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By cam (Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 06:23:38 PM EST) (all tags)
Reading this. The author has established that the Greek idea of logic/reason could establish certainty without trampling on the muthos (myth/spiritual). I suspect he is now trying to explain why Christianity came up with a rationality of faith that could replace reason as providing certainty:
Whereas in traditional Greco-Roman religion the public observation of ritual is primary, Paul represents something radically different, proposing that orientation of the inner person to God and Christ is essential.

It seems implied that this was because Paul had no personal relationship with Jesus so he established an emotionally based theology to establish his legitimacy.


and:
So [after he argued with Athenian philosophers] for Paul it was not the Law that has been superseded by the coming of Christ, it is the concept of rational argument, the core of the Greek intellectual achievement itself. "The more they [non-christians] called themselves philosophers, " he tells the Romans, "the more stupid they grew ... they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened." In his first letter to the Corinthians he writes, "The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God."

The author's argument is that Paul (for it seems personal and psychological reasons) spread a personal theology that became authoritative in Christianity and led to the rationality where reason can be rejected in the face of faith.

Sound consistent? I know nothing of the history of Christianity.
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One thing by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 08:34:15 PM EST
Myths had power but to the Greek mind the idea that a person could demand others believe a myth was true was absurd.
Remember that Socrates was put to death for impiety, and Alcibiades was exiled after being blamed for defacing sacred statues. The state religion in Athens was broadly defined, but they really didn't like people disrespecting it.

They didn't have any official written canon that you had to believe. But I suspect if you walked into the agora and shouted "Athena doesn't exist" you'd be dead pretty quickly. The difference is probably that a Greek polis was small enough you didn't need a written document to enforce consistent beliefs across it.

Also, there seems to be a bit of apples compared to oranges here. Greek philosophers were a small, marginally tolerated subculture. Freeman seems to be comparing them to the popes and emperors of the medieval power structure: it's not that surprising that the latter were more authoritarian.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

Ancient Greeks and philosophy by lm (4.00 / 2) #3 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 03:12:27 AM EST
In The Clouds Aristophanes painted a picture of Socrates running a school whose whole purpose was to teach its students to be able to make a lesser argument triumph over a greater argument. So I think it fair to say that general acceptance of the idea that philosophy was certainly not the greatest thing since sliced bread was anything new by the time that the Apostle Paul started writing letters.

The other thing we tend to forget is the degree to which many ancient authors (including Aristophones, the Apostle Paul and even Jesus himself) were prone to hyperbole for rhetorical flourish. All too often they're writings (or sayings) are taken at face value when they're obviously rather exaggerated.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
That's a curious paraphrase of Romans by lm (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 03:07:28 AM EST
I've not read Freeman's book so I'm a bit hesitant to comment but the Amazon summary doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence in Freeman's accuracy with regards to detail. Constantine certainly did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire, that would have to wait until of his successors. (if memory serves me correctly, it was Theodosius.) More importantly, it's pretty arguable whether or not Constantine thought that any bishop had authority over the state when Constantine had no problem with sending bishops into exile if they didn't agree with him.

It's also curious that he points to the Apostle Paul as the culprit for eliminating reason. On the one hand, there are several places where Paul quotes pagan philosophers and poets to prove his point. On the other hand much of his language with regards to natural law vis a vis the gentile peoples in the book of Romans could have ben taken right out of Aristotle.

It is true that Neoplatonism dominated early Christian philosophy, especially in the west. But there is a reason for this. The works of Aristotle were entirely lost before the Christian era. The first re-discovery of Aristotle contained the works we have extent today which were none of the works that Aristotle prepared for publication, which are still lost, but works that were essentially his lecture notes. The first rediscovery happened in the first century BCE but their publication wasn't made until about 60 CE. At first they were little more than a curiosity and took some time for them to be circulated and considered important. By the eighth and ninth century most near-eastern philosophers, especially the Jewish and Islamic philosophers, preferred Aristotle to Plato. The near-east, unlike western Europe, never `lost' Aristotle a second time and didn't need to re-re-discover his works.

In light of these factors concerning Constantine and Aristotle, the summary of Freeman's thesis seems problematic with regards to history. If I have time over the summer and if I think of it, I might give it a spin just to see if the summary is an accurate synopsis of the content.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I may be mis-representing it by cam (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 05:02:34 AM EST
by cutting out pieces and quotes, but it appears I am in the section where he is laying the basis as to why the future doctrine of the church decided it knew everything and inquiry was dangerous. He hasnt pointed to Chritianity being a political movement yet though. He also points to John's works (written in Greek) as co-opting logos for Jesus. Usually translated to "The Word" in english, but in classical Greek it meant more like the reason;

PLatonic philosophy never countenanced the possibility of a Form becoming human, and the entry of logos into time and space as 'felsh' was a bold innovation of Johns - the Incarnation, later to be such a central concept in Christian doctrine, is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament.

It opened up a rich seam in speculative theology that was to be fully exploited by the more philosophical of the Church fathers. Logos, as we have seen, was always associated with rational truth; by equating logos with Jesus, John was assuming that what could be said about him might have the force of certainty. This was to be one of the founding stones of church authority.

Chicken and egg though. It might be a rationalisation after the fact by medieval era church leaders to establish their absolute authority through the New/Old Testament.

cam



Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]
With formatting by cam (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 05:03:24 AM EST
by cutting out pieces and quotes, but it appears I am in the section where he is laying the basis as to why the future doctrine of the church decided it knew everything and inquiry was dangerous. He hasnt pointed to Chritianity being a political movement yet though. He also points to John's works (written in Greek) as co-opting logos for Jesus. Usually translated to "The Word" in english, but in classical Greek it meant more like the reason;
PLatonic philosophy never countenanced the possibility of a Form becoming human, and the entry of logos into time and space as 'felsh' was a bold innovation of Johns - the Incarnation, later to be such a central concept in Christian doctrine, is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament.

It opened up a rich seam in speculative theology that was to be fully exploited by the more philosophical of the Church fathers. Logos, as we have seen, was always associated with rational truth; by equating logos with Jesus, John was assuming that what could be said about him might have the force of certainty. This was to be one of the founding stones of church authority.

Chicken and egg though. It might be a rationalisation after the fact by medieval era church leaders to establish their absolute authority through the New/Old Testament.
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]
I was making my judgement based on Amazon by lm (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 05:30:01 AM EST
Between the publisher's review and Freeman's own follow-up comment to other reviews, I was basing my opinion mostly on Amazon content rather than your presentation.

To say that `logos' meant `reason' in the classical era is a gross over-simplification. Logos had a huge number of meanings ranging from simple speech, or word, to reason itself. The definition of logos in the abridged Liddel-Scott Greek lexicon runs a full column.

And, yeah, for Platonists form can never meet what is matter. And this form of philosophy did tend to predominate. But on the other hand, Aristotelean philosophy held that form resided in matter. But, like I mentioned, Aristotle was largely unknown in the first century CE. If his writings had been more widely dispersed before being published in Rome in the year 60, early Christianity would probably not had it's Neoplatonic slant that some, including myself, would argue has damaging with regards to developing a uniquely Christian philosophy.

Not only that, but Christ being the Logos isn't really all that foreign of an idea to the Greek mind. Parmenides (whose teaching on the one and many was the inspiration for his boyfriend Zeno's paradoxes) wrote an epic poem about the Goddess reason coming down from the heavens to teach him about the perils of the way of negation.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I was thinking about this on my morning run by lm (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 04:19:07 AM EST
I think the essential problem is that Freeman probably (1) conflates the Gospel with Myth and (2) takes the view of thinkers like Marcus Borg who hold that if a Myth has a factual basis it is less powerful.

But to do this, one has to ignore all the Myth (pious legends, hagiographies, etc.) that surrounded early Christianity and state that the Gospels were the entire Christian Myth and that they had no historicity.

As a final note, I don't know if Malcom Schofield has published his work on the Socratic method being a experience with Logos in a personal way but there are some pretty interesting parallels between the Christian idea of Truth as personal and Socrates that I saw Schofield deliver in a talk at the University of Cincinnati. For reference, Schofield is probably one of the most pre-eminent living scholars of classical philosophy in the Anglosphere.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
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