Plato Archives



More Generally: Historical Thinkers (230)

January 11, 2013

The Bible as Dialogue?

Over the holiday, I read Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation. (Enns also writes an excellent blog.) I have also been reading Brevard Childs' commentary on Isaiah. These two books have set me off on an interesting train of reflections. I'll first summarize the relevant points from each book, then proceed with my own reflections. The central point of Enns book is a familiar but important one: the Bible simply isn't the sort of book the fundamentalists want it to be. That is, fundamentalists (and, interestingly, certain atheist polemicists) have a certain a priori conception of what a revelation from God...
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May 17, 2012

A Brief History of Christian Conceptions of the 'Soul'

It is sometimes said that Christianity presupposes the existence of a soul, that, due to the progress of science, this view is no longer credible, and that, therefore, Christianity can no longer be taken seriously. It is very probable that there are some combinations of views, widely held among self-identified 'Christians', which can be effectively criticized along these lines. However, there are several puzzling features about this line of thought. The first is that it is not clear what the relevant 'progress of science' is supposed to be. Neuroscience is indeed advancing, but it can hardly be considered so advanced...
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December 19, 2011

Christmas in Platonic Context

The important cultural background to the rise of Christianity includes both the Hebrew context of the Old Testament and the context of the Greek culture which was dominant in the Eastern Roman Empire at the time. From the Christian perspective, Athens has quite a lot to do with Jerusalem. I believe there is adequate evidence for this (admittedly controversial) claim in the New Testament; if one is sufficiently traditional to allow the testimony of the Greek Fathers of the early church, then the matter should be beyond any doubt. Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation, of God becoming man...
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September 7, 2010

Would a Being With All Positive Properties Be God?

Sobel's final objection to ontological arguments is that, even if they are sound, their conclusion does not mean that God exists. That is, according to Sobel, a necessarily existing 'being than which none greater can be conceived' or 'being with all perfections' or 'being with all positive properties' would not be God. His argument for this is rather confusing and depends (1) on a controversial modal intuition, and (2) on an odd definition of 'worshipfulness'. As far as I can tell, the argument goes like this: it is clear (so Sobel claims) that such properties as consciousness, knowledge, power, love,...
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March 19, 2010

Locke and Leibniz on Armchair Teleology

[I]f we may conclude that God hath done for men all that men shall judge is best for them, because it is suitable to his goodness so to do, it will prove not only that God has imprinted on the minds of men an idea of himself, but that he hath plainly stamped there, in fair characters, all that men ought to know or believe of him, all that they ought to do in obedience to his will, and that he hath given them a will and affections conformable to it. This, no doubt, everyone will think it better for...
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December 21, 2009

The Mystery of the Incarnation

As we are nearing the end of Advent, I hope that we (Christians) have all been pondering the mystery of the Incarnation. For myself, I have been doing some speculating, connecting the Chalcedonian Definition with some issues I have been studying in Greek philosophy. I mean, in particular, the argument which some scholars have made to the effect that Greek ontology is primarily concerned with the 'is' of predication (see section I of "The Homonymy of Predicative Being"). I have been considering this for some time but have not been confident enough to post it. However, I have just finished...
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November 9, 2009

What Caused God?

In comments to my post on Dawkins and the Philosophers, atheist blogger Jonathan West has been pushing back against Michael Ruse's claim that Dawkins' prominent use of the "what caused God?" question is, as Jonathan puts it, 'fatuous.' Jonathan has also pushed this point in a recent blog post which considers this question in light of Swinburne's 'necessary being' arguments in The Existence of God. I will first make a few remarks about Swinburne's work in this area, and then proceed to show why the "what caused God?" question is indeed confused. To be fair, I admit...
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December 24, 2008

Valicella on Private and Public Morality

Bill Valicella of The Maverick Philosopher has an interesting discussion on the distinction between private and public morality. Valicella supposes that there is an inherent tension between any Socratic, Platonic, or Christian ethics and the requirements of a stable state. A couple years ago, in my post on rights, obligations, and abortion (which continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog) I argued that there was no inherent contradiction, or even tension, between the idea that I have a libertarian right to retaliate for an offense against me, but an obligation of private morality not to exercise that right...
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October 17, 2008

Quote of the Day: Why do Relativists Write Books?

The sophist Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490-420 BC) wrote a book entitled Truth (which does not survive) in which he argued that 'man is the measure of all things;' an early form of relativism. In Plato's Theaetetus, Socrates gives the following review of Protagoras' book: Well, I was delighted with his general statement of the theory that a thing is for any individual what it seems to him to be; but I was astonished at the way he began. I was astonished that he did not state at the beginning of the Truth that 'Pig is the measure of all things'...
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September 21, 2008

Quote of the Day: Plato on Opinion and Knowledge

Following up on the last post, I thought it would be helpful to go back to Plato to provide another view on the subject. Socrates and Meno are discussing the nature of virtue, whether it is a form of knowledge, and whether it can be taught: SOCRATES: So true opinion is in no way a worse guide to correct action than knowledge. It is this that we omitted in our investigation of the nature of virtue, when we said that only knowledge can lead to correct action, for true opinion can do so also. ... MENO: That appears to be...
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May 3, 2008

Quote of the Day: Plato on Knowing that You Don't Know

THEAETETUS: Well, do you see what we're looking for?
VISITOR: I think I see a large, difficult type of ignorance marked off from the others and overshadowing all of them.
THEAETETUS: What's it like?
VISITOR: Not knowing, but thinking that you know. That's what probably causes all the mistakes we make when we think.
THEAETETUS: That's true.
VISITOR: And furthermore it's the only kind of ignorance that's called lack of learning.
THEAETETUS: Certainly.
VISITOR: Well then, what should we call the part of teaching that gets rid of it?
THEAETETUS: The other part consists in the teaching of crafts, I think, but here in Athens we call this one education...
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December 26, 2007

Aristotle and Transubstantiation (Some More)

Tim Troutman (formerly known as "The God Fearin' Fiddler") of The God Fearin' Forum has responded to my latest discussion of Eucharistic theology and Aristotle. Perhaps I have not been very clear. Whatever the case, Tim persistently misunderstands both my claim and my argument for it. I am going to try to make what I am claiming very clear here:
The doctrine of transubstantiation, as expounded by Trent, is rendered incoherent by any system of metaphysics sufficiently different from Aristotle's.
This should not be confused with any of the following claims, which I do not make...
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November 2, 2007

Transubstantiation vs. Real Presence

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on the historical significance of transubstantiation which has led to some interesting discussions. The principle problem with this post and the discussion that follows it, however, is that no one seems to understand the difference between transubstantiation and the Real Presence. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on this either, but I do think I know enough to clear up some historical and metaphysical confusion. I am going to use two principal sources - session 13 of the Council of Trent, and the relevant article from the Catholic Encyclopedia - to explain the historical development and specific content of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and then attempt to show two things...
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February 3, 2007

No Such Thing as an Ontological Free Lunch

In D.M. Armstrong's book Universals: an Opinionated Introduction, he discusses the pros and cons of a number of theories of the metaphysics of properties. Chapter three deals with "resemblance nominalism." According to resemblance nominalism, properties can be accounted for in terms of degrees of resemblance between the various objects having the property. So, for instance, on object is red if and only if it resembles some paradigmatic red objects. This theory is plagued by the "Resemblance Regress." Armstrong quotes Bertrand Russells' version as the "classical exposition" of the difficulty (p. 53): If we wish to avoid the universals...
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January 1, 2007

Plato on Homosexuality

A month or so ago, I published a post which has been rather popular on Christianity and Homosexuality. In it, I discussed Paul's statements on homosexuality in contrast to the "received view" in Greco-Roman "polite society." I referred then to Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus, early and middle dialogs, respectively, which contain useful information on the practice of pedaresty in classical Athens. (If you are interested in interpreting Paul, it is important to note that classical Athens is some 400 years earlier...
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Quote of the Day

"For when two things are raised by one and the same exertion, the lesser quantity will invariably yield more readily and the greater (which offers more resistance) less readily, to the force applied." - Plato (tr. Donald J. Zeyl), Timaeus 63c
So what you're saying is that an object's acceleration is directly proportional the force applied and inversely proportional to its mass. Didn't some other guy get famous for saying that? Hmm...
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December 22, 2006

My Five Favorite Philosophers

Recently, while I was busy with finals, Clarke at Mormon Metaphysics and Johnny-Dee at Fides Quarens Intellectum posted lists of their favorite philosophers. I thought that today I would do the same. I won't get fancy with pictures and stuff, because that's not my style (as you can plainly see if you are looking at this page), but I do have a list, roughly in order...
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Philosophical Language in Hebrews 11:1

Over at Better Bibles Blog, Wayne Leman is discussing the difficulties involved in producting coherent English from Hebrews 11:1. I want here to produce some considerations on the use of a couple of unusual (in the NT) words in this verse that will hopefully help us to produce a better translation of the word. Wayne made it clear that his post was primarily about the coherence of the English. However, I think part of the reason we have difficulty rendering this verse in English is that we're not totally clear on what we are trying to communicate...
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October 29, 2006

Preserving Ambiguity in Translation

I'm studying Plato's Parmenides in a graduate seminar this semester. It is rather a baffling text, and there is a wealth of secondary literature which contains little consensus on anything. Today, as I was reading Constance Meinwald's guidebook to the dialog, I came across an issue in the translation of the text which I think is relevant to a number of discussion about Bible translation that I've had on-blog, and thought I would share. The issue is one of preserving a (probably intentional) ambiguity in the original in translation, and thus with the degree of interpretation done by translators, and the degree left up to readers of the translation.
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June 27, 2006

Tradition Essay Posted at the Sergius Bulgakov LiveJournal

My essay "Tradition as the Platonic Form of Christian Faith and Practice", which I posted on my writings page a few months ago, was published online today at the Sergius Bulgakov LiveJournal, a blog devoted to the 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov, whom I cited in the essay. It looks like there are some other interesting materials up at the site as well. I reccomend checking it out. Also, this seems like a good time to remind everyone that all of my writings on this site are released under Creative Commons licenses. There are different licenses for this...
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March 15, 2006

"Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy"

I have just posted on my writings page a new essay, "Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy." This served as my mid-term essay in my class on the Greek Orthodox Church here at DIKEMES in Athens where I am studying this semester. I have attached a short preface explaining the relationship of the views presented in my essay (realizing that the essay is supposed to explain the teaching of the Orthodox Church) to my actual beliefs and my reasons for deciding to publish the essay. Please post here with any comments or objections. If...
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