A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

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A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:59 am

Here's a translation of a tutorial I wrote in the Autumn of 2015. One may want to compare my "The West. A Straussian Metanarrative."

::

1. Introduction.

What is political philosophy? The usual conception is: as philosophy is the love of wisdom, so political philosophy is the love of political wisdom. But one can also conceive it differently: not as the love of political wisdom, but as the political love of wisdom...

What does this mean? It means that the love of wisdom, philosophy, has become political--not so much in the narrower sense, of "being in politics"--although Francis Bacon for example was Lord Chancellor--, as in the broadest sense, of political activity in general--for example the publication of a political manifesto. Political-philosophical writings are basically manifestos for the benefit of philosophy, written by philosophers who felt they had to rise up for philosophy. Or rather, descend. Thus the first word of Plato's Republic is katebên, "I went down". Political philosophers are philosophers who, at least now and then, leave their height in order to involve themselves personally with its foundations.

But why then is the usual meaning of the term "political philosophy" the love of political wisdom, and not the political love of wisdom? This is itself an effect, indeed a success, of political philosophy. For Plato, the first Westerner who undisputably practiced political philosophy, ostensibly lets his Socrates go among the people in order to determine what is political wisdom--but the latter really does so only in order with his feigned naivety and objectivity to actualise the implications of his own political wisdom!

His own political wisdom? Was Socrates then wise? How can a philosopher be a wise man or vice versa? How can someone at the same time possess and desire one and the same thing?--Instead of answering this question, we should rather make the following distinction here. Philosophy basically seeks natural revelation--although it would not spurn divine revelation, either. But until the essence of things has revealed its true nature, i.e. until we possess true wisdom, true knowledge of existence, the most rational thing we can do is: search for true wisdom. And given this, that a life in the service of philosophy is the best life, at least until we possess true knowledge of the best life, one can certainly reason out what is the best political order: namely that political order which makes philosophy prosper the most.

But with this, we're still missing a second premise. The first is that a life in the service of philosophy is the best life. But one can only draw a conclusion regarding the concretely best political order if one also knows in what sort of social conditions one lives. These are dependent on time and place. This is the reason why, in broad lines, I distinguish not one, but four political philosophies in the history of the West.


2. Homer.

The first political philosophy I distinguish is the Homeric. The culture whose first literary works are ascribed to Homer was the culture in which Western philosophy arose: the natural philosopher Thales of Miletus is usually considered the first Western philosopher. But in his forelast book, How Philosophy Became Socratic, Laurence Lampert already refers repeatedly to the work of Seth Benardete, a student of Leo Strauss's: he suggests that Homer's Odysseus is more or less to Homer himself as Plato's Socrates is to Plato himself--and one could add to this: "and as Nietzsche's Zarathustra is to Nietzsche himself." And in his latest book, The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss, he devotes an entire chapter to Benardete's The Bow and the Lyre: A Platonic Reading of the Odyssey. That chapter is titled: "Extending the History of Philosophy Back to Homer: Seth Benardete's Odyssey". It starts with a quote from one of Strauss's letters to Benardete:

"Some day my belief that Homer started it all and that there was a continuous tradition from Homer until the end of the 18th century will be vindicated."

Now I've read Benardete's book, and it's one of the most difficult books I've read, which is certainly saying something. To give an idea of how Benardete reads the Odyssey, I'll quote a partially paraphrased passage from it. It concerns the episode in which Odysseus and his men are trapped in the cyclops Polyphemus's cave.

"[Polyphemus] asks Odysseus where he moored his ship. [... Odysseus lies] that Poseidon smashed his ship. [...] Polyphemus does not reply to Odysseus's lie; instead, he eats two of his comrades. [... It does not] occur to Odysseus that if Polyphemus believes they cannot get away they have to be disposed of in some way if the order of his cave is not to be disturbed. There is no room here for the permanent stranger. Cannibalism is the strict consequence of Cyclopean tidiness: Polyphemus cuts up the men neatly and leaves not a scrap behind. Nothing in the narrative suggests that cannibalism is anything but a one-time supplement to Polyphemus's [vegetarian] diet."

Benardete goes on to interpret this as the Homeric lesson that order, for example a juridical order, does not yet amount to justice. And cannibalism is in his reading a very important and hence often recurring subject in Homer. It seems that the Homeric political turn was among other things aimed at eradicating cannibalism.

This quotation only gives a glimpse of how dense the greatest part of Benardete's book is, by the way.

Anyway, whatever may have been the exact social conditions that drove Homer to effect his political turn, that turn was aimed at guaranteeing a certain minimum of civilisation--a minimum on which, whether this was intended or not, even philosophy could prosper. If I've understood Benardete en Homer well enough, the mechanism by means of which this was effected was the following. First another quotation from Benardete's book:

"Homer [...] gives the impression that the Sun punished Odysseus's men; but we are later told that the Sun cannot punish individual men; he can withdraw his light from gods and men equally, but he needs Zeus to carry out what alone would satisfy him. Homer does not mention Zeus.[!] If we may distinguish between cosmic gods like the Sun—gods whose possible existence is manifest to sight—and Olympian gods, about whom there is only hearsay, then Homer begins [the Odyssey] with a cosmic god who punishes human folly, but he is at once corrected as soon as the Muse takes over and introduces Homer and us to Poseidon, Zeus, and Athena."

What Homer did with regard to the gods was this: he promoted the Olympian gods to the highest rank and demoted the cosmic gods to a lower rank. With this, the invisible gods became the most important gods. (By "invisible" I do not mean that they weren't depicted or even enacted, by the way; just that one couldn't see them in their true form.) This was crucial in order to civilise man, as the next short quotation may serve to illustrate:

"Hades distinguishes man from everything else. Men go to Hades, all other animals just die. This distinctiveness of man, whether exaggerated or not, imposes on man certain constraints. The prohibition against cannibalism takes the form of a general prohibition, whether it be through inhumation or cremation, against man being consumed by any wild beast."

A man who eats another man is of course a wild beast in a sense. The Greek name for Hades, by the way, is Aïdes, originally Avides, "the Unseen one", "the Invisible one".

What Homer introduced was the notion of invisible gods who saw all your shameful deeds and punished you for them in Hades, if not already here on earth. Thus Benardete writes:

"The [sacrificial] cow, [Homer] says, came from the field, Telemachus'  comrades came, the blacksmith came, and Athena came. Athena came in just the way the cow did. That the men of Pylos see the one and not the other makes no difference."

Considering the context in which he writes this, and after pondering it a lot, my conclusion is really very simple: a juicy piece of beef suggests the nearness, indeed, the favour of the goddess! But because everyone can see that shameful people often enough have plenty to eat whereas honourable people do not, there was still need of belief in a Hades in order to impel people to live honourably.

Contrary to Christian culture, which is a guilt culture, the Homeric culture was a shame culture. As a rule, punishment in Hades was no corporal punishment, like in the fires of Hell, but a spiritual punishment: the pain of knowing that people didn't respect you. Except for those who directly harmed or tried to harm the gods, the Homeric reward was honour and the Homeric punishment was dishonour. The recipient par excellence of the Homeric reward was Achilles. Thus Benardete writes:

"[I]t is [Achilles'] tomb that makes him conspicuous both now and in the future. Achilles dies but not his name. Hades is needed in order that Achilles may enjoy, if only counterfactually, the reality of his name."

Upon his death, the soul of Achilles went to Hades, where the recently deceased and the occasional visitor to Hades would inform him of the fact that he was still considered the greatest warrior here on earth, that his impressive tomb site was still swarming with pilgrims every day and his feats were still the stuff of legend. In this way, people were encouraged to behave according to a moral code--a code of honour.


3. Plato.

In my introduction, I said that Plato's Socrates goes among the people solely "in order with his feigned naivety and objectivity to actualise the implications of his own political wisdom". But this basically only goes for the older, the wiser Socrates. The younger Socrates does go among the people in order to determine what is political wisdom, so without knowing it in advance. For originally, Socrates was no political philosopher but a natural philosopher, like Thales of Miletus. This is the Socrates who is sharply criticised by the oldest of our three direct sources, the great comic poet Aristophanes. In his comedy, The Clouds, Aristophanes depicts Socrates as a sophist, a scientist of the Greek enlightenment. About this enlightenment, Lampert writes (in his forelast book): "it actively schooled the best Athenian young in a lightly veiled skepticism about the gods while mocking ancestral or paternal submission to them and counseling its students on just how to make the best use of the piety of others." This is precisely Aristophanes' reproach of Socrates, and in fact Socrates, from that time on, begins his so-called "second sailing". His first sailing was his journey into the clouds, that is to say, his quest for the true nature, or true cause, of natural phenomena. His second sailing is his return journey, his return to the earth, to the world of men. On Socrates as he's described by the second of our three direct sources, the historian Xenophon, Lampert writes (in his latest book):

"Socrates' turn to the human taught him that the humans in charge, the males in charge, judge nature to act unbearably toward humans, like a sea always in motion, always threatening humans and human constructs with destruction, always failing to distinguish worthy from unworthy. Xenophon's images bring to light Socrates' insight into the male need to master feared and hated nature, to conquer nature. They show Socrates, the student of nature and human nature, learning that he will have to persuade ruling males of what he learned they would dearly want to believe, that nature is not what she seems but wholly otherwise, end-directed for human benefit by caring gods who ensure that the worthy benefit and the unworthy suffer. Socrates has no quarrel with nature, but he teaches a fiction to make it appear that the male quarrel with nature misunderstands nature."

I repeat: "end-directed for human benefit by caring gods who ensure that the worthy benefit and the unworthy suffer". This is what Lampert calls Socrates' "teleotheology": a teleological theology, that is to say a theology which teaches that the ways of God may be unfathomable, but that there absolutely is a plan behind them--a master plan whose succes is guaranteed: the good will be rewarded and the wicked be punished, perhaps not yet in this life, but certainly in the hereafter. And the rewards and punishments will not consist in the knowledge that one has a good or a bad name in this world, but in direct experience of the enjoyments of heaven or the horrors of hell, respectively. I'm putting it in Christian terms, and indeed, Platonism is proto-Christian. Thus Nietzsche called Christianity "Platonism for the people."

Platonism for the people is simplified Platonism. For example, Christianity has a single deity whereas Platonism, just like the Homeric religion, has many. The difference from the Homeric religion in this respect is in the following. The Homeric gods often disagreed with each other: thus in the Iliad they are divided between the Greeks and the Trojans. According to Platonism, on the other hand, the gods are wholly of one mind, because they are all wise and therefore cannot disagree with each other.

It doesn't really matter if there be a single deity, or multiple deities who are wholly of one mind. But Plato had to stick with polytheism, because his intended audience happened to be used to that. Thus Lampert, in his forelast book, writes:

"[S]peaking as a theologian, [Socrates] promulgates laws for gods who resemble the gods Adeimantus already knows from Homer and Hesiod but are moral models fit for human imitation. Socrates uses Adeimantus's beliefs about the gods to instill the old gods with new virtue."

Platonism, then, sticks to the invisibility of the most important gods, but changes their norms and values, and thereby the idea of Hades. Now Hades no longer in the first place serves to enable one to hear whether one's good or bad name lives on on earth, but to enable one to enjoy or suffer from things within Hades itself. This change is accompanied by the transformation of a shame culture into a guilt culture.

But even within a guilt culture there are people for whom shame and honour are more important than guilt and a good conscience. Plato flatters these people with the notion that they are philosophical because they love what they know and hate what they don't know. For, seeing as such loyal and vigilant dogs constitute the axis around which society turns, and are for that reason highly esteemed by the people, philosophy acquires a better name if they call themselves philosophers.


4. Machiavelli and Nietzsche

In the third political philosophy I discern, Machiavellian political philosophy, such people once again have a key role. With this I jump to the Machiavellian age, since I can best explain the key role they fulfill in the Platonic age by comparing it to their later role.

In the Middle Ages, as in classical antiquity after Plato, political philosophy basically remained Platonic. But although Christianity--and Judaism and Islam, likewise--was a form of Platonism, this only applied to the spiritual world. As regards the physical world, not Plato but Aristotle was in the right, according to the Church. Thus in the Middle Ages, Christian theology got almost inextricably tangled up with Aristotelian natural science. And when, after the high point of the Renaissance, philosophy was acutely endangered by religious zeal--religious wars, the Inquisition, the persecution of Galilei, the burning of Giordano Bruno--, then Machiavelli got the brilliant idea to use that entanglement against the Church. Yet the unworkability of Aristotelian natural science was only an assumption on the part of Machiavelli, and it wasn't until Descartes that that science was vanquished by the scientific revolution made possible by the latter's mathematised natural science. Enter Francis Bacon. As Lampert writes in his latest book:

"Bacon introduced an experimental science that, granted time, would make the implied cosmology of the Bible as evidently untrue as the cosmology of Aristotle. To gain time, the new science had to equip itself with what Bacon knew to be rhetoric: he transformed the Bible's promise of paradise forever in the next life into the promise of paradise forever in the human future through work in the world now and for generations--his truly Napoleonic strategy. By converting minds like Descartes's and influencing the minds of many, to establish the Royal Society for instance, Bacon advanced [...] natural science."

In his New Atlantis, which was the direct inspiration for the founding of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, Bacon advertises a social order in which scientists and inventors are praised and rewarded for enhancing the people's well-being. The scientists and inventors are the people for whom shame and honour are more important than guilt and a good conscience. And even as in Baconism, which is basically scientific Platonism, a lover of wisdom took care that lovers of honour voluntarily took to serving the lovers of ease, by making discoveries and inventions for them, so did in religious Platonism a lover of wisdom take care that lovers of honour voluntarily took to serving the lovers of ease by teaching a gospel which they themselves lived--to which belongs the myth that the philosopher has a mind's eye for the Ideas, that the priest has a mind's ear for the word of God...

The purpose of Platonism was to allow philosophy to continue to flourish in the shadow of religion. But under Christianity, philosophy became the handmaiden of the religion. According to the Medieval philosopher Alfarabi, such an absorption was inevitable unless there was always at least one philosopher among the high priests. By seeing to that, the life-cycle of the society would remain at its high point instead of coming to an end. But after this, too, had failed in the Middle Ages, at least in the Christian world, if not in the Islamic and the Jewish world as well, then Machiavelli thought of a new way to avert that fate. He realised that the fact that such life-cycles naturally come to an end could be undone by virtue of a "conquest of nature". This conquest would specifically not be natural-scientific so much as politicological in nature: Machiavelli did not regard the last possible phases, but the middle phase of such a natural life-cycle as the high point: according to him, the high point of the whole cycle was not a scientific or philosophical high point, but a political high point. Science was to be put in the service of politics, and philosophy as metaphysics was to be completely abolished. It was with this, and really only with this, that philosophy became science, modern science, and as such the new religion. In Lampert's words:

"The Machiavellian strategy succeeded in its one great aim ["to crush Christianity's spiritual tyranny"]; but by adopting its enemy's means and conscripting science into the service of propaganda, it caused philosophy to fall prey to a new tyranny, the tyranny of supposed enlightenment via science." (Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche.)

The Baconian scheme, in which science serves the common good, was so successful that the unreasonableness of such utilitarianism was almost completely obscured by it; today, virtually everyone considers democracy's absolute superiority a self-evident fact (though not everyone may find things are sufficiently socialist or anarchist yet). Near the end of 2012, I saw a nice example of how much people regard certain moral values as self-evident, and science as the vehicle of those values. It's an imaginary postcard sent to religion by science, in the week that skydiver and BASE-jumper Felix Baumgartner jumped from the stratosphere in a stunt sponsored by Red Bull.

Dear Religion,

This week I safely dropped a
human being from space while
you shot a 14 year old girl in the
head for wanting to go to
school.

I kinda feel like you need a
better hobby....

Yours,
Science

I won't say much about this other than that the idea behind it seems to me to be the following: "We over here in the West are, thanks to our scientific enlightenment, already able to employ science for the purpose of excitement and sensation, whereas you over there in the Middle East haven't even used it to guarantee peace and security!" For these, I think, are the two value sets which are met by the Machiavellian strategy. A student of Leo Strauss whom I haven't yet mentioned, Harry Neumann, may express the truth behind this even better than Lampert and Strauss. Thus he writes:

"Sometimes I ask students if any real restraints, limits set by something like nature or gods, exist to curb scientific experimentation. Can science, for example, make men immortal or transform them into eagles? Most students deny that anything is intrinsically impossible. They acknowledge that some things probably will not happen tomorrow or even in a century, but, in principle, nothing prevents anything imaginable from happening at any time. Like good liberal democrats, these same students usually cling to a groundless faith that science's uncurbed experimentation ought to be used for liberal democratic goals--to promote freedom rather than slavery, peace rather than war. As if that made any difference in the nihilist world revealed by science! The faith that science's omnipotence can be restrained in the name of some non-arbitrary moral obligation is unscientific. It is relapse into the philosophic illusion from which science liberates itself. Interpreted scientifically, any such relapse, any moral-political commitment, springs from the tyrannic decision to have it so: all moral-political demands are efforts to tyrannise over reality, to replace nature or truth with the propaganda dearest to one's heart." (Neumann, Liberalism.)

"The philosophic illusion from which science liberates itself" is the illusion of  "a universe in which [the philosopher] and what is good for him exist as something more than nihilist experience" (Neumann, ibid.). So not only are the said value sets valuable only insofar as people insist on their being valuable, but man himself only exists insofar as he insists that he exists... The latter idea, that beings exist only insofar as they value themselves, is of the essence of value ontology. But since we're talking about political philosophy, not about metaphysics, I won't go into that too deeply. Suffice it to say the following. Democracy exists owing to the fact that the people who want it to exist together are more powerful than the people who do not want that. These, however, are people with relatively weak wills: hence they must be with a great majority. That their individual wills are weak may be appreciated from the fact that most of them at least cannot acknowledge the aforesaid; they have to believe that their values are universal, that they are not driven by will to power but by moral sense. Nietzsche's philosophy, on the other hand, indeed, all esoteric, that is to say actual philosophy, is scientific: it is the most spiritual will to power, the tyrannical drive to the creation of the world... Thus Nietzsche wants the world to be will to power and nothing besides, and therewith as hierarchical, not egalitarian. Thus Neumann writes:

"Although the past was responsible for the present egalitarianism detested by Nietzsche, for the most part it was characterised by the inequalities dear to him. However, lack of awareness of nihilism's threat formerly led men to take those inequalities for granted, to interpret them as necessary consequences of natural or divine justice. Modern thinkers culminating in Nietzsche made men aware that human creativity or technology was not limited by anything. Nietzsche feared that contemporary egalitarians would employ this unlimited power to create a world of universal peace and equality. He yearned for a superman whose will to overpower nihilism and egalitarianism would use modernity's immense power to create the eternal return of the past's inequality and wars. Then there would be no wars to end all wars." (ibid.)

Allow me to explain. Inequality was dear to Nietzsche because it leads to spiritual growth into the heights; likewise crises like war, because suffering and danger bring out the best, namely the strongest, in people. With the aid of science, however, we could arrange the world in such a way as to no longer be able to be struck by natural disasters or diseases, and we could even alter human neurochemistry and genetics in such a way that we would no longer be capable of suffering and aggression! This is exactly what certain prominent transhumanists advocate.

Nietzsche's superhumanism wants the opposite thereof: the eternal recurrence of all inequality and all suffering. For with that, at least in the enormously distant future there will be inequality and suffering again. But it's well-nigh inconceivable that, if time is not yet a circle, we could so to say bend it into a circle; let alone that we could ever know that we'd succeeded. And indeed, this is not the principal meaning of the eternal recurrence. The eternal recurrence is the ideal of a man who values his life and everything that preceded it so much that he wants it all to return; but this also means that he would strongly prefer the time between the present and for instance the return of the Big Bang to not be essentially different. With the eternal recurrence, then, he also wants historical recurrence: to speak with Mark Twain, not just that history repeats itself, but also that it rhymes.

It's highly improbable that man could ever cause a new Big Bang; but a new Great Flood is already much more probable... Lampert suggests that, even as Nietzsche had Machiavelli as his predecessor, and Machiavelli had Plato, and Plato had Homer, so Homer, too, had a similar predecessor: Tiresias. But contrary to Homer, Plato, Machiavelli and Nietzsche, Tiresias is someone we know nothing about, content-wise; there's a break in the tradition immediately before Homer. Therefore, couldn't we bring about another such a break? After which a new Homer might appear, and a new Plato, a new Machiavelli and a new Nietzsche? The Machiavellian and Platonic turns, and possibly the Homeric turn as well, were aimed at preventing such a break from occurring; but whereas the Homeric and Platonic turns sooner or later led to the threat of a new break, the Machiavellian turn, conversely, has led to the threat of stagnation: the stagnation of man in the single ideal--"the last man".

Yet although the Nietzschean turn stimulates precisely such a break, it can paradoxically lead to continuity. For, besides stagnation and interruption, there is yet another alternative: a spiral. This would mean that, at the end of this Machiavellian age, an even more advanced age should dawn, but one which as regards its value system will correspond to the pre-Homeric age--which must have been an animistic age. Upon this, in turn, a new Homeric age could then follow, that is to say one which as regards its value system will correspond to the Homeric age, but which will be even much more advanced than ours. I regard Fixed Cross and myself at least as pioneers of the coming age.
Last edited by Mitra-Sauwelios on Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Fixed Cross » Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:10 pm

As you know I think Neumann is the flaw in all this; your piece is most instructive before he comes into the picture.

The problem is that Neumann doesn't understand what science is. Forgive me for sounding blunt here, but I try to avoid hypocrisy.
It is not a scientific proposition that science might be able to turn man into eagle. That is rather a mystics proposition.
I am always deeply bothered to read theories about science which aren't counting with the methods that amount to science.

I really demand more discipline here.
So let me formulate the questions the hard way.

Why, in terms of science, would nothing be intrinsically impossible, i.e. why would all that can be imagined be intrinsically possible?
And no less urgently I ask you this: why woud one put stock in a survey among students on this matter? What kind of philosopher takes into account the opinions of students rather than the logical backbone of the field on which he tries to plant his flag?

I'd rather be interested to learn more of the specifics of what you tell that Machiavelli and Bacon have done. I think that they form the backbone to the main plot you and Lampert propose; it is then through the transition that they enabled that we now have this tremendous scientific power, which is so great that it intoxicates a fellow like Neumann into such seemingly profound reveries.

What you do think of the continuum of science itself, running from Archimedes through Copernicus and Galileo to Newton and the modern Newtonean and supra-Newtonian world? This is most I know, I don't know that Machiavelli and Bacon have been as influential as Ive read they were. Its not that I think they weren't. Its just that I would be interested in having this shown, and you appear to have the power of understanding to show it.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Sat Mar 03, 2018 5:34 am

Fixed Cross wrote:As you know I think Neumann is the flaw in all this; your piece is most instructive before he comes into the picture.


That first Neumann quote may indeed well be the most outrageous part of my essay--and I think that's saying something.


The problem is that Neumann doesn't understand what science is. Forgive me for sounding blunt here, but I try to avoid hypocrisy.


I don't think it sounds blunt. In fact, I think most educated people would agree with you. Neumann sounds outrageous.


It is not a scientific proposition that science might be able to turn man into eagle. That is rather a mystics proposition.
I am always deeply bothered to read theories about science which aren't counting with the methods that amount to science.


Well, first off, let's hear what Neumann has to say about scientific method. From that first-quoted passage, he immediately continues:

"I use 'science' in its original meaning, scientia, knowledge of the way things really are. [Compare Nietzsche's distinction between science and scientific method in Will to Power 466.] It is the only genuine knowledge and it is readily available always and everywhere. Science is prior to the usual distinctions--right and wrong, truth and falsity, death and life, freedom and determinism, beast and man, dreaming and wakefulness. It is prior to all distinctions. At bottom, there is nothing complicated or sophisticated about science. Not science, but its window dressing or propaganda has sparked so-called knowledge explosions requiring complicated machinery and ever greater specialization.
Science itself is the simple realization that whatever is experienced--a self, a world, the law of contradiction, a god or anything else--is nothing apart from its being experienced. Science's reality is nothing but empty experiences, impressions as Hume called them. From a scientific point of view everything high or low, including the distinction between high and low, becomes a way of experiencing, a point of view, an interpretation, a method, a discipline of thinking or perceiving. Heidegger's 'Age of the World-View' rightly notes that 'world view' understood scientifically 'does not mean a view of the world, but the world understood as a view (or picture [Bild]). Existence as a whole is now understood in such a way that it only exists in the first place insofar as it is produced by man who perceives or produces it (durch den vorstellend-herstellenden Menschen) ... Wherever existence is not interpreted in this way, the world cannot become a view or picture; there cannot be a world view.' Heidegger rightly insists that a previously unscientific world-view does not change into a scientific one, but this very thing, 'that the world itself becomes a view' is of the essence of science. In this regard, Nietzsche claims that, for science there are no facts, only interpretations or methods--methods of experience, points of view. There is nothing inherently rigorous or mathematical in scientific method which, rightly understood as it rarely is, means nothing more than nihilist experience, any way (or method) of experiencing--whether it be that of a tiger, an infant or an Einstein." (Neumann, Liberalism, pp. 2-3.)

Sorry for quoting at length, but this is fundamental. The nicely sophisticated-sounding word "method", met(a)-hodos in Greek, literally means nothing more than a way after (i.e., in pursuit) of something--a way which may well lead to the discovery that what one was in pursuit of doesn't really exist (for instance, when a child tells you there's a monster under its bed and you look for it). Likewise, nomos, "law", as in "scientific" or "physical law", originally just meant "way, habit, custom".

Now for Neumann's central claim:

"Science itself is the simple realization that whatever is experienced--a self, a world, the law of contradiction, a god or anything else--is nothing apart from its being experienced."

On pp. 34-35, for instance, he says, and indeed exclaims:

"All that exists or can exist are random, essentially unconnected experiences, 'impressions' as Hume called them. This nihilism inform's [Dostoevsky's] Stavrogin's liberalism. Its truth is as self-evident as is the impossibility of demonstrating it to most men. However obvious, nihilist insight must be rejected by them to sustain their common sense need for community and communication.
What is clearer than the impossibility of experiencing anything but experiences! Nothing gives anything an extra-experiential being. A cave man grasping this knew all there is to know. Philosophic faith in 'progress' beyond his knowledge arises from the need for illusions to mask nihilism. Although reality's nihilism always is evident, nothing is more repellent to moral-political respectability. Reduction of this respectability to nothing is heart-breaking."

Neumann is an empiricist. Yet another student of Strauss, Michael Zuckert, writes:

"Empiricism is a theory based on recognition of the 'naiveté' or inadequacy of common sense or pre‐scientific awareness. Empiricism is the effort to look more carefully at what is actually given in experience than 'our primary awareness of things as things and people as people' does. 'What is perceived or "given" is only sense data; the "thing" emerges by virtue of unconscious or conscious construction. The "things" which to common sense present themselves as "givens" are in truth constructs'. 'Scientific understanding' comes into being when the naiveté of the prescientific is fully recognized, and understanding by means of 'unconscious construction' is replaced by 'understanding by means of conscious construction'.
This science, the new political science included, intends to reject the prescientific understanding, but Strauss, following Husserl, maintains that this effort necessarily fails. One cannot, Strauss insists, 'establish empiricism empirically: it is not known through sense data that the only possible objects of perception are sense data' rather than 'things' or 'patterns'. One can only establish or attempt to establish empiricism 'through the same kind of perception through which we perceive things as things rather than sense data or constructs'. Empiricism, then, must begin with the naive prescientific awareness, and by a process of abstraction from that 'sense data become known as sense data'. This act of abstraction both depends on and denies the legitimacy of such dependence on common sense. Strauss's very Husserlian conclusion is that 'there is no possible human thought which is not in the last analysis dependent on the legitimacy of that naiveté and the awareness or the knowledge going with it'." (Zuckert, "Why Leo Strauss is Not an Aristotelian", quoting from Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern, pp. 212-13.)

I think that, by "sense", we should here also understand what the Hindus and Buddhists consider the sixth sense, the mind (cf. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil aph. 15: a reductio ad absurdum is not a valid objection if the law of contradiction is nothing apart from its being experienced).


I really demand more discipline here.


Apart from what I quoted from page 3 of his book, Neumann writes the following about discipline (among other things):

"The usual pseudo-academic obfuscation of that agony [i.e., of the agony of the enterprise of unflinchingly confronting the truth], and therefore of real education, was brought home to me by an exchange between a student and a professor about the worth of a class. The student asked how the course would help her to know herself and her world. The professor saw the course primarily as 'rounding out the major' in his discipline. His was a safe, conventional answer to her dangerously unconventional question.
'Discipline' is a military term. One disciplines oneself to reject 'forbidden fruit'. Discipline substitutes for rational persuasion, particularly when reason is with the forbidden, life-threatening temptation. The professor's flight to his discipline reflects the drive, conscious or unconscious, to escape the moral-political void created by his liberalism." (pp. 16-17.)

My scholarly discipline is of course exceptional for an un-academic philosopher. [And I think Neumann is worth reading.]


So let me formulate the questions the hard way.

Why, in terms of science, would nothing be intrinsically impossible, i.e. why would all that can be imagined be intrinsically possible?


Because science, as defined by Neumann, is the realisation that the world itself is nothing but an image (Bild). But let's also look at science in the more conventional definition. Let's take the eagle example again.

Contemporary scientific consensus holds that man evolved from the same ancestor as the eagle. This means it's theoretically possible for men to evolve into eagles--that is, by natural selection (among other evolutionary mechanisms). Now there's also artificial selection. For example, men bred the domestic dog--in all its "infinite variety", to speak with Blake--from some kind of prehistoric wolf. So in theory it should even be possible to breed men into eagles. And modern science has only made that transformation easier, for example by genetics.


And no less urgently I ask you this: why woud one put stock in a survey among students on this matter? What kind of philosopher takes into account the opinions of students rather than the logical backbone of the field on which he tries to plant his flag?


This question takes on an ironic character in my eyes after that discipline quote above. The student asked a most important question (the question as to the value of the class); the professor fled into his "field". Also, surveys like Neumann's give an impression (no pun intended) of what kind of views contemporary students enter the university with: genuinely liberal or open-minded with regard to the exact sciences, but only pseudo-liberal or pseudo-open-minded with regard to the social sciences. Consider also Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind: he wanted to close the American mind because there was nothing about it to open for him anymore; but in Neumann's view he was himself a pseudo-liberal:

"Bloom wrongly ascribes to Heidegger an obsessive concern with Socrates. Nietzsche maybe, but not Heidegger who interpreted Socrates as a pure, not a great, philosopher. So far as I know, he mentions Socrates only twice in his published work. That occurs in comments (Stundenübergange) before the second and third lectures of What Calls to Thought? (Was Heisst Denken?). There Heidegger calls Socrates a pure, indeed the purest, but not a great, philosopher. He compares thinkers to men in a storm (Zugwind [squall, gust of wind]). Philosophers keep themselves exposed to the storm's full blast. Non-philosophers or impure philosophers escape that blast by publishing." (page 106.)

Socrates is of course the most famous example of the kind of philosopher who takes into account the opinions of all kinds of people, including students. Here's Neumann's answer to the question why:

"Scientists or sophists, not philosophers, consider themselves liberal, liberated from their 'cave', beyond good and evil. Like all un-philosophic herd members, they believe they can adequately determine what truly is good for themselves; philosophers are permeated by the sting of the awareness that they can not. Thus the main question for philosophers is whether the good life is philosophy (questioning the notion of goodness dominant in one's cave) or unquestioning loyalty: philosophy or politics? This is the never settled question for philosophers. Philosophers are in an untenable psychological tension between their need for unquestioning loyalty (which their ignorance [i.e., their knowledge of their ignorance] does not permit them to discredit) and their need to seriously question that loyalty. Heidegger's Rektoratsrede reflects a serious attempt in our century to recover awareness of philosophy's necessarily illiberal rootedness. If Bloom really were interested in being philosophic, he would have taken this crucial aspect of the Rektoratsrede much more seriously. Although Heidegger hardly ever mentions Socrates, there is something Socratic here." (page 100.)


I'd rather be interested to learn more of the specifics of what you tell that Machiavelli and Bacon have done. I think that they form the backbone to the main plot you and Lampert propose; it is then through the transition that they enabled that we now have this tremendous scientific power, which is so great that it intoxicates a fellow like Neumann into such seemingly profound reveries.


You are right in thinking that.

Lampert has written extensively on Bacon (see for example Re: Strauss's "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's _BGE_", § 35), but not so much on Machiavelli. Strauss wrote one of his final essays on him, which I've read, as well as an entire book, which I haven't. I have a translation, with introduction, of The Prince by yet another student of Strauss, Harvey C- Mansfield, and I have Mahdi's book on Alfarabi (Mahdi being yet another student of Strauss), from the final section--on Machiavelli--of which I've quoted at length in my metanarrative posts. Here's a lecture by Mansfield on Machiavelli (note that the actual talk is "only" 50 minutes long):

Harvey Mansfield on "Machiavelli's Verità Effetuale"

Also, I just made this post yesterday: Collectivism or Individualism?


What you do think of the continuum of science itself, running from Archimedes through Copernicus and Galileo to Newton and the modern Newtonean and supra-Newtonian world? This is most I know, I don't know that Machiavelli and Bacon have been as influential as Ive read they were. Its not that I think they weren't. Its just that I would be interested in having this shown, and you appear to have the power of understanding to show it.


There was about 1685 years between Archimedes and Copernicus, during which the "continuum" may have been a case of two people keeping the tradition alive to their students (as was the case with the transmission of Aristotle after the Roman Empire was Christianised: it was only the Muslims who revived it again, and these then of course ended up influencing Europe--the High Middle Ages, which were followed by the Renaissance. Copernicus was a Renaissance natural philosopher, a contemporary of Machiavelli. Galilei was a contemporary of Bacon and was excommunicated. It was only after Machiavelli had had his effect on Bacon and Bacon on Descartes that the latter mathematised science, which revolutionised it. Descartes died when Newton was 7.

::

I wrote the previous paragraph, and the line between square brackets, above¹, after doing the Holosync Dive and Immersion while high on weed; the rest I wrote before all that. I really dwelled on these things in the meantime. My thinking then still needs to sink in, however. In the meantime, I hope this post will be well received.

The Rolling Stones - On with the Show (Official Lyric Video)

(Note that it should say "Old Man River"...)

¹ Not the one I inserted within a quote.
"Your symbolical, lyrical and musical world can become an absolute standard. That is to say the highest on Earth." (Fixed Cross, "Re: A letter for the King" (return email to yours truly!), my translation.)
kali maa jaap mantra {om aim hreem kleem chamundaye vichaye}
"didja read that great wall of text he wrote? i'm tellin' you, ollie is the grand master of the esoteric and eclectic. if there IS something more to life, something extramundane or divine or whatever you wanna call it, ollie will figure it out" (Zoot Allures, to phoneutria, about yours truly.)
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Faust » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:16 pm

I got four sentences in. This is not the "usual conception" of political philosophy any more than homophobia is primarily about fear. Socrates was in no way a christian. He merely shared with them the notion that the unreal is more real than the real.

All of it, all that you survey, OP, is political theory, which has and will co-opt anything - religion, philosophy, reality television, weirdo economic theory - whatever works. Almost every serious work of epistemology is political science, or seeks to establish some new and useful political tenet. Those most shameful and guilty of the lot are epistemologists.

Most students deny that anything is intrinsically impossible. Which explains keg stands and not much more.

Modern philosophical thinking didn't culminate with Nietzsche - it began with him, or should have.

The eternal recurrence is just the categorical imperative turned sideways. No one seems to make any sense on this issue.

Every age is more advanced than the last - that is not to say that it is better.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:11 am

Faust wrote:I got four sentences in. This is not the "usual conception" of political philosophy any more than homophobia is primarily about fear.


"Homophobia" (though perhaps "homophilophobia" would be more correct) doesn't necessarily literally mean a kind of fear. Phobos meant "fear" or "hate" in Ancient Greek. An encompassing translation would be "repulsion" (as in "hydrophobic", "water-repellent").

Philia, however, did not mean "courage" or anything like that; just "(friendly) love", or at its most encompassing "attraction". So literally, "philosophy" necessarily means "love of wisdom" (or "attraction to wisdom").

Now these terms, "love" and "wisdom", may not be sufficiently sophisticated(!) for academics. Still, it's quite easy to see that, rightly understood, they do convey the usual conception of political philosophy.


Socrates was in no way a christian.


Nor did I say that. I said Platonism--i.e., neither Socratism nor Plato, let alone Socrates--was proto-Christian.


He merely shared with them the notion that the unreal is more real than the real.

All of it, all that you survey, OP, is political theory, which has and will co-opt anything - religion, philosophy, reality television, weirdo economic theory - whatever works. Almost every serious work of epistemology is political science, or seeks to establish some new and useful political tenet. Those most shameful and guilty of the lot are epistemologists.


Wikipedia presents political philosophy as synonymous with political theory, but I disagree. As a challenge to that, I hereby coin the phrase "political poetry (poiesis)" in this context.

"The distinction between theory and practice determines the ground plan of European philosophy as a whole. Now there is, however, yet a third basic form of knowledge in Aristotle: in his works, it bears the name 'poiesis'. Of his theory of poiesis, we only possess the works on poiesis in the narrower sense, namely the work on the art of poetry, the Poetics, and the Rhetoric. In the European tradition, rhetoric (to wit, not in the Aristotelian form but in the form it received from Gorgias, from Isocrates and later from Cicero and Quintilian) has become the basic science of character-formation [Bildung]. The European educational system as a whole rests on the foundation of a fragment of Aristotelian poetics, namely the forgotten basic science of rhetoric. This is reflected in the humanist dichotomy between character-formation and science on the one hand, character-formation and morals, character-formation and politics on the other. The unity of the whole design remained hidden, and thus people were no longer able to harmonise character-formation--which rested on rhetoric, more precisely, on poetics--with theory and practice." (Georg Picht, Nietzsche, page 154, my translation.)

In a passage I have no access to at the moment, Picht explains that the relation between theoria, praxis and poiesis is like that between the spectators, the actors, and the author of a play, respectively.

"Poiesis means [...] 'bringing forth' or, in Nietzsche's words, 'creating'. Poiesis is therefore any activity which brings forth a work that formerly did not exist and that, after it has been brought forth, exists for itself." (Picht, op.cit., page 155.)

As for epistemology, I wonder what you think of my recently-coined Custom Epistemology (a.k.a. deuterophysics, "second nature-ism")--the theory or poetry that the laws of physics, and even the laws of thought (axioms of logic), be habits or customs (compare Peirce's objective idealism). Calling it an epistemology, not an ontology, may make it more philosophical, less sophistic. However, compare:

"[The pre-Socratic sophists] proceeded on the basis of the distinction between nature and convention and relegated the human things proper, the just and the noble things, to the realm of convention. Accordingly they thought the only significant politically relevant knowledge was knowledge of rhetoric, for convention, being merely a persuasion, is subject to the art of persuasion." (Michael Zuckert, "Why Leo Strauss is Not an Aristotelian".)

And:

"[We late moderns] take it for granted that historical knowledge forms an integral part of the highest kind of learning. To see this fact in the proper perspective, we need only look back to the past. When Plato sketched in his Republic a plan of studies he mentioned arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and so on: he did not even allude to history. We cannot recall too often the saying of Aristotle (who was responsible for much of the most outstanding historical research done in classical antiquity) that poetry is more philosophic than history. This attitude was characteristic of all the classical philosophers and of all the philosophers of the Middle Ages. History was praised most highly not by the philosophers but by the rhetoricians." (Leo Strauss, What Is Political Philosophy?, pp. 57-58.)

I don't think Strauss and Picht were familiar with each other's work, yet this next Strauss quote encapsulates the reason for the main thesis of Picht's book, that "[h]istory is the essential content of [Nietzsche's] philosophy" (Picht, op.cit., introduction):

"History takes the place of nature as a consequence of the fact that the natural--e.g. the natural gifts which enable a man to become a philosopher--is no longer understood as given but as the acquisition of former generations." (Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil".)


Most students deny that anything is intrinsically impossible. Which explains keg stands and not much more.


Do you think the same was/is true in different times/cultures?


Modern philosophical thinking didn't culminate with Nietzsche - it began with him, or should have.


That just sounds cynical--cynical or naive.


The eternal recurrence is just the categorical imperative turned sideways. No one seems to make any sense on this issue.


Yours is just one of the dominant interpretations. I on the other hand think it operates on many levels, and not just those discerned by the dominant interpretations.


Every age is more advanced than the last - that is not to say that it is better.


Then what about the Late Bronze Age collapse? Not to mention more recent ones.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Faust » Tue Mar 20, 2018 6:42 pm

But M-S - no one uses "love of wisdom" as a definition of philosophy. I understand that you prefer to make poetic points, however.

And Plato wasn't anything like Christian, either. Except as I noted. All that was reversed-engineered by later Platonists. Agustine and his ilk.

To claim that nothing is intrinsically impossible is vapid. It is, I suppose, not impossible that I will wake up tomorrow as a cockroach. So what?

I am not sure what is either cynical or naive to say that Nietzsche was the first modern philosopher. He was the first to make certain unargued for assumptions, such as that God does not exist, and that epistemology is a scam.

As for collapses, destruction is ever part of progress. This is not to endorse progress, by the way.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Wed Mar 21, 2018 2:58 am

Faust wrote:But M-S - no one uses "love of wisdom" as a definition of philosophy. I understand that you prefer to make poetic points, however.


I never said philosophy is usually defined that way. What I'm saying is it's usually conceived that way--and rightly so, supposing those terms are rightly understood, as I said.


And Plato wasn't anything like Christian, either.


Again, I never said that, and in fact the last thing I said about this was "Platonism--i.e., neither Socratism nor Plato". Platonism was proto-Christian.


Except as I noted. All that was reversed-engineered by later Platonists. Agustine and his ilk.


One doesn't need to read Plato through Augustine and his ilk to see that his exoteric teaching was proto-Christian.


To claim that nothing is intrinsically impossible is vapid. It is, I suppose, not impossible that I will wake up tomorrow as a cockroach.


Exactly! Like in Kafka's "Metamorphosis", to which Neumann refers often in his book.


So what?


Well, it's what Strauss still called "the unsolved Humean problem". It has been considered a big deal, perhaps the biggest of deals, since Hume raised it. As I wrote six weeks ago:

"Kant solved that problem, but was unhistorical; Hegel solved it historically, but was an absolutist; Nietzsche solved it relatively, but was an eternalist; Heidegger solved it temporally, but was unpolitical; and Strauss pointed back to before Aristotle, through Plato and Xenophon, to Socrates..."

And as I wrote in a private conversation I had around June of last year:

Sauwelios wrote:
Sauwelios wrote:Okay. I don't think this has anything to do with what I'm discussing. The formations we call human beings share equally in the nature of what is manifesting as do insects (to use that Kafka example again).


The latter is what I was saying. Is there then something I am missing and so failing to adequately respond to what you had intended? If you are saying that Kafka's insect would be an example of a contradiction of my description of nature then it would be my positition that Gregor Samsa was no longer human after he woke up as an insect.


What you seem to be missing is the feeling that that is a problem.

"One day, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect (the most common translation of the German description ungeheuer Ungeziefer, literally 'monstrous vermin')." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis#Part_I)


To be sure, Neumann writes:

"There is nothing in, behind or above things to make them more than empty experiences (thoughts, perceptions, moods, feelings, etc.), impressions as Hume called them. Thus there would be no change of substance if men devolved into insects (Kafka) or apes evolved into men (Darwin). Evolution, devolution or annihilation involve no real change since neither men nor insects nor anything else is anything but the nothingness of empty experience. Nothing prevents anything from changing or being changed into anything else or into the nothing which everything always is." (Neumann, Liberalism, page 44-45.)

"Sometimes I ask students (or faculty) whether there is anything science cannot or should not do ... for example, the human engineering in Auschwitz or the Gulag. Can or should genetic engineering or robotics turn men into robots or robots into men? Can it transform men into insects as in Kafka's Metamorphosis? Usually academics see nothing in principle to prevent this or any possible experimentation. Moral-political passions will be outraged, but has this outrage any significance, however strong it may appear, in a liberal world devoid of non-arbitrary moral-political standards?" (op.cit., page 127.)


I am not sure what is either cynical or naive to say that Nietzsche was the first modern philosopher. He was the first to make certain unargued for assumptions, such as that God does not exist, and that epistemology is a scam.


According to Nietzsche himself, that just means he was not a skeptic (BGE 208). You may want to compare this post of mine:

http://ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?p=2692402#p2692402

And in any case, you didn't say Nietzsche was the first modern philosopher. What you said was this:

"Modern philosophical thinking didn't culminate with Nietzsche - it began with him, or should have."

This might mean modern philosophy only (should have) started to think with Nietzsche, or that philosophical thinking only (should have) started to be modern with Nietzsche, or that modern thinking only (should have) started to be philosophical with Nietzsche, or vice versa. Regardless of which you meant, it seemed cynical to me because it was saying there was no modern philosophical thinking before Nietzsche, and perhaps not even with Nietzsche. Still, I realised it might just be naive, since you might be unaware, due to their exotericism, of how modern, philosophical, and/or thoughtful the (so-called) early modern philosophers were.

Anyway, now I have more information, I still wonder whether you're saying making unargued for assumptions is the hallmark of modernity or of modern philosophy or of philosophy, period. I suppose the former, since Medieval Europeans already called themselves modern; Machiavelli just radically changed the prevailing conception of what was modern.


As for collapses, destruction is ever part of progress. This is not to endorse progress, by the way.


Destruction may be ever part of progress, but is progress ever part of destruction? I think not, unless you mean a very trivial sense of "progress". Yes, time only moves in one direction; this does not make all change progress.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Meno_ » Wed Mar 21, 2018 5:28 am

Let me attempt to guess.
Nietzsche/Bergson share some of vitalism as a key to this. Against the Kantian reduction to negation, a phenomenal reductive yet eidectically sustained contradiction, whereby post modernity defines modern European ideological conflict , which appears to encircle the globe.

Since Your example of affirming the proposition that destruction can be a part of progress but not vica versa, shows an affinity toward implying a temporal flow from Platonic-proto Christian sources..

That such difference is noted,results in a confirmation that it does flow from a level which stands up by more substantial logic, not merely from an absolutel one , toward negation.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:50 am

Mitra-Sauwelios wrote:Anyway, now I have more information, I still wonder whether you're saying making unargued for assumptions is the hallmark of modernity or of modern philosophy or of philosophy, period. I suppose the former, since Medieval Europeans already called themselves modern; Machiavelli just radically changed the prevailing conception of what was modern.


This makes "modern philosophy" an oxymoron, though. And indeed, instead of "not a skeptic", I said "less sophistic" before.

"Among Germans I am immediately understood when I say that philosophy has been corrupted by theologians' blood. The Protestant parson is the grandfather of German philosophy; Protestantism itself, its peccatum originale. Definition of Protestantism: the partial paralysis of Christianity--and of reason." (Nietzsche, The Antichrist, section 10, Kaufmann trans. Nietzsche's father and both his grandfathers were Protestant parsons.)

Still, it seems philosophy requires some kind of unargued for assumption: what Strauss has called the "discovery or invention" of nature as a term of distinction:

"The purport of the discovery of nature cannot be grasped if one understands by nature 'the totality of phenomena'. For the discovery of nature consists precisely in the splitting up of that totality into phenomena which are natural and phenomena which are not natural: 'nature' is a term of distinction. Prior to the discovery of nature, the characteristic behavior of any thing or any class of things was conceived of as its custom or its way. That is to say, no fundamental distinction was made between customs or ways which are always and everywhere the same and customs or ways which differ from tribe to tribe. Barking and wagging the tail is the way of dogs, menstruation is the way of women, the crazy things done by madmen are the way of madmen, just as not eating pork is the way of Jews and not drinking wine is the way of Moslems. 'Custom' or 'way' is the prephilosophic equivalent of 'nature'." (Strauss, Natural Right and History, pp. 82-83. The phrase "discovery or invention of nature" is from his "Progress or Return?")

What's the difference between a philosopher and a sophist? The pre-Socratic sophists argued that the art of persuasion is all one needs, as one can get all other things by means of it. The Socratic philosophers argued that teaching that in public was not a good idea, that it would be more to the sophists' advantage to become philosophers and persuade the non-philosophers/non-sophists of the need of moral virtue.

::

In "Progress or Return?" Strauss says:

"Now what then is the area of agreement between Greek philosophy and the Bible? Negatively we can say, and one could easily enlarge on this position, that there is a perfect agreement between the Bible and Greek philosophy in opposition to those elements of modernity which were described above [i.e., its anthropocentrism, its emphasis on rights rather than on duties, and its historicism]. They are rejected explicitly or implicitly by both the Bible and Greek philosophy. But this agreement is, of course, only an implicit one, and we should rather look at the agreement as it appeared directly in the text. One can say, and it is not misleading to say so, that the Bible and Greek philosophy agree in regard to what we may call, and we do call in fact, morality. They agree, if I may say so, regarding the importance of morality, regarding the content of morality, and regarding its ultimate insufficiency. They differ as regards that 'x' which supplements or completes morality, or, which is only another way of putting it, they disagree as regards the basis of morality.
I will give you first a brief statement, a reminder rather, of the agreement. Now some people assert that there is a radical and unqualified opposition between biblical morality and philosophic morality. If one heard certain people speak, one would believe that the Greek philosophers did nothing but preach pederasty, whereas Moses did nothing but curb pederasty. Now these people must have limited themselves to a most perfunctory reading of a part of Plato's Banquet or of the beginning of the Charmides, but they cannot have read the only work in which Plato set forth specific prescriptions for human society, namely, Plato's Laws; and what Plato's Laws say about this subject agrees fully with what Moses says. Those theologians who identified the second table of the Decalogue as the Christians call it with the natural law of Greek philosophy, were well-advised. It is as obvious to Aristotle as it is to Moses that murder, theft, adultery, etc., are unqualifiedly bad. Greek philosophy and the Bible agree as to this, that the proper framework of morality is the patriarchal family, which is, or tends to be, monogamous, and which forms the cell of a society in which the free adult males, and especially the old ones, predominate. Whatever the Bible and philosophy may tell us about the nobility of certain women, in principle both insist upon the superiority of the male sex. The Bible traces Adam's Fall to Eve's temptation. Plato traces the fall of the best social order to the covetousness of a woman. Consisting of free men, the society praised by the Bible and Greek philosophy refuses to worship any human being. I do not have to quote the Bible for I read it in a Greek author who says: 'You worship no human being as your Lord, but only the gods', and he expresses an almost biblical abhorrence of human beings who claim divine honors. Bible and Greek philosophy agree in assigning the highest place among the virtues, not to courage or manliness, but to justice. And by justice both understand primarily, obedience to the law. The law that requires man's full obedience is in both cases not merely civil, penal, and constitutional law, but moral and religious law as well. It is, in biblical language, the guidance, the Torah, for the whole life of man. In the words of the Bible, 'It is your life', or 'It is the tree of life for those who cling to it'; and in the words of Plato, 'The law effects the blessedness of those who obey it'. Its comprehensiveness can be expressed, as Aristotle does it, by saying, 'What the law does not command, it forbids'; and substantially that is the biblical view as well, as is shown by such commandments as 'Thou shall eat and be full and be fruitful and multiply'. Obedience to a law of this kind is more than ordinary obedience; it is humility. No wonder that the greatest prophet of the Bible as well as the most law-abiding among the Greeks are praised for their humility. Law and justice, thus understood, are divine law and divine justice. The rule of law is fundamentally the rule of God, theocracy. Man's obedience and disobedience to the law is the object of divine retribution. What Plato says in the tenth book of the Laws about man's inability to escape from divine retribution is almost literally identical with certain verses of Amos and the Hundred-and-thirty-ninth Psalm. In this context, one may even mention, and without apology I think, the kinship between the monotheism of the Bible and the monotheism toward which Greek philosophy is tending, and the kinship between the first chapter of Genesis and Plato's Timaeus. But the Bible and Greek philosophy agree not merely regarding the place which they assign to justice, the connection between justice and law, the character of law, and divine retribution. They also agree regarding the problem of justice, the difficulty created by the misery of the just and the prospering of the wicked. One cannot read Plato's description in the second book of the Republic of the perfectly just man who suffers what would be the just fate of the most unjust man without being reminded of Isaiah's description of him who has done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth, yet who was oppressed and afflicted and brought as a lamb to the slaughter. And just as Plato's Republic ends with restoring all kinds of prosperity to the just, the book of Job ends with the restoration to the just Job of everything he had temporarily lost."

To be sure, Strauss does not refer to pre-Socratic philosophy; but we must remember that (Plato's) Socrates only commanded and legislated what the Greeks raised by Homer and Hesiod did not even know deep down they wanted to be commanded and legislated.

I contend that Nietzsche provides a new basis for the morality of Israel, Classical Greece and Republican Rome alike. What basis? Ironically, an anthropocentric, rights-oriented, and historicist basis: History as the middle ground between God and Nature, as relative God (freedom) and relative Nature (necessity), with the highest man's might as the right determining right and wrong, duty and proscription. See my Nature and God are History and The Rebirth of Classic Natural Right OPs.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Faust » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:41 am

Ahhh, not defined but conceived. I get it now. And you are talking about all that Platonism that isn't completely Christian. I am enlightened. I will keep guard against turning into an insect.

Have a good day.
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Re: A Tutorial in Platonic Political Philosophy.

Postby Mitra-Sauwelios » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:02 pm

Faust wrote:I will keep guard against turning into an insect.

That may be futile, it may happen spontaneously. What you should do is read Kafka's short story, so you're at least somewhat prepared in case it does happen. He really thought through the practical difficulties!
"Your symbolical, lyrical and musical world can become an absolute standard. That is to say the highest on Earth." (Fixed Cross, "Re: A letter for the King" (return email to yours truly!), my translation.)
kali maa jaap mantra {om aim hreem kleem chamundaye vichaye}
"didja read that great wall of text he wrote? i'm tellin' you, ollie is the grand master of the esoteric and eclectic. if there IS something more to life, something extramundane or divine or whatever you wanna call it, ollie will figure it out" (Zoot Allures, to phoneutria, about yours truly.)
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