Necessary lies

19 01 2011

Continuing with my man crush of Zizek:

In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It’s a useful analogy: isn’t Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s organiser, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? In the film, the district attorney, Harvey Dent, an obsessive vigilante who is corrupted and himself commits murders, is killed by Batman. Batman and his friend police commissioner Gordon realise that the city’s morale would suffer if Dent’s murders were made public, so plot to preserve his image by holding Batman responsible for the killings. The film’s take-home message is that lying is necessary to sustain public morale: only a lie can redeem us. No wonder the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain. He makes it clear that his attacks on Gotham City will stop when Batman takes off his mask and reveals his true identity; to prevent this disclosure and protect Batman, Dent tells the press that he is Batman – another lie. In order to entrap the Joker, Gordon fakes his own death – yet another lie.

The Joker wants to disclose the truth beneath the mask, convinced that this will destroy the social order. What shall we call him? A terrorist? The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of those classic westerns Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which show that, in order to civilise the Wild West, the lie has to be elevated into truth: civilisation, in other words, must be grounded on a lie. The film has been extraordinarily popular. The question is why, at this precise moment, is there this renewed need for a lie to maintain the social system?

Consider too the renewed popularity of Leo Strauss: the aspect of his political thought that is so relevant today is his elitist notion of democracy, the idea of the ‘necessary lie’. Elites should rule, aware of the actual state of things (the materialist logic of power), and feed the people fables to keep them happy in their blessed ignorance. For Strauss, Socrates was guilty as charged: philosophy is a threat to society. Questioning the gods and the ethos of the city undermines the citizens’ loyalty, and thus the basis of normal social life. Yet philosophy is also the highest, the worthiest, of human endeavours. The solution proposed was that philosophers keep their teachings secret, as in fact they did, passing them on by writing ‘between the lines’. The true, hidden message contained in the ‘great tradition’ of philosophy from Plato to Hobbes and Locke is that there are no gods, that morality is merely prejudice, and that society is not grounded in nature.

Read the rest here

Found via Titusonenine

P.S. I thought that Dark Night movie sucked.


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17 responses

21 01 2011
mcmlxix

Batman Returns was good Hollywood fun. The Dark Knight was a mess. When the Oscar winners were announced, I said to myself…I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead…but really though?

As for Žižek, I’m confused as to what to think about what Assange’s true motives are. At face value, it’s to expose the secrets (trivial or serious) of those with power. How delightfully democratic. Yet it could be mere ego, or something else more outcome based…yet one more pretext (contrived or accidental) for the further errosion of free speech and thought? In effect it really is a challenge (as suggested) to the established channels of information. This challenge began with the blogging revlution. But Aggange has taken it to a new level. He has made the WikiLeaks project the provider of information to those who saw themselves as holding that key.

Isn’t it a great lie that we even live in a democracy? During the time of monarchies it was an open fact that select families ruled. Yes it was a bit more nuanced than that, but fast-forward to today. It is still select families who hold the power. Even if they deign to give the plebeians a voice, it’s a voice that is either ignored if not their desired outcome, or manufactured to be their desired outcome. The latter of which comes from Lippmann, who learned from Strauss. Chomsky’s furtherance of this line of thought is even more an exposition of the absurd, and is, I think, a concise summary of post-capitalism.

Is this lie necessary? Perhaps it isn’t, but it sure is convenient. It’s also fascinating, because it comes off to me as a holographic reality that masks a different reality. It then begs the question of how many more realities lie behind that one.

“…if the cosmos is just you’re born, you blunder through life, you die, period, no rhyme or reason…” If this is true, then at least the consolation is that once nihilism is achieved, there is no way to even know this, there is no more suffering, there is nothing. Doesn’t this overlap the Buddhist (nastika) view? There is no reincarnation, because ultimately there is no you or I to reincarnate. It’s all merely the repetition of dependant arising. For the Hindu (astika) it is different. There is a you and an I (although not in the same sense as in the west) to transmigrate. There’s a negative rather than a positive goal; for the Buddhist, it’s more about nothingness, and for the Hindu, it’s more about the No-thing.

“…then I don’t see much point for any human endeavor, or even for continuing to live.” The Existentialists have an answer to this, but I’m undecided as to whether it’s compelling. In any case, I think that there is a rhyme and a reason to it all. I haven’t the foggiest notion of what that is, and I can only sift through the narratives/mythologies given to me. I’m satisfied with this, although I have to admit, I’m dying to find out. Sorry, that was a bad pun.

20 01 2011
KarlH

I can’t really blame my social group for my previous, unfortunate mix-up with anthroposophy. My best friends have always been stoners, computer programmers and engineers (of varying rates of employment).

20 01 2011
KarlH

Thanks for the recommendations. I hate that same sort of pseudo-religion and looking back, I definitely went through that stage when I was somewhat involved in anthroposophy, devouring Steiner and Barfield as I didn’t know where else to begin (I had heard of Poetic Diction by Barfield through Tolkien and not more than a few of my friends were Waldorf kids). I never really believed any of it, though. There’s too much ridiculousness in that and I always knew Blavatsky et. al were quacks. I was actually more interested in the compatibility of anthroposophy with an orthodox Christianity and the usefulness of Steiner’s imagery. Also, the question as to how one can unite Platonism with finite, historical happenings which was exactly his endeavor. And I’ve maintained my skepticism well about all things. I have mixed feelings about philosophy/mysticism. I’m really disgusted, repulsed by all metaphysics and all philosophical enquiry of any sort. Yet this has also driven me to study them extensively and write about them. This has unfortunately led me to neglecting my poetry and composition and study of fairy tales which isn’t really a good thing as I approach grad school. On the other hand, I sort of have to deal with things like Platonism and will have to do so until I die when my studies will be ideally focused on the 19th century fairy tale revival and when my mentors at school are and will be Platonists. Also, my mixed feelings about Platonism/mysticism means that my natural bias against them has probably crept in not more than a little in my study of philosophy, always driven by my need to know things for certain and have some sort of guide. Which is why I only limit my non-academic writings now to social criticism and only to those who listen. Or to journals that I periodically do away with.

Could we continue this correspondence by email? I don’t want to clutter up Arturo’s commentbox with my disorganized, unrelated and overly egotistic, confessional ramblings more than I do already. I really appreciate your comments and responses. My email is hoenzskr at stu(dot)lemoyne(dot)edu

20 01 2011
Turmarion

The only issue I’ve had with Platonism whether Vedic or Western is that I don’t see how the unquantifiable and subjective fits into it. Or, rather, the diverse perspectives by which beauty can be approached.

Well, I don’t think that the quest for The One/enlightenment/moksha/nirvana precludes the subjective; and the Infinite is (by definition!) unquantifiable. I’d say maybe that the Ultimate is where the subjective and objective meet, to use weak imagery.

I don’t think the issue is that subjectivity is evil (though that kind of language gets used, I think it’s either metaphorical or misguided). As with Arturo, I have taken a rather anti-mystical turn of late myself, though probably for different reasons. I went through a period of several years where my native Platonic/Gnostic/Buddhist temperament, coupled with some of my social group at that time, some snobby, self-centered, hyper-intellectualized spiritual seeker b******* I hadn’t yet realized or dealt with, and (to a small degree) a genuine drive to deepen my spirituality combined to make me think it was obligatory for me to seek a mystic experience.

I see now that my motives were very jumbled, mixed with far too much hidden pride and intellectual confusion; and my native sloth didn’t help either! My conclusion is that most modern mysticism, Eastern or Western, as it now stands in our culture is commodified into a glorified self-help regime for over-educated religious seekers. I saw first hand what Robert Farrar Capon says when he says that problem with us is that we try to make religion into a system that gives us results if we just do the right thing. By him, the problem with religion is religion. He says that Christianity, while taking the trappings of religion, if properly understood, came to save us from religion. I don’t have space to elaborate, but I’d recommend his books The Romance of the Word, The Astonished Heart, and Health, Money, and Love and Why We Don’t Enjoy Them, for starters.

I’ve decided that the mystic path, in this life, is for very, very few. It’s probably not for most “spiritual seekers”, nor even for an awful lot of monks and nuns in various religions. For this minute few, giving it all up for the Ultimate is legitimate. They don’t reject the here-and-now and subjectivity as worthless; their temperament is just not satisfiable by these things. For most of us, that’s not operative. We’re saved through the here-and-now, not despite it.

Thus, when you say, “But I do not see how there is really much room for the value of subjective, experiential mode of life as man living in a finite world of passing things and a decaying body in any orthodox Platonism,” I don’t think such a mode of living is for more than a handful. I’m not sure even they would really reject the “experiential mode of life in a finite world of passing things”. They’d just see it from the other side.

You mention interbeing. Maybe the Heart Sutra expresses it best: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” The subjective and objective, the experiential and the transcendent, the finite and the infinite are all the same. We just can’t usually see that.

Nishida is good–I’ve got one of his books that I need to finish. You might also check out Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker.

Also, you don’t come off as an immoral pleasure-seeker. If you were, you wouldn’t be here! 😉

19 01 2011
KarlH

Also, I hope I don’t come off as an immoral pleasure-seeker. I’m really not. I view self-mortification, asceticism, and awareness of death as very important elements of living and I think the fact that it’s looked upon as medieval by “modern, progressive Catholics” is terrible.

19 01 2011
KarlH

Oops, I said Albert the Great but meant Duns Scotus.

19 01 2011
KarlH

Turmarion:

Interestingly, I once argued for the reflexivity/formalism of mathematics. I think I’m much more sympathetic now to Platonism—mathematics is very stable and I trust Reason more than I used to. The only issue I’ve had with Platonism whether Vedic or Western is that I don’t see how the unquantifiable and subjective fits into it. Or, rather, the diverse perspectives by which beauty can be approached. Now, starting principles are the same throughout as a man usually likes what is attractive which is an admixture of genetic predispositions towards fertility and cultural conditioning. And simply viewing a person as an object for a sustained period of time is damaging. But this approach doesn’t explain anamolies that enrich human experience. E.g., fetishization of the sort that finds ugliness attractive. Now, if the person is approaching the person as merely an object only for the purpose of fulfilling his fetish, then yeah. There’s a problem and the human dignity of the person is damaged. Yet I don’t think it’s really fair to simply refer to these various fetishes as defects if there is no real harm being done. Sure, they can become evil, but the human world is made up of various wills and intentions that don’t always correspond to what the “ideal” approach to beauty might be. In non-Tantric Hinduism/Judaism, there are respective approaches to cleanliness. But are these built upon will and intentions or are they simply the result of upper spheres and higher archetypes whereupon we as humans MUST conform or face future consequences whether through the passing on of negative karma in the world or the accumulation of sins that must be “burned away” in some non-wordly existence? I have found that the issue of Being-focused philosophies is that they rob man of any subjectivity except as an evil and they eventually result in a system of rules and a perfect ways to do things to purify one’s soul—the end result being only to exist in a state of pure bliss/Being.

Some other commenter has mentioned Kitaro Nishida before and I think he has introduced the best sythesis of Mahayana interdependence/interbeing doctrines with Platonism. (I believe the commenter was Henry Karlson, thanks for the recommend if you’re reading this! I’ve devoured his work since you mentioned him.) The issue is that “Being” does not really exist in an objective sense in this system (if I have understood his thought correctly) or, rather, it is utterly and wholly transcended by pure zero/nothingness. I guess there’s traces of this in Plato/later Academics. But I do not see how there is really much room for the value of subjective, experiential mode of life as man living in a finite world of passing things and a decaying body in any orthodox Platonism (though I guess Albert Magnus did a decent job).

From Zhuanzi:

“Men claim that Mao [Qiang] and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream; if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, who knows how to fix the standard of beauty in the world?”

“For God as a subject makes me into an object which is nothing more than an object. He deprives me of my subjectivity because he is all-powerful and all-knowing. I revolt and try to make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate. God appears as the invincible tyrant, the being in contrast with whom all other beings are without freedom and subjectivity.” – Paul Tillich

Now, I wouldn’t take it as far as Paul Tillich—there really are universal truths and they are stable or everything would fall apart and there would be no sense of familiarity when men of virtue meet each other. But I think these are because man is a god. Sure, he has to obey certain cosmic laws and first principles, but he also has the ability to judge beauty. If the best music is by imitation of the spheres, how can there be room for jazz?

On the other hand, maybe my respect for the ability of good individuals to have different ideas of beauty and ideas of governance is a sign of immaturity/rebellion. I won’t discount that possibility. I am full of faults. And, of course, holding to an orthodox Platonism whether Catholic or Hindu could potentially give one much security of mind. I mean, if morality is predetermined and based more upon archetypes than the interdependence of things, it’s a lot easier to think one is living a good life!

19 01 2011
Turmarion

😦

19 01 2011
Arturo Vasquez

Unnecessary nerdiness. Monty Python reference. Tumarion. Fifteen yard penalty. Repeat third down.

19 01 2011
Arturo Vasquez

KarlH,

I thought in reading your reply about portrayals of paradise in the Watchtower of the Jehova’s Witnesses where the black kid and the white kid and the Eskimo kid are playing with a lion and a lamb while their parents (?) look on with great big watermelons and other delicious foods on a picnic table. Personally, I don’t think most people saw Heaven as anything like that. If they saw it as anything at all, it would have merely been an end to their earthly suffering. People didn’t live long, especially children. One of my uncles in Mexico died from drowning when he was two. My mother still talks about it. But imagine living in a world where you see innocent children dying all the time. If you are reading this, you probably can’t. Those of us who have lost young children know a little bit more about it, but not nearly as much as those from a couple of generations ago. Heaven would not necessarily be a place where there are vast banquets or a thousand virgins waiting for you. It would have been a place where you didn’t have to suffer anymore.

On your other point, the more I think about it, the more I feel the distinction between the learned and the great unwashed in religious matters is perfectly arbitrary. The god of philosophers I think can be the greatest superstition of all, especially when he is used to justify greed, bigotry, war, and exploitation. Zizek has said that without religion, bad people do bad things. It takes religion (or ideology, same thing) to make good people do bad things. The otherwise byzantine logic under which people undertake self-justification is just a smoke screen in my opinion. The religious Id is omnipresent, whether you find it in a perfume bottle in a botanica or on a right-wing Christian website that advocates bigotry in the name of natural law. We have been trained to instinctually distrust “superstitious” manifestations of religiosity, all the while using religion to continue to justify a social and moral order that is neither very social nor moral.

19 01 2011
Turmarion

You make some good points.

Influenced by Mortimer Adler, I used to be really into Aristotle and Aristotelianism-Thomism (AT), but not so much now. I have nothing against Aristotle or St. Thomas themselves, but I think that the systems named after them became way too systematic and later followers got to thinking they really could explain and define everything to the nth degree. Thus, philosophy and theology became magic answering machines–hence a lot of problems in Western religion, morality, and to a lesser extent, philosophy. As Nietzsche said, “The will to a system is a lack of integrity.” At least St. Thomas had the good sense to see it was all “as straw”.

Secondarily, the more I’ve delved into AT, the less I think it’s capable of dealing with modern physics. Artistotle’s physics (even if he has the partial excuse of living before modern experimentalism) is appallingly bad, and I think that these errors bleed over into his metaphysics more than I’d originally thought.

But perhaps man can’t have any other sort of stable society except one based upon the spheres/feudal lifestyle/the dichotomy between brahmins and “vulgar” believers.

It sounds horrible, anti-democratic, elitist, etc. to say this, but it’s probably true. It tends to be my default view, anyway. Your point about heaven is correct; but it probably applies in other religions, too. Most Buddhists and Hindus aren’t seeking nirvana or Ultimate Liberation–they’re trying to make do as best they can here and hoping for higher rebirth. Mutatis mutandis same for most religions. I think that’s part of what one of Arturo’s major themes on this blog is–that the post-Enlightenment attempt to level the field between Brahmins and vulgar believers, to make faith a matter of deep intellectual consent and fervent commitment for everyone, is a total failure, and deserves to be.

I doubt very many can live purely and totally for Truth’s sake with no concern for personal comfort, post-mortem survival, without, as you put it, “betraying Philosophy”. Nietzsche said that we are probably adapted to avoid truth since it’s too harsh for most to bear, and I think he had a point.

Having said that, if the cosmos is just you’re born, you blunder through life, you die, period, no rhyme or reason, then I don’t see much point for any human endeavor, or even for continuing to live. Perhaps the search for a transcendental meaning is a weakness (I don’t think so, personally), but maybe it’s one most of us need.

One thing that might put some things into context. My training is in math and physics. My experience of math, especially when doing proofs, is not of a complicated set of human-devised rules or a complicated game, but of actual objective external reality existing outside myself and the physical world. You don’t “make” a proof or mathematical discovery–you find it. E.g. it’s out there to be found (albeit non-physically), not something made up. In short, I’m a mathematical Platonist, as were such greats as Georg Cantor and Kurt Gödel.

What people often forget is that mathematics was very closely connected to philosophy for centuries. Plato was strongly influenced by Pythagoras’ mystical mathematical teachings, and even had a sign above the Academy’s entrance saying, “Let no one who does not know geometry enter”! Most philosophers afterward, until about the middle of the 19th Century had a very strong grounding in math (for particularly mathematical examples, think Descartes, Pascal, and Bertrand Russell). Even Hegel, who is almost always viewed in a sociological context because of his dialectical theory of history, made contributions to firming up some aspects of the underlying theory of differential calculus.

Maybe this strong connection between math and philosophy is partly why so many philosophers seem to have been so comfortable with highly abstract, transcendent views of religion and reality. Or maybe all we mathematicians are just crazy in the same way….

19 01 2011
Turmarion

That’s exactly right. Moreover, there wasn’t any clear meshing between the Joker and Dent subplots. Also, posthumous Oscar or no, Ledger really didn’t get the Joker right (though I blame the script for that to a degree). There should be something almost operatic about the Joker–think Mark Hamill as the animated Joker. Yes, it was a kid’s show, but if you look at, say, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Hamill could really put some complexity, and frankly, a disturbing twist to the Joker, without becoming all dour and dark as in The Dark Knight.

Oh, well–given how badly most of the films in the Batman franchise have stunk it may be too much to ask for more than one film with the near perfection of Batman Begins. Such is bat-life.

19 01 2011
KarlH

I didn’t really see any sense in it either. I just sort of went “Huh?” at the end…the first two times watching it. There was some sort of imagined “deep” political message the writers were trying to carry across based upon Strauss and it just didn’t communicate well. Or, rather, it just showed the absurdity of Strauss.

19 01 2011
KarlH

You’re right, that’s a bit of a harsh treatment. After all, it was Plato who once said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

But one cannot help but wonder what happens to the beautiful boy/Beatrice once the one seeking the Beatific Vision has grasped it. It seems to me disturbing that it was only the dead Beatrice who could lead Dante up to the Beatific Vision. And that the ties mentioned in the Symposium that cause one to love a specific, individual boy are to be completely discarded to reach the top. And that one of my favorite authors, Charles Williams, could not really love his darling Lalage as she was—he had to make her into a myth and what he wanted her to be corresponding to an archetype of woman existing in a Divine Mind. He could not see and accept the person except as an ideal. We need ideals, of course. But how much do they stand in the way of accepting people with their flaws?

I realize the metaphysics lying behind all of this. It’s not like I don’t believe in the Godhead/whatever. I trust (and understand) Vedanta/early Buddhist metaphysics/Neoplatonism over any currently arising and purely-mechanical theories. Wicked reigns, wicked nations and wicked people cannot survive long. But it is not because God literally smashes them. They just crumble because they’re irrational and they’re not in accordance with the Good/God. It is those who live in harmony with God who are truly prosperous and wise and can be happy and even accept suffering.

There’s also the thing of the double-truths doctrine. I can’t help but shake the feeling from all my reading of its history that Christianity is just another attempt, though unconscious, to make metaphysics more available to everyone. As such, one can say that there is a Resurrection of the Dead and some temporary place of enjoyment if one gets to “go to Heaven” but let’s be honest. No one really believes in these things and the educated people especially had issues believing in them in the way common, pious and kind folk are really praying for them to be true with the entirety of their being. If the average churchgoer REALLY was able to grasp what the proposed Heaven is supposed to be like according to the books I do not think they would be very pleased. It is Rahner who rules in seminaries. Before, it was Thomas Aquinas who speaks of future immortal bodies outside of time/corruptibility/icky things like sex that are hard to understand/whatever. But who really wants to be that sort of god? My mom certainly doesn’t. When she “goes to Heaven” she probably wants to see her dead husband and live in a house with him and engage in fairly promiscuous activities. And can you blame her? Her desire is not subjectively wrong but of course it’s objectively so according to any of the traditional systems, the hidden doctrines of priests and brahmins. Man must simply conform to an archetype of man. And he exists only to transcend it.

There is also an escapism in just imagining a recreated Earth in the image of Heaven. And it sounds hella boring. Read the final chapter of “The Last Battle” by C.S. Lewis. His answer to all the suffering that happened before is that there’s going to be a new world that’s more “real” than the one before it—the one before it being some sort of pale, discarded illusion? Really? And this is hardly allegory unlike the rest of the series. Due to his Platonic influences he once strongly suggested that the Resurrection of the Body might be, properly speaking, the “resurrection inside the soul.” Bullshit, bullshit. This is not what the devout Catholic grandmother is praying for but he’ll take sympathy on her and say that the best element of Christianity is that it’s an admixture between the muddiness of popular devotion and the religion of brahmins. And the metaphysicians will continue to let the vulgar crowd have their unbaptized beliefs out of sympathy. This condition just seems inescapable.

There is no reason to hope that God will take care of things in the end and dispense the various merits according to each. If you want to believe that, go ahead. I envy you. But I wonder if doing so is a betrayal of Philosophy. You know, Truth. Socrates could be so skeptical and he held Truth in such a high regard. So why would he say something like (paraphrase) “I am not harmed by believing in an afterlife so why not believe in it?” Doesn’t this betray his entire mission? (I might be wrong—Socrates is highly transcendental and holds Truth as something transcendental…something above him—as such the stable system of metaphysics proposed by Plato that definitely existed before him through the Mysteries would be in line with reason).

Sorry if this all comes off as abrasive. These are simply a few of the reasons why I have not really able to become a Christian, properly speaking, though I really do support Catholicism as I really do believe in the realm of spirit. And, of course, the fact that I’d love for it all to be true. If the Christian religion is true even in its exoteric aspects, if given the opportunity I would recant everything entirely and spend a thousand years in purgatory if necessary—or if Hell exists, I would thank God for at least giving me the chance to find Him and letting me have a good life and admit that I failed to find Him.

I imagine that my early flirtations with Marxism are negatively affecting my view of the Christian religion and all popular religions (though I never actually became an atheist—the Good really does exist and everything has a spirit to some extent or concentrated will). But Catholicism and all systems of metaphysics are based on hierarchy. And the serf is always less than the king. And it is rarely out of love or fellowship. But perhaps man can’t have any other sort of stable society except one based upon the spheres/feudal lifestyle/the dichotomy between brahmins and “vulgar” believers. /shrug

19 01 2011
A Sinner

It was a bad movie exactly because the “lie” was unnecessary. I understand why they wanted to preserve Dent’s image, but why did his murders have to be blamed on “Batman”?? They could have easily just said it was the Joker’s henchman, or random criminals, or something, and then both Batman AND Dent would have been heroes for the people to look up to. Who would have questioned that? If people were convinced by the Batman explanation, they would have been convinced by some other explanation for the murders. This made NO SENSE.

aargh39’s analysis here is great:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080718212527AA2eN0b

19 01 2011
Turmarion

I also thought The Dark Knight sucked, particularly in comparison to Batman Begins, IMO the best Batman movie made. The script should have focused on the Joker or Two-Face, but not both; and it lacked a strong narrative center and muddle characterization and motivation. Oh, well.

The essay from Žižek is excellent though–much clearer than some of his stuff that I’ve read, and I think he’s dead on. In addition, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is my second-favorite Western of all time, and it does really dramatize how all society ultimately is–ultimately has to be–based on lies. I think (though he expresses it in different terms) that René Girard says much the same thing–civilization always has a founding violence that is scapegoated onto someone or some group else (ritually or literally) in order to legitimate the “violence inherent in the system” (to riff on Monty Python!) and get the “civilized” themselves off the hook. I.e. the lie.

KarlH, I’m not sure I’d be that hard on Plato. Morality was important to him, I think, and seems to have been more so (or he was more reactionary, or both) as he got older. In any case to say that morality is “just” for ascending to the Good isn’t dismissing it’s importance. The Buddha said much the same when he described the Path as a raft to be discarded upon enlightenment. It’s not that you are moral so you can realize the One or nirvana or whatever, then go party all night; it’s that morality is a necessary precondition to becoming the kind of person who can ascend to the Good, etc.

A crude analogy would be that you don’t eat right and exercise “just” to become healthy; rather, proper diet and exercise are an indispensable prerequisite to such a life.

Anyway, IMO Aristotle (whom I do respect) was pretty much uninterested in the Transcendent except in terms of answering metaphysical questions, and not much interested in anything beyond this life. For him, a virtuous life here and now was the sufficient goal for the wise man. I can respect that, but I can’t really agree with it or on a deep gut level even understand it. In one sense, virtue is its own reward; but to me, some kind of transcendent meaning and goal beyond this world seems necessary to prevent all human existence from being a cruel, nasty joke (you see why I have affinities for Existentialists!). But others may disagree, which is OK, too.

19 01 2011
KarlH

“morality is merely prejudice?” I don’t see how this fits when applied to Plato…as for Locke and Hobbes, well, obviously.

On the other hand, for Plato, morality may just have had the purpose for ascent to the Good. It’s always been my vague, dark suspicion that it was the same for nearly all members of the Academy…the revived Academy included. Aristotle and his followers were better men. This has always been clear.

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