RSS Output
French    German    Spain    Italian    Arabic    Chinese Simplified    Russian

Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII -

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Corona, 'The Science' or Scientism, Islam, the State, the cult of Gender Fascism, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion...

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

Back     Printer Friendly Version  

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review part one: 'The Dream of Reason, A History of Philosophy', by A. Gottlieb

Reason and Theology - mixed up as it were.

by StFerdIII


Philosophers have regularly cocked an eyebrow at what passes for the common sense of the time; the punch line comes later, when it is 'common sense' that turns out to be have been uncommonly confused.”....

Many of the earliest known philosophers made their first reputations in what could be regarded as a branch of show business. They appeared in public, often in resplendent clothes, and held discourses or recited poems. Such performances attracted passing audiences, devoted followers, and sometimes ridicule.” [p.3]

This is a clear, entertaining and excellent synopsis in the first place, of ancient Greek philosophy and the path to 'reason' and the methods of science in accounting for natural phenomena, and the 'laws' of physics and indeed of existence. The author is a philosopher who recounts with great knowledge the real facts behind the 'great thinkers' of the Greek tradition, traducing myths, fables, and inaccurate theories about who these men were, and what they were really trying to do and say. The husking of the real philosophical wheat from the irrelevant and mythical chaff is one good reason to read this book.

The author does a marvellous job of placing pre-Socratic and Platonic philosophy and the first forays into scientific thought, into perspective relating the development of early philosophy [co-joined with science], in its proper historical and cultural context. This is usually missing in many accounts or summaries of ancient patterns of thought, theologizing, rationalization or enquiry.

The reader will discover the following for example, which is new for many people, especially those who are not deep into the study of the ancients:

-”Even if those who believed in Poseidon and the other gods also entertained the possibility that there were natural explanations for earthquakes and such things, the fact is we do not know of anybody before the Milesians [Greek city on the coast of Asia Minor] who actually came up with any such explanations [in referencing the big '3' of Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes in the 7th century BC].

-”Alphabetic writing first arose in Greece in around the eighty century and was becoming widespread by the sixth. This allowed everything that could be said to be written down easily, a novelty that is hard for us to appreciate. By crystallizing beliefs, myths, theories and stories of all kinds, it made them available for examination and criticism...for all their shortcomings the Milesians seem have been the first to try and exploit this opportunity.” [p.20]

-”If the philosophy of Thales demonstrated one essential facet of scientific thinking, namely the urge to simplify and reduce observable phenomena, Anaximander's work exemplified an additional and equally fundamental one: science says there is more to the world than meets the eye.” [p.10]

-”Aristotle wrote – exaggerating, but not ridiculously – that Plato's philosophy 'in most respects followed' the Pythagoreans. It is certainly true that Pythagorean ideas were swallowed up by Platonism...”

-”....what exactly is it on which the philosopher is supposed to fix his gaze? For the Pythagoreans, it was apparently the heavenly bodies, wheeling in their orderly and harmonious paths through the sky. For Plato, it became something more abstract, which the heavenly bodies symbolized: the ideal Forms, of which earthly things are inferior copies...” [p. 29]

-”Kepler [1571-1630] was a confirmed (if rather belated) Pythagorean. His faith that the heavens must be arranged in a harmonious pattern that reveals itself in simple mathematical relationships led him to formulate several generalizations about the planets. Some of them are misguided fantasies....” [p. 37]

-”However, although we can safely say that the notion of mathematical proof was developed by the Greeks, and at some time before Euclid..[4th century BC]...there is no reason to think it is Pythagoras or his followers who deserve all or even any of the credit for inventing it. Rigorous deduction is more clearly seen in the work of Parmenides...” [p. 39]

-[Heraclitus late 6th century BC] “You will not find out the limits of the soul by going, even if you travel over every way.” So his voyage of discovery sailed inwards. He turned to introspection to describe...dreams, the emotions, and character (Man's character, he reflected, is his fate).” [p. 43]

-”In Parmenides' [who lived in the late 6th century BC in Grecian Italy] version, nothing ever changes, whereas in Heraclitus' everything always does....It was the thought of Parmenides which had a far greater impact. The ideas of Heraclitus survived only in Plato's misappropriation of them.” [p. 51]

-”Parmenides abstract argument may be reason run riot, but at least it is reason running, and apparently for the first time. By its attempt to spin a web of ideas out of one principle – that of avoiding all thought of 'what is not' – in a logically rigorous way, it inaugurated the systematic use of deduction outside of mathematics.” [p. 62]

-”....extreme examples [of Parmenidian logic].. are the writings of Hegel and his followers. In his lectures on the history of philosophy, Hegel said that 'Parmenides began Philosophy proper', buy which he seems to have meant that Parmenides was the first thinker wise enough to anticipate Hegel.” [p. 63]

-”Zeno's paradoxes [5th century BC follower of Parmenides who created riddles ridiculing other philosophical theories through logical examination], particularly those about motion, have outlived the other main arguments in Presocratic thought. They have been discussed in detail by mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers from his day to this.” [p. 67]

-”Empedocles' [5th century BC from Greek Sicily] earth, air, fire and water – the pigments of which the real world were mixed – were not quite the same as what we mean by those words. 'Air' covered all gases, and 'water' all liquids, and metal counted as a liquid because it melts...” [p. 76]

-”On the central question of biology, Empedocles hit the mark with surprising accuracy. He said that creatures owe their useful and fortunate features to the fact that there were originally many sorts of creatures and that the strange, deformed ones failed to survive..” [p. 79]

-”It is not true that philosophy was solely concerned with scientific questions until Socrates came along. Several philosophers, including Pythagoras and Heraclitus, discussed 'questions about life and morality and things good and evil' long before he did.” [p. 85]

-”...highpoint in the ancient world with the so-called 'atomists', Leucippus and Democritus [5th century BC], who can in some respects be seen as seventeenth century [AD] thinkers ahead of their time.” [p. 88]

-”Democritus studied with Leucippus and took over the one idea for which the latter is remembered: that innumerable tiny atoms career around in empty space (called 'the void') until they collide and adhere to one another...” [p. 97]

-Lucretius [who wrote On the Nature of things, 1rst century BC] made it plain that his poem was designed to liberate man from superstition, the fear of death and the tyranny of priests: When man's life lay for all to see foully grovelling upon the ground, crushed beneath the weight of Superstition, which displayed her head from the regions of heaven...a man of Greece was the first that dared to uplift mortal eyes against her...Lucretius' heroic 'man of Greece' was Epicurus; but it was really Democritus and Leucippus who first rattled the bars of nature's gates in the name of atomism.” [p. 96]

-”What these Sophists wanted [5th century teachers of higher education paid for their services and notable in rhetoric and legal education and full of moral and cultural relativity]; was a philosophy that embraced everyday experience. This desire puts them in the opposite corner of the philosophical ring to Plato....[who] had a view of knowledge that was bulging with veins of Orphism [life after death, transmigration of souls] and Pythagoreanism...beyond the world of everyday experience to the purified truths of reason.” [p. 118]

-”Protagoras [5th century Sophist] meant when he famously said that 'Man is the measure of all things'. This sort of view is relative to each believer, because it holds that truth is relative to each believer, or, more often nowadays, relative to each group or community of believers.” [p. 119]

This is but a small taste of the pre-Socratic philosophy which is offered. The only small criticisms or observations are that the author does not include the Near Eastern influences on Greek thought. Sumeria, Babylon, Hurria, Mitana, Assyria and empires in Syria, Anatolia and Israel [via the Hebrews a Canaanite sect], all had a significant impact on Greek development. As well no mention is made of Minoan and Egyptian influence on the perspective of Mycenaean and later Doric Greek society. One of the key central facts of Greek history is that the imperial regime of Mycenaean civilisation is replaced with a society of independent and autonomous Greek poli or city states. This happened after the Dorics wiped out the existing Cycladian and Minoan civilizations. The establishment of this new order is of central importance in the development of the Greek 'golden age'.

As well the author is adamantly hostile to organized religion even though Christian theology melds both Platonic and Socratic methods, along with the rationality of Aristotle and even of Empedocles and Democritus with metaphysics. No mention is made of the 1500 years of Christian philosophical mutation and growth, in part adduced to the secular theologies of both pre-Socratic and post-Platonic and Aristotelian cadres of philosophy. The sterile refrain of modernity that 'science is good' and 'Christianity is bad' is simplistic and ignorant.

But this is of course a book on philosophy not history or theology. In that regard it is well worth reading and learning from the author's profound knowledge of the subjects he discusses.




Article Comments:

Related Articles:

Books on Civilization

11/9/2022:  'Religion and the Rise of Western Culture' – Christopher Dawson

11/5/2014:  "The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the 10th Century.”

8/14/2014:  Christine Garwood “Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea”

2/19/2014:  'Meism' and Islam; 'Christianity, Islam and Atheism' by William Kilpatrick (2)

2/18/2014:  Christianity, Islam and Atheism by William Kilpatrick

4/24/2013:   Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church by George Weigel

4/8/2013:  Scranton and the 'Velikovsky Heresies' - a challenge to the cult of 'science'.

1/3/2013:  'Why Capitalism', by Alan Meltzer

12/10/2012:  Medieval Technology and Social Change, Lynn White Jr., Oxford Press, 1968

12/4/2012:  Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity, by Michael Coren

11/14/2012:  Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay W. Richards

10/9/2012:  Caravaggio, A life sacred and profane  Andrew Graham-Dixon - fantastic.

9/22/2012:  Book Review: Michael Coren, 'Why Catholics are Right'.

9/3/2012:  Book Review, Why the West is Best, by Ibn Warraq, Part Two

8/28/2012:  Book Review, Why the West is Best, by Ibn Warraq, Part One

5/22/2012:  The Early Middle Ages 400-1000, Editor Rosamund McKitterick, Short Oxford History of Europe

5/6/2012:  Book Review: 'Seven Lies about Catholic History', Diane Moczar

4/29/2012:  Gottlieb part 2: The Dream of Reason, A History of Philosophy

4/23/2012:  Book Review part one: 'The Dream of Reason, A History of Philosophy', by A. Gottlieb

4/12/2012:  Review, Emmet Scott: 'Mohammed and Charlemagne'

3/6/2012:  Henri Pirenne, 'Mohammed and Charlemagne' – Part 2

3/1/2012:  Henri Pirenne, Mohammed and Charlemagne – Part One

2/11/2012:  Niall Ferguson, 'Civilization' and the collapse of Europe

12/30/2011:  Mark Steyn, 'After America – Get Ready for Armageddon'

12/9/2011:  Book Review, Nigel Cliff's 'Holy War'. Flawed but interesting.

11/7/2011:  'How Civilizations Die', D. P. Goldman, 2011, 270 pgs.

9/16/2011:  Morris Bishop: The Middle Ages

9/6/2011:  Life in a Medieval City, by Joseph and Frances Gies, Harper Collins.

8/31/2011:  Adrian Goldsworthy, 'Caesar', 632 pages, 40 pages of source notes.

7/18/2011:  Steve Ozment, 'The Legacy of the Reformation', 1980.

7/16/2011:  G. R. Elton, The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. ii, The Reformation, 1958

6/17/2011:  Charles Nauert, 'The Age of Renaissance' 1981.

6/5/2011:  The Monks of War by Desmond Seward.

9/21/2010:  Rodney Stark: 'Cities of God'. Another excellent book.

8/18/2009:  Michelle Malkin's 'Culture of Corruption: Obama and his team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies.'

4/5/2008:  Book Review: 'Forges of Empires' 1861-1871; Three revolutionary statesman and the world they made.'