light shines most strongly. But a convincing argument could be made for claiming that at present we are paying the price for the repression of religion and spirituality that occurred as a reaction to their destructive sides. In the absence of a spiritual culture the return of repressed spirituality takes destructive forms. Spirituality, by being repressed, does not disappear but mutates into more atavistic forms. This shadow side of spirituality should not make us shy away from it but on the contrary motivate us to find a way to give it a new place in our contemporary culture, away which does not jettison the liberating games (Wiki error) gains of secular modernity.


George Nicolaus, in C.G. Jung and Nikolai Berdyaev: Individuation and the Person (2011), Introduction, p. 6


Last edited by Temperance on Sun 09 Sep 2018, 14:00; edited 1 time in total
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 12:38

Temp wrote:

...which does not jettison the liberating games of secular modernity.

Alas, you have been wikied, Temp. The correct line from Georg Nicolaus's book, before it was slyly altered in Wikiquotes presumably by an acolyte of Craig's gang, was of course " ...which does not jettison the liberating gains of secular modernity."

It is worth noting that, despite Berdyaev's academic position at the time of his arrest, he is noted these days less for his philosophical traits than for his prescience in what now would be classified as the fields of sociology and political analysis, both of which brought him to the attention of politically minded young men of the period who also explored the notion of a social conscience, such as young Eric Blair. If you're into theology he is especially worth reading as he gravitated towards the old-fashioned natural philosophical view, which had persisted in Russia long after it had been gently dropped in the West from Hume & Co onwards, that it was ok to ascribe anything beyond one's wit and ken to a "spiritual" domain in which incomprehensibility was therefore excused. Hume had pioneered the absolute rejection of such self-serving dilatory logic within serious philosophical inquiry, and to be fair to Berdyaev he did acknowledge this and tended to respond with the dubious excuse that he was a Russian mind writing essentially for Russians, so "God" could remain in his calculations.

However, as said, "God" had mercifully little place in his socio-political analysis which was (and remains) hugely impressive indeed, especially in its highly accurate predictions of political outcome, which include of course the present "rise" of the Orthodox faith's organisational hierarchy back into the heart of the machinery of state power. Berdyaev had seen this as an inevitability, less because he correctly prophesied the fall of communism and the reinstatement in its modern form of oligarchical rule, than because he poured scorn on the notion that "God" could be "killed by decree", as the communists had often averred. He knew people too well to let that assertion stand at face value.

Nicolaus, by the way, is also worth reading and should be a recommended text for all modern theologians - in the discipline these days the ultimate challenge is to square the notion of divine intent with what has increasingly become "understood" human intent, so modern practitioners who wish to steer clear of the fire and brimstone simplicity and dishonest obfuscation of meaning employed by the likes of Craig & Co, find themselves immersed ever more in that other minefield of blind alleys and a disturbing number of guesses asserted as statements of fact, human psychology. Nicolaus's book (which I haven't read) is, from others' commentaries, apparently one of the better guides through this minefield in that it uses Jung and Berdyaev to highlight how Christianity is sometimes well served through psychological and philosophical inquiry, whereas psychology and philosophy rarely benefit in like manner when the table of emphasis is turned.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 14:19

Thank you, nordmann: you are absolutely right. On Amazon you can "Look Inside" the book and fortunately the whole Introduction is there to read. I thought one or two things sounded a bit odd, but assumed typing errors (the indefinite article was missed out in the opening sentence too - I've put it in).

Do Craig followers really do such dastardly wicked things as edit Wiki quotes? Surely not! But then I live out of the world and am often shocked at what I hear.

I feel a bit silly at having been well wikied, but never mind - I'm still very interested in finding out more about Berdyaev (especially as I can now say his name with a rather impressive Russian accent).
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 14:42

PS Have just read through the entire Intro - need to read it again more slowly. Really want to read this book. It is horrendously expensive, so hope library can get hold of it for me.

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 15:08

What the heck - I've just ordered it. It is my birthday next month, so it is a present from me to me.

This thread is proving to be even more expensive than the Princes in the Tower one: Richard III cost a fortune, but thanks to  N. T. Wright and now Berdyaev, this topic is rapidly catching up.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 09 Sep 2018, 19:25

This thread might be proving a very expensive one, for you at least, but I have found it very informative and interesting. Please keep it going.  I just wish I was able to contribute something intelligent.
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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   Yesterday at 19:03

There was an interesting comparison in a book I am reading of Jeremiah to Socrates.  This is in that, according to the authors, just as Plato used the historic figure of Socrates to express his own ideas; the authors of the book of Jeremiah [from the Deuteronomic school] used the historic figure of Jeremiah to express their ideas.

Tim
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