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I haven’t paid enough attention to Chapter 46 of Hobbes’s Leviathan, in English or Latin. This series of remarks from the 14th Latin paragraph are otherworldly:

For after a year or two Pope Leo, in his correspondence, exhorted Emperor Charlemagne to establish universities throughout his dominions, where all letters and sciences would be taught. So he set up, in Paris, the first university; and afterwards other kings set up others, each in his own dominion, which, once the colleges had been set up and organized for study, where to be governed by laws, according to the discretion of the Roman pontiff. Finally, from masters such as Peter Lombard, Duns Scotus, and Thomas Aquinas, was born the theology which they call scholastic, a hodgepodge of Aristotle’s philosophy and Sacred Scripture. In the universities they teach Aristotle’s logic, his physics, his metaphysics, his ethics, and his politics, as if the whole of the sciences were in one man, who was then also the greatest father of the Church, Aristotle. But especially to establish among adolescents a demeanor of deference, they were exercised in public disputations and speeches, by which they could maintain and preach the dogmas of the Roman church. So by the sermons of ecclesiastics, sent from the universities into almost all the cities, towns and parishes of the Christian world, and by published writings, it was fixed inedibly in the minds of all Christians that there is no other rule of just and unjust except the dictates of the Roman church, that kings are not to be obeyed further than is permitted by the Roman church, and kings themselves ought to obey the Roman pontiff like sheep. And they accomplished what they set out to accomplish.

Emphasis mine, on the white-hot fire that Hobbes just threw at Aristotle. A “hodgepodge” of Aristotle and scripture has come to represent the entirety of the contest between philosophy and revelation, Athens and Jerusalem. This is somehow stronger than his justly famous English takedown: “And I believe that scarce anything can be more absurdly said in natural philosophy than that which now is called Aristotle’s Metaphysics; nor more repugnant to government than much of that he hath said in his Politics; nor more ignorantly than a great part of his Ethics. Perhaps the benefits of modern translation vs Olde English explain my impression of the Latin text, but the clear and pernicious influence of Aristotle on the sociology of knowledge at the time Hobbes was writing comes through so loud and clear. And read this phrase again: ”But especially to establish among adolescents a demeanour of deference…" – has the problem of education ever been so pithily explained? Here’s my Hobbesian inspired statement of teaching philosophy from this day forward: to undo the demeanor of deference established among adolescents.

n.b. quotes from Curley’s translation.

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It’s probably useful to list them all, in all their variants, in one place. Begin with Diogenes Laertius, compare the changes in Xenophon and Plato, as Strauss suggested on the first page of his Xenophon’s Socrates.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives 2.5.40:

The affidavit in the case, which is still preserved, says Favorinus, in the Metron, ran as follows: “This indictment and affidavit is sworn by Meletus, the son of Meletus of Pitthos, against Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus of Alopece: Socrates is guilty of refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state, and of introducing other new divinities. He is also guilty of corrupting the youth. The penalty demanded is death.

Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.1:

I often wondered by what possible speeches those who indicted Socrates persuaded the Athenians that he deserved death from the city. For the indictment against him was something like the following: Socrates commits an injustice by not believing in the gods which the city believes and by bringing in new and different divine things; he commits an injustice also by corrupting the young.

Xenophon, Apology of Socrates to the Jury, §10:

And [Hermogenes] affirmed that Socrates said that, this being his view, when the plaintiffs accused him on the grounds that he did not believe in the gods in whom the city believes but brought in other strange daimonia and corrupted the young…

Plato, Apology of Socrates, 24b

It is something like this: it asserts that Socrates does an justice by corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel. The charge is of this sort.

Plato doesn’t report this part of his biography, though Diogenes Laertius does:

Justus of Tiberias in his book entitled The Wreath says that in the course of the trial Plato mounted the platform and began: “Though I am the youngest, men of Athens, of all who ever rose to address you”–whereupon the judges shouted out, “Get down! Get down!”

Xenophon, of course, couldn’t have spoken at the Trial of Socrates because he was busy leading 10,000 Greeks out of Asia, or something. One wonders what would have transpired if Xenophon rose to speak, and not Plato. That begs the question of whether Xenophon would have ever risen to speak in the same way.

In closing, compare Aristophanes’ charges against Socrates with Socrates’ charges against Gorgias.

In December 1981, Gadamer did an interview with Professor Fr. Ernest Fortin at Boston College.  It was published in 1984 in Interpretation, Vol.12 No.1.   The interview’s intention is for Gadamer to speak about Leo Strauss, but is more wide ranging than that.  The opening gives us this depiction of Weimar Germany after World War One:

“The general feeling was one of disorientation.  One day  — I was only a youngster then — a number of us got tougher and asked: “What should we do?” “How can the world be reconstructed?” The answers were very different.  Some thought we ought to follow Max Weber; others; Otto von Gierke; others still, Rabindranath Tagore, who was the most popular poet in Germany immediately after World War I, thanks to some moving translations of his plays. (He was a good friend of Paul Natorp and occasionally came to Germany. I saw him once: an enormous figure with the face of a prophet. Fantastic! Natorp himself was a giant in the guise of a dwarf.) These concerns were shared by the young Leo Strauss as well. He too was looking around in search of some orientation.”

What’s interesting, from the perspective of the formal subject of the interview, is that Strauss and Gadamer do not “have their first real acquaintance” until 1933.  I learned of Tagore from this interview, and am very glad for it.  It is certainly worth a moment’s reflection that a man who could write to Gandhi to warn him about the inhumanity of his politics could have had a potential influence over the same intellectual environment in which Heidegger eventually flourished.  The especially interesting comparison though is with the Kronjurist himself, Schmitt.  I will let Tagore speak for himself:

Have you not seen, since the commencement of the existence of the Nation, that the dread of it has been the one goblin-dread with which the whole world has been trembling? Wherever there is a dark corner, there is the suspicion of its secret malevolence; and people live in a perpetual distrust of its back where it has no eyes. Every sound of a footstep, every rustle of movement in the neighbourhood, sends a thrill of terror all around. And this terror is the parent of all that is base in man’s nature. It makes one almost openly unashamed of inhumanity. Clever lies become matters of self-congratulation. Solemn pledges become a farce,—laughable for their very solemnity. The Nation, with all its paraphernalia of power and prosperity, its flags and pious hymns, its blasphemous prayers in the churches, and the literary mock thunders of its patriotic bragging, cannot hide the fact that the Nation is the greatest evil for the Nation, that all its precautions are against it, and any new birth of its fellow in the world is always followed in its mind by the dread of a new peril. Its one wish is to trade on the feebleness of the rest of the world, like some insects that are bred in the paralysed flesh of victims kept just enough alive to make them toothsome and nutritious. Therefore it is ready to send its poisonous fluid into the vitals of the other living peoples, who, not being nations, are harmless. For this the Nation has had and still has its richest pasture in Asia. Great China, rich with her ancient wisdom and social ethics, her discipline of industry and self-control, is like a whale awakening the lust of spoil in the heart of the Nation. She is already carrying in her quivering flesh harpoons sent by the unerring aim of the Nation, the creature of science and selfishness. Her pitiful attempt to shake off her traditions of humanity, her social ideals, and spend her last exhausted resources in drilling herself into modern efficiency, is thwarted at every step by the Nation. It is tightening its financial ropes round her, trying to drag her up on the shore and cut her into pieces, and then go and offer public thanksgiving to God for supporting the one existing evil and shattering the possibility of a new one. And for all this the Nation has been claiming the gratitude of history, and all eternity for its exploitation; ordering its band of praise to be struck up from end to end of the world, declaring itself to be the salt of the earth, the flower of humanity, the blessing of God hurled with all His force upon the naked skulls of the world of No-Nations.

I know what your advice will be. You will say, form yourselves into a nation, and resist this encroachment of the Nation. But is this the true advice? that of a man to a man? Why should this be a necessity? I could well believe you if you had said, Be more good, more just, more true in your relation to man, control your greed, make your life wholesome in its simplicity and let your consciousness of the divine in humanity be more perfect in its expression. But must you say that it is not the soul, but the machine, which is of the utmost value to ourselves, and that man’s salvation depends upon his disciplining himself into a perfection of the dead rhythm of wheels and counterwheels? that machine must be pitted against machine, and nation against nation, in an endless bull-fight of politics?

You say, these machines will come into an agreement, for their mutual protection, based upon a conspiracy of fear. But will this federation of steam-boilers supply you with a soul, a soul which has her conscience and her God? What is to happen to that larger part of the world where fear will have no hand in restraining you? Whatever safety they now enjoy, those countries of No-Nation, from the unbridled license of forge and hammer and turn-screw, results from the mutual jealousy of the powers. But when, instead of being numerous separate machines, they become riveted into one organized gregariousness of gluttony, commercial and political, what remotest chance of hope will remain for those others, who have lived and suffered, have loved and worshipped, have thought deeply and worked with meekness, but whose only crime has been that they have not organized?

But, you say, “That does not matter, the unfit must go to the wall—they shall die, and this is science.”

No, for the sake of your own salvation, I say, they shall live, and this is truth. It is extremely bold of me to say so, but I assert that man’s world is a moral world, not because we blindly agree to believe it, but because it is so in truth which would be dangerous for us to ignore. And this moral nature of man cannot be divided into convenient compartments for its preservation. You cannot secure it for your home consumption with protective tariff walls, while in foreign parts making it enormously accommodating in its free trade of license.

You may continue listening to him speak for himself here.

At some point, I don’t quite remember when, I began to hold the work of William James in high esteem.  My first impression of him, an impression which has yet to disappear, is that he begs us to recall a time when liberal education truly meant the freedom of the mind.  He was a philosopher who could speak to psychologists, and a psychologist who could speak to philosophers.  This outlook, such as it is a bird’s eye view of the human condition, is worth retrieving.  Before his volumes in the Library of America came into my possession I spent many hours at the indispensable William James cybrary.  I sometimes wonder – aside from the fantastic amount of talent that arrived in America after the World War Two – who, if any, are the American philosophers that might rank higher than James, especially given the scope of his expertise?  A small quote from The Moral Equivalent of War:

History is a bath of blood. The Illiad is one long recital of how Diomedes and Ajax, Sarpedon and Hector killed. No detail of the wounds they made is spared us, and the Greek mind fed upon the story. Greek history is a panorama of jingoism and imperialism — war for war’s sake, all the citizen’s being warriors. It is horrible reading — because of the irrationality of it all — save for the purpose of making “history” — and the history is that of the utter ruin of a civilization in intellectual respects perhaps the highest the earth has ever seen.

Those wars were purely piratical. Pride, gold, women, slaves excitement were their only motives. In the Peloponesian war, for example, the Athenians ask the inhabitants of Melos (the island where the “Venus de Milo” was found), hitherto neutral, to own their lordship. The envoys meet, and hold a debate which Thucydides gives in full, and which, for sweet reasonableness of form, would have satisfied Matthew Arnold. “The powerful exact what they can,” said the Athenians, “and the weak grant what they must.” When the Meleans say that sooner than be slaves they will appeal to the gods, the Athenians reply, “Of the gods we believe and of men we know that, by a law of their nature, wherever they can rule they will. This law was not made by us, and we are not the first to have acted upon it; we did but inherit it, and we know that you and all mankind, if you were as strong as we are, would do as we do. So much for the gods; we have told you why we expect to stand as high in their good opinion as you.” Well, the Meleans still refused, and their town was taken. “The Athenians,” Thucydides quietly says, “thereupon put to death all who were of military age and made slaves of the women and children. They then colonized the island, sending thither five hundred settlers of their own.

Let us not forget about John Dewey…

In Carl Schmitt’s The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, Schmitt makes a handful of comparison’s between Hobbes’s political theory, and Descartes on the mechanization of man, or the interpretation of man as a machine.  This is possible, of course, because in Les Passions de l’Ame Descartes articulates the division between body and soul.  At any rate, the decisive difference in how one can interpret the relationship between Descartes and Hobbes seems to be this.  One can side with Schmitt and believe that Hobbes took the mechanization of man from Descartes and constructed the “huge man” (makros anthropos), if one likes.  But this comparison of Hobbes and Descartes in the mechanization and “hugeness” of man in the form of the state is contrasted by Strauss’s interpretation of this relationship, where Hobbes follows Descartes’ “retreat into consciousness” for the sake of dismissing Descartes’ refutation of the Deus Deceptor in order to refute it on human bases alone (i.e. in the coming into contact with the world, pragmata).  So, either they are similar because the make man big, or they are similar because they reduce him to his ineluctable conscience.  The latter, not the former, allows for the full horizon of modern philosophy to reveal itself.    This horizon is also fully aware of its theologico-political presuppositions, or the account of miracles that opposes the premodern account of the same.  Now the “Account of the Chariot” begs to be read as a critique of miracles, or at least as being fully aware that it is contemporaneously an account and a critique of mystery.  Schmitt turns to sovereignty; Strauss turns to conscience, to synderesis/syneidesis.

I’ve gone through Rabbi Weber’s thesis, and collected the remarks that relate to the two days he spent with Strauss in June of 1973.  Before I get to a quote, let me quickly outline why I’ve been so engrossed with this +35 year old dissertation that was never published as a book.

1) Weber hypothesizes that Strauss’s thought on Maimonides evolved, and as his understanding of Maimonides evolved so did his understanding of political philosophy generally.  Weber also reports that Strauss himself confirms this evolution in his understanding of Maimonides, with a “glimmer” first revealing itself in 1938, (though possibly as early as 1931, as Weber suggests this is the first time Strauss repeats the famous quote from Averroes).

2) Weber’s thesis focuses on the contest between “Judaism and Philosophy” rather than “Jerusalem and Athens”.  And he also views this conflict in the light of the theologico-political problem.  The primacy of the “theologico-political problem” to Strauss’s work wasn’t always as clear to his English readers as it was to his German ones.  Weber recognizes this, having read and compared the German preface to Political Philosophy of Hobbes in the German edition of 1964.

3)Weber provides (I believe) the first English translation of the introduction to Philosophie und Gesetz.  He takes as his guide for translating Strauss, Leo Strauss himself (referring to the Autobiographical preface to the Spinoza book).  I’ll provide two examples of the difference.  Adler translates, “But if one undertakes a confrontation of this kind seriously, and thus in the freedom of the question which of the two opposed rationalisms is the true rationalism, then medieval rationalism, whose “classic” for us is Maimonides, changes in the course of the investigation from a mere means of discerning more sharply the specific character of modern rationalism into the standard measured against which the latter proves to be only a semblance of rationalism” (P&L 21-2).  Compare Weber’s translation of the same sentence:  “If such a confrontation is undertaken in earnest — that is, with the question open as to which of the two opposing rationalisms is the true rationalism — then the following result ensues:  medieval rationalism — whose classic exponent for us is Maimonides — initially taken as merely an instrument for keener cognition of the distinctiveness of modern rationalism, becomes during the course of the investigation the standard, measured by which modern rationalism reveals itself to be a “pseudo-rationalism”.  Weber says he follows Strauss’s use of “pseudo-philosophy” from Persecution in order to translate “pseudo-rationalism”.  Weber provides a note referencing Strauss’s discussion of the proper “instrument” for use in sacrifices in the Averroes’ section, suggesting he has that argument in mind here.  Adler’s “mere means” obscures this (if Weber’s interpretation is right, of course).

Weber reports a comment from Strauss along the following lines: “whereas one may argue for a philosophicus Christi, the case for ‘Mosaic Philosophy’ is hardly tenable.”

I like thinking about this remark on ‘Mosaic philosophy’ very much.  Given the concomitant nature of philosophy and tyranny, consider the negative formulation of that statement.  One may argue for a tyrannicus Christi, the case for Mosaic tyranny is hardly tenable.  But if tyranny is a danger coeval with political life, the “Bible” and the laws of Moses are not political life.  But this seems like it cannot be true, especially if the Torah is The Law.  But then Strauss “heartily agrees” with a comment about the family and philosophy being inversely related.  This is another way of framing his statement from “Accounts” that a philosopher’s “first education he would usually get from his father and mother, and other relatives, that is to say, from the city” (JPCM 466).  Now this makes sense: Torah, The Law, Family, The City, are essentially equivocal.  Wait: my train of thought here assumes that politics is natural, in the same way that a family is natural.  We can abstract Law and Family from Politics, that is they can exist apart from Politics (pace Aristotle [cf.Cain/Able with Shepherds and Agriculturists]).  Is this a way to begin to “enucleate” Biblical wisdom?  I believe I have run up against one of Strauss’s famous hurdles.  But this I hope demonstrates Weber’s point about the importance Strauss gives to “attentiveness”.  

While reading Seth Benardete’s essay Socrates and Plato: The Dialectics of Eros I stumbled across the most fantastic quote.  Quote:  “…negation is always the other of the other (Sophist 258a4-5).  Philosophy therefore tends to become conspicuous at the boundaries of things, where it binds together what seems to be apart and separates what seems to be together.”  Someday soon I hope to formulate some thoughts on Being, inside/outside, and philosophy being “on the line”.  Perhaps while discussing the quid sit of securitasSecuritas is a freedom from anxiety – freedom from angst – or composure.  It is also the name of a minor Roman Goddess or personified as the “tutelary goddess of the Roman state”.  Security and Political Theology always, always, go hand in hand.  To wit: ti esti nomos?

p.s. Confer Saint Jerome’s translation of Maccabees 11:30

p.p.s. Blushing is the surface that reveals the heart of things.

p.p.p.s. Is philosophy the seaming of seemingness?

Another Vignette.  Last week I asked Elise to look at my bookshelf and – judging my books only by their covers – pick the book she thought would be the most difficult to read.  Her answer?  Volume II of Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed.  This is, of course, the correct answer.   With the seventeen chapters of the Prophetology, the seven chapters on Ezekiel’s Account of the Chariot, and the enigmatic ending, this is always the correct answer.

A few nights ago Elise woke me up reading in bed and laughing. She highlighted the following:

But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.

Needless to say, I was won over immediately. I am far too old to have never read Dorian Gray and we happen to be lucky enough to own two copies. Part of me is more than convinced this book needs to be read alongside Plato’s Symposium, to say nothing of the tripartite relationship of Lord Henry, Basil, and Dorian. I should not shock anyone suggesting a philosophic undertone to Wilde’s book, especially its playful treatment of amour propre and existence. Yet another reason to look for an excuse to teach a course on Political Philosophy in the English Language. All this said it is a joy beyond joy to be reading a book with my wife rather than playing catch up.