Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shooting Our Way out of Plato's Cave

I like answering questions that others have posed, when I think I can give an Objectivist spin on the answer. And so I read the question of whether we are "reverting" to our animalistic nature, our brute side, with all the violence we seem to see that comes from not only terrorists, but from normal, everyday people. Is this reversion "predestined", asked the question. No explanation was given as to why it would be "predetermined", but the reversion to our brute side made me think in another direction.

No, not predestined. We are simply going backward into the cave of Plato, as we did after St. Augustine incorporated him into Christianity. Now, however, he has been incorporated, since the writings of Kant, into secular thinking.

"Aristotle may be regarded as the cultural barometer of Western history... whenever it fell, so did mankind. The Aristotelian revival of the thirteenth century brought men to the Renaissance. The intellectual counter-revolution turned them back toward the cave of his antipode: Plato." Review of J.H. Randall’s Aristotle…

It was because of the Augustine/Plato connection that the Inquisition used torture, murder, and the killing of witches. 
  • St. Augustine, on the contrary, was still opposed to the use of force... Finally, however, he changed his views... Apropos of his apparent inconsistency it is well to note carefully whom he is his writings against the Donatists he upholds the rights of the State: sometimes, he says, a salutary severity would be to the interest of the erring ones themselves and likewise protective of true believers and the community at large. link
  • "No human judge," Augustine wrote, "can read the conscience of the man before him. That is why so many innocent witnesses are tortured to find what truth there is in the alleged guilt of other men. It is even worse when the accused man himself is tortured to find out if he be guilty. Here a man still unconvicted must undergo certain suffering for an uncertain crime –- not because his guilt is known, but because his innocence is unproved. Thus it often happens that the ignorance of the judge turns into tragedy for the innocent party.
 Now the Platonic/Kantian epistemology has turned a different direction, from the religious to the secular, where men (and increasingly, women,) are randomly killing others on campuses and in post offices and other public places. 

Why? They have been taught that it does no good to leave the cave; the flash of rationality and sanity outside the cave is no longer what it was. Those who keep men chained to the cave and cast long shadows are now on the outside of cave where they can catch you, and it is safer inside the cave. 

No one wants to remain in a cave, so they shoot their way out.

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