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Posts Tagged ‘Greek philosophy’

In a lecture in one of my classes on Monday, Professor Charles Young (Philosophy, Claremont Graduate University) paraphrased Plato’s opinion (in response to a question) that it takes theory to have art or systematic approach to a craft (techne), which is what we might call practice.  Another student raised the question of “how do we make our practice have the nobility that the Aristotelian practice seems to have?”  I’m guessing that behind this intriguing question is an observation that practice in the days of Aristotle possessed a purity and an objectivity that we wish to have in our own practice.  There is a feeling that if we could simply frame the question or have the right setting or the right arena for our discourse and our rhetoric, our techne/craft/practice would be able to enter a discussion more purely, without as much emotional baggage as it sometimes does today.  If we could simply adhere to a colder form of logic, then our techne would be of a higher sort than it is now. 

To those who hold this idea, even if it is buried under a mass of critical theory or thrown into the corner of our minds under the old deconstructionism we have lying about or the old magazines of postmodern theory stacked on top of one another, I have a few observations.

 

First, I find this idea in myself.  I not only wish, but at times, find myself believing it to be so that there is a purity of inquiry, a detachment of the researcher, that can be attained if one is careful enough, systematic enough, logical enough, and detached enough.  I wish it to be so because if it were, inquiry and practice would be a lot cleaner and a lot easier. 

 

The idea that there can be a purity or detachment of inquiry, some kind of pure and logical detachment is, I believe, a false myth.  It is a story that we tell ourselves to serve a social purpose, namely to allow us to retract into our own research problem and leave some of the meta-research questions unanswered.  This is not always a bad thing; sometimes it is necessary because of the scope of our research and we haven’t time to discuss it.

 

All of this is not new to any graduate student, but it is easy for me, when reading any ancient text, and especially Plato or Aristotle, to find myself indulging in the belief that these ancients, and all their contemporaries, were able to discover this purity of logic, this nobility of reason and discourse, and if we could only see it and all move together that we too, could be like them. 

 

Maybe this is so, but I wonder, also, if the nobility we think we see in the ancients is real or if it is a reflection of the human desire and search for transcendence—a search to come out of ourselves and be larger than what we are; a search for eternity or Divinity.

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