The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 30 May 2020 - Page 8

"The death of Aristotle marked the end of an era. The speculative restlessness of the Greeks declined like their city-states. Their theories were welded into successive philosophies of life, just as their states were welded into successive empires. Speculation for its own sake gave way to symbolic pictures that served to reinforce ways of living. Policies for living rather than theories about life commanded the interest of philosophers. The Stoics and Epicureans were preoccupied with the attainment of individual self-sufficiency as a substitute for the much- lauded self-sufficiency of the old city-states. Life had become something to be endured rather than enjoyed: the problem was how to endure it best. How could the individual fortify himself against oppression, revolution and social change? The Stoics advocated integrity of character, devotion to duty, humanity towards fellow sufferers, and the rigorous discipline of the will: the Epicureans sought an escape from the hazards of life in cutting down the possible sources of misery. They put forward different forms of individualism one of which reached the culmination in Kant and the other in English Utilitarians." Christianity also played a significant role in the dismantling of the beginnings of an academic tradition that had been laid down in Ancient Greece: “The teachings of Christ were in no sense theoretical and appealed only to the individual’s relation to God and not to universal argument. He exemplified the simple practical man with only his faith and belief to sustain him. Nothing was mentioned of the history of theoretical thought or the theoretical thoughts of other thinkers in Christ's teachings. There are of course assumptions about human beings but it is a total mystery as to where they originated from or indeed exactly what they were. We know that the Jewish- Alexandrian school played some part in the choosing of these assumptions. With the advent of Christianity, however, we encounter an almost complete substitution of the spiritual for the rational. Knowledge was no longer man's province: it belonged to an all-knowing God who inspired prophets with his messages for the human race. There was no reference to the importance of the state or community to provide man with a higher quality of life. There was a reference to a universal "brotherhood of man" but it is unclear whether if one was not a Christian one could become a part of this "universal" brotherhood. It certainly did not appear to be a cosmopolitan brotherhood. The primary commandment was "love God above all else". There is no mention of the role of knowledge or the importance of knowledge except in relation to "Knowing God". Much of the Greek world was dismantled by the mass-movement of Christianity. It is therefore not surprising that the idea of God was diminished in importance in favour of the idea of Freedom in Kant's metaphysics of morals. This was part of the attempt to restore a Greek attitude to the phenomena concerned. The Enlightenment philosophy of Kant attempted to row the philosophical boat back to the Greek shoreline but Kant's Philosophy too was rapidly overcome by the practical individualistic spirit and theoretical scientific spirit of the Enlightenment.” The essay concludes with the suggestion that this tradition has, in spite of all, survived: “Enlightenment. Our Modern World contains the threads of Greek and Kantian thought, and these were revived by the work of the later Wittgenstein, the work of Heidegger and to some extent the work of Arendt. The consequence is that ethical thought in accordance with categorical universalistic dimensions had all but disappeared in the twentieth century and it is no coincidence that this was the century of two world wars and two mass annihilations of