Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leo Strauss: Basic Defects of Plato's Views

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The terms nature and science have changed very much in the course of time.  For one thing, they have become more narrow.

The Greeks already speculated on whether there are laws that were not man-made.
And maybe they also wondered whether there could be gods that were man-made.


What is the fundamental defect of Platonic philosophy that is remedied by the prophets and only by the prophets?  According to Plato, the cessation of evil requires the rule of the  ...... men who possess the highest kind of human knowledge.       

But this kind of knowledge  .......  is, according to Plato, the preserve of a small minority.

Plato presupposes that there is an unchangeable human nature ....... This leads him  .......... to assume that there will be wars as long as there will be human beings.

In other words, Plato does not think peace can last or war can always be avoided. He does not seem to believe in education. -- 
Such views do not leave almost any room for hope, and so they run contrary to modern trends.  

These defects in Plato’s system are remedied by the prophets ........... because they lack the idea of science and hence the idea of nature, and therefore they can believe that men’s conduct toward one another can undergo a change much more radical than any change ever dreamed of by Plato.
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Slightly shortened from
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/jerusalem-and-athens-some-introductory-reflections/


Some people would feel embarrassed to see "the prophets" mentioned in a text on history, and they would not know what to think of it.  They should not worry. The easiest way  is to act as if they had not noticed anything.

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It  takes time to see what Strauss means by "nature", but the meaning of "science" is controversial even now.



Quote Leo Strauss on Science:

Science is the attempt to understand the universe and man; it is therefore identical with philosophy; it is not necessarily identical with modern science.

Modern science does not try to understand man and the universe. At best it will try to identify an ingredient, a particle belonging to a series of particles to be identified by a team.
For this reason now science and philosophy are not at all considered identical, but contrary to each other, with science taking up most of the availale resources and philosophy waiting on the sidelines.

http://tinyurl.com/lx85xnh 
from

Leo Strauss: On German Nihilism [1941]
http://www.dhspriory.org/kenny/PhilTexts/Strauss/GermanNihilism.pdf 


Those early writings by Strauss are problematic, for he had not yet found his way, but they also did not last and are not influential anymore.

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Quote Leo Strauss on Nature:



    Philosophy ............   came into being when nature was discovered -- or the first philosopher was the first man who discovered nature.

    The whole history of philosophy is nothing but the record of the ever repeated attempts to grasp fully what was implied in that crucial discovery which was made by some Greek twenty-six hundred years ago or before.

    Truth, Being, even World, and all other terms designating the object of philosophy are unquestionably older than philosophy, but the first man who used the term “nature”—        I think, it was Odysseus, or Hermes, the god of thieves, merchants, and Athenian democracy — was the first philosopher.

    To understand the meaning of that discovery in however provisional a manner ....(cut off) 


This -- the non-existence of the term "nature -- is hard to imagine, but it will take even more time to understand that this absence should be so very basic.


http://books.google.es/books?id=LT1V8Xgz1EUC&q=grasp#v=snippet&q=grasp&f=false
scroll to page 82