58. Plato – The Greatest Philosopher 2

The Acropolis, center of economics and politics for Athenians like Plato and Socrates.
The Acropolis in Athens, by German painter Leo von Klenze, oil on canvas, 1846

After publishing the previous post, not surprisingly I received some email inquiries concerning the virgin birth of Plato. I will comment on that later, but first I would like to finish the dialogue-story about the life of Plato that I started in Post 57. Please see that post if you wish to read this story from the beginning.

Previously, the Athenian businessman/philosopher Damien hosted a visitor from Southern Italy named Xenon at his home. Xenon was in Athens for business and Plato had just died earlier that morning. Others were in attendance at Damien’s home including the poet Antimachus. Damien discussed the circumstances surrounding Plato’s birth and death as an intrigued Xenon listened intently.

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57. Plato – The Greatest Philosopher

Agathon and Philosophers, Plato's Symposium Painting by Anselm Feuerbach
Plato’s Symposium by Anselm Feuerbach, 1869

Plato (428-347 B.C.) is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher who ever lived. He is personally my favorite. I consider myself a Platonist, albeit with some modifications, of course. In this regard, I consider the previous 56 posts as simply a prologue to this post. A.N. Whitehead (1861-1947), an English mathematician and philosopher, said the following:

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”1

What made him so great? The heart of the answer to this question lies in a quote by Proclus, a 5th century Neoplatonist philosopher:

“The most peculiar and firm principle of all the dialogues of Plato, and of the whole theory of that philosopher, is the knowledge of our own nature.”2

The ancients talked about this idea of knowing oneself as a starting point for the knowledge of the universe. According to Proclus, this encapsulates the essence of Plato’s philosophy which is why, no matter how esoteric some of his ideas may seem, he has resonated with people throughout time and across cultures. Plato gives us keen insight into our human nature, thus giving us tools to understand the universe.

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56. The Metaphysics of Resurrection

An icon portraying the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ, giving us some hint of what might happen to the body in the afterlife.
An Icon of the Resurrection of Christ by Robert J. Andrews, “America’s Truly Byzantine Iconographer”

In the West, we have three main beliefs concerning the afterlife – materialistic annihilation, reincarnation, and resurrection. Before continuing with this post, stop briefly for a moment and consider what your view is of the afterlife, if indeed you have given it much thought. Please leave your comments below.

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55. Man Is the Measure of All Things

Protagoras posited a universal truth that is not in conflict with natural law nor legal positivism.
da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

Is man the measure of all things? And what does Protagoras mean by this exactly? Some have called him the father of relativism, but we will see in this article that Protagoras actually meant something very different by his famous statement. Read on to see how this relates to issues such as the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century and the debate over abortion.

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54. Protagoras the Sophist

The philosophy of the most well-known Sophist, Protagoras, included a phrase 'man is the measure.'
Protagoras

“Man is the measure of all things.”

This famous dictum is familiar to most of us, yet I imagine that most people have no idea who uttered those words. You can probably guess by the title of this post that it was none other than the philosopher Protagoras. But what did he mean by it and why are there different interpretations of such a simple phrase?

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53. The Sophists

The Sophists changed the course of Athens in history, elevating rhetoric and education. They must have had great influence on future philosophers, despite there being only 30 Sophists in the record.
Allegory of Rhetoric oil on canvas painting by Laurent de La Hire, 1650

For those familiar with philosophy, the word “Sophist” brings to mind a highly articulate snake oil salesman who, through eloquence and smoothness of speech, is able to manipulate people into doing what he wants. In the ancient world, it was said that the Sophists could convince people it was night when it was day. This reputation is partially deserved, but there is much more to Sophists than this ancient stereotype.

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52. The Atomists

Democritus, one of the Atomists, among the Abderites
Democritus Among the Abderitans, oil on canvas by François-André Vincent, c. 1790; in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Atomic theory has a long, rich life in human history. It’s gone from a metaphysical theory developed by the Presocratics – namely the Atomists – to explain the idea of change vis-à-vis Parmenides’ idea of constant Being, to the modern scientific application of nuclear energy and nuclear warfare.

The dynamic duo of atomism was Leucippus and Democritus. Leucippus, who was from Miletus, was the founder of the atomist school.1 He started in the school of Parmenides, being a disciple of Zeno of Elea. Democritus, who came a little later, was a pupil of Leucippus. As such, of the corpus of work left behind by these two men, it is difficult to know which man wrote what.

Their monumental contribution to philosophy and science is their atomic theory, which states that all matter is made up of infinite, indivisible, eternal, unchangeable, and imperceptible entities.2 The only thing that changes is their position in space.

The question is how did we get from the Atomists’ simple but profound theories to the nuclear technology we have today that can potentially give us an infinite energy supply…or obliterate the world?

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51. Heraclitus of Ephesus 2

Heraclitus and his thoughts on Universal Flux would eventually lead to Hegel developing his dialectic...and Marx spinning it toward materialism.
Heraclitus

This article is a repost of Post 32. This repost was prompted by some very interesting comments and challenges left by an perceptive reader named Al. Below is one of his comments:

“Your statement, “Heraclitus did not believe in universal flux” is not accurate at all. You take away Heraclitus’s major contribution to philosophy. Precisely, Heraclitus has been characterized as the father of Dialectic – the constant undergoing change. According to it, the only permanent thing is change itself. This concept of dialectic was the basis of Hegel and Marx’s philosophies.”

– Al Amao, Ph.D

Dr. Amao is a published author with an interesting bio which I have included below as well as a link to his Amazon and personal websites.

As always, I welcome any feedback from my readers, especially disagreements, for it is through debate in philosophy that we arrive closer to the Truth. In fact, I am writing this introduction after finishing this post and I must say that I am grateful for readers like Al who take time to write and comment. In this case, his comments have prompted me to take a much deeper dive into Heraclitus and Universal Flux than I previously did.

I use a capital “T” for Truth because a premise of this blog is that there is objective truth that undergirds and permeates the universe. Not only is relativism not true, but it is untenable when put into practice as we can see from the disaster that permeates the West today.

Based on the premise that objective truth exists, it follows that disagreement and debate are mechanisms by which we attempt to move closer to that Truth. In short, this blog is about seeking the Truth and not winning an argument. This is the true spirit of philosophy.

Having said all of that, I invite any of you to weigh in on any of my posts in order to engage in lively and informative discussion. I may have guest bloggers in the future and even podcasts. Philosophy should be a community endeavor and not just a solo exercise. My vision is for this blog to become a forum where people can hash these ideas out in real time.

Please enjoy the post below and my interactions with Al’s comments. And be sure to add some of your own! I advise you to have read Al Amao’s original unedited comments, posted below the original post in the comment section. I will interact with his ideas in the addendum at the end of the post.

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50. The Dark Ages 1

File:Cole Thomas The Course of Empire Destruction 1836.jpg
The Course of Empire: Destruction, by Thomas Cole, 1836

Are we entering into a new Dark Age in the West or have we been there for some time?

I thought it would be appropriate to discuss this topic to begin the new year – a time that makes us think about time – an in attempt to gain an historical perspective on the current times in which we live. For example, we talk about climate change today, but the people of the 6th century A.D. lived through actual climate change with devastating results. I would guess that most people have never heard of this interesting story that you will read about below.

In other words, to help answer the above question, we need historical perspective. Unfortunately, this is lacking in the West, no small thanks to the public school system. The public school system has been a raging success at removing all semblance of true history and replacing it with “social studies.” Because of our ahistorical perspective, people are open to all manner of suggestion by the powers that be. Just look at how they put the majority of the population in a state of fear and terror in regard to everything from climate change to illness.

History has been characterized as a dry memorization of facts that have no particular relationship to anything else, especially the present. Where the real problem lies is that history has had its soul taken away – that being its relationship with philosophy and theology. Without the perspective of God working through historical events for a purpose as well as applying sound reasoning principles, we are left with a lifeless corpse that we call “history.”

Social studies, then, is a way of acknowledging that history should not be just dry facts, but rather than linking history to sound theology and philosophy, it simply substitutes humanistic religion and philosophy. The goal is to permeate young skulls full of mush with this drivel and to steer them in any direction the elites wish.

Well, going back to the original question, let’s first attempt to gain a sound historical perspective by looking to understand what the term “Dark Ages” meant in history.

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49. The Incarnation and History

The Annunciation, a fresco by Fra Angelico
The Annunciation, fresco by Fra Angelico, 1438–45; in the Museum of San Marco, Florence

In my second annual Christmas post, I would like to highlight for you one of my most favorite paintings of all time, entitled The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico. The Annunciation – when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was going to have the Christ child – was a common art theme in the Middle Ages. This particular depiction is a masterpiece of Renaissance art and considered one of the greatest paintings in the world. The artist, Fra Angelico, was a Benedictine monk. You can view more works by this great artist in books available through Amazon. Please see the featured book section at the end of this post.

My wife and I actually had the privilege to behold the original in the Museum of San Marco in 2019. San Marco used to be a Benedictine monastery. I had expected to find a framed piece of art hanging on the wall, but to my surprise, the painting is a fresco that greets you as soon as you enter the doorway of the monastery.

In the Fullness of Time

In the Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul said:

“When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.”

God sent His Son at the right time – when the world was fully prepared to receive Him. Christianity is an historical faith, not an esoteric one. God’s revelation in the Old Testament occurred exclusively through historical events. For example, the Exodus from Egypt eventually produced the Pentateuch, and the kingship of David produced the Psalms. God reveals Himself through historical events.

God’s greatest revelation of Himself occurred in the Incarnation, God uniting Himself to human flesh. All of history – not just church history – centers on the Incarnation and the events that accompanied it, such as the death and resurrection of Christ. All history prior to the Incarnation pointed to that event, and all history subsequent to that event was and is animated and directed by that event. In other words, if the Incarnation had not happened, the world would be completely different.

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