Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Where my philosophers at?

So if anyone who reads this is up on their philosophy, I have a question I have been mulling over in my head to throw at you, and it has to do with Platonic Dualism. I have never thought that I liked Platonic Dualism and have always felt like that as a hermeneutic framework it often leads us to a misreading of scripture.

And yet, I have been finding myself saying things like, "Proclaiming the real -- or the ideal -- deconstructs the lie of the actual" (read my post on deconstruction). And on Sunday I preached a sermon arguing that sin is not simply about doing something that is or isn't on a list, but rather it is about the pursuit of Jesus Christ -- the ideal, again -- and the choices we make lead us towards or away from this ideal One.

So, am I becoming a Platonic Dualist? Or is there something fundamentally different about deconstruction that i don't yet grasp (or something about Platonic Dualism for that matter)? Is an ethics based on Christ as an ideal just another platonic ethical philosophy?

I am hoping somebody can help straighten me out on this because I don't really wanna read another book on deconstruction. Though i do have Pete Rollins, "How Not to Speak of God" next in my reading Q.


  1. I'm not a philosopher, but I sometimes read Wikipedia..? I think eschewing either/ors (body/spirit, sacred/profane, with-us/with-the-terrorists) is a big step already; "towards" vs. "away from" could still be a kind of dualism I guess -- but if the ideal is out of reach then we're all in the same boat, and (as in a labyrinth) people's apparent position or heading may not tell you much. ("Not all those who wander are lost"?)

    re:Ideals: indeed, it's the yearning for an ideal beyond language or structure that drives one to deconstruct both.

    re:Dualism -- this morning Diesel announced to me from the back seat: "It's my brain's birthday today! It turned 5. But I'm still 4."

  2. I'm not a philosopher but I dabble. I think it helps to know Plato's context. He was living in a world in which he saw rampant hypocrisy and corruption. As you may know the Athenian Greek males all had to spend time in politics as a duty. What Plato saw was a trend of people using politics for power instead of duty. They would get up and weave beautiful arguments that had people clapping at the end, but in the end they were nothing more than beautiful arguments that weren't focused on "the good" or "truth", instead on the ends of the speakers.

    In that context Plato's Socrates calls for people to follow the ideals of truth, wisdom, and goodness. His bet is that when the choice is put in this context, between what only appears and what is, the people will be able to see their folly. If he can explain truth and the beauty and goodness of it, why would people continue to follow half-truths.

    In a dialogue that I particularly like Socrates discusses a hypothetical situation in which someone had a ring that makes them invisible. They ask the question would it then be more profitable to be moral or immoral. Socrates of course argues for morality and wins in the end against a whole host of attackers meant to represent the views of the time.

    I think it is important to remember that Plato also went on for long sections of his dialogues about very practical issues. Whether women should be allowed to be soldiers. I believe he decides that for the sake of fairness they should, but admits that it would be quite strange because the custom for their boot camp was for men to wrestle naked.

    Of course the story ends that the revolutionary that tries to reform society tragically dies, as is so often the case. He is put to death for corrupting the youth. He went to his death willingly even though he had means of escape.

    This is not an unfamiliar story for us Christians. I think that a health mix of the ideal and the real is a good thing. In a strange way thats Jesus.

  3. I just went on to read you deconstructionism post and I realize how similar it is to my thoughts about Plato in context. I think that goes to show how academics make concepts for different phenomena and move those concepts around, but they sometimes construe those phenomena in the process. Or put a different way. We create theories and then add to those theories with examples. Then all the while trying to expand the explanatory power of our theory we contrast it with other theories, but of course, no one can be an expert about everything, and inevitably straw men are created. Whole systems of thought get spoiled in students minds, as new waves come to shore.

    Addressing your question. My guess is you point about misinterpreting scripture is still valid, but now you are also seeing the virtues of Platonic philosophy. Which I'm sure isn't that surprising. If emergent philosophy can last one tenth as long as platonic (~2,400 years) then it'll have made a great impact.


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