The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

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The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

Postby Sauwelios » Sun Aug 17, 2014 8:30 am

I distinguish between two parallel developments, which however have become evermore inseparable. The one begins with the ancient Jews, the other with the ancient Greeks. I have described the former quite elaborately in my essay "Nietzsche Contra Wilders" (scroll up); the latter I have described very succintly, but with a lot of supporting citations, in my thread "The Four Aeons: Platonic, Machiavellian, Nietzschean, Homeric". I will reformulate both in this post.

The first phase is very obscure, so I will begin with the second, though I will say something about the first in my description of the Greek side. The second phase is the phase in which the Greeks as well as the Jews primarily had invisible gods. In the case of the Greeks, "primarily" here means that the invisible gods were the supreme gods; in the case of the Jews, it means that, if they had multiple gods in the first place (in support of this see Patai's The Hebrew Goddess), all of them were most certainly invisible. By "invisible" I don't necessarily mean that they were not depicted or even enacted;

    "[W]e may distinguish between cosmic gods like the Sun--gods whose possible existence is manifest to sight--and Olympian gods, about whom there is only hearsay[.]" (Seth Benardete, The Bow and the Lyre, page 5.)

From Benardete's book, which is a meticulous reading of the Odyssey, I conclude that the principal innovation of the philosopher Homer was the promotion of the Olympian gods to the rank of supreme gods and thereby the demotion of the cosmic gods to the rank of lesser gods. In order to explain what was the use of this, I will again cite quite heavily:

    "If--and he [the philosopher] is convinced that it is so--man's reason for existence and his distinction from other animals is his exercise of intelligence and his ability to know, if such knowledge is predicated on questioning convictions and opinions and investigating everything, and if a political community denies the need for such an investigation and makes it impossible, then that political community has already decided in favor of the view that the proper aim of political life and of man himself is to gain greater efficiency in attaining ends that are not specifically human but are more elaborate versions of ends pursued by certain other animals--pleasure, wealth, honor, and so forth. It is at this point that the classic conflict between philosophy and the political community begins." (Muhsin Mahdi, Alfarabi and the Foundation of Islamic Political Philosophy, pp. 16-17.)

In other words: a community that is not ruled by philosophers is a bestial, not a human, community.

    "After being a witness to the inhumanity of which man is capable [i.e., with the--cannibalistic--Laestrygonians], Odysseus might believe that only a drug as powerful as Circe's could fully domesticate man. The price would be the loss of speech [ho logos!] (cf. [Odyssey] 10.408-20). The possibility of such a 'city of pigs' is shown to Odysseus after he has democratized his rule and thereby allowed not only for occasional rebelliousness, which he can for the moment suppress, but also for his defeat when the going gets too hard for his men and numbers count more than sense (10.428-48; 12.278-97). Homer has thus juxtaposed two political considerations that seem to be of different orders. The theme of bestiality culminates twice, first among the Laestrygonians and then with Circe's swine. The latter points, by way of contrast, to a humanity that, though it belongs to man as man, is not open to every man, since what he is necessarily he is not necessarily unless he knows that that is what he is necessarily. Without that knowledge he can be enchanted and made subject to perfect rule[.]" (Benardete, op.cit., page 87.)

Odysseus is, so to say, Homer's Zarathustra, a fictional philosopher. A philosopher is someone who seeks to gain knowledge of nature and does gain it sooner or later. Odysseus gains it when he's on his way to rescue his men from Circe:

    "Although he [Hermes] tells Odysseus to take the moly and go with it, Circe does apparently not see it, for else she would have known at once that he was Odysseus, about whose coming Hermes had already informed her. If, then, Odysseus was not carrying the moly, he would have had either to swallow it or rub it on himself like a salve (cf. 10.392). Neither action is at all likely; Hermes dug the moly out of the ground then and there. What Hermes does with the moly is to show Odysseus its nature (phusis): 'It was black in its root, and its flower like milk; the gods call it moly, but it is hard for mortal men to dig up, but the gods can do everything.' If the decisive action is the showing forth of its nature and not the revelation of its divine name, as if it were a magical charm, then the moly in itself is irrelevant. What is important is that it has a nature, and the gods' power arises from the knowledge of its nature and of all other things. To dig up the moly is to expose to the light its flower and its root; they belong together regardless of the contrariety in their colors. It is this exposure and understanding of the nature of things that is difficult but not impossible for men. Odysseus, then, would be armed with knowledge. This knowledge saves him from Circe's enchantment. Her enchantment consists of transforming a man into a pig, with its head, voice, bristles, and build, but the mind (noos) remains as it was before. His knowledge, then, is the knowledge that the mind of man belongs together with his build. They are together as much as the root and flower of the moly. There cannot be a change in one without a corresponding change in the other. Menelaus's encounter with constant becoming, in which there are no natures, must have been an illusion. 'There is in your breast,' Circe tells Odysseus, 'a mind that does not admit of enchantment' (10.329)." (Benardete, op.cit., page 86.)

As most men do not know this unity, they are basically beasts, but since they can know it in theory, one can housebreak them solely with one's logos:

    "If man cannot live except politically, he must live with men who, if they do not know what constitutes man, must have a version of the knowledge of what constitutes man that does not preserve, however much it may reflect, the nature of man. Homer indicates that a most powerful version of that knowledge is summed up in the word 'Hades.' 'Hades' splits body and soul apart in a peculiar way: the soul retains the looks of the body, and the mind vanishes entirely. Hades distinguishes man from everything else. Men go to Hades, all other animals just die (10.174-75). This distinctiveness of man, whether exaggerated or not, imposes on man certain constraints. The prohibition against cannibalism takes the form of a general prohibition, whether it be through inhumation or cremation, against man being consumed by any wild beast." (Benardete, op.cit., page 88.)

The name Hades, Haidês in the Greek, is a contraction of a-hidês, in which the aspiration (the h) is caused by the disappearance of the letter Wau from the Greek alphabet; originally it was a-widês. The Greek Wau corresponds to the Hebrew Vau: a-vidês, "unseen, invisible" (compare a-tomos, "uncut, indivisible"). What Homer introduced was the idea of invisible gods who saw all your shameful deeds and punished you for them. With this he was basically the legislator of the Greek master morality, and thereby the founder of an actual civilization. As Ron Carter puts it:

    "The culture of the ancient Greeks forms the cornerstone of Western civilization." (Carter, The Coming of Civilization, page 67.)

***

The third phase is the one immediately following what in my Wilders essay I call "step zero". This is a most fateful step. In Israel, the Jewish warrior caste is annihilated: see Nietzsche's Antichrist, sections 24-26. In Athens, the new generation no longer believes in the old gods.

    "As a time of splendor that passed into a time of decay and loss, the time in which Plato set his dialogues suffered from what could be thought the ultimate loss, the unprecedented, once-for-all-time death of the gods of Homer and Hesiod. That dying would be slow--when gods die, men play with their shadows in caves for centuries, said Nietzsche the philosopher of the death of our God--but the essential events in the death of the Homeric gods occurred during Socrates' lifetime. It was not only the war and the plague that cost the young men of Athens their belief in the gods, it was the Greek enlightenment as well, for it actively schooled the best Athenian young in a lightly veiled skepticism about the gods while mocking ancestral or paternal submission to them and counseling its students on just how to make the best use of the piety of others. [...] Instead, they need to be given--to have stamped into them while they're still somewhat plastic--new grounds for the permitted and prohibited, new reasons for being the gentlemen their still active decency wants them to be. [...] Couches and tables imaged Homer's deed of creating a whole world of civility; reins and a bridle image what the souls of those raised in Homer's civility now need, subject as they were from birth to the power of Homer's music, flute music powerful to excite and depress thumos." (Lampert, How Philosophy Became Socratic, pp. 4, 288 and 387.)

    "While displaying the philosopher's nature and grounding his right to rule in his nature, the Republic shows what compels such a nature to descend to rule at just this point in Athenian and Greek history: Homeric rule is breaking down, the Homeric gods are losing their hold on the young. In that crisis the wise man finds himself compelled to ensure that the Critiases not rule, that the many lovers of honor freed into unrestraint by the Greek enlightenment not rule, because they lack the knowledge possession of which alone can make rule a benefit." (Lampert, op.cit., page 225.)

Except for those who directly harmed or tried to harm the gods, honour was the Homeric reward and dishonour the Homeric punishment:

    [I]t is his [Achilles'] tomb that makes him conspicuous both now and in the future. Achilles dies but not his name. Hades is needed in order that Achilles may enjoy, if only counterfactually, the reality of his name." (Benardete, op.cit., page 148.)

The Platonic replacements of honour and shame are blessedness and damnation, respectively. Nietzsche does not call Christianity "Platonism for the people" for nothing. Compare a related Platonism for the people, Islam:

    "Concerning philosophy, al-Ghazâlî said that its practitioners held three opinions not shared by the rest of the Muslim community: that the world has always existed and was not made out of nothing, that God knows universals rather than particulars, and that rewards and punishments in the world to come pertain to souls or spirits rather than bodies." (Mahdi, op.cit., page 23.)

Here we see "beautifully" how Platonism, Plato's exoteric teaching, was vulgarized: according to Plato, the world had always existed; his Ideas or Forms were things like the Idea of a chair, as opposed to particular chairs; and the posthumous reward he promised his believers was the blessed, spiritual vision of the Ideas, not unlimited sex with 72 virgins.

***

The fourth phase consists of Humanism--the secularization of Christian morality--and modernity--the rejection of Medieval physics, which was Aristotelian, and thereby of Christian metaphysics, which had become inextricably tangled up with it.

    "The Machiavellian strategy succeeded in its one great aim [i.e., in "crush[ing] Christianity's spiritual tyranny"]; but by adopting its enemy's means and conscripting science into the service of propaganda, it caused philosophy to fall prey to a new tyranny, the tyranny of supposed enlightenment via science." (Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, page 144.)

Then there's an intermediary phase: postmodernism, which I trace back to a misinterpretation of Nietzsche primarily by Heidegger. Or rather, postmodernism is basically the nihilism Nietzsche foretold, it's just that it rejects the way out that he had found--methinks on the basis of Heidegger's fundamental misinterpretation. But maybe it just isn't ready for that--something Nietzsche also foretold.

Where does the way beyond nihilism lead? I think eventually "back", to a new pre-Homeric age--an age preceding a new Homer. For this is Nietzsche's principal innovation: imposing limits on the scientific conquest of nature, which conquest also seeks to prevent, or to limit the impact of, natural disasters--disasters like a Flood...

    "[...] the passage in the Odyssey, where Hermes shows Odysseus a certain herb which he could use for protecting himself and his fellows against Circe. Now in this context, the gods can do everything, the gods are omnipotent one can say, but it is very interesting what this concept means in this context. Why are the gods omnipotent? Because they know the natures of all things, which means, of course, they are not omnipotent. They know the natures of things which are wholly independent of them and through that knowledge they are capable of using all things properly." (Strauss, "Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis".)

Isn't this a beautiful description of modern man? Modern man is a god, he has knowledge of nature and for this reason can manipulate nature endlessly. This is a great problem, but not for the reasons one would probably expect:

    "Nature was not always a problem. It became a problem because of a fact, something that arose in our history, the willful conquest of nature. Once again, this is no random complaint about the Baconian-Cartesian conquest of nature through an infinity of devices. Strauss's essay has shown that nature has become a problem because of the conquest of human nature in a very precise sense, namely, elimination of one of the two natural human types. The Baconian-Cartesian technological conquest of nature is only a means, if an indispensable means, to the achievement of the ideal of the large majority, universal comfortable self-preservation, which makes the other type expendable.
    The victory of the autonomous herd is the highest, the most difficult problem, the problem presented to the philosopher by our history. How can the problem be solved? Nietzsche cannot do without nature; he must reinstate nature or assign limits to its conquest, where the relevant conquest is the abolition of the order of rank of the natures. How is this to be done? Through the creation of a new morality, a new good and bad which will provide a sense of what is ultimately worth doing and what is no longer permitted. With this conscious creation of values the truly complementary man fulfills the commission granted him to maintain in the world the order of rank." (Lampert, op.cit., pp. 104-105.)

As I wrote in an e-mail to Lampert:

    "By willing the eternal recurrence, i.e., by having the eternal recurrence as one's highest ideal, one manifests oneself as an Übermensch, a Dionysus, a complementary man, or however you wish to call it. And for those who do not love reality enough to desire its eternal recurrence, that manifestation can be what the eternal recurrence itself cannot, their highest ideal. 'I am not sufficiently well-disposed toward reality to wish for its eternal recurrence; but I wish I was! I wish reality or I myself would be so changed that I should wish with all my heart for the eternal recurrence'... What the Übermensch does is, he shows that it's possible to be that well-disposed toward reality as it is.
    What has attracted you, a self-proclaimed non-philosopher, to philosophy? Was it that which the philosopher desires, wisdom? Or was it the philosopher himself, men like Nietzsche, Plato, Bacon, and Descartes? Are not they the great erotics who arouse in non-philosophers the eros that makes them devote themselves to philosophy? Makes you, for example, withdraw from society for protracted periods of time to write book upon book showcasing the brilliance of such men? Something you will probably keep doing, if possible, until the day you die? These questions are of course rhetorical, and I think your kind of activity is the highest kind for a non-philosopher. You cannot and need not glorify reality itself; that must be left to actual philosophers. What suffices is to glorify them, as those who glorify reality. For by doing so, you illuminate the way that they paved for their kind." (Sauwelios, "Re: The ideal of the natural man.")

***

And then there's cultural relativism, the "Jewish" parallel of "Greek" postmodernism. The quotation marks indicate that the two developments cannot really be distinguished anymore; this was already very much the case in Medieval Christianity, which was influenced as much by Neoplatonism as by Judaism. Two quotes may serve to illustrate this:

    "Hitherto every great age of humanity grew out of Bodenständigkeit (rootedness in the soil). Yet the great age of classical Greece gave birth to a way of thinking which in principle endangered Bodenständigkeit from the beginning and in its ultimate contemporary consequences is about to destroy the last relics of that condition of human greatness. Heidegger's philosophy belongs to the infinitely dangerous moment when man is in a greater danger than ever before of losing his humanity and therefore--danger and salvation belonging together--philosophy can have the task of contributing toward the recovery or return of Bodenständigkeit or rather of preparing an entirely novel kind of Bodenständigkeit: a Bodenständigkeit beyond the most extreme Bodenlosigkeit, a being at home beyond the most extreme homelessness." (Leo Strauss, "Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy".)

    "Most men dread the rootless, aimless lives forced upon them by the liberal discrediting of tribal-civic piety. This dread was responsible for the Jewish denial that destruction of their temple disproved the existence of their gods. Instead they claimed that their defeat and enslavement were god's way of testing or punishing them. In time that same god would empower the messiah to re-establish their tribal sacrifices in their temple. However, a god capable of effecting this miraculous resurrection of illiberalism no longer could be merely concerned with his own people: 'Formerly he had only his own people (Volk), his chosen people. Then he, just as his people, went wandering into foreign places ... that great cosmopolitan.' He became the one god of all men; the tribal piety of victorious Judaism was transformed into the monotheism of defeated Judaism[.]" (Harry Neumann, "The Case Against Liberalism", quoting Nietzsche's Antichrist, section 17.)

Although Heidegger fundamentally misunderstood Nietzsche's philosophy, his own philosophy is certainly not at odds with it (compare Nietzsche's misconception of Darwinism). Thus Strauss, in another essay from the same book (Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy), writes:

    "The variety of cultures that have hitherto emerged contradicts the oneness of truth. Truth is not a woman so that each man can have his own truth as he can have his own wife. Nietzsche sought therefore for a culture that would no longer be particular and hence in the last analysis arbitrary. The single goal of mankind is conceived by him as in a sense super-human: he speaks of the super-man of the future. The super-man is meant to unite in himself Jerusalem and Athens on the highest level." (Strauss, "Jerusalem and Athens".)

My Nietzschean vision of the future, or vision of a Nietzschean future, is one in which Europe, the West, the world is one culture, a genuine culture:

    "Culture is primarily unity of artistic style in all the life-expressions of a people. Much knowledge and learnedness, however, is neither a necessary means of culture, nor a sign thereof and gets along most well, if necessary, with the opposite of culture, barbarism, that is to say: stylelessness or the chaotic confusion of all styles." (Nietzsche, David Strauss, The Confessor and Writer, chapter 1, my translation.)

    "A thousand goals have there been hitherto, for a thousand peoples have there been. Only the fetter for the thousand necks is still lacking; there is lacking the one goal. As yet humanity hath not a goal. But pray tell me, my brethren, if the goal of humanity be still lacking, is there not also still lacking--humanity itself?" (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The thousand and One goals", Thomas Common's translation.)

This future people however, genuine humanity, will be tragically disposed...

    "The individual shall be consecrated to something supra-personal--that is what tragedy demands; he shall unlearn the horrible fright that death and time cause the individual: for even in the smallest moment, in the briefest atom of his life history, he may come across something sacred that compensates for all the struggle and all the distress--that is what it means to be tragically disposed. And when humanity as a whole must die some day--who could doubt that!--then the goal is set for it as the highest task for all time to come, so to grow together into one and in common, that it may as a whole confront its impending demise with a tragic disposition; in this supreme task, all the ennoblement of man is enclosed; the definite rejection of this task would ensue in the most dreary image a friend of humanity could present to his his soul. That's how I feel! There is only one hope and one guarantee for the future of the human: it consists in this, that the tragic disposition should not die off. A wailing without equal would have to sound over the earth, when man was to completely lose that disposition; and conversely, there is no more bliss-inducing joy than to know what we know--how the tragic idea has been born into the world once again. For this joy is a wholly supra-personal and universal one, a rejoicing on the part of humanity in the warranted cohesion and continuation of the human in general.--" (Nietzsche, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, chapter 4, my translation.)

The eternal recurrence requires humanity's demise.
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

Postby kogami » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:50 pm

One is almost always attempting to walk on philosophical water when discussing questions of humanism, and human nature.

To clarify via example, you mention in this post you mention (in the Homeric account) a discrepancy between 'human' actions and enterprises and 'bestial' or 'animal' actions. However, there are many areas in which these two overlap, namely sleeping, eating, shitting, and breathing. What we understand as human actions cannot exist without bestial actions, and in reality, it seems illogical to call any activity or enterprise undertaken by a human being to be, in fact, inhuman.

It seems in order to support the distinction you mention, one must craft a very fraught categorical framework for 'human' behavior, and 'inhuman' behavior.

Furthermore, though you mention in several places Heidegger's misunderstanding of Nietzsche, you never discuss it, and there are many who would argue articulately and passionately that the 'danger' of Heidegger's philosophy, especially his phenomenology, is exactly a danger humanity needs to come to grips with.
"Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it." -- Albert Camus
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Re: The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

Postby Orbie » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:46 am

Sauwelios wrote:I distinguish between two parallel developments, which however have become evermore inseparable. The one begins with the ancient Jews, the other with the ancient Greeks. I have described the former quite elaborately in my essay "Nietzsche Contra Wilders" (scroll up); the latter I have described very succintly, but with a lot of supporting citations, in my thread "The Four Aeons: Platonic, Machiavellian, Nietzschean, Homeric". I will reformulate both in this post.

The first phase is very obscure, so I will begin with the second, though I will say something about the first in my description of the Greek side. The second phase is the phase in which the Greeks as well as the Jews primarily had invisible gods. In the case of the Greeks, "primarily" here means that the invisible gods were the supreme gods; in the case of the Jews, it means that, if they had multiple gods in the first place (in support of this see Patai's The Hebrew Goddess), all of them were most certainly invisible. By "invisible" I don't necessarily mean that they were not depicted or even enacted;

    "[W]e may distinguish between cosmic gods like the Sun--gods whose possible existence is manifest to sight--and Olympian gods, about whom there is only hearsay[.]" (Seth Benardete, The Bow and the Lyre, page 5.)

From Benardete's book, which is a meticulous reading of the Odyssey, I conclude that the principal innovation of the philosopher Homer was the promotion of the Olympian gods to the rank of supreme gods and thereby the demotion of the cosmic gods to the rank of lesser gods. In order to explain what was the use of this, I will again cite quite heavily:

    "If--and he [the philosopher] is convinced that it is so--man's reason for existence and his distinction from other animals is his exercise of intelligence and his ability to know, if such knowledge is predicated on questioning convictions and opinions and investigating everything, and if a political community denies the need for such an investigation and makes it impossible, then that political community has already decided in favor of the view that the proper aim of political life and of man himself is to gain greater efficiency in attaining ends that are not specifically human but are more elaborate versions of ends pursued by certain other animals--pleasure, wealth, honor, and so forth. It is at this point that the classic conflict between philosophy and the political community begins." (Muhsin Mahdi, Alfarabi and the Foundation of Islamic Political Philosophy, pp. 16-17.)

In other words: a community that is not ruled by philosophers is a bestial, not a human, community.

    "After being a witness to the inhumanity of which man is capable [i.e., with the--cannibalistic--Laestrygonians], Odysseus might believe that only a drug as powerful as Circe's could fully domesticate man. The price would be the loss of speech [ho logos!] (cf. [Odyssey] 10.408-20). The possibility of such a 'city of pigs' is shown to Odysseus after he has democratized his rule and thereby allowed not only for occasional rebelliousness, which he can for the moment suppress, but also for his defeat when the going gets too hard for his men and numbers count more than sense (10.428-48; 12.278-97). Homer has thus juxtaposed two political considerations that seem to be of different orders. The theme of bestiality culminates twice, first among the Laestrygonians and then with Circe's swine. The latter points, by way of contrast, to a humanity that, though it belongs to man as man, is not open to every man, since what he is necessarily he is not necessarily unless he knows that that is what he is necessarily. Without that knowledge he can be enchanted and made subject to perfect rule[.]" (Benardete, op.cit., page 87.)

Odysseus is, so to say, Homer's Zarathustra, a fictional philosopher. A philosopher is someone who seeks to gain knowledge of nature and does gain it sooner or later. Odysseus gains it when he's on his way to rescue his men from Circe:

    "Although he [Hermes] tells Odysseus to take the moly and go with it, Circe does apparently not see it, for else she would have known at once that he was Odysseus, about whose coming Hermes had already informed her. If, then, Odysseus was not carrying the moly, he would have had either to swallow it or rub it on himself like a salve (cf. 10.392). Neither action is at all likely; Hermes dug the moly out of the ground then and there. What Hermes does with the moly is to show Odysseus its nature (phusis): 'It was black in its root, and its flower like milk; the gods call it moly, but it is hard for mortal men to dig up, but the gods can do everything.' If the decisive action is the showing forth of its nature and not the revelation of its divine name, as if it were a magical charm, then the moly in itself is irrelevant. What is important is that it has a nature, and the gods' power arises from the knowledge of its nature and of all other things. To dig up the moly is to expose to the light its flower and its root; they belong together regardless of the contrariety in their colors. It is this exposure and understanding of the nature of things that is difficult but not impossible for men. Odysseus, then, would be armed with knowledge. This knowledge saves him from Circe's enchantment. Her enchantment consists of transforming a man into a pig, with its head, voice, bristles, and build, but the mind (noos) remains as it was before. His knowledge, then, is the knowledge that the mind of man belongs together with his build. They are together as much as the root and flower of the moly. There cannot be a change in one without a corresponding change in the other. Menelaus's encounter with constant becoming, in which there are no natures, must have been an illusion. 'There is in your breast,' Circe tells Odysseus, 'a mind that does not admit of enchantment' (10.329)." (Benardete, op.cit., page 86.)

As most men do not know this unity, they are basically beasts, but since they can know it in theory, one can housebreak them solely with one's logos:

    "If man cannot live except politically, he must live with men who, if they do not know what constitutes man, must have a version of the knowledge of what constitutes man that does not preserve, however much it may reflect, the nature of man. Homer indicates that a most powerful version of that knowledge is summed up in the word 'Hades.' 'Hades' splits body and soul apart in a peculiar way: the soul retains the looks of the body, and the mind vanishes entirely. Hades distinguishes man from everything else. Men go to Hades, all other animals just die (10.174-75). This distinctiveness of man, whether exaggerated or not, imposes on man certain constraints. The prohibition against cannibalism takes the form of a general prohibition, whether it be through inhumation or cremation, against man being consumed by any wild beast." (Benardete, op.cit., page 88.)

The name Hades, Haidês in the Greek, is a contraction of a-hidês, in which the aspiration (the h) is caused by the disappearance of the letter Wau from the Greek alphabet; originally it was a-widês. The Greek Wau corresponds to the Hebrew Vau: a-vidês, "unseen, invisible" (compare a-tomos, "uncut, indivisible"). What Homer introduced was the idea of invisible gods who saw all your shameful deeds and punished you for them. With this he was basically the legislator of the Greek master morality, and thereby the founder of an actual civilization. As Ron Carter puts it:

    "The culture of the ancient Greeks forms the cornerstone of Western civilization." (Carter, The Coming of Civilization, page 67.)

***

The third phase is the one immediately following what in my Wilders essay I call "step zero". This is a most fateful step. In Israel, the Jewish warrior caste is annihilated: see Nietzsche's Antichrist, sections 24-26. In Athens, the new generation no longer believes in the old gods.

    "As a time of splendor that passed into a time of decay and loss, the time in which Plato set his dialogues suffered from what could be thought the ultimate loss, the unprecedented, once-for-all-time death of the gods of Homer and Hesiod. That dying would be slow--when gods die, men play with their shadows in caves for centuries, said Nietzsche the philosopher of the death of our God--but the essential events in the death of the Homeric gods occurred during Socrates' lifetime. It was not only the war and the plague that cost the young men of Athens their belief in the gods, it was the Greek enlightenment as well, for it actively schooled the best Athenian young in a lightly veiled skepticism about the gods while mocking ancestral or paternal submission to them and counseling its students on just how to make the best use of the piety of others. [...] Instead, they need to be given--to have stamped into them while they're still somewhat plastic--new grounds for the permitted and prohibited, new reasons for being the gentlemen their still active decency wants them to be. [...] Couches and tables imaged Homer's deed of creating a whole world of civility; reins and a bridle image what the souls of those raised in Homer's civility now need, subject as they were from birth to the power of Homer's music, flute music powerful to excite and depress thumos." (Lampert, How Philosophy Became Socratic, pp. 4, 288 and 387.)

    "While displaying the philosopher's nature and grounding his right to rule in his nature, the Republic shows what compels such a nature to descend to rule at just this point in Athenian and Greek history: Homeric rule is breaking down, the Homeric gods are losing their hold on the young. In that crisis the wise man finds himself compelled to ensure that the Critiases not rule, that the many lovers of honor freed into unrestraint by the Greek enlightenment not rule, because they lack the knowledge possession of which alone can make rule a benefit." (Lampert, op.cit., page 225.)

Except for those who directly harmed or tried to harm the gods, honour was the Homeric reward and dishonour the Homeric punishment:

    t is his [Achilles'] tomb that makes him conspicuous both now and in the future. Achilles dies but not his name. Hades is needed in order that Achilles may enjoy, if only counterfactually, the reality of his name." (Benardete, op.cit., page 148.)

The Platonic replacements of honour and shame are blessedness and damnation, respectively. Nietzsche does not call Christianity "Platonism for the people" for nothing. Compare a related Platonism for the people, Islam:

    "Concerning philosophy, al-Ghazâlî said that its practitioners held three opinions not shared by the rest of the Muslim community: that the world has always existed and was not made out of nothing, that God knows universals rather than particulars, and that rewards and punishments in the world to come pertain to souls or spirits rather than bodies." (Mahdi, op.cit., page 23.)

Here we see "beautifully" how Platonism, Plato's exoteric teaching, was vulgarized: according to Plato, the world had always existed; his Ideas or Forms were things like the Idea of a chair, as opposed to particular chairs; and the posthumous reward he promised his believers was the blessed, spiritual vision of the Ideas, not unlimited sex with 72 virgins.

***

The fourth phase consists of Humanism--the secularization of Christian morality--and modernity--the rejection of Medieval physics, which was Aristotelian, and thereby of Christian metaphysics, which had become inextricably tangled up with it.

    "The Machiavellian strategy succeeded in its one great aim [i.e., in "crush[ing] Christianity's spiritual tyranny"]; but by adopting its enemy's means and conscripting science into the service of propaganda, it caused philosophy to fall prey to a new tyranny, the tyranny of supposed enlightenment via science." (Lampert, [i]Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, page 144.)

Then there's an intermediary phase: postmodernism, which I trace back to a misinterpretation of Nietzsche primarily by Heidegger. Or rather, postmodernism is basically the nihilism Nietzsche foretold, it's just that it rejects the way out that he had found--methinks on the basis of Heidegger's fundamental misinterpretation. But maybe it just isn't ready for that--something Nietzsche also foretold.

Where does the way beyond nihilism lead? I think eventually "back", to a new pre-Homeric age--an age preceding a new Homer. For this is Nietzsche's principal innovation: imposing limits on the scientific conquest of nature, which conquest also seeks to prevent, or to limit the impact of, natural disasters--disasters like a Flood...

    "[...] the passage in the Odyssey, where Hermes shows Odysseus a certain herb which he could use for protecting himself and his fellows against Circe. Now in this context, the gods can do everything, the gods are omnipotent one can say, but it is very interesting what this concept means in this context. Why are the gods omnipotent? Because they know the natures of all things, which means, of course, they are not omnipotent. They know the natures of things which are wholly independent of them and through that knowledge they are capable of using all things properly." (Strauss, "Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis".)

Isn't this a beautiful description of modern man? Modern man is a god, he has knowledge of nature and for this reason can manipulate nature endlessly. This is a great problem, but not for the reasons one would probably expect:

    "Nature was not always a problem. It became a problem because of a fact, something that arose in our history, the willful conquest of nature. Once again, this is no random complaint about the Baconian-Cartesian conquest of nature through an infinity of devices. Strauss's essay has shown that nature has become a problem because of the conquest of human nature in a very precise sense, namely, elimination of one of the two natural human types. The Baconian-Cartesian technological conquest of nature is only a means, if an indispensable means, to the achievement of the ideal of the large majority, universal comfortable self-preservation, which makes the other type expendable.
    The victory of the autonomous herd is the highest, the most difficult problem, the problem presented to the philosopher by our history. How can the problem be solved? Nietzsche cannot do without nature; he must reinstate nature or assign limits to its conquest, where the relevant conquest is the abolition of the order of rank of the natures. How is this to be done? Through the creation of a new morality, a new good and bad which will provide a sense of what is ultimately worth doing and what is no longer permitted. With this conscious creation of values the truly complementary man fulfills the commission granted him to maintain in the world the order of rank." (Lampert, op.cit., pp. 104-105.)

As I wrote in an e-mail to Lampert:

    "By willing the eternal recurrence, i.e., by having the eternal recurrence as one's highest ideal, one manifests oneself as an Übermensch, a Dionysus, a complementary man, or however you wish to call it. And for those who do not love reality enough to desire its eternal recurrence, that manifestation can be what the eternal recurrence itself cannot, their highest ideal. 'I am not sufficiently well-disposed toward reality to wish for its eternal recurrence; but I wish I was! I wish reality or I myself would be so changed that I should wish with all my heart for the eternal recurrence'... What the Übermensch does is, he shows that it's possible to be that well-disposed toward reality as it is.
    What has attracted you, a self-proclaimed non-philosopher, to philosophy? Was it that which the philosopher desires, wisdom? Or was it the philosopher himself, men like Nietzsche, Plato, Bacon, and Descartes? Are not they the great erotics who arouse in non-philosophers the eros that makes them devote themselves to philosophy? Makes you, for example, withdraw from society for protracted periods of time to write book upon book showcasing the brilliance of such men? Something you will probably keep doing, if possible, until the day you die? These questions are of course rhetorical, and I think your kind of activity is the highest kind for a non-philosopher. You cannot and need not glorify reality itself; that must be left to actual philosophers. What suffices is to glorify them, as those who glorify reality. For by doing so, you illuminate the way that they paved for their kind." (Sauwelios, "Re: The ideal of the natural man.")

***

And then there's cultural relativism, the "Jewish" parallel of "Greek" postmodernism. The quotation marks indicate that the two developments cannot really be distinguished anymore; this was already very much the case in Medieval Christianity, which was influenced as much by Neoplatonism as by Judaism. Two quotes may serve to illustrate this:

    "Hitherto every great age of humanity grew out of Bodenständigkeit (rootedness in the soil). Yet the great age of classical Greece gave birth to a way of thinking which in principle endangered Bodenständigkeit from the beginning and in its ultimate contemporary consequences is about to destroy the last relics of that condition of human greatness. Heidegger's philosophy belongs to the infinitely dangerous moment when man is in a greater danger than ever before of losing his humanity and therefore--danger and salvation belonging together--philosophy can have the task of contributing toward the recovery or return of Bodenständigkeit or rather of preparing an entirely novel kind of Bodenständigkeit: a Bodenständigkeit beyond the most extreme Bodenlosigkeit, a being at home beyond the most extreme homelessness." (Leo Strauss, "Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy".)

    "Most men dread the rootless, aimless lives forced upon them by the liberal discrediting of tribal-civic piety. This dread was responsible for the Jewish denial that destruction of their temple disproved the existence of their gods. Instead they claimed that their defeat and enslavement were god's way of testing or punishing them. In time that same god would empower the messiah to re-establish their tribal sacrifices in their temple. However, a god capable of effecting this miraculous resurrection of illiberalism no longer could be merely concerned with his own people: 'Formerly he had only his own people (Volk), his chosen people. Then he, just as his people, went wandering into foreign places ... that great cosmopolitan.' He became the one god of all men; the tribal piety of victorious Judaism was transformed into the monotheism of defeated Judaism[.]" (Harry Neumann, "The Case Against Liberalism", quoting Nietzsche's Antichrist, section 17.)

Although Heidegger fundamentally misunderstood Nietzsche's philosophy, his own philosophy is certainly not at odds with it (compare Nietzsche's misconception of Darwinism). Thus Strauss, in another essay from the same book (Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy), writes:

    "The variety of cultures that have hitherto emerged contradicts the oneness of truth. Truth is not a woman so that each man can have his own truth as he can have his own wife. Nietzsche sought therefore for a culture that would no longer be particular and hence in the last analysis arbitrary. The single goal of mankind is conceived by him as in a sense super-human: he speaks of the super-man of the future. The super-man is meant to unite in himself Jerusalem and Athens on the highest level." (Strauss, "Jerusalem and Athens".)

My Nietzschean vision of the future, or vision of a Nietzschean future, is one in which Europe, the West, the world is one culture, a genuine culture:

    "Culture is primarily unity of artistic style in all the life-expressions of a people. Much knowledge and learnedness, however, is neither a necessary means of culture, nor a sign thereof and gets along most well, if necessary, with the opposite of culture, barbarism, that is to say: stylelessness or the chaotic confusion of all styles." (Nietzsche, David Strauss, The Confessor and Writer, chapter 1, my translation.)

    "A thousand goals have there been hitherto, for a thousand peoples have there been. Only the fetter for the thousand necks is still lacking; there is lacking the one goal. As yet humanity hath not a goal. But pray tell me, my brethren, if the goal of humanity be still lacking, is there not also still lacking--humanity itself?" (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The thousand and One goals", Thomas Common's translation.)

This future people however, genuine humanity, will be tragically disposed...

    "The individual shall be consecrated to something supra-personal--that is what tragedy demands; he shall unlearn the horrible fright that death and time cause the individual: for even in the smallest moment, in the briefest atom of his life history, he may come across something sacred that compensates for all the struggle and all the distress--that is what it means to be tragically disposed. And when humanity as a whole must die some day--who could doubt that!--then the goal is set for it as the highest task for all time to come, so to grow together into one and in common, that it may as a whole confront its impending demise with a tragic disposition; in this supreme task, all the ennoblement of man is enclosed; the definite rejection of this task would ensue in the most dreary image a friend of humanity could present to his his soul. That's how I feel! There is only one hope and one guarantee for the future of the human: it consists in this, that the tragic disposition should not die off. A wailing without equal would have to sound over the earth, when man was to completely lose that disposition; and conversely, there is no more bliss-inducing joy than to know what we know--how the tragic idea has been born into the world once again. For this joy is a wholly supra-personal and universal one, a rejoicing on the part of humanity in the warranted cohesion and continuation of the human in general.--" (Nietzsche, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, chapter 4, my translation.)

The eternal recurrence requires humanity's demise.




I follow a very well crafted, and arguably well researched topic. The conclusion depends on an interpretation of eternal recurrence, and what man really means, and what an end to mankind may really entail. I would gather , in the above view, cannibalism can be reverted to, and the way we are going, it is not inconceivable?

Heidegger's intentionality may , post modernly be deemed insufficient to offer an human exit from a perceived quagmire, but, if You redefine an end as a unconscious or repeated pre-conscious state, it begs again whether the circe(le) is totally hermeneutically sealed. I believe it is not , it's rather like an ellipsis, of differing calculus. As with all calculus , limits can exercise in various ways, and a total regression of civilization may only be one of them.

But even if that is an arguable pint, a state of pre civilization may not realize it's demise, since it will be as in a big sleep? In this view, Man, as a constructed being, will never really have an end .
It's immortality is assured!
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Re: The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

Postby Sauwelios » Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:09 am

kogami wrote:One is almost always attempting to walk on philosophical water when discussing questions of humanism, and human nature.

To clarify via example, you mention in this post you mention (in the Homeric account) a discrepancy between 'human' actions and enterprises and 'bestial' or 'animal' actions. However, there are many areas in which these two overlap, namely sleeping, eating, shitting, and breathing. What we understand as human actions cannot exist without bestial actions, and in reality, it seems illogical to call any activity or enterprise undertaken by a human being to be, in fact, inhuman.

It seems in order to support the distinction you mention, one must craft a very fraught categorical framework for 'human' behavior, and 'inhuman' behavior.


The first Mahdi quote, the second quote in my post, addresses this. The words he uses are "not specifically human" (my emphasis). Here's some more from the same pages:

    "One way to approach the question 'What is human?' is to look at man's place in the world and speculate about the things that might distinguish men from other beings that one sees or imagines. The question comes down to this: Is man's reason or intelligence something different from the rest of the world of nature and from those other parts of man's being that he shares with the higher animals? Or is man's reason simply a more complex mental mechanism than those of other animals, merely an extension of, or an improvement on, animal faculties--one that serves to satisfy the same needs, desires, and passions that animals experience, but in a more efficient and perfect fashion? [...]
    Islamic political philosophy shared the ancient view that man is a special kind of being; that his ability to reason--his power to know himself and the whole--is the activity that marks him as different from other animals; and that reasoning is therefore the ultimate purpose of his existence. It regarded this difference between man and other living beings as a radical one--as radical as, if not more radical than, the difference between inanimate and animate beings, the soulless and the souled." (Mahdi, op.cit., page 16.)

Heidegger, whom you go on to mention, seems to have replaced the notion that man be "the rational animal" with the notion that man be "Dasein"; but note how Mahdi immediately reformulates the phrase "[man']s ability to reason": "his power to know himself and the whole". This is precisely what Heidegger says about Dasein:

    "Dasein is an entity which, in its very being, comports itself understandingly towards that being." (Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1962), page 78.)

I'm not saying homo sapiens sapiens is necessarily the only entity with that power; some dolphins, for example, may also be human in that sense, be Daseinen.

In combination with the Mahdi quotes, by the way, your comments suggest that you are not a philosopher in the sense meant here. To be sure, the first quote contains a paradox: "If--and he [the philosopher] is convinced that it is so--man's reason for existence and his distinction from other animals is his exercise of intelligence and his ability to know, if such knowledge is predicated on questioning convictions and opinions and investigating everything"... The philosopher must also question his conviction that you question here. However, this questioning either leads him to become even more convinced of it, or it leads him out of philosophy. In fact, in his Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger insists that spirit or mind (Geist) is not only slyness, prudence, and the like, but much more than that: he says something like "Where spirit vails [waltet], being always becomes even more being." (I don't have the book at hand, but it's somewhere near the end of the first part, "The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics".)


Furthermore, though you mention in several places Heidegger's misunderstanding of Nietzsche, you never discuss it, and there are many who would argue articulately and passionately that the 'danger' of Heidegger's philosophy, especially his phenomenology, is exactly a danger humanity needs to come to grips with.


Oh, I would certainly not deny that. As Strauss says, "Existentialism is a 'movement' which like all such movements has a flabby periphery and a hard center. That center is the thought of Heidegger. To that thought alone existentialism owes its importance or intellectual respectability." ("Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy".) Existentialism, however, is the direct forerunner of postmodernism. Now of course Heidegger did not agree with Sartre's inane formula, "Existence precedes essence." The more Heidegger's own philosophy is actually in agreement with Nietzsche's, the more fateful the misunderstanding thereof, e.g., Sartre's, becomes. Heidegger misunderstands Nietzsche's philosophy as a mere extension, albeit the culmination, of the Machiavellian-Cartesian, scientific-technological conquest of nature. He misunderstands it as just another, albeit the supreme, manifestation of revenge. To the contrary, Nietzsche's Übermensch is a shepherd of being, securing it against its reduction to a Be-stand, a standing reserve in the service of man. In fact, Nietzsche's Übermensch even secures all attempts at such reduction: the eternal recurrence is also the eternal recurrence of the Platonic and Machiavellian ages. I translate from my old blog:

"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: The West. A Straussian Metanarrative.

Postby James S Saint » Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:20 am

Just out of curiosity, why do you think that any of those philosophers would actually know anything of the purpose of Man, what's better for Man or life, or actually anything related? They all together remind me somewhat of the USA's two party system wherein the populous is given a limited selection of things to argue about while the real issues go unattended, unnoticed, and manipulated.
Clarify, Verify, Instill, and Reinforce the Perception of Hopes and Threats unto Anentropic Harmony :)
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