JUSTICE DEPENDS ON CONFRONTATION
AND ALL THINGS HAPPEN BY CONFRONTATION AND NECESSITY
seemed right just now.
Yes, but to be sound it has got to seem right not only "just now" but at this moment and in the future.1
The Greek philosophers are deceptive. It is easy to take the position that they are almost contemporaries because they make so much contemporary sense. Essentially, this paper will take the opposite position in contending that any such interpretation of the Greek philosophers has to ignore so much of the territory in dispute as to miss much of the meaning. For instance, one often meets with the contention that the Platonic forms are an obvious example of over-extended speculation. To be satisfied with such a position is to toss the baby out with the bath water.
In the first section of this paper we isolated a position in Homer which turned out to be the inverse of the modern practice of holding the individual as constant and his emotions as variables, in saying that the emotions are the constants and their environmental expression the variable. In the second section, this position was examined with informal axiomatic theory. In this section we will be examining the effect of this position on the interpretation of the Greek philosophers in general and Plato in particular.
Between Homer and Plato lie the pre-Socratics, a group of thinkers represented by a handful of fragments. It has been said that Aristotle is Plato brought down to earth. One can go back in time to say the same of the relationship of the pre-Socratics and Homer in that these philosophers sought to find the wisdom for manipulating their reality in themselves rather than delegating the primary cause of change to the gods. In essence, the Greek philosophers were interested in the power to manipulate their own emotional and physical reality by speculating on the sources of the power necessary to do so and on the attitudes and knowledge necessary for the realization of this goal. Emotions remain as the primary reality test as to the state of ones particular purpose but the scope of that purpose has broadened to include concerns that were formerly the property of the gods. The pre-Socratics, while speculating broadly, were indelibly pragmatic in seeking a satisfactory, useful means of dealing with what they saw and how they felt about it. Their success at this is reflected in the longevity of active speculation concerning their conclusions and by the mystical and semi-mystical schools that grew up around them. They proposed not simply an explanation of reality, but a mode of behavior in dealing with that reality.
However, the beginnings of this speculation are not to be found in the pre-Socratics. They reflect a long process. In the pre-Olympian gods one finds a fixed positional consistency that is not present in the Homeric gods. One is impressed by the almost total lack of personification in these more ancient deities. They represent laws that are not subject to review. The Erinyes, Keres, Moira, Hecate, Nuz, Eris and Ananke are examples of this. In a sense, the Olympian gods are the progenitors of contingent reality and a departure from "the mind of the past" (palaiouV nomouV which is coterminous with Java's Purba Wisesa). The ancient gods show the fixed morality of a tribal ethos. The very existence of rational gods whose positions on any given problem are defined not traditionally but situationally is a precursor to the speculation of the later Greeks. In essence, the gods themselves were the first challengers of tradition. In the nature of their speculations, the pre-Socratics can be seen in many ways to harken back to this older tradition in seeking the general laws that operate in the ways of being.
Much has been written about the scientific and religious nature of pre-Socratic speculation. In my opinion, this is not a central concern in that it divides the Greeks into two anachronistic camps which did not exist at the time. It is also less than useful because, depending on the prejudice of the author, it can be supported in either direction without really proving that either position is anything more than an interpretational accident. One finds such extreme positions as Cornford's assertion:
Intelligence is cut off from action. Thought is left confronting Nature, an impersonal world of things, indifferent to man's desires and existing in and for themselves. The detachment of self from the object is now complete.2
One must ignore a great deal to find the Cartesian duality in the pre-Socratics, but somehow he, among others, has managed to do so.
In the pre-Socratics we are faced with a difficult task of interpretation, primarily because of the fragmentary nature of the material. However, one theme does run fairly consistently throughout, that being the problem of seeming. What is the relationship between emotion, intellectual and physical reality, or more basically between mind and matter. We have seen how this question is answered in Homer; now we will go through the pre-Socratics seeking both variations and similarities with an eye on whatever continuity may be present throughout.
The evidence concerning Thales' position is limited to one fragment:
Some say that it (soul) is intermingled in the universe, for which reason perhaps, Thales also thought that all things are full of gods.3
This is basically a repetition of the animistic Homeric view and shows very little change from the assertion that Achilleus "does dishonor to the dumb earth in his fury" quoted above.
In Anaximander we see the first hint of a teleological purpose superseding the gods:
And the source of coming-to-be for existing things is that into which destruction too happens, "according to necessity; for they pay penalty and retribution to each other according to the assessment of time".
However, from this scant evidence his position on the nature of things appears to be similar to that of Thales. There is no real evidence for ascribing a position to Anaximenes, the last of the Milesians.
Again there is scant evidence as to Pythagoras' position, except for the assertion that he felt "that all living things should be regarded as akin",5 and that one should "follow the gods and restrain your tongue above all else".6 Here, once again, one sees the inter-relatedness of all things and the introduction of a very important concern, the power of words and their effect on ones position in reality. One sees in him also the exclusion of inanimate objects from the realm of consideration of what is vital.
In Xenophanes we meet a fascinating passage:
No man knows or ever will know the truth about the gods and about everything I speak of: for even if one chanced to say the complete truth, yet oneself knows it not; but seeming is wrought over all things.7
It may well be that Xenophanes in this reflects a more traditional view on the relationship between man and god and the limitations of man in appreciating the truth. This interpretation is supported by his assertion:
There is one god, among gods and men the greatest not at all like mortals in body or mind.8
But in saying that "seeming is wrought over all things", he is also possibly introducing a duality between emotion and intellect in that the former is not a true guide to the validity of the latter. This position exists in Homer in the goddess Delusion, but is secondary to the validity of emotional reality testing. Obviously, this question will arise again in Parmenides.
Heraclitus purports that:
Sane thinking is the greatest virtue, and wisdom is speaking the truth and acting according to nature, paying heed.9
Again we have an intermingling of psychic and physical reality with profitable action being based on a concordant relationship between the two. One might posit a kind of dualism in that there is a sort of a choice involved as to whether one acts wisely or not though this position is not supported by his assertion that:
Character is man's fate.10
Before Christ, gods were viewed as sufficiently terrifying in their wrath and purposes as not to require much concern about a Devil. Yahweh was a relatively reasonable personage but was deemed awful in the extreme. Other gods were more openly demonic and self-interested, witness Zeus and company and their delight in war and revenge and destruction. A clearer and more proper association with the implacable character of natural justice was, evidently, expressed by the Erinyes or Furies. But gods frequently had rather small purposes, i.e., their own prominence and power and worked in association with a limited group. This self-interested purpose united them with the mortals that were struggling and fighting and promoting themselves here, there and everywhere and anyone who accumulated enough power promptly declared himself a god (e.g., the Pharaohs, Alexander the Great, the Caesars, etc.)
Further consideration of this subject is to be found in an altercation I had, Will the Church ever be One?, on an Episcopal bulletin board.
For our purposes, Parmenides is perhaps the most important of the pre-Socratics, partially because we have more surviving evidence and partially because much of this evidence is related to our topic.
You must learn all: both the unshaken heart of well-rounded truth and the opinions of mortals in which there is no true belief.11
Parmenides makes a distinction which might well be seen as a precursor to the Platonic forms. It also harkens back to Xenophanes' position on the limitations of mortals in appreciating the truth. However, what is most interesting is the Homeric fashion in which he describes the truth as a coupling of emotion and intellect. "The unshaken heart of well-rounded truth" describes the uniting of these two psychic functions and the assertion that it is not a mortal trait supports this interpretation. However, he goes on to say:
These are the only ways of thought that exist for thinking.12
Without, or actually even with, the Homeric context to aid interpretation, this is a difficult passage. Thought in both Homer and apparently also in Parmenides is either in active correspondence with reality or it is delusional and is not truly thought:
For the same thing can be thought as can be.13
However, this interpretation, though supported by the first passage cited concerning "the opinions of mortals", is not apparently supported by:
One way, that is and cannot not-be, is the path of persuasion, for it attends on truth; the other that it is-not and needs must not-be, that, I tell you, is a path altogether unthinkable. For you could not know that which is-not (that is impossible), nor utter it.14
The key to this passage may lie in the term "the path of persuasion" which it will be recalled has a direct Homeric parallel. A thought may exist without sufficient reality to define or rather persuade actualization, but a thought totally separated from what is cannot even be conjured.
Nor will the force of credibility ever admit that anything should come into being, beside being itself, out of not being.15
If this interpretation is valid, this makes Parmenides' conception very close indeed to the Homeric except in diminishing the role of mortals in the formulation of reality.
Therefore all things that mortals have established, believing in their truth, are just a name.16
In essence, reality becomes a kind of divine thought separated from men by their ignorance. It is in this separation between the divine realm of being and the human world of seeming that one might see a hint of the Platonic forms which we will be discussing later.
There is little relevant material in Zeno; however, in Melissus one finds:
It is clear therefore that we have not been seeing correctly, and that those things do not correctly seem to us to be many; for they would change if they were real, but each would be as it seemed to be. For nothing is stronger than that which is real.17
Here he expands on Parmenides' last quoted passage in asserting the difference between reality and names attached to it in that there is only one reality and it is misinterpreted by not seeing it properly. The problem is that words are not reality but only mortal attempts at reaching an inherently divine position of correspondence with what is real, the thought of the gods. However, we might note here that reality is not a detached, distanced being in the Greek vision, but was often seen as a conscious presence involved in the definition of events (neither indifferent to or separated from them). We should recall that Her Divine Majesty and Absolute Bliss, my impecable "Grand Marshal", Anagkh, the Goddess of Reality or Necessity, was rarely worshipped because she just gives it to you the way it is and insists on its being thus. Like my personal Imperatrix and AutokrathV, far-seeing Ekath, along with the wondrous ErinueV, KhreV, Moirai, flawless NuktoV, sweet NemesiV and toe-curling AtropoV, Anagkh is one of the old gods, who know nothing of "contingent reality" except as disgrace and iniquity. As a being she is construed in line with Melissus' comment concerning reality above: "Nothing is stronger than dread Anagkh". She is a spirit of grounded, raw reality much like an active, individuated sense of palaiouV nomouV, and also harkens back to Sang Hyang Tunggal and Ingsun in relation to Purba Wisesa in Javanese mysticism.
We might also inject that in Heraclitus we have a very clear picture of how what comes to be transpires mechanically. EriV, the Lady of Sorrow, Goddess of Confrontation, Strife or Hatred, is what Anagkh, our stated and knowing reality or necessity, has to work with in defining what happens. Without active EriV, without confronting the problem and suffering it down, there can be no justice in that we all, i.e., reality, get tied up in unrecognized beauty and horror, undifferentiated glory and infamy, and are forced to hold the undigested material as such until it can be sorted out.
The process here could be compared with the problems of relating to a tyranny: without confrontation, the contented despots (as Dionysius counseled Apollo at Delphi, thus earning the censure of Plato: "Keep ever the happy life of a tyrant") will just carry on indefinitely with their palaces and secret police and impunity; with confrontation, things are likely to get a bit hot and ugly for a while but justice becomes possible eventually.
One must know that war is common and justice is strife, and that all things happen by strife and necessity.18 [eidenai crh ton polemon eonta xunon, kai dikhn erin, kai ginomena panta kat erin kai crewn. Or in my clarification of the issues involved: eidenai crh ton polemon eonta xunon, kai Dikhn Erin, kai ginomena panta kat' Erin kai Anagkhn.]
The problem of verbalization arises again in Empedocles, who apparently felt that correspondence with the divine realm was possible and brought back the power of man seen in the Homeric epics. It is interesting that he felt himself a god telling a story and that he felt that other men would have difficulty with his tale.
Friends, I know that truth is present in the story that I shall tell, but it is actually very difficult for men, and the impact of conviction on their minds is unwelcome.19
The unsettled and unreal nature of words is brought out in his assertion:
For that which is right can well be uttered even twice.20
But he also felt that there was not only a weakness in words, but a terrifying strength as well in the minds of men.
Will ye not cease from this harsh-sounding slaughter? Do you not see that you are devouring one another in the thoughtlessness of your minds?21
In Empedocles one might say that the potential strength of man in dealing with his reality is once again asserted and that some mortals, such as Empedocles, can rise above their ignorance to affect the shaping of what is. It is interesting to note that Empedocles' "love and strife" is pre-stated in the Iliad in a passage in which Zeus says:
Let us consider then how these things shall be accomplished, whether again to stir up grim warfare and the terrible fighting, or to cast down love and make them friends with each other.22
In dispute with Parmenides, Empedocles asserted an animistic reality which, like the Homeric, was participant.
For all things, be assured, have intelligence and a portion of thought.23
Anaxagoras carried this even further in saying that:
In everything there is a portion of everything.24
which smacks of the microcosm/macrocosm vision and the lahir/batin tradition in Javanese mysticism. As in Homer, all are involved in the process of defining reality.
Democritus took a slightly different tack in saying once again in a very Homeric fashion that:
The hopes of right thinking men are attainable, but those of the unintelligent are impossible.25
Pleasure and absence of pleasure are the criterion of what is profitable.26
Asserting once again the primacy of emotional goals for to define pleasure in ones existence becomes the purpose and proof of right thinking.
The criterion of the advantageous and the disadvantageous is enjoyment and lack of enjoyment.27
Once again we meet with an assertion of the interrelated nature of reality and the potential power of man in shaping it.
To a wise man, the whole earth is open, for the native land of a good soul is the whole earth.28
If nothing else, this little survey shows that neither the influence nor the position of Homeric-type thought had diminished by the time of Plato. In Plato we have enough material to develop a more definitive statement on his particular apprehension of reality. As with all of these philosophers, we will hold that Plato's purpose for speculating was primarily pragmatic. However, in Plato this position shows that his primary purpose, engendering the existence of the Good in the lives of both man and his political state, was a frustrated one (witness his letters to Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse).
Let us speak of dreams. For it is in seeming that, according to Greek thought, and especially in Parmenides, as we saw above, reality begins. Once again the primacy of emotional reality is present as is well expressed in the opening quote of this section. The test of the reality of a contention is contained in seeming.
Yes, but to be sound it has got to seem right not only "just now", but at this moment and in the future.29
In other words, the emotional response to an idea must lead to not only the consistent appreciation of its expression, but also to the "path of persuasion" of its real validity over an extended period of time.
It is my contention that in Plato we are faced not with the undifferentiated reality system of Homeric epic, nor yet the dualism of a Cartesian world view, but with what might be described as a complex trilateral hypothesis, based on the existence and inter-relatedness of emotional, intellectual and physical reality. Again we are faced with the Homeric inversion, in which emotions are the constants of the system and their particular expression in reality the variable. The primary base of Platonic philosophy is the very existence of emotions. A man who has felt beauty or goodness is difficult to convince that these feelings do not exist, whether he knew how they existed at that moment for him or why they ceased to exist or not.
I say happily, because there is nothing so plainly true to my mind as that all that sort of thing most assuredly does exist, a beautiful and a good and all those other things that we were speaking of just now. So I think we have had a satisfactory proof.30
My only criticism of Plato's reification of emotional reality into a constant is one that he himself expresses well—
Are you also puzzled, Socrates, about cases that might be thought absurd, such as hair or mud or other trivial and undignified objects? Are you doubtful whether or not to assert that each of these has a separate Form distinct from things like those we handle?31
This problem arises with the omission of the animistic concept of reality from Plato's model. As long as "all things have a portion of thought" their ordering into positions proper for the realization of their best interests is natural, but when some things are not felt to be part of the whole, the constants of the system become separated from their own expression by the necessary modality of that expression which is the whole of whatever goes into defining an emotion.
This question was taken up in "For All His Great Mind" in the introduction of a concept called E-space in order to describe that complex of parameters needed to delineate any given emotion. It was also contended in a corollary that language is functional in the interpretation and manipulation of emotional reality. One might well expand this by adding that any group of conceptions (words) defines a position in E-space, that is, an emotional state in response to the fabricated notion giving it a truth value which one might hope would correspond to Parmenides' "unshaken heart of well-rounded truth". This concept makes plausible the theory of recollection because if every emotion is assumed to have a position in E-space then it is safe to say that any hypothetical construct will have a correspondent value which can be tapped by finding the words that describe it.
If there are going to exist in him, both while he is and while he is not a man, true opinions which can be aroused by questions and turned into knowledge, may we say that his soul has been forever in a state of knowledge.32
The theory of recollection can also be supported from another source. Chomsky purports, concerning language, that:
There is surely no reason today for taking seriously a position that attributes a complex human development entirely to months (or at most years) of experience, rather than to millions of years of evolution or to principles of neural organization that may even be grounded in physical law—a position that would, furthermore, yield the conclusion that man is apparently unique among animals in the way he acquires knowledge.33
This rationalist approach can surely be applied beyond the linguistic borders. Or one can refer to Freud's concept of "conservative instincts" cited above as showing that though the means of expression may vary, the referent emotion finding expression is essentially constant. Any of these conceptions leads to the appreciation of the theory of recollection as something definitely other than a curiosity.
However, it is important to remember that this is exactly the point. Plato was well aware of the fact that he was telling a story to fit the facts of the emotional/real situation with which he had to deal. As he asserted concerning another discussion:
Now to affirm confidently that these things are as I have told them would not benefit a man of good sense; yet seeing that the soul is found to be immortal, I think it befitting to affirm that this or something like it is the truth about our souls and their habitations. I think too that we should do well in venturing—and a glorious venture it is—to believe it to be so. And we should treat such tales as spells to pronounce over ourselves, as in fact has been my purpose all this while in telling my long story.34
In their own way, neither Chomsky's nor Freud's hypothesis is any less a story than Plato's. The form of opinions varies widely over the years from place to place, but perhaps not so concerning the purpose of the story itself. It may be said that such stories are told in order to increase the efficacy of the articulation of man with his environment.
Primary among the parallels between Homeric and Platonic thought is the pragmatism that pervades the interpretation of worth given to a man and his work. We have seen the purposeful consideration of Homer judging a man by how well he can shape the world to his delight. We find something similar in Plato—
So if a man is better than another it must be in respect to the power, and virtue, according to your account, is the power of acquiring good things.35
A man is to be measured by what he persuades into being; however, there is one important exclusion from the Platonic system that is central to the Homeric. This exclusion comes under the heading of intellect, and has to do with the use of words:
Misuse of language is not only distasteful in itself, but actually harmful to the soul.36
When one sets this against the behavioral habits of Odysseus one sees that not all of the Greek tradition flowed into Plato. Plato's description of the Sophists could well be seen as a perspective on the tradition of oratorical mastery of which Odysseus was a part:
When someone by reason of a depraved condition of mind has thoughts of a like character, one makes him, by reason of a sound condition, think other and sound thoughts, which some people ignorantly call true, whereas I should say that one set of thoughts is better than the other, but not in any way truer.37
It may be that in this dispute with the Sophists we find one of the reasons Plato chose to construct his theory in the way he did. Such a contention tears at the fabric of reason and Plato protects his important concept of the Forms by showing them to be separate, as in Parmenides, from mortal misconceptions.
But when it (the soul) investigates by itself alone, it passes to that other world of pure everlasting immortal, constant being, and by reason of its kinship thereto abides ever therewith, whensoever it has come to be by itself and is suffered to do so! And then it has rest from wandering and ever keeps close to that being, unchanged and constant, inasmuch as it is apprehending unchanging objects. And is not the experience which it then has called intelligence?38
In the trilateral system we have using knowledge can be viewed as the link between emotional and physical reality as long as one remembers that this purpose can be served by right opinion. Knowledge is seen as that which stabilizes man's interpretation of what he both sees and feels around him—
True opinions are a fine thing and do all sorts of good so long as they stay in their place; but they will not stay long. They run away from a man's mind, so they are not worth much until you tether them by working out the reason. That process, my dear Meno, is recollection, as we agreed earlier. Once they are tied down, they become knowledge, and are stable. That is why knowledge is something more valuable than right opinions. What distinguishes one from the other is the tether.39
Using an adaptation of the line analogy, Plato's concept can be visualized in conjunction once again with a model developed in linguistics and used before in this paper. The semantic of the system is The Good, its deep structure, The Forms, its transformational modalities, Knowledge and Thinking, and its surface structure, Opinions.40
Semantic The Good
Deep Structure The Forms
Transformational Patterns Knowledge, Thinking
Surface Structure Opinions
The point of the system is the actualization of the Good and this is to be done by acting in a manner that conforms to this goal. This is where Plato has much to teach us concerning the delineation of satisfactory goal systems for both the individual and his society. While modern behavioral theory deals with normality as a desirable end, Plato purports that:
What is imperfect can never serve as a measure.41
One of the problems exposed by "For All His Great Mind" was this precise lack of an accepted goal for human endeavor—
The ignorant have no single mark before their eyes at which they must aim in all the conduct of their lives and in affairs of state.42
One of the conditions I personally impose in viewing philosophy is the practicability it displays in its application. For want of a philosopher king to make the system feasible, Plato's work has suffered over the years from intensely abstracted speculation. What are the Forms but an attempt to actualize the Good as a constant and what is Plato but an expositor and seeker after this end?
As The Book of Being witnesses, my life too has been naught but an effort to confront the problem of being and serve justice. In Suhul we needs be have what is called Tekading Ingsun (Divine Resolve): "I didn't make this mess but I sure as all Hell am going to clean it up!"