On Fools

.... Man can be a fool or not be a fool. And you can then formulate such propositions as: "The existence of God is in doubt because there is no doubt about the existence of the fool;" that is the only reason why the existence of God is in doubt. Foolishness as a human potential—in which one shouldn't indulge—is the source of these problems. One has always to be aware (Plato clarified both types of theology—the negative, the denial, as the first) that the positive propositions are not at all the original propositions but counter-propositions to erroneous ones.

One cannot understand a dogma or doctrinal form concerning the gods or God at all, if one does not recognize a share of the foolishness. The positive formulations try to ward off the destructiveness of a fool; if there is no fool you have to ward off, you don't have to engage in the positive dogma at all. And Plato doesn't , except on occasions when he has to deal with the Sophistic fool. For what he has to say that is analogous to positive experience, the "infrastructure" as I call it (the search for the ground, and so on), is that you don't need any dogma about God or the gods or anything like that.

The problem of foolishness as one human potentiality is, I believe, an insufficiently-discussed problem because with Plato and Aristotle the non-fool, the philosopher, carried the day. Therefore we speak of philosophy and include in it all the positive doctrinal propositions which are not meant to be philosophy; they are the opposition to the fool. We don't recognize that the problem of the fool is what you might call the positive problem in the whole; because there are fools we negate their negations and get positive doctrines which otherwise would not be necessary—if we were not living in a society in which a lot of people can be fools. The term "fool" is not used, in the critical sense, as name-calling but as naming a human potentiality: men can be fools.

.... There is no expectation or reason to expect, in any visible future, that there will be human beings of whom a considerable percentage will not be fools. That will be a constant problem in every society and in every social order. You can't get rid of it.


CW VOL 33
The Drama of Humanity
Conversations III
Myth as Environment
pp 307ff





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