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 Plato - as a person

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 18:50

Whereas there is apparently no sound proof that St Peter as a person as many like to think    existed - much in the same way that Jesus has likewise also come under scrutiny, then, if, as has been suggested, The Sermon on the Mount is rooted in Plato's imagined dialogues - what proof is there that Plato  and his famed dialogues are not also a melange of notions of several persons? Did Plato exist? And come to that what of Socrates and Protagoras?

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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 20:02

Priscilla wrote:
what proof is there that Plato  and his famed dialogues are not also a melange of notions of several persons?

If they are a melange then the various bods whose writings combine to form the Charmides must have been extremely closely related to him, at least brothers for the rather exact references to known relations to tally for all. Moreover they would all have to have believed they were Plato for the rhetoric to make sense. I think it's a safer bet to say that Plato wrote it, as indeed one can say for another 17 or so of the books ascribed to him. The remaining 15 or so may indeed not have been. They are assumed on the basis of content and style of rhetoric.

If Plato did not exist then a lot of people at the time of his alleged life were writing about the same figment of imagination as a real person and crediting this figment with the very recent foundation of institutions they were attending. Some believed he was teaching them. Some were even claiming to be closely related to him. Or are you suggesting these other writers didn't exist either?

I think the clue you see is in the writing bit. You write, you write with consistency and logic, others write contemporaneously, consistently and logically about you. That's about as definite a stake on posterity without too many people in the future doubting you ever lived as you're likely to be able to make. Plato made it.

Socrates benefits from this network of mutual reference too, as does Protagoras. There is a world of difference between this philological paper chase and the one represented by New Testament scripture. The one involving Plato actually leads somewhere.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 20:21

“The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible, but there arriving she is sure of bliss and forever dwells in paradise.”

Well, I hope so, whether it's Plato or Christ speaking. Does it matter? It is the ideas, the thoughts, the beauty of it all that matters. I thank God for them both - the Greek and the Jew.

But sorry, Priscilla, that is not what you asked.

I'm sick of arguing about it all actually - it misses the point - a bit like arguing whether it was the Earl of Oxford or Shakespeare who wrote Shakespeare. The poetry is just there, whoever was responsible.

I'm simple-minded too, you see, P.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 20:59

No, I'm sorry Temp, but it's not a bit like debating the authorship of Shakespeare. Millions have not died over that as they have over disputations as to the precise requirements to achieve eternal bliss. Nor have generations been persuaded to endure lives of misery as they have by the promise of compensation in the next.

The beauty of the words and the  profound sentiments of love, compassion and forgiveness that nordmann referred to are worthy of praise and the endeavour to emulate, everyone living by them would indeed make this life much nearer to bliss, but until humanity embraces them in the understanding that, in them, it will find its salvation and very possibly survival in this world rather than by the promise, or threat, of the next, it will always be, for many, hell on earth.

I often wonder - might those who have done good and worthy things in the name of their god not very possibly done them anyway had they never heard of that deity?
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 21:21

But isn't that what Christ meant when he said: "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you"?

Did Plato say that first? I really don't care. The tragedy is that we just haven't understood. And the millions who have died have died because of human stupidity and the desire of the idiotic human will to prevail at whatever cost, not because of Christ's teachings.

It is all about submission, surrender, the recognition and admission of the human propensity to f*ck everything up. Lord, I sound like a Muslim with my mention of submission - but they too have it right - not the nutty fundamentalist Muslims, but the decent, sincere ones -  those who understand.

God, I wish I had nordmann's eloquence; perhaps I could convince you all then. Sorry, but this is really upsetting me and I've had three glasses of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, not a good choice of booze for a Protestant.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 21:39

Oh Temp, I came back to remove that last post - sometimes I can't help sounding juvenile and stroppy, my internal teenager never quite goes away -  but if there is a god who created mankind in his own image, how come he has never understood them? That's one of my major quibbles with the idea of a creator, the creation just isn't good enough. If I were a god and I'd knitted the human race, I'd unravel it and cast on again.

Have another glass, a good winemaker is indeed a beneficent god.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 21:56

ferval wrote:
Oh Temp, I came back to remove that last post - sometimes I can't help sounding juvenile and stroppy, my internal teenager never quite goes away -  but if there is a god who created mankind in his own image, how come he has never understood them? That's one of my major quibbles with the idea of a creator, the creation just isn't good enough. If I were a god and I'd knitted the human race, I'd unravel it and cast on again.


Have another glass, a good winemaker is indeed a beneficent god.


I don't think you are "juvenile and stroppy", ferval, or, if you are, so am I. God didn't create us in his own image: we, in our ridiculous human arrogance, created Him, but with absolutely no understanding whatsoever. Oh heck, what am I talking about?

I'm on my fifth glass now.

Priscilla, who understands knitting, will make all things clear...

Nordmann isn't saying anything at all - very wise.  Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 22:16

Plato argued that Beauty, Wisdom, Justice, Truth etc are Forms. They have as much substance as anything else that has formed itself from the chaos which pre-existed everything. Humans cannot make a god in their image just as no god could form anything in its image either that has not already been superseded by these Forms, the closest the universe gets to perfection. We are privileged through our understanding and appreciation of these Forms, and those of us who deny them or fail to understand them take us all back one step towards chaos. In Plato's universe there was room therefore for the gods, as long as they know their place. There was no room however for evil. Sin existed as an expression of this retrograde tendency in people but morality was simply a measuring tool which gauged the intelligence of progressing or the stupidity of retrogression. We could call what we'd measured by way of retrogression evil if we wished but it made no difference. The bottom line was that altruism was the only positive way we could affect our universe and retain our privileged place in it. Anything else, including doing nothing, was retrograde.

If I was Jesus and trying to get this rather complex view into the heads of a largely illiterate and superstition-steeped people I'd be inclined to rattle on about lilies too. The crucial difference between the two approaches is that Jesus could only promise paradise as an eventual reward for the good since that's all his audience had been taught to expect whereas Plato hinted at how it could be achieved here on earth in real-time had we the wit to acquire it - and to be fair to him he always maintained that this was probably, based on all evidence, beyond us. A much more intellectually honest assessment.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 22:27

Nah, that Platonic stuff isn't a goer, too little opportunity to accrue money or power by promoting that.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 22:36

nordmann wrote:
Plato argued that Beauty, Wisdom, Justice, Truth etc are Forms. They have as much substance as anything else that has formed itself from the chaos which pre-existed everything. Humans cannot make a god in their image just as no god could form anything in its image either that has not already been superseded by these Forms, the closest the universe gets to perfection. We are privileged through our understanding and appreciation of these Forms, and those of us who deny them or fail to understand them take us all back one step towards chaos. In Plato's universe there was room therefore for the gods, as long as they know their place. There was no room however for evil. Sin existed as an expression of this retrograde tendency in people but morality was simply a measuring tool which gauged the intelligence of progressing or the stupidity of retrogression. We could call what we'd measured by way of retrogression evil if we wished but it made no difference. The bottom line was that altruism was the only positive way we could affect our universe and retain our privileged place in it. Anything else, including doing nothing, was retrograde.

If I was Jesus and trying to get this rather complex view into the heads of a largely illiterate and superstition-steeped people I'd be inclined to rattle on about lilies too. The crucial difference between the two approaches is that Jesus could only promise paradise as an eventual reward for the good since that's all his audience had been taught to expect whereas Plato hinted at how it could be achieved here on earth in real-time had we the wit to acquire it - and to be fair to him he always maintained that this was probably, based on all evidence, beyond us. A much more intellectually honest assessment.

 

Dear Christ, nordmann, I think we agree.  Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 22:40

Bring on the chaos ferval ...

But as I said, Plato himself reckoned this was how most people thought. Unlike the Sophists however he saw it still as an assault on perfection and when you think about it this view also lies at the core of the rabbi Jesus's teachings as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. Except Jesus's version of course is couched in Jewish superstitions regarding rewards in an afterlife. Once you tacitly acknowledge the concept of reward being in someone else's gift then you undermine the whole Platonic thing anyway. I'm with Brian on this one. It's all down to yourself really.

Temp wrote:
Dear Christ, nordmann, I think we agree.

Too much plonk will do that ma'am! But to be fair, it's Plato you agree with, not me. I'm just sticking up for him here.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:09

ferval wrote:
If I were a god and I'd knitted the human race, I'd unravel it and cast on again.

 



Most garments begin with knitting a rib - sort of like needing Eve to make a start. Unravelling kinks the thread  so an innovative knitter who might soon see flaws appearing  invents patterns with holes, twisted cables, and coloured patterns, irons the finished garment, presses it and hopes it will wear well. If not, start a fresh one. There's lots of scope in an infinite universe. Its the same thing as with having children, there are times when unravelling is  tempting but you may try your best to point the way with all manner of ploys but often to little avail. It's the philosophers out there who probably have a better effect; what is not so clear is who influences the philosophers.

Sorry, am in banal mode again. Temp tempted me, ferv. It's been a busy day in the Message Board Room.


And just a small quibble with nordmann - it's late and I fell brave. Did Protagoros write stuff down? I thought he just got the wealthy to pay to listen and be shocked by what he had to say


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:11

Embarassed 

Deleted.


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:11

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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:18

I'm drifting too, having finished the whole bottle.  Embarassed 
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:23

Why have you deleted your message, P.? That's the sort of daft thing I usually do.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:33

I deleted as exhausted brain muddled my quote and text - above - and I apologised before finding a way to sort it. All this and trying to follow space station Rosetta waking up and setting off to land on a comet....... don't hold your breath; if it does it won't be until November. You see even when knitting a universe things get messy and the debris becomes  comet-fluff. And our kitten minds just have to have a go at it. Oh what fun it is to be a human - sometimes.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 23:41

Plonk? Plonk? I don't buy plonk. My bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape cost £16.99p from the "Fine Wnes" selection at Morrisons. Bloody cheek, suggesting I'd buy "plonk". But yes, I am pissed (at least I am honest), but I blame myself, not Plato. Nearly put Pluto - what a difference a vowel can make.



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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 00:10

See, I said we'd be better meeting Jesus (and Plato if he fancies a drink) in the pub.

Oh, and did anyone hear Start the Week today and the discussion on neurocalvanism? Apparently our prenatally configured neural set up will decide for us and then tell our conciousness what we think anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 05:55

I've just deleted a message and then sent it again - and I'm sober now.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 09:09

Plato knew nothing about prenatal neural set-up configuration when he described human reason as a charioteer attempting to drive a vehicle being pulled by one well-disciplined tame horse and one absolute nutter of a nag. I prefer Plato's definition - it fits.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 11:08

I really will try not to get silly and emotional today.

Genuine question. I know Plato wanted to make a contribution to a rational and just society, but did his teaching differ from Christ's in that he believed reason and justice "could not be a matter of personal conduct alone" - the community or the society was what mattered, not the individual? Christ's teaching, on the other hand, was concerned with the worth and the dignity of each and every individual soul - in this life and the next? That is why he reached out with his simple stories (lilies etc.) to everyone in his world, but especially to the poor, the uneducated, the simple, the sick, the "sinners", the women - all the losers in his society. Did Plato ever do that - or was his teaching aimed just at the intelligent and the privileged - those already in "higher education", so to speak?

If Christ was influenced by Greek thought (and I'm sure he was) - did he see it as his mission to offer it to all - in a Jewish context, of course?

I'm not trying to be confrontational - I really don't know.


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 12:00

I'm not sure Plato had a definite line on what constituted "the community". I don't think anyone did at the time. Society operated a caste system much as we understand the term in India today with whole chunks of it invisible to all intents and purposes to the others. However we do know that he placed ultimate responsibility for practically everything on the individual - without whose individual perception all other stuff just didn't matter anyway - and I would doubt if he would exclude anyone from that responsibility on the grounds of their place in society. He might have preached (instructed would be a better term) to a specific section of society but the principles he advocated covered everyone regardless. The Jesus version is very similar. While the various segments in Judaean society rubbed shoulders a lot more than in the Athens city state of Plato's time there is huge emphasis placed in the narrative set within that society on demonstrating that the philosophy of altruism excludes no one anyway, and indeed for it to work at all can exclude no one. You can readily think of a handful of examples of this from the New Testamant without even breaking sweat where Jesus ignores social taboos of this nature. It's a crucial element of the altruistic concept and deserves to be laboured. In the Jewish case it needed to be laboured. Judaism as practised at the time in Judaea actually encouraged belief in stratification and its spiritual tenets reflected this societal norm. Jesus rode roughshod over these scruples according to the narrative. Plato might have been motivated to enlighten, Jesus to "save", but the basic requirement to ignore social strata pertained just as stringently to both when setting out their respective cases.

It is tempting to think of Plato's Academy and his contemporary philosopher buddies as an elite group who wrote about each other, devised all sorts of esoteric conundrums that they and they alone got a kick out of thrashing out, and were generally aloof from the "real" world. Even the Romans tended towards this perception of them. However it is worth remembering that all the philosophical concepts these guys advocated were discussed and thrashed out in what amounted to an arena. The Academy was open to both the elements and the public and certain clashes excited huge attendances and interest abroad when they occurred. A bit like a Super Bowl or Champions League Final of its day. It was this rather than the books they wrote that meant the sometimes radical notions they devised were disseminated rapidly out into the wider world, the success of such dissemination being that they could excite the intellectual curiosity of a poor carpenter's son quite some time later in the sticks - at least if the story is to be believed. But even if Nazareth is total invention in the story and Jesus was someone from a more cosmopolitan background by Jewish standards it is still proof that the dissemination machine was still in full flow, centuries after the concepts had been crystallised in philosophical form and despite intervening Roman dominion, a culture that placed practically no value on philosophy as a relevant or worthwhile discipline. Judaism too is a tough religion and culture to wedge other elements into when it is the dominant influence in a society. Yet Platonic thought was still "out there" for those with the wit and inclination to understand it. Jesus held Jewish scripture and teaching in great respect and the story makes clear that he mastered intricacies of this at a precocious age. However later, when he got the Greek bug, that was when he held the fan aloft with great enthusiasm and invited the shit to hit it. Plato must take at least some of the credit for that.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 14:01

Many early Christian theologians had the Greek bug, I believe. Origen was a great Platonist, wasn't he? Didn't he go further than others, even asserting that "the resurrection of the body was purely spiritual"? He was eventually (posthumously) condemned by the Roman church as a heretic, of course.

And what about his teacher, Clement of Alexandria? I've read that he claimed that Plato and Pythagoras were taught by Egyptians - an interesting idea as some authorities say Jesus too learnt much in Egypt (not just as a boy). Is this nonsense?

Another possibly daft question - did the Greeks have any time for the teaching of the ancient Jewish texts - for example Isaiah? We know - er - believe Jesus was tremendously influenced by him (or should that be them - Isaiah is now thought to have been written  by several people). I just wondered how much cross-fertilisation of philosophies/beliefs went on in the centuries before Christ's birth. Was "Greek" philosophy an all-Greek affair?  I know the Jews guarded their faith and sacred books jealously, but ideas spread. I've just found this on a philosophy site, but have no idea if the information given is to be trusted:


Hermippus of Smyrna accused Pythagoras of doing and saying “things imitating and transferring to himself the opinions of the Jews.”

Clearchus of Soli, who related the following from an encounter between Aristotle and a certain Jew: “He conversed with us and with other philosophical persons, and made a trial of our skill in philosophy; and as he lived with many learned men, he communicated more information than he received from us.”
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 14:54

For a highly trained classical Greek philosopher the term "Jewish" was tantamount to "primitive" if it was levelled as a charge against their beliefs. You have to remember that the whole emphasis of philosophical study in Greece was to incorporate everything, including religious belief, into a "logos" that superseded everything. This was akin to their pursuit of the alchemist's stone and it is more than coincidence and in fact eminently backwardly traceable that the alternate term "philosoper's stone" held links, albeit spuriously, with that original quest and the people engaged in it.

Jewish "philosophy" (for want of a better term since when reading it today we would never call it anything other than "theology") was centered on explaining everything in terms that complied with the notion of a supreme creator who (and the "who" is important - it was not a "which") continuously intervened in the running of the universe and crucially controlled an extra-universal realm into which we were certain to be transmuted. This tainted any subsequent philosophical deductions in Greek eyes - Socrates was quite explicit about this when he said that a worthwhile thought can be achieved by a person who is ignorantly enslaved to a superstitious belief but the thinker is doomed by that belief not to see it for what it is.

If Socrates' view was commonly held (though Sophists may not have concurred) then there was no barrier to assimilating philosophical concepts from Jewish sources and their cultural proximity in Anatolia and Egypt, long predating Roman involvement, must have accommodated this process. However I have been racking my brains but cannot think of a single concept acknowledged as such in anything I have read by Greek philosophers of that era. They did tend to cite general sources for specific hypotheses (such as the Assyrian concept of the "outer self") but I cannot recall one acknowledged to be Jewish.

That is not to say that Judaism did not produce some rather interesting and constructive hypotheses of its own. It is just that their monotheistic confusion of "logos" with their god must have regularly disqualified these concepts in Greek eyes. In pantheistic belief "logos" does not naturally derive from that belief and stands as a concept apart. The Greeks saw this not only as the purest definition therefore but also the only one that was "right". If there was cross-fertilisation of philosophical ideas between these two cultures then Judaism stood as much chance of being acknowledged, it seems, as Jesus was likely to acknowledge his debt to Plato & Co.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 15:08

But surely many of the pre Plato philosophers were in Asia Minor - Miletus and thereabouts. They were  strongly influenced by Persian thought and knowledge - Thales and co, I mean - and similar Persian satrapies spread into the subcontinent to what is now called Balochistan and its ancient  places of progressive cultures  going back to 2500 BC. There was considerable trade movement in those times  - with the Phoenicians bonding  in seatrade  and a written language that predates Greek. It is those connections that need investigation. Plato was a new boy on the block with a wealth of old stuff piled up to absorb and reshape. OMG what am I doing here again? And why isn't Gil having a say about Hamurabi  and co?
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Tue 21 Jan 2014, 15:55

Priscilla wrote:
But surely many of the pre Plato philosophers were in Asia Minor - Miletus and thereabouts. They were  strongly influenced by Persian thought and knowledge - Thales and co, I mean - and similar Persian satrapies spread into the subcontinent to what is now called Balochistan and its ancient  places of progressive cultures  going back to 2500 BC. There was considerable trade movement in those times  - with the Phoenicians bonding  in seatrade  and a written language that predates Greek. It is those connections that need investigation. Plato was a new boy on the block with a wealth of old stuff piled up to absorb and reshape.


Yes, I thought that too, Priscilla, but I really do not know enough to comment.  I do hope you and others will add more.


Priscilla wrote:
OMG what am I doing here again?

 Smile 

Nordmann- thank you for two detailed and interesting replies. I feel woefully ignorant saying this, but the concept of logos baffles me. It is such a confusing term. Didn't it mean many things - the ancient philosophers used the term in so many different ways. Is it correct to say that the Stoic philosophers identified the word "with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe"? I suppose St. John's use differs markedly from this: although "the Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos)"  (the Stoics' thought?), he of course identifies Jesus as the incarnate Logos. I wonder how comfortable the Greeks were with this new variation on the term - in the early days of Christianity, I mean? It obviously appealed to those who became Pauline Christians.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"  - so a Greek thought transformed into something quite new? The words are utterly beautiful, but deceptively simple; I struggle with them, if I am honest (which I am trying to be today).
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 07:54

Priscilla - googling about, like you do  Smile - I found this, but is it all nonsense?

http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/zoroastrian-influence-on-greek.html


In reading the works of classical Hellenic (Greek) authors it appears that in some regards, the Greeks were almost obsessed with Persian culture. They journeyed, studied and practiced Persian-Magian-Zoroastrian philosophy and skills, but then unfortunately either claimed this knowledge as their own or disparaged the Persians.

According to Roger Beck in Zoroaster, as Perceived by the Greeks at Iranica (2003), in much of their writings, the Hellenic authors were "flagrantly dishonest". It is not too difficult to see through the distortions and tease out the foundational facts, if only because the Hellenic authors did a good job in criticizing and contradicting one another.

Nevertheless, when we peel away the layers of bias, hyperbole and old-fashioned fantasy, the Hellenic authors do begrudgingly acknowledge that Zoroaster was an original philosopher and wise - one from whom the Greek's learnt much. In all likelihood, the Greeks learnt about Zoroaster's teachings, philosophy and science through contemporaneous
Zoroastrian priests, the Magi. Existing records speak of this transfer of information taking place between about 600 BCE and the reign of Alexander in the 300s BCE.


Zoroastrian is a complete mystery to me; but from the little I've read it is obvious that it had great influence - on Christ as well as the Greeks? Interesting that Matthew's  nativity story, now so mocked and discredited, featured those three Magi - were  our Wise Men three Zoroastrians?


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 08:11

There are many examples of Greek philosophers acknowledging Persia as a source for certain aspects of their theories, especially Cosmos Theory. Plato himself, according to his student Philip of Opus (he who wrote the closing summary of a dying Plato's final "dialogue"), was attended by Persian magoi on his deathbed who had travelled to Athens to exchange views with him. As a biographical detail it is rather minor but it indicates a philosphical cross-traffic of ideas and theories between the cultures at the time. My point above was that there is no recorded instance (that I am aware of) where such exchange was acknowledged with Jewish thinkers of the period.

Temp, in Platonic terms the concept of "logos" is eminently simple - despite where religious minded people may later have wished to take it. It stems from "lego", a verb meaning both to speak and to assemble, as in one's thoughts. "Logos" is the product of this dialogue be it externally with others or internally with oneself. For Plato the dialogue was probably more important than the product - outside of that context "logos" has no meaning or relevance. Within that context it is best explained as "truth arrived at". Aristotle took it further and without contradicting his teacher allowed it to hypothetically represent core truth, what we might call "the be all and end all" (or Douglas Adams' Deep Thought Computer would have called "the meaning of life, the universe and everything). It is important to note though that its hypothetical quality was stripped away completely once the concept fell into the hands of monotheist Jews and later Christians. Since they already had a god occupying that role then "logos" became simply an aspect of that god in their eyes. What had been a tool for advancing metaphysical argument and encouraging dialogue became a barrier to the same thing in their hands. It is the one principal difference between philosophy and theology - the former is devoted to phrasing apt questions while the latter abhors questions that do not have ready made answers conforming to a specific belief. Logos was very much a victim of its transition from one discipline to the other.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 08:43

Thank you, nordmann.
nordmann wrote:
It is the one principal difference between philosophy and theology - the former is devoted to phrasing apt questions while the latter abhors questions that do not have ready made answers conforming to a specific belief.


Very nicely put (I am not being sarcastic). Seems I want to be a philosopher, not a theologian. Also explains why I want to thump fundamentalists every time I encounter them. Trouble is I'm a lousy philosopher and -  as my thumping propensities would indicate - a pretty poor Christian too.

I wonder how Plato and Jesus would have got on had they met? Plato and the uber-intelligent Greeks generally weren't too big on humility* were they: would Plato have found this an immensely irritating and incomprehensible trait in an otherwise interesting thinker?

* I suppose Socrates, with his comment about knowing he didn't know anything, was quite humble - again, don't really know enough to comment. One thing being humble about knowledge, quite another, though, to insist that humility means going out and mixing with the lowest of the low - and not just serving them, but loving them. I suspect the Greeks would have thought this Jew was completely bonkers.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 09:20

Temp wrote:
... and not just serving them, but loving them. I suspect the Greeks would have thought this Jew was completely bonkers.

Not Plato, I wouldn't think. In his "Symposium" he has the philosopher Diotima being quizzed by Socrates about love (the notion of "Platonic love" comes from this passage of the text);

'What then is Love?' I asked; 'Is he mortal?'
'No.'
'What then?'
'As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two.'
'What is he, Diotima?'
'He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.'
'And what,' I said, 'is his power?'
'He interprets,' she replied, 'between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate powers are many and diverse, and one of them is Love.'


Jesus advocates its use to exactly this end too, so I imagine Plato would have been simply thrilled to see someone putting Diotima's theory to the test.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 13:14

And the Zoroastrians went into Persia over 4000 years ago after migrating about the great steppe grasslands. They continue to venerate the purity of fire and endeavour to  keep fires going in their fire temples in long. Embers had to be carried in their  ancient travels, as is venerated a bull - usually white - and their dead are left for birds in their towers of silence. The towers closed down when filled with bones and another started. Now usually called Parsees, their Dastur cast of priests speak an ancient tongue for rituals that few understand. Usually all highly educated, Parsees usually live to a high  moral code though internecine squabbles are frequent and petty. Though often parsimonious in    life style , they are also hugely generous to a fault in giving to and sustaining charities wherever they see need. A most interesting community

So from whence does their philosophy stem? There is no doubt that they influenced others in ancient times...... and so the dancing quest for knowledge and what we are or could be about, goes on.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 13:39

Priscilla wrote:
So from whence does their philosophy stem?

They would say from Zoroaster.

Personally I shy away from "religious philosophy" which Zoroastrianism most certainly is. It's far too much work and too time consuming separating the actual philosophy from the mumbo jumbo. However Zoroastrianism intrigued the Greeks as its syncrecity meant that several favourite theories then in their nascent stage of development by local philosophers were already to be found in that religion. One example was the "god/no god" aspect of defining the universe and universal rules. This was a great hit back in Athens as there too philosophical theory was beginning to recognise the need to exclude gods from certain equations for a theory to make sense.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 14:09

Didn't Zoroaster teach that there was only one Creator God? Was he influenced by Judaism or was Judaism influenced by him? I am unsure of the dates - Babylonian captivity and all that. Or am I in the incompletely wrong place?

Nordmann - re your quote from "The Symposium". I was going to say "Game, set and match, sir!" - but decided that was rather presumptuous of me, as I am just a ball-person here on this thread: I offer the ball which you then smash over the net at 120mph. However, all is not lost. If we acknowledge that the New Testament is full of Plato - and there is surely no shame in that - and that Jesus would have got on like a house on fire with Diotima (what a nice, sensible lady she sounds), where did it all go wrong? The marriage of Jewish and Greek thought in Christianity could have been - was/is - magnificent. The very early Church leaders were all bitten by the Greek bug, so who decided that the bug had to be squashed - the Greek influence denied? Why was the Platonist Origen (of Alexandria, not the other one) declared to be a dangerous heretic? I suppose the politicians, con-merchants and other undesirables around the time of Constantine were responsible, but why did they fear the Greeks and their thinking so much?



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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 14:29

Nietzsche was adamant that Plato founded Christianity - end of story.

The problem for the early church was that Platonic metaphysics are a great way of establishing theological principles supporting the role and nature of god in a monotheistic faith system. However they are just as great a method of demonstrating the flaws in the assumptions such a faith forces one to make. For Plato we are all prisoners in a cave deducing what we can about the world outside from the shadows we can see on the wall. When one prisoner escapes and shouts back to his mates what he sees outside they still see only his shadow and must construct in their minds what he reports from the inadequate visual clues available. God is such a garbled message according to Plato. Only Form is perfect and god is not a Form, it is a relation of form and that is not the same thing. The logos lies outside and beyond the divine concept. This was the bit that the church feared, and rightly so. While it's ok to admit that god is inconceivable to mere mortals it is not ok to deduce from this that it might be down to flaws in the relation. After all, it was their job to do all the relating and they were damned if a long dead Greek was going to imply they were doing a crappy job.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 15:10

Your way is one way of looking at things, but there are others. Should we discount the great Eastern (Indian as well as the Persian) mystics so easily? What do they have to say about the shadows on the wall? Mumbo-jumbo is such a contemptuous term, nordmann.

I really shouldn't be here attempting to discuss this: I haven't read enough, and my grasp of Plato is not secure. To be honest, I am totally baffled. If Plato founded Christianity and Plato is the bee's knees, what's the problem? Why aren't you a Christian? The "flaws" in the assumptions are just too great for you, I suppose. The leap of faith - or the leap to faith, rather -  is never an acceptable - or easy -  choice for a sophisticated mind. Fair enough.

You mention Nietzsche: any offers on Kierkegaard?

Kierkegaard, like Plato, though using different methods and conclusions, sought to ground knowledge in the ineffability of subjectivity. For Plato, knowledge comes subjectively (internally); for Kierkegaard, it comes by God's grace through faith.



Priscilla - I have just read this: Islam too was influenced by Plato, but Sufism not so much? I had no idea.


Islamic thought was influenced by Greek philosophy, especially the ideas of Aristotle and Plato. Sufism is a sect of Islam which has rather a different way of thought. "Sufi" is applied to Muslim mystics who, as a means of achieving union with Allah, adopted ascetic practices including wearing a garment made of coarse wool called "sf". The term "sufism" comes from "sf" meaning the person, who wears "sf". But in the course of time, sufi has come to designate all Muslim believers in mystic union.

In the roots of sufi philosophy there are influences other than neoplatonist philosophy. Ascetic practices within the sufi philosophy are associated with Buddhism. The notion of purification (cleaning one' s soul from all evil things and trying to reach Nirvana and to become immortal in Nirvana) plays an important role in Buddhism. The same idea shows itself in the belief of "vuslat" (communion with God) in Sufi philosophy.


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed 22 Jan 2014, 15:28

Apologies for the great long quotation and repetition of the Cave story, but I like the ending of this:

Plato's Cave

In Plato's Republic, Socrates tells a story that is an important key to understanding mystical experience. It's not the only key, and not the only way of understanding what mystics say. But it is one of the earliest full expressions of what mystical experience is like, and it is a very clear and accessible story that has profoundly influenced Western philosophy, religion and mysticism. Because of its clarity and the compact fullness of its metaphorical meaning, it's a useful point of comparison in understanding what the mystics from many different cultures say.

Imagine, Socrates says one afternoon to his listeners as they're talking in the agora in Athens, people living in a cave underground. The cave has a long entrance that's open to the light. The people are sitting on the ground, and they're chained together, with their backs to the entrance. They're facing the far wall of the cave, and on that wall lights and shadows are dancing back and forth. The lights and shadows are all they see because their chains prevent them from turning around.

Behind the chained people, on top of another wall, a big bonfire is burning which, once again, the people can't see. In front of the fire is a sort of walkway with a screen in front of it, like the screens used in puppet shows, and people behind the screen are carrying different kinds of carved objects in front of the fire so that the objects' shadows thrown by the fire are playing on the opposite wall. These are the shadows the chained people see.

Since the people can't turn around and have never seen anything else, when they talk to each other about what's happening in their cave, they assume the shadows on the opposite wall are real things, and they speak of them this way. If the people in back who are moving around the carved objects sometimes speak or make noises, the chained people think the sounds are coming from the shadows. You can't blame them, really, since they can't see anything else.

Now imagine further, says Socrates, that from time to time one of the chained people finds a way to get free of his (or her) shackles. He stands up and turns around, and is astonished to see that the light in the cave is thrown by the fire, and slowly he realizes that the images on the far wall which he always assumed were real, are just the shadows thrown by the fire from the artificial objects. This would be an astonishing realization - to discover that what you thought was real your whole life, is only shadows.

But then the unshackled person looks up beyond the fire and sees a much brighter, more expansive light that is so bright it hurts his eyes. Since he has a new realization about lights and shadows, he decides to go up the long entrance and see what this other, larger light might be.

As the light grew brighter, the person's eyes would have trouble adjusting. Imagine what it would be like to come out of a dimly lit cave toward full sunlight. It would be quite painful, and the person might feel compelled to turn back. But imagine he had helpers who forced him to continue on toward the cave entrance. When he finally emerged in the bright sun, he would be blinded. He'd have to squint and close his eyes against the brightness. After a while, though, his eyes would begin to adjust to the light, and he'd be able to make out the shadows of real things, and then eventually the things themselves, trees, mountains, oceans, stars, the sun itself.

Imagine what it would be like to experience this world, and to realize that the cave was a world of shadows - not only shadows, but the shadows of artificial objects. The person would realize why there are seasons, and how the year progresses. He would feel, in a sense, blessed, and when he thought of his friends back in the cave, he'd be likely to want to bring them up into the light too.

So he goes back down into the cave and tries to explain to the people sitting there in chains that the world they're watching isn't real, that real light and real objects are up behind them. It might take his eyes a little time to get adjusted to the dim light again, and he might have a little trouble making his way inside the cave again.

How would the chained people react? He would probably become the butt of the chained people's jokes because he'd seem clumsy in the dimness. If the freed person tries to explain to them that the shadows are unreal, most of them will not know what he's talking about.


And here is a little explanation from Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, about Plato's Cave. He speaks so simply and beautifully about this difficult topic. Blackburn tells us that there are three possible ways of looking at the allegory - the first, of course, is my favourite and is the  religious interpretation (he says Paul's "through a glass darkly" actually comes from Plato's idea).

So here we all are, folks, gawping at the shadows of an illusion and yet thinking we know it all...

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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 08:05

Temp wrote:
Mumbo-jumbo is such a contemptuous term, nordmann.

Yes it is, and I do indeed have contempt for subversion of truth - or at least subversion of honest attempts to ascertain it. Philosophy examines the nature of reality. Philosophical theory that fails, or fails to survive, normally does so because a premise on which the theory is based is subsequently found to be false or so untestable in that respect that its value as applicable theory is negated. Theology, an "ology" in which unreal and untestable premise is no barrier to formulating theory, relies heavily therefore on use of language to make unworkable and untestable theory appear to be based on solid reasoning. This often means that perfectly sensible concepts (such as "logos") derived from philosophical analysis are shoe-horned into theological theory but only after considerable semantic mangling (such as the evangelist John's use of "logos"). The result is dishonest, often blatantly so, and the language of analysis subverted to mumbo jumbo.

Re Plato's cave. This is often seized upon by theologians as an analogy for humanity's relationship with the "glorious mysteries" of religion (the sunlight in the story). Of course it works even better as an analogy for the difficulty in achieving enlightenment, period.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 09:08

That's very slippery of you, nordmann - you who are so good with words. I for one tremble when you bring "semantic mangling" into the argument.

Many, many great thinkers have agreed with you, of course, but what is so confusing is that many other great thinkers have gone along with the dishonest mangling and the  irrational mumbo jumbo - great thinkers from many different cultures and faiths. Have they really all got it so very wrong? Are the enlightened ones really only the elite with degrees in Western philosophy? Then there are the people of humble, simple faith - not great thinkers, maybe, often indeed the so-called "uneducated" ones - have they really made no difference in this world?

Obvious and not original, but here are a few quotations - followed by not so much a jesting but more a weary Pontius Pilate having his famous last words on truth.

"In the midst of the sun is the light, in the midst of light is truth, and in the midst of truth is the imperishable Being."--The Vedas


" The first creature of God, in the work of the days, was the light of the senses, the last was the light of reason; and His Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of His Spirit." -- From "Of Truth" by Francis Bacon


"To this end was I born, and for this cause came I unto the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?"--Gospel of St. John



"What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer."-- from Francis Bacon "Of Truth"



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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 09:11

PS And please - even if you find Rod Steiger laughable (which I'm sure you will) - do not retaliate with Pontius Pilate complaining about wowdy webels.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 09:33

Theologians are fond of implying that truth is unascertainable, unsurprising really given that their theory stems from an asserted "truth" that is most definitely untestable. The Greek philosophers worked on the premise that truth was difficult to ascertain but worth pursuing. It is a fundamental difference in approach that places quite different emphasis on a requirement to be intellectually honest. That is not to say that all theologians are dishonest or that all philosophers are honest. However it does imply a different propensity for honesty within the respective disciplines and as a student of either I would naturally prefer to think that the subject matter presented to me had at least been assembled honestly.

Pilate's question about truth is presented as rhetorical in the Christian narrative and the matter is not pursued. Platonic philosophy on the other hand places truth as an abstract in the realm of Form in order that it can be examined contextually and defined. As a simple human I might be tempted to nod resignedly in identification with Pilate's unwillingness or inability to explore the concept - it is indeed a difficult one - but as an inquisitive individual I would turn to Plato rather than the Christian myth cycle to pursue the subject further.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 09:45

nordmann wrote:
...it is indeed a difficult one - but as an inquisitive individual I would turn to Plato rather than the Christian myth cycle to pursue the subject further.


But I thought the "Christian myth cycle" is all Plato? Isn't that what you and Nietzsche tell us?

nordmann wrote:
Nietzsche was adamant that Plato founded Christianity - end of story.

I am so confused.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 10:18

This blooming thread is too addictive. I'm still sitting here in my pjs. 
I was struck by the cave as a metaphor for the physics of vision - what we think we see being the brain's interpretation of the electrical signals received from the photons impacting our retina having been bounced off the apparent but unreal solidity of a surface - and so started googling. That was an hour and a half ago. As always, that took me down all sorts of alleyways including this one. http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/evans_cave.htm

My head hurts so I'm off to have a shower and then eat something.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 10:19

I didn't say that I agree with Nietzsche! Anyway he was being facetious when he said it - he meant to shake up those smug self-contented theologians who pretend that Jesus originated every concept put into his mouth by the chroniclers. After all, one could equally argue that Socrates "founded" Platonism. And indeed who is to say who influenced Socrates etc? Philosophical ideas transmit and develop over generations and their dynamism in that respect often reflects their validity. The Christian notion held by many that the philosophy portrayed in the character of Jesus had no such back story would be considered an inherent weakness in any resultant theory by philosophers. Many Christians however hold the opposite view and think this manifestation from thin air lends their philosophy added value. Another fundamental difference between the two approaches to thinking.

Temp wrote:
But I thought the "Christian myth cycle" is all Plato?

Large chunks of it is, however they are treated and presented as not being. What is missing also from the New Testament as a philosophical document is the juxtaposition of logical challenges to the definitions espoused. Platonic hypotheses are presented as pure assertions. Normal fare for the religious mindset but woefully inadequate by way of philosophical treatise. When presenting the cave allegory in The Republic, for example, the narrative is punctuated by interjections from the student Glaucon who challenges each occasion when Socrates refines an abstract and when he establishes connections between these refinements. Plato has Socrates win the argument more often than not, however he is also shown to lose on occasion and must cede to Glaucon that he has a valid objection. This device was quite common in philosophical writing - it is how proviso and room for doubt is advertised within the theory being discussed. This device is lacking completely from the New Testament. Jesus might be asked a question now and then but it is simply a handy cue for him to continue asserting a point. I'm not aware of anyone besting him in an argument at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 13:06

nordmann wrote:
 Jesus might be asked a question now and then but it is simply a handy cue for him to continue asserting a point.


Reminds me  of someone else I know... Smile

 


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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 13:11

I would like to think that a point about Plato using his own words or direct reference to his writings as illustration of the point is not mere assertion. Religious people might have a handy aversion to the recognition of word definitions when it suits them but it is a luxury of semantic latitude I do not afford myself. Hic sunt dracones ...



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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 13:26

It were just a joke, chuck.

But have removed the bouncy thing. I like it, but it is a silly emoticon and not appropriate here.

I see no dragons (if dragon pictures were sent) - just  three crosses and a line of dots. Perhaps just as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 13:59

Temp wrote:
just three crosses

hmmm ....
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 14:17

nordmann wrote:
Temp wrote:
just  three crosses

hmmm ....


Oh, I wasn't trying to be all mystical or anything: I really have got three crosses (in little boxes) and a row of dots. Perhaps you sent that roaming beer glass thing and it got stuck:

 Beer

But to be serious again, I still think Hamlet was right with the famous comment that has become, sadly, a bit of a cliché (I still like it though):

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

- Hamlet (Act I sc v) 




The emphasis here should be on "dreamt of", as Hamlet is pointing out how little even the most educated people can explain.

One can imagine happier times when Hamlet and Horatio, studying together at Wittenberg, engaged in heated philosophical debates.

Shakespeare does not expand on the specific nature of Horatio's philosophy, and in the First Folio (1623), the text actually reads "our philosophy." Some editors, such as Dyce, White and Rowe, choose to use "our" instead of "your" (as found in Q2), believing Hamlet is speaking in general terms about the limitations of human thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Thu 23 Jan 2014, 14:23

I've changed my dragons to one little dragon climbing on a bint's shoulder.

Scientific study, discovery and exploration is completely dependent on Hamlet's comment being true. The question is not whether stuff outside our ken exists - it's what we want to do about it. Accepting theological explanations is a poor substitute for actually taking the trouble to comprehend stuff.
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