Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Are our ideas killing us?

Many credible historians of our intellectual development say Plato caused the Dark Ages, I'm being glib, perhaps, but the claim isn't altogether inaccurate.

In brief, Plato gave us the idea of two different realms, one a world of ideal perfection, the other the world we live in with all its flaws. As time passed, the idea of the soul - an entity that is completely divided from the body - developed, and with it came the idea that salvation, a condition of the soul, could be achieved only in the realm of the ideal. The body, a product of this flawed world, was something distrusted, something imagined to be holding back the soul, to be preventing it from reaching its full potential.

As James Carroll says, "a collapse of intellectual pursuit and scientific inquiry was an ultimate consequence of the Christian adoption of a dualistic world view since there was no reason to take the experience of the senses seriously."  Because Christian Europe saw study as the work of the distrusted, despised body, the intellectual life of Christian Europe soon shriveled.

It was only after Aristotle, and his way of seeing and thinking, was introduced to Europe via Averroes (an Arab Muslim!) and Maimonides (a Jew) thanks to Aquinas that Europe began to awake from its slumber. These are the men who taught Europe that salvation and soul improvement might be seen as functions of our intellectual development. But for the period known as the Dark Ages, Plato's POV held sway in Christian Europe and this delivered miserable results.

I'm working on the idea that certain Jewish ideas are producing miserable results in our day. I feel authorized to say this because the ideas I mean aren't ideas that were handed down by Moses but ideas, like Plato's soul, that developed over time, as relative intellectual constructs. Though today we may see these ideas as what Carroll calls, "absolutely asserted dicta" their originators did not.

In the next post or three I'll discuss some of these damaging, but popular, ideas.  But first, what comes to your mind? Which ideas do you think are killing us? Please make suggestions on the thread.

Search for more information about how Plato gave us the Dark Ages at4torah.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why can't I read comments from my iPad?