Saturday, March 6, 2010

De virtute græca et timore nostro ante veritatem

Do Sr. Fjordman, um artigo sobre a origem do papel, a circulação do conhecimento através das civilizações do mundo antigo, e a postura epistemiológica islâmica: Socratic dialogue vs. Islamic dialogue. Destaco a parte final, relativa ao "millagre grego":

«"Criticism of your own teacher – rare, if not quite unknown in China – was common in Greece, sometimes as a prelude to the pupil setting up a rival school of his own. The case of Aristotle is just the most famous of many that can be cited. To be sure, the role of text-books in Greece eventually came to be considerable, even though none, not even Euclid's Elements, achieved quite the cachet of a Chinese major canon, at least not in Greco-Roman antiquity. Of course, on the Chinese side, not all instruction was mediated through such texts. In the Lunyu[Analects], Confucius, for instance, is described in dialogue with his pupils in an open situation that might seem reminiscent of the fictional conversations of Socrates in Plato. Yet two differences remain: first Confucius' authority is never challenged by his pupils in the way Socrates is contradicted by some of his interlocutors (however much Plato stacks the cards in Socrates' favour in their eventual refutation). Secondly, Confucius' pupils were not his sole, nor maybe even prime, preoccupation, which was rather, we said, to find a ruler worthy to advise."

The classicist Bruce S. Thornton, author of books such as Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization, places this tradition at the very heart of Western civilization, from ancient to modern times. He defines philosophy as "critical consciousness systematized," and states that "Of all the Greek philosophers, the spirit of critical consciousness is best embodied in the late 5th century BC philosopher Socrates," who was executed in Athens in 399 BC. According to Thornton:

"Socrates's famous method was the 'dialectic,' from the Greek word that suggests both 'discussion' and 'analytical sorting.' The purpose of dialectic was to strip away the false knowledge and incoherent opinion that most people inherit from their societies and unthinkingly depend on to manage their lives. Although Socrates claimed to doubt that he or anyone else could acquire true knowledge about the good and virtue and the beautiful, he nonetheless believed that what he called 'examination,' critical consciousness applied to questions of virtue and the good, could eliminate false knowledge and muddled opinion.

Most important, Socrates saw this activity of rational examination and pursuit of truth and virtue as the essence of what a human being is and the highest expression of human nature. That is why he chose to die rather than to give it up: 'The unexamined life,' he said in his defense speech, 'is no life worth living for a human being.'" This legacy of critical – and self-critical – rational thought is important. Thornton again:

"Western culture has been defined by critical consciousness, the willingness to examine and challenge traditional wisdom and answers in the pursuit of truth, and to stand in opposition to the political and social powers whose authority and legitimacy rest on the unexamined acceptance of received dogma. Science obviously has progressed in this fashion, but even in literature we find an impatience with tradition and a restless searching for ever greater and more finely nuanced explorations of the human condition. A whole genre, the aptly named novel, was invented partly as a vehicle for examining the fluid complexities of human psychology and social relations, a complexity ignored in the stock characters and plots of traditional story-telling. In this sense, Western literature has been the creation of what Lionel Trilling called 'opposing sel[ves],' all those dissidents who, like Socrates, are driven to examine the human condition and probe beyond the traditional answers. The spirit of Western civilization, then, is, as Alan Bloom has suggested, 'Socratic,' a process of raising important questions and examining critically the tradition of answers, as this examination is embodied in works of enduring excellence, starting of course with those of the ancient Greeks."

The Islamic world, too, encountered Greek philosophers and found much to admire in them, especially in Aristotle. Yet the concept of "Socratic method" or "Socratic dialogue" ultimately found little room for growth in the Islamic world. Muslims still understand the term "dialogue" in a way that differs sharply from that of Westerners. For them, "dialogue" does not mean an attempt to rationally debate a topic in order to arrive at the truth. Truth is already given. It's called Islamic sharia, and the only "dialogue" that is acceptable is one that will eventually lead to the implementation of sharia.

Poul E. Andersen, former dean of the church of Odense, Denmark, warns against false hopes of dialogue with Muslims. During a debate at the University of Aarhus, Ahmad Akkari, one of the Muslim participants, stated: "Islam has waged war where this was necessary and dialogue where this was possible. A dialogue can thus only be viewed as part of a missionary objective." When Mr. Andersen raised the issue of dialogue with the Muslim World League in Denmark, the answer was: "To a Muslim, it is artificial to discuss Islam. In fact, you view any discussion as an expression of Western thinking." Also in Denmark, city council member Ali Nuur complained that one of the challenges certain immigrant groups face in the education system is that they are unfamiliar with tests rooted in a rational, critical and analytical way of thinking.

In Science and Religion, 400 B.C. to A.D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus, Edward Grant states that:

"Not long after the beginnings of science and natural philosophy in Greece, the first known clash between science and religion in the pre-Christian Greek world occurred, producing the first known victim of religious persecution. In the time of Pericles, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (c.500-428 B.C.), the last of the Ionian pre-Socratic philosophers and a friend of Pericles, was apparently persecuted for impiety because he believed the sun was a mass of red-hot metal and therefore, presumably not a divine celestial object. The charge of impiety was probably brought by Pericles' enemies, who apparently saw a good opportunity to attack him, using the pretext of his friendship with the atheistic natural philosopher Anaxagoras. This resulted in the banishment of Anaxagoras from Athens. According to Diogenes Laertius (fl. early third century A.D.), Anaxagoras committed suicide."

According to Grant, "What all this reveals for the relations between science and religion is that the Greeks of Anaxagoras' time believed that the celestial region was divine, and they therefore found reason to persecute Anaxagoras when he dared proclaim the sun a mass of red-hot metal. Another clash between science and religion occurred in the third century B.C., when Aristarchus of Samos became the first to proclaim that the cosmos is really heliocentric rather than geocentric. He displaced the earth as center of the world with the sun, and then set the earth moving around the sun with an annual motion while simultaneously rotating daily on its axis. In reaction to this revolutionary move, Cleanthes the Stoic (263-232 B.C.), the second head of the Stoic school, is reported to have charged Aristarchus with impiety, because he removed the 'hearth of the universe' from the center of the world and set it in motion. Nothing happened to Aristarchus, and no such charge was ever brought officially by any religious or governmental body. To my knowledge, no similar case arose in the Greek world prior to the Christian era."

Edward Grant says, however, that it is noteworthy that these two instances were both relevant to the physical structure of the universe, that is, to cosmology, and that they represent rather isolated and atypical incidents. For the most part, many city-states in Greece enjoyed a remarkable level of freedom of speech by ancient or even by modern standards. The problem for Muslims was that they wanted to expropriate the achievements of infidel science without taking into account the ideological atmosphere of free speech in which these achievements were made. They wanted the golden eggs, but killed the goose that laid them.

In contrast, medieval Europeans institutionalized a degree of free inquiry that was unprecedented by any major civilization on earth at the time. The basis for the Scientific Revolution was laid in the universities, one of the greatest inventions of Christian European civilization.

As Toby E. Huff, says, "In short, the European medievals had fashioned an image of man that was so imbued with reason and rationality that philosophical and theological speculation became breathtaking spheres of inquiry whose outcomes were far from predictable, or orthodox - to the consternation of all. Furthermore, this theological and philosophical speculation was taking place within the citadels of Western learning, that is, in the universities. Christian theology had indeed clothed man with a new set of methods and motivations, but it had also attributed to him a new set of rational capacities that knew no bounds."

Wasn't Socrates eventually killed in Athens for being too troublesome, you say? Yes, he was. This demonstrates that no society in history has ever been perfect. Yet as Henry Bamford Parkes asks in Gods and Men - The Origins of Western Culture, "Why was one relatively small city, during a period of only two or three generations, able to make so many contributions of such lasting importance to human thought?" After all, "There was less accumulated surplus wealth in classical Greece than in the cities of the oriental empires or of the Hellenistic kingdoms of a later period. The Athenian achievement is a permanent refutation of the notion of any close or necessary relationship between economic and cultural productivity. It was the result not of surplus wealth, but of favoring institutions and beliefs." He concludes that "Perhaps the chief reason was that it was sufficiently small to give every individual a sense of responsible participation in public affairs."

The irony is that one of our most important sources regarding the life and teachings of Socrates (who wrote nothing himself) is his pupil Plato, who supposedly wished to see the works of his rival Democritus burned. Plato used the treatment of Socrates in democratic Athens as a proof that democracy was an unjust system. He was certainly correct in pointing out that democracy does not automatically lead to free speech and individual liberty. It did not do so in the ancient world, and it does not do so now. Probably no culture, ancient or modern, has ever enjoyed total free speech in all walks of life, but Athens was still closer to this ideal than any other ancient culture.

The problem with Plato is not that he used the shameful treatment of Socrates to demonstrate flaws in the democratic system and show that it does not automatically lead to individual liberty, freedom of speech and respect for private property rights, which is legitimate criticism. The problem with Plato is that he rejected these goals as desirable to begin with. He embraced what I would call "seductive authoritarianism," where he argued that since democracy isn't perfect, we should passionately embrace an authoritarian or indeed totalitarian system where all aspects of human life are controlled by the state with mathematical precision.

Although he is not uncritical of Sparta, the system Plato praises in The Republic is a lot closer to authoritarian Sparta than to Athens. In doing this, Plato conveniently forgot that there was no Socrates in Sparta, just like there was no Plato or Aristotle. While Plato was free to be in democratic Athens and praise the Spartan system, praising any state or system other than the Spartan one was quite literally a crime in Sparta. They produced good soldiers, but few if any scientists worthy of note. Plato thus praised a system in which no Plato could, or did, exist.

As Henry Bamford Parkes puts it, "Any application of Platonic principles would have destroyed the social milieu that had made such dialogues possible. There could have been no Socratic discussions in the authoritarian state envisaged in the Republic and the Laws." In his view, Plato's influence was primarily negative: "In spite of his contempt for empirical observation, his emphasis on the value of mathematics helped to promote the scientific development of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries." Yet all in all, "his chief importance has been to provide philosophical support for the belief that order requires the denial of freedom."

According to Henry Bamford Parkes, "Sparta represented the totalitarian solution to the political problem, and because of the admiration felt for it by the Athenian aristocrat Plato, it has had a lasting influence on Western thought." One could thus argue that although freethinking is a golden thread running through the history of Western civilization, this legacy gave birth to a radical rejection of freethinking, which is also a part of the Western legacy. It is tempting to view Plato as an early forerunner of modern intellectuals with totalitarian longings, who use their freedom to praise political systems in which no freedom exists, be that Communist, Islamic or other.

When you read essays such as "The Peace Racket" by Bruce Bawer, the author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, you get a very strong impression that many Western universities are now dominated by persons, many of them Marxists, who have no interest in using Socratic dialogue in search of truth. They already know the truth, or consider it irrelevant, and simply view the universities as a platform for ideological indoctrination of students. This ideological corruption has been infused with an element of financial corruption as well. As Ibn Warraq says in Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism:

"The West, in giving in to political correctness and in being corrupted by Saudi and other Arab money, is ceasing to honor the original intent of the university. In recent years, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries (e.g., Brunei) have established chairs of Islamic studies in prestigious Western universities, which are then encouraged to present a favorable image of Islam. Scientific research leading to objective truth no longer seems to be the goal. Critical examination of the sources or the Koran is discouraged. Scholars such as Daniel Easterman have even lost their posts for not teaching about Islam in the way approved by Saudi Arabia. In December 2005, Georgetown and Harvard universities each accepted $ 20 million from Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal for programs in Islamic studies. The Carter Center, founded by former president Jimmy Carter, is funded in part by bin Talal. Such money can only corrupt the original intent of all higher institutions of education, that is, the search for truth."

In abandoning Socratic dialogue and the search for truth, the West has made itself more vulnerable to Islamic infiltration because it has in some ways become more like Islam. Only by insisting on our right to ask questions about anything can we restore what once was the purpose of our education system. We should start with rational criticism of Islam.»

Do que se leu, gostaria de discordar com quem não acredita no diálogo com os muçulmanos. Para que não nos falte a esperança na face da islamização, o aprofundamento do conhecimento do mal deverá ser acompanhado de um tanto maior conhecimento do bem. Por exemplo, o Padre Boutros ― aqui citado pelo Luís (2º vídeo, 5min05sec em diante) ―, tem-se dedicado a dialogar com os árabes e com isso tem havido conversões de muçulmanos ao cristianismo:

"These people who watch the show, surelly they're not all opposed to you. They may disagree with you, but they're watching the show, they're interested in what you have to say. They don't want to kill you."
"They want."
"They do?"
"Yes. Many people come and say their testimony, after they are converted. They say: 'When we saw you on the TV, speaking all these things, we wanted to kill you! And we planned to kill you! But when we read all things which you spoke about, and we find that you are right, we changed our minds, and now we are believers. We believe in Christ! This is very excellent show! We encourage you.' "

Atrevo-me ainda a estabelecer uma ligação entre o atingimento do conhecimento natural, e o do sobrenatural. Este modo de pensar auto-crítico dicto socrático é essencial no método scientífico; questionar a adequação do método empregue é fundamental para garantir a validade dos resultados obtidos. Congelar os pressupostos de que se parte seria a longo-prazo congelar a aquisição de novo saber. Do mesmo modo, ceder ao medo de reconhecer as próprias culpas, porque desconfortável e desintegrador, impede o homem de se corrigir e de adquirir mais virtude e felicidade. Mais vale reconhecer a antropologia negativa que a todos nos assola, e sair por cima com Cristo, do que embotar a consciência, e ficar para trás, atrofiando.

Com a inteligência e a liberdade que Deus nos deu, cada dia mais perto d'O Belo, Bom e Verdadeiro.

Nossa Senhora, Sede da Sabedoria, rogai por nós.

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