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I. The Greek World View 
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
nova wrote:
The Philosphers Quest and the Universal Mind

My Glod! Plato was a mystic!

I have done a fair amount of reading about the Christian Mystics. I was very much struck by how Plato forward the same language is used to describe The God. I say "The God" because I am not sure what term to use that would describe what underlies them all. I do believe Plato was seeing, and describing, was the samething Christian Mystics were in touch with. The beauty of the eternal.


There's a fine line between Plato's concept of eternal Ideas and the eternal gods of Homer. It's not surprising that these early philosophers would gravitate towards mysticism. They didn't possess the most basic of scientific facts which we take for granted now, especially with regards to biology and astronomy. And yet these philosophers established a strong foundation for the scientific method and an empirical approach to understanding the world, even if these methods had mystical underpinnings. This time period was a "punctuated equilibrium" for advancement of human knowledge. In that respect, it represented a huge movement away from primitivism and towards the modern philosophical approach.

Me, I'm reading this book as a sort of primer to philosophy, so I don't mind that much of the text is an overview. I was about to start reading Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy, which I've read before. I really need to bring myself up to speed in the area of philosophy and so far, this seems a really good place to start.


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Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:08 pm
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
Yes,

I would like to take a Philosophy 101 class someday. I saw this book as an introduction to the subject. Plus, it also fits with another project I am working on.


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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
nova wrote:
I went back and read this again. The author is condensing a lot of information in this chapter.

You'll find that to be true in every chapter. :?
nova wrote:
The Goddess based religion of the people native to the area who were invaded by the Indo-European tribes with their male based world view was interesting.

As I understand it, many mainstream historians doubt that the Goddess-dominated religion was ever that prevalent. There isn't strong evidence for that theory, which appeals to people who wish society hasn't always been so male-dominated. Of course, it's difficult to reach any conclusions about the beliefs of non-literate societies.
nova wrote:
My Glod! Plato was a mystic!

For most of human history, almost everyone was a mystic. Even Isaac Newton, who established the laws of physics, was fascinated by subjects like alchemy and theology.



Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:43 am
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
Grim wrote:
Considering the vast amount of books currently in circulation I find it hard to accept that one should solicit opinion from any quasi-legitamate source without desiring something more...engaging.

But then again is this quasi-legitimacy not the modus operandi of the public internet forum? The very Wikipedia of intellectual sources well suited to be a "brilliant bestseller"?

The risk is that in the future one would rely solely on a single text, or those presenting themselves as having answers without bothering to show their processes believing their work to be comprehensive. That one would forget the importance of a valid argument thinking that summations and results alone are effective substitutes. It is my opinion that in this circumstance one would easily lose their ability to think critically for themselves concerning the Greek World View and be prone to acceptance of poorly reasoned, superficial and most worryingly fashionable normative applications of theoretical relationships.


I think that one of the true failings of the education system, at least in the US, is that people learn to take things at face value. People have difficulty consuming criticism and research because they don't think to question it. In this world of information overload, this predilection is particularly problematic.

I've enjoyed Tarnas' work thus far, especially considering the changes in abstractness in Plato's ideals. My only problem is that Tarnas really does distill everything with this authoritative tone. This makes it quite easy for him to slip in controversial views and make them seem as if they've been vetted by general consensus.



Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:43 pm
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
caseyjo wrote:
My only problem is that Tarnas really does distill everything with this authoritative tone. This makes it quite easy for him to slip in controversial views and make them seem as if they've been vetted by general consensus.

Actually, I think any alternatives would be worse. There could be a collection of essays by different authors about Plato, or one person would review the different ways of interpreting Plato. However, those approaches aren't feasible in a book covering the full history of western philosophy. A coherent authoritative voice seems worthwhile.

Reading multiple books can give one a broader perspective on a subject. Still, given the vast assortment of topics that I'd like to learn more about, I prefer to read books covering different subject matter, even though that means my perspective is distorted by the particular authors I happen to select.



Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:40 pm
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
Quoting 'JulianTheApostate: "A coherent authoritative voice seems worthwhile.

"Reading multiple books can give one a broader perspective on a subject. Still, given the vast assortment of topics that I'd like to learn more about, I prefer to read books covering different subject matter, even though that means my perspective is distorted by the particular authors I happen to select."

I agree. One of my pet peeves is authors who make statements as if they were generally accepted facts. My usual response is, "says who!" However, Julian's point is well taken; surveys just don't have time to build cogent arguments or even state more than one view of a matter. If something smells wrong, or just above average interesting, it is good to seek other authors for a wider perspective. Good, but time consuming. Therefore much judgment is required and sometimes disappointment happens.

"You mean I wasted my time following up on that nonsense!"

Good reading discussion groups help a lot. Other readers' perspectives can reduce the number of disappointments because sometimes they see things I don't that make the choices of when and how much to follow-up clearer.


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Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:11 pm
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
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Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell taught me the definition of archetype and I can’t get my head around how Tarnas paints early Greek philosophy with the same brush. It kinda works as in I think I see his allegorical use but Form and Idea (with a capital F and I), I don’t know. It seems to me he is taking 2500 years of human assimilation of their ideas and the human conclusions down through the years and projected back onto Socrates and Plato to present their beliefs here.


I was kind of also wondering what people thought about this. I have not studied enough Plato to make a judgment call. What do folks think about Tarnas’ interpretation of Plato? I like this book so far, it seems like an overview of philosophy which I appreciate. But I know that Tarnas’ is making some assumptions about Greek philosophical thinking. What does everyone else think?

Quote:
Tarnas up to this point is not concerned with arguments for or against the theories he is presenting. He is merely regurgitating the contemporarily accepted interpretation of Greek meaning.


I don’t think that Tarnas is trying to make a strong argument for one thing or the other. I think this is basically a history book to show what philosophical thoughts brought us to where we are today. It is an analysis. Certainly his choices on who the important players are in Western thought is an argument in itself. And he does bring up controversial historical views in his writings. Nova has mentioned a couple of them, i.e, the pre-historic Goddess cultures and the Sophists deterioration of Greek society. I think that unless one is an expert on this subject Tarnas offers some very useful information. It is our job as historians and philosophers to find the controversies in his work and to analyze what he is saying.

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Considering the vast amount of books currently in circulation I find it hard to accept that one should solicit opinion from any quasi-legitamate source without desiring something more...engaging.


So do you feel that his interpretation of Greek thought is quasi-legitimate, Grim?

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That's the standard trade-off of a broader book: it covers more ground but in less depth. For a reasonable understanding of Plato's ideas, you've got to read Plato. However, for someone like myself, who's read just tiny excerpts of Plato and is unlikely to read more, an overview is better than nothing. Only very serious students of philosophy will read all the philosophers who Tarnas describes, and even for them a book like this provides some helpful context.


I agree. Personally, I would like to read more of Plato but it does help to have a little background.

Quote:
I've enjoyed Tarnas' work thus far, especially considering the changes in abstractness in Plato's ideals. My only problem is that Tarnas really does distill everything with this authoritative tone. This makes it quite easy for him to slip in controversial views and make them seem as if they've been vetted by general consensus.


Yes, I can see that. I think that he does “slip in” many arguments about history and possibly about interpretation of philosophical thinking. But as Julian points out I think that it is very important to read multiple sources and to form your own opinion about a topic.



Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:06 pm
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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
seespotrun2008 wrote:
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Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell taught me the definition of archetype and I can’t get my head around how Tarnas paints early Greek philosophy with the same brush. It kinda works as in I think I see his allegorical use but Form and Idea (with a capital F and I), I don’t know. It seems to me he is taking 2500 years of human assimilation of their ideas and the human conclusions down through the years and projected back onto Socrates and Plato to present their beliefs here.
I was kind of also wondering what people thought about this. I have not studied enough Plato to make a judgment call. What do folks think about Tarnas’ interpretation of Plato? I like this book so far, it seems like an overview of philosophy which I appreciate. But I know that Tarnas’ is making some assumptions about Greek philosophical thinking. What does everyone else think?
Tarnas brings a strong but subtle authorial voice to his interpretation of the history of philosophy. He is highly critical of the modern enlightenment focus on empirical observation to the exclusion of rational speculation. His use of Plato seeks to restore this balance by arguing that the mystical vision of real ideas in Platonic thought is a main central part of the legacy of the ancient world.
Quote:
Quote:
Tarnas up to this point is not concerned with arguments for or against the theories he is presenting. He is merely regurgitating the contemporarily accepted interpretation of Greek meaning.
I don’t think that Tarnas is trying to make a strong argument for one thing or the other. I think this is basically a history book to show what philosophical thoughts brought us to where we are today. It is an analysis. Certainly his choices on who the important players are in Western thought is an argument in itself. And he does bring up controversial historical views in his writings. Nova has mentioned a couple of them, i.e, the pre-historic Goddess cultures and the Sophists deterioration of Greek society. I think that unless one is an expert on this subject Tarnas offers some very useful information. It is our job as historians and philosophers to find the controversies in his work and to analyze what he is saying.
Where I find this pre-historic Goddess culture idea valuable is to place the Greek ‘cradle of civilization’ within a larger and older theory of history. The old myth of a descent from a golden age through ages of silver, bronze and iron, found in the Rig Veda, Hesiod’s Works and Days, and the book of Daniel, is a way to help conceptualise this effort. By this idea, as I see it, the golden age was about 14,000 years ago and was a time of sexual equality. The rise of bronze and then iron technology enabled male power, matching the Biblical myth of the fall from grace. Tarnas argues for a return to sexual balance, an argument that is advanced by seeing Neolithic culture as in some ways superior to modernity. His reading of Plato is feminist, seeing idealism as a balanced way to restore sexual equality.

We can try to put a longer scale theory of human development within the framework of glaciations and their effect on migration and economic and social activity. History on glaciations is at Last Glacial Period

Humans have been around for two million years, if we include the 100,000 generations of homo erectus, and for tens of millions of years if we include the time before we split from the apes. The last few thousand years are a short blip in the long history of human evolution, and are even a short blip within the long 100,000 year history of Homo Sapien. The movement of homo sapien from Africa through Arabia to India occurred 100,000 years ago, and is subject of precise genetic analysis through evolution of human DNA. Our long history, especially in India but also around Europe and Asia, and originating in Africa, forms the real cradle of civilization.

India was Paradise, the Garden of Eden, the setting for tens of thousands of years of peaceful human life. In 2000 BC, a massive earthquake changed the path of the Sarasvati River, home of worshippers of Brahma. The people of the Sarasvati region migrated to Israel, with their identity only remembered in the myth of Abraham and Sarah. The long story is the emergence of humanity from Africa into India, peaceful evolution over tens of millennia in India, and the creation of Israel as a result of migration from India of a people formed within the bigger genetic history of human emergence from Africa. Human genes evolved in Africa and were incubated in India. India is the cradle for the emergence of the Semitic religions who take their descent from Abraham.

Tarnas encounters a fragmented understanding of our real evolutionary story in the history of Western philosophy. Plato was well aware of the rise of bronze and iron as destroyers of peace in the warrior culture of Greece. Plato imagined an ideal picture of how human life could be governed in peace and stability, setting ideas of justice, equality, love, beauty and good as goals, and accepting the myth of human decline from a previous ideal world.

For Tarnas a big part of the lost picture can be pieced together by looking at how the ancients saw astronomy. Plato has a cyclic vision of time, with the Timaeus saying that wisdom is the recognition of identity and difference in the process of change. The symbol of identity is the Milky Way Galaxy, existing unchanged for ever the same on human timescales. Plato’s symbol for difference is the solar system, with the movement of the planets causing time and change. Plato's model of the relation between the solar system and the galaxy is why we call the Great Year of precession of the equinox the Platonic Year, as the unit of the earth’s natural spin wobble period. Study of the Platonic Year provides a framework to interpret identity, difference, change, time and eternity. The Great Year is the temporal horizon for the old theories of the golden, silver, bronze and iron ages, and the seven days of creation in the Bible, as aligning to the natural 25,765 year cycle of precession.



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
After delving into Eastern thought and allowing it to consume my life entirely for the better part of a year I found myself relatively unsatisfied. I decided I'm a Westerner, I'm going back to the start of it all. I started reading all the early Greek stuff and found myself happily enjoying basic thought again. I've been eyeing this book for a while, based on those experiences but as a single mother of three with very little time to devote to reading I have no choice but to be discerning in my choice of materials. After reading the posts here I'm more intrigued than ever; which is funny, considering the apparent distaste above.

I'm certain that I've stumbled upon a diamond in the rough of interweb communities.



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Post Re: I. The Greek World View
WhimsicalWonder wrote:
After delving into Eastern thought and allowing it to consume my life entirely for the better part of a year I found myself relatively unsatisfied. I decided I'm a Westerner, I'm going back to the start of it all. I started reading all the early Greek stuff and found myself happily enjoying basic thought again. I've been eyeing this book for a while, based on those experiences but as a single mother of three with very little time to devote to reading I have no choice but to be discerning in my choice of materials. After reading the posts here I'm more intrigued than ever; which is funny, considering the apparent distaste above.

I'm certain that I've stumbled upon a diamond in the rough of interweb communities.
Hi Whimsical Wonder, welcome to Booktalk. I hope you are able to read The Passion of the Western Mind and share with us your views on it as you go.

I loved your description of Booktalk as "a diamond in the rough of interweb communities".



Mon Jun 21, 2010 1:03 pm
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