On Principles and Ideologies: A New Year’s Clean Up

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5 Responses

  1. Marcin says:

    And what about Augustin Barruel?

  2. John the Savage says:

    I’m looking forward to hearing what this year will bring.
    Branko, you mentioned in one previous podcast an interpretation of Plato’s Republic which sounded very interesting, a kind of allegorical reading relating it to the the soul (if I remember right). That would definitely make a fascinating podcast.

    • Malić says:

      Allegorical reading of the “Republic” and some other key Plato’s dialogues like “Timaeus” and “Parmenides” was a specialty of late Platonists like Proclus. However, the archetype-image relation of soul-ideal state is not, strictly speaking, an allegory but straightforward Plato’s method of expounding the relationship between various forms of knowledge to its objects. He uses ideal politeia as an analogy for soul (“something to imagine like an image in the stars”, to paraphrase his own justification for the method) quite explicitly. On the other hand, allegory in “Republic” is rather easy to spot, but difficult to explain because we lack the context: dialogues were in all probability written for pedagogic purposes, as an introduction to his teachings expounded orally in Academy. For example, in the first book of the “Republic” there’s an evocation of the Athenian festival, where riders carry the torches and pass them on in succession between themselves juxtaposed in the narrative with the talk of inheritance and passing things from the fathers to sons. It is obviously not coincidental but it’s hard to figure out whether there’s a deeper meaning – and if yes, what is it – or its there only for stylistic purposes. The thing with Plato is that there’s always more than meets the eye in his dialogues and his “philosophy” is far more than just a personal teaching, but rather a summation of ancient though focused by him. Similar could be said for Aristotle.

  3. John the Savage says:

    That’s very interesting, Branko.
    I’ve just finished reading a book about the memory techniques used by oral cultures where it’s said that the versions of, for example, aboriginal myths that are available to the public are really just the children’s versions, and that initiates would be exposed to deeper levels of knowledge worked into the myth, like putting flesh on a skeleton. This is why myths can seem silly and inconsequential at the surface level: because they need to be a primarily a memorable structure for the ordering of more significant, and often restricted, knowledge. This knowledge is not necessarily arcane or esoteric. It may simply by related to things necessary for survival, e.g., when and where to find food, which under the circumstances, gives the initiates great power. This applies mostly to hunter-gatherer societies, but from what you say, it seems that some features have carried into the literate societies of Greece, and no doubt elsewhere also.
    By the way, the book is ‘The Memory Code’, by Lynne Kelly.

    • Malić says:

      Platonists considered myth to be a “veritable image of the truth” (quote from Plato’s “Timaeus”) which means that what is contained in the images is rational but transcends language, so it has to be given in the indirect form. The essence of the story, however, is the truth. Therefore, myths are first and foremost a pedagogical and didactic method and their content is the same as the content of pure exposition of truth in philosophy, only the approach is different. Today, Catholic Church still holds, in accordance with the Patristic tradition, an allegorical understanding of some Bible passages as valid. Btw. the allegorical reading of myths in this fashion was all the rage in the Late Antiquity, across various cultures: from Stoics, Philo the Jew to early Church Fathers.

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