Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ancient pragmatism?

di0genes writes:

your paper... left me re-thinking "Plato was a freaking genius!"

This is w/ reference to a paper on Plato according to Ernest McClain and Alain Badiou; I describe it & link to it here and it is also posted at Scribd (there's a permanent link near the top of the right column).

di0genes goes on:

what a great bridge the comparison to tuning music makes for so many difficult moments of ideal vs practical. ... I think you're probably spot on that Plato was more pragmatic than we've given him credit, who knows the Nichomachean ethics may well have been mostly Plato's all along, just fine tuned by Aristotle. The fine tuning of behavior through praxis sure sounds familiar to the approximations you describe.

I am especially glad he notes the close affinity here w/ the Nichomachean Ethics (what else is the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean but a tuning of character in relation to circumstance?) It would obviously be quite hard to square Levinas w/ Aristotle on ethics. But my deeper point in the paper was to claim that a close attention to the texture of Plato's thought, precisely as regards the manner in which he deploys mathematics, actually belies the ends to which Badiou would put it in the name of "platonism;" if we are going to salvage "truth" along platonic lines as Badiou encourages us, we must paradoxically be more pragmatic. And the first locus of this pragmatism is ethics, exactly as Levinas claims. While of course L. would not want to argue for "pragmatism" in the way it is put by James or Dewey (or Rorty), it's worth remembering that Levinas' notion of time is deeply Bergsonian, and there was deep fellow-feeling and intellectual kinship between Bergson and James. (I am more a Peircean myself, insofar as I understand Peirce, which is not something upon which I'd want to stake my reputation). And in fact, now that I think of it, I can almost see Rorty's refusal to defend his moral intuition that cruelty is to be abhorred as a kind of Levinasian move: Levinas too presents it almost as a brute fact; Rorty would simply dispense with all the phenomenological stuff about the Face of the Other; you don't need that, he'd probably say (in fact, he probably does say it somewhere) .

... getting back to the ancients always gets my blood flowing,

di0genes concludes. I couldn't agree more. There's a frank joy in thinking, a sense of open air that feels more aware both of the possibilities, and the stakes. There is a reason that Nietzsche is the only modern who comes close.

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