Skip to comments.Why I Became a Conservative: A British liberal discovers England's greatest philosopher.
Posted on 02/04/2003 10:13:26 PM PST by JohnHuang2
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You wrote, confusion about the orders of monism, dualism, as well as kinds and genus is the one of the greatest cause for disrupted dialogue (the other is egoism, willfulness, or other such hubris--an ordering all the same). You worried that use of the Kabbalist (sp?) metaphors of nephesh and neshamah might muddy up the waters of discourse: The placement of these two sources, in a sort of opposition between an us and them, does not answer whether these two sources belong to the same orders, as if they belong to the same genus.
Plato draws dualistic distinctions; he speaks of body and soul. But he also had a myth that accommodates the view of one common humanity, a vision of unity. That was the myth of the divine puppeteer, and the golden and base cords that animated the actions of the human puppets where the golden cords could draw the individual human soul into a divine life in the fullest measure that human nature can admit. The way I look at it, the terms nephesh and neshamah refer to propensities in an individual human soul to respond to either the pull of the golden, or the pull of the base. And I think this is within Alamo-Girls description of those terms. (I hope she will let me know if thats not the case.)
You later wrote: The metaphor of these two sources was furthermore complicated with the body soul dichotomy, the supremacy of common (or public) reason, as distinct from the private I presume.
I dont presume that. Ill take the body-soul duality the way Plato saw it. More on that in a minute.
All of this then is found to come together in a master receptacle called the consciousness, some central nexus that lies passive to a monolithic and ubiquitous nature, or reality, which is something I dont believe.
Well, I dont believe it either, cornelis. Consciousness is not some kind of passive nexus mediating a monolithic and ubiquitous nature. That was Callicles entire argument, in a nutshell wouldnt you agree?
The unique understanding of Plato led him to record the Gorgias and suggest ways of realizing dialogue after failure. It provides a unique answer that has not yet been discussed.
Lets take a look at this gorgeous work. The mise en scene: Callicles invites Socrates to his house, where the eminent guest of his hospitality, the great rhetorician Gorgias, has been holding forth all afternoon to a very large company of other invited guests. Socrates particularly wants to meet Gorgias, because he has a few questions he wants to ask of this famous and highly esteemed figure. We soon learn that what Socrates had in mind is the test of the statement or postulate: It is better to suffer evil than to perpetrate it.
Fast forward. (Lurkers, please go read the dialog. I promise to put up the link presently.) Socrates is able to maneuver Gorgias into total silence, on the basis of the logical inconsistencies of Gorgias argument. The only way that Gorgias had left to him to assert his position would have required him to say out loud the most despicable and base things about human nature and the general constitution of reality. So he presently clammed up.
Then stepped into the breach one Polus, a disciple, I gather, of Gorgias. In due course, Socrates made short order of him, on identical grounds. Polus presently clammed up as well, and for identical reasons.
Which left the field to Callicles. One gathers he was also a pupil of Gorgias. But he was not as scrupulous in his discernment of moral truth as either of his predecessors in the dispute with Socrates had been.
Of Callicles, what can one say? To my mind, a description of his character is best summed up in these lines from Heraclitus (Platos long shadow, on Voegelins view):
Eyes and ears are bad witnesses/For men whose souls are barbarous.
In Callicles we have a human creature of the 4th century B.C. maintaining with perfect equanimity that all human laws are but conventions, in effect fabricated out of the perceived need by whatever ruling class might hold the reins of power at any given point in time, to support whatever happens to pass for the cultural, political, and economic status quo. To this concept he opposes the idea of natural law which is decidedly not the idea of natural law that Christian theology has advanced. The natural law of which Callicles spoke was, in fact, the law of the jungle. The law of brute power: the law of human advancement at the expense of ones fellow human creatures. Arguably, it is a kind of law of which both Thomas Hobbes and Charles Darwin would have approved. [And then would presumably have had to devise ways -- instantly -- to constrain precisely this behavior, so deleterious in practice to the welfare of human societies down the ages.]
Throughout this dialog, Callicles sneers at, and makes veiled threats against Socrates. And Socrates recognizes the bad faith, the animus towards himself; yet he bears it all in good grace and good humor despite being well aware of the personal danger he faces in confronting this character. In particular, Callicles was quite prescient in this regard, for he informed Socrates that Socrates might himself be brought up on public charges sooner or later, and have to answer for his crimes in due course.
But Socrates is not to be daunted by these veiled threats. Well he understands that, in the end, the final judgment is not mans to make. And its here we have to remember the dualism of Socrates/Plato which prefaces, IMHO, the idea of a Unity that can contain the two:
Death, if I am right, is in the first place the separation from one another of two things, soul and body; nothing else....
Socrates further maintains in what follows that, in an improvement by Zeus over the former order of Chronos, human souls are judged naked, by naked judges.
Which is the very approach or posture taken by Socrates toward Callicles all along. For all of Callistes barely contained spite, Socrates was generous towards him in all respects. The suggestion is that Callistes, when he must confront the final judgment, naked spirit to (fearsome!) naked Spirit as inevitably he must, on Platos view -- would probably not fare so well, or be so generously treated .
And from the merely human point of view, why should he be, since Callicles thought fit to espouse the following:
how can a man be happy who is the servant of anything? On the contrary, I plainly assert, that he who would truly live ought to allow his desires to wax to the uttermost, and not to chastise them; but when they have grown to their greatest he should have courage and intelligence to minister to them and to satisfy all his longings. And this I affirm to be natural justice and nobility. To this however the many cannot attain; and they blame the stong man because they are ashamed of their own weakness, which they desire to conceal, and hence they say that intemperance is base .they enslave the nobler natures, and being unable to satisfy their pleasures, they praise temperance and justice out of their own cowardice.
Unfortunately, this voice seems to sound a great resonating chord in our own time -- echoing down the course of a couple millennia by now, and yet so timely to the modern ear.
In the discourse of Callicles, you are hearing a case mounted in favor of unaccountable power, of the invasion and usurpation of the sphere of the individual human being, of totalitarian thought and behavior.
Of contempt for all life, human or otherwise. And a rebuke to God Himself into the bargain.
Who needs this sh*t??? What kind of civilized polity can be constructed on Callicles stated grounds?
Of course, the folks who give you this (i.e, Callicles') explanation tend to hold human history in contempt as a source of knowledge or wisdom....
Chilling. Callicles, thy name is Clinton.
Yes, Callicles is the very model for a Bill and Hill....
Ping for more thought.
He felt that the Founders took the idea of continence to its logical end, we were from England and those laws and customs that we inherited and were compatible with a Republic should hold force.
Hey there Little Bill! Long time no see!
How can one dislike a book that dislikes what one dislikes?
By all means, Little Bill, do read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France yourself. As Scruton points out, the book is about conservatism vs. progressivism (revolution):
To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the structures against spontaneity and life. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again?The French revolution was about "rubbing society out" and starting over, from scratch. In the process, human beings devolved into animals: There was nothing left after France was laid waste that could serve as a support to human beings. Everybody was free to "do his own thing" (even quite monstrous things); but then it turned out that only "bestial things" could then be done. (Which is an insult to animals really -- I'm sorry for that; but these humans were "worse" than animals. Animals are incapable of bad will or evil motives....)
The horrors that Burke depicts are monstrous, chilling. Plus Reflections is one of the most eloquent defenses ever written about the millennia-old conservative political (and social) philosophy.
I couldn't recommend the book more highly. And Roger Scruton is a wonderful read in his own right!
Burke, is it? Not enough philosophic investigation has been done into the nature of the state. Hegel tried, which is more than most of them have done.
Well, well, well, a "blast from the past" for Betty Boop. I can't remember where I saw this: probably on someone;s FR profile page, and I decided to bump it to the top.I thought it was way more current than its original appearance, since I know I read it recently. It might yet get a little more attention that it has so far today. And the REALLY interesting thing is that, as I just noticed, it was from EXACTLY four years ago yesterday, when it BTT'd it!!!!
Thank you so much for the book recommendation!