CLASSIC PHILOSOPHY VERSUS THE CLIMATE OF OPINION


The effort of the Greeks to arrive at an understanding of their humanity has culminated in the Platonic-Aristotelian creation of philosophy as the science of the nature of man. Even more than with the Sophistic of their times the results are in conflict with the contemporary climate of opinion. I shall enumerate some principal points of disagreement:

1. Classic: There is a nature of man, a definite structure of existence that puts limits on perfectibility.  Modern:  The nature of man can be changed, either through historical evolution or through revolutionary action, so that a perfect realm of freedom can be established in history.

2. Classic:  Philosophy is the endeavor to advance from opinion ( doxa ) about the order of man and society to science ( episteme ); the philosopher is not a philodoxer.  Modern:  No science in such matters is possible, only opinion; everybody is entitled to his opinions; we have a pluralist society.

3. Classic:  Society is man written large.  Modern:  Man is society written small.

4. Classic:  Man exists in erotic tension toward the divine ground of his existence.  Modern:  He doesn’'t; for I don’'t; and I'm the measure of man.

5. Classic:  Man is disturbed by the question of the ground; by nature he is a questioner ( aporein ) and seeker ( zetein ) for the whence, the where to, and the why of his existence; he will raise the question: Why is there something, why not nothing?  Modern:  Such questions are otiose (Comte); don’t ask them, be a socialist man (Marx); questions to which the sciences of world-immanent things can give no answer are senseless, they are Scheinprobleme (neopositivism).

6. Classic:  The feeling of existential unrest, the desire to know, the feeling of being moved to question, the questioning and seeking itself, the direction of the questioning toward the ground that moves to be sought, the recognition of the divine ground as the mover, are the experiential complex, the pathos , in which the reality of divine-human participation ( metalepsis ) becomes luminous. The exploration of the metaleptic reality, of the Platonic metaxy , as well as the articulation of the exploratory action through language symbols, in Plato’s case of his myths, are the central concern of the philosopher’s efforts.  Modern:  The modern responses to this central issue change with the “climate of opinion”. . . . Philosophical illiteracy has progressed so far that the experiential core of philosophizing has disappeared below the horizon and is not even recognized as such when it appears in philosophers like Bergson. The deculturation process has eclipsed it so thoroughly by opinion that sometimes one hesitates to speak even of an indifference toward it.

7. Classic:  Education is the art of periagoge, of turning around (Plato).  Modern:  Education is the art of adjusting people so solidly to the climate of opinion prevalent at the time that they feel no “desire to know.” Education is the art of preventing people from acquiring the knowledge that would enable them to articulate the questions of existence. Education is the art of pressuring young people into a state of alienation that will result in either quiet despair or aggressive militancy.

8. Classic:  The process in which metaleptic reality becomes conscious and noetically articulate is the process in which the nature of man becomes luminous to itself as the life of reason. Man is the zoon noun echon.  Modern  Reason is instrumental reason. There is no such thing as a noetic rationality of man.

9. Classic:  Through the life of reason ( bios theoretikos ) man realizes his freedom.  Modern:  Plato and Aristotle were fascists. The life of reason is a fascist enterprise.

The enumeration is not even remotely exhaustive. Everybody can supplement it with juicy items gleaned from opinion literature and the mass media, from conversations with colleagues and students. Still, [the enumeration makes it clear what] Whitehead meant when he stated that modern philosophy has been ruined. Moreover, the conflicts have been formulated in such a manner that the character of the grotesque attaching to the deformation of humanity through the climate of opinion becomes visible.

The grotesque, however, must not be confused with the comic or the humorous. The seriousness of the matter will be best understood, if one visions the concentration camps of totalitarian regimes and the gas chambers of Auschwitz in which the grotesqueness of opinion becomes the murderous reality of action.

CW VOL 12
On Classical Studies,
pp 258,260.




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