Monday, February 22, 2010

The Chilling Effect

Jason Rosenhouse – an author and contributor to scienceblogs - has blogged a review of ‘Galileo Goes to Jail and other myths about Science and Religion’. This book was conceived by the historian Ron Numbers because he and his colleagues were sick and tired of encountering the same myths being trotted out in the modern day American ‘culture wars’. Numbers himself has attracted some controversy for being on civil terms with a number of creationists and (whilst not agreeing with it) appearing sympathetic to their position; though this is perhaps understandable given he is the author of the definitive history of the anti-evolution movement.

Rosenhouse’s reaction to the book demonstrates the difficulties of refuting the set of comfortable myths that people on both side of the science-religion debate tend to subscribe to. Although you might succeed in denting them, you will commonly find that a smaller, yet no less weaker myth is erected next to them and asserted with just as much force. Our view of late antiquity –through the lens of Edward Gibbon – used to be that of a book-burning free for all with fanatical Christians running around destroying the fruits of the Greco-Roman world and replacing the rational thought of Hellenistic culture with obscure discussions about how three people could fit plausibility into one person and what angels get up to at weekends. This is such an appealing image that it’s a hard one to let go of. Eventually the view Rosenhouse goes for (which is similar to Richard Carrier’s) is that the early Christians did not kill science, they merely lost interest in it (although I don’t know what a figure like John Philoponus or Boethius would have made of that). This is in many ways as powerful a myth as the previous one. A concerted effort by Christians to kill all science for a thousand years is, well, kind of cool. Simply losing interest is just lame.

The truth I think is something like this. There was undeniably a decline in scientific knowledge in the Western Roman Empire as it declined and collapsed but the roots of this can be traced to the pagan Romans. After 200 BC there was a fruitful cultural contact between Greeks and the bilingual Roman upper classes. This introduced a version of the classical tradition into the Roman Empire but it was a thin popularised version which was translated into Latin. Bilingualism and the conditions which favoured scholarship then declined rapidly after AD180 as the empire entered the 3rd century crisis. Roman citizens who were gradually becoming Christian were therefore limited to pieces of the classical tradition which had been explained and summarised by Latin authors. Meanwhile the richer, more complete version of the classical tradition fell into the hands of the Muslims as they rapidly expanded across Asia and the Mediterranean. It was then translated into Arabic, further developed and moved across north Africa to Spain. As soon as Western Europe had recovered sufficiently it’s intellectuals travelled to Spain to translate the materials and bring them into medieval culture.

One thing certain commentators point to is an 'anti-intellectual' streak which was exhibited by some of the church fathers, and here the most commonly quoted example is Tertullian, who famously said 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?'. Ultimately this counter-cultural point of view lost out to those like Justin Martyr who sought common ground between classical philosophy and Christianity, and (more importantly) Augustine of Hippo who, while being ambivalent toward Greek learning applied it vigorously to scripture in his writings and came up with the vastly influential 'handmaiden formula' whereby natural philosophy could be put to use in the interpretation of the bible. Of course we now all think that – in principle - science should be studied for it's own sake, but this would have been alien to the classical world in which it was always subordinated to ethics and the wider philosophical enterprise. It’s also far from being a safe principle today and, in practice, over the course of the twentieth century science has been used as the handmaiden of pretty much any loony ideology you’d care to mention.

What explains the 'anti-intellectual' stream of Christian thought? It appears to have been a principled stand rather than simple 'know-nothing-ism' as you can see from consulting the great teachers of antiquity. You would find, for example, in Plato's republic that the guardians of the state should be produced by selective breeding. That wives and offspring must be assigned to a common pool for the general good and humanity is divided into men of gold, men of silver, men of brass and men of iron. The populace, regarded as a kind of mob, must be ruled as if they were a bunch of rowdy children. If births don't result in desired 'types', infants will have to be put to death. If you look at Aristotle (of whom the early Christians had rather less knowledge) you'll find that he is very much taken by the natural world but his thought contains no trace of the loving and providential God of Christian faith. He also displays the elitist attitude held by upper class Greeks of his day. As Bertrand Russell said:

the distinction between moral and other merits has become much sharper now than it was in Greek times. It is a merit in a man to be a great poet or composer but not a moral merit; we do not consider him more virtuous for possessing such attitudes or more likely to go to heaven. .......When we come to compare Artistole’s ethical tastes with our own, we find in the first place an acceptance of inequality which is repugnant to much modern sentiment. Not only is there no objection to slavery or to the superiority of husbands and fathers over wives and children, but its is held that what is best is essentially only for the few—proud men and philosophers. Most men are mainly means for the production of a few rulers and sages…There is in Aristotle an almost complete absence of what might be called benevolence or philanthropy. The sufferings of mankind, in so far as he is aware of them, do not move him emotionally; he holds them intellectually, to be an evil, but there is no evidence they cause him unhappiness except when the sufferers happen to be his friends’.

To make matters worse, those who were most conversant with Hellenistic thought were the very effete, aristocratic Romans who could afford to school their children with philosophy and rhetoric. This would not have been the world of the early Christian, rather it was the world which had been intermittently persecuting them, the culture of the oppressor. So I think that partly explains why the city of God and the city of man were held to be separate in early Christian writings and why there is this suspicion of philosophy as the right guide.

The reason why it did not persist is that, once a religion gains greater prominence it has to be promulgated by teaching. This requires a firm background in the history of thought; for example, the partial rejection of Aristotelian requires that you be an Aristotelian. You can’t mount a credible attack on a system of thought without being schooled in that system of thought yourself. Even Tertullian was trained in dialectic and used it in his own work.

Rosenhouse was also displeased with Michael H Shank’s essay tackling the myth that the Medieval Church suppressed the growth of science. Shank’s conclusion, if I recall correctly was that, if the church has been trying to repress science they had done an amazingly bad job of it. Rosenhouse will have none of this and brings up the 1277 condemnations as an example of the Church’s meddling.

‘Shank, it would seem, is unfamiliar with the notion of a “chilling effect.” To argue that the only people affected by a given condemnation were those specifically under the authority of some local prelate simply ignores the indirect effects such things have. Some eager young scholar, noting that church authorities are routinely in the habit of condemning certain modes of thought and argument, quickly learns not to step out of line.”

He must be unfamiliar with the conclusions of Edward Grant that in stressing ‘the contingency of God’s operations and his omnipotence to do as he pleased, short of a logical contradiction’, the condemnations favourably influenced scientific development by stimulating philosophers to contemplate possibilities such as a plurality of worlds of the existence of a vacuum. (Edward Grant ‘The effect of the condemnation of 1277 in ‘The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy’ 537-539); or James Edward McClellan’s view that ‘An extraordinary flourish of what might be termed ‘hothouse science resulted, theologically inoffensive work wherein scholastic philosophers entertained all variety of scientific possibilities, but only hypothetically, on the basis of suppositions’ or thought experiments, or as products of their ingenious imaginations’(Science and Technology in World History (p187-88); or David C Lindberg’s view of the condemnations as a 'conservative backlash' but one which nonetheless 'encouraged scholars to explore non Aristotelian physical and cosmological alternatives'. I think he probably is familiar with Pierre Duhem's (over enthusiastic) view that "if we must assign a date for the birth of modern science, we would, without doubt, choose the year 1277 when the bishop of Paris solemnly proclaimed that several worlds could exist, and that the whole of heavens could, without contradiction, be moved with a rectilinear motion" since it was actually cited in Shank's essay, but perhaps he skim-read it. If that’s what a ‘chilling effect’ does then we could do with a few more of those.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum

42 comments:

Pavel Gregoric said...

Thanks for another interesting post. It motivates me to have a look at the book.
A few small comments.

You write: "Bilingualism and the conditions which favoured scholarship then declined rapidly after AD180 as the empire entered the 3rd century crisis."

I'm not sure about this dating. Around 180AD Marcus Aurelius instituted four chairs of philosophy in Athens, one for each od the dominant schools (Stoic, Epicurean, Platonic and Peripatetic), which flourished well into the 3rd century AD. Alexander of Aphrodisias probably held the chair of Peripatetic philosophy in the middle of the 3rd century AD. There are some uncertainties about the date of Galen's death, but it must be later than 199AD. And I suppose he must have had students.

You don’t mention one major event that shaped our view of late antiquity as “a book-burning free for all with fanatical Christians running around destroying the fruits of the Greco-Roman world,” and that is Justinian’s closing of the Platonic Academy in 529AD, sending people like Damascius and Simplicius into exile.

Anonymous said...

>There was a decay in scientific knowledge at the end of the Roman Empire

Because after the Vandals stopped the bread and garum from reaching Rome, most of the population died. Then the plagues hit, and the barbarian invasions kicked in for reals, and it's not like the Empire's juntas weren't destroying cities already . . .

I probably know less Roman history than you, but I know they had problems beyond pure theory.

Bruce

Humphrey said...

Hi again Pavel. Keeping me on my toes as ever.

It's always difficult to put a date on these things but my understanding is that science and natural philosophy had run out of steam in late antiquity. When it did so continues to be debated. Some say the decline began from 200 BCE. Other historians maintain it did not decline until after 200AD. Whatever it was, the focus seems to have turned to preservation, compilations and commentaries (a state of affairs which continued in the Byzantine empire).

In the second century AD an educated citizen of the western half of the Roman empire would normally have been bilingual but from the third century AD there was a steady decline in linguistic competence among educated people in the west as the two halves of the empire went their separate ways.

On Justinian's closing of the academy I recommend James' essay:

http://www.bede.org.uk/justinian.htm

Humphrey said...

Hi Bruce

Yeah, the way I described it I made it sound like it was just a simple linguistic split which caused the decline; I took the great plagues, barbarian incursions and loss of elite culture for granted.

Of course the cities hadn't exactly fared well under the Emporers (e.g Caesar, Caracalla, Aurelian and Diocletian all trashed Alexandria)

Pavel Gregoric said...

Thanks for suggesting James's essay on Justinian and the Academy. It's long and seems to be well-researched. I hope to study it at some point in the future.

Now, regardless of whether, and to what extent, the story of Justinian's closing of the Academy is true, it is no doubt one of the central motifs that perpetuate the picture of Christians as enemies of learning. That is why I was surprised not to find it mentioned in your post dealing with "myths on both sides of the science-religion debate".

James said...

Hi Pavel,

Thanks for your comment. I recommend my article on Justinian too ;).

By the way, do you know the source of the anecdote about Marcus Aurelius and the philosophy professors? I mean the ancient source. A lazy google search only got me to the 1911 Britannica.

Best wishes

James

James said...

Well to answer my own question:

Lucian Eunarchus 3:8
Dio Cassius 71:31:3
Philostratus Spohists 2:2

Beards are apparently important but I've no managed to find these on line (apart from Dio).

Humphrey said...

Hi Pavel

Only so much I can fit in and the longer my posts are on this blog, the less people actually read them.

Justinian's closure of the academy does come up quite a bit but the more prevalent motifs are the destruction of the serapeum at Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia. Interestingly the revived Academy seems to have been a type of pagan monastery with figures like Proclus teaching that death is nothing but the union of the fire of the soul with the divine fire of the stars and spiritual extasy could link the initiate to union with the divine. Alongside Plato's dialogues you had sacred books, and a series of divine revelations called the Chaldean Oracles.

In terms of impact, a lot of the pagan language and intellectual structures were appropriated by Christians in the writings of the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Much of the philosophers at the Academy went to Persia but returned shortly afterwards. We know some of them, like Damascius continued to teach. Neoplatonism itself thrived in Alexandria for another century. The consequence for learning was that the school founded by Theodosius II became the more vital center.

laBiscuitnapper said...

Concerning the decline of interest in science amongst the Romans, I recall learning (I think from Terry Jones' 'Barbarians' series) that one factor might have been the acquisition of the Greek states as Roman colonies. Once that happened, or so his theory went, intellectual pursuit and the value of such declined, aided by the death and destruction of various Greek thinkers and schools/libaries (one bit of evidence he used was that the antikythera mechanism - an example of Greek ingenuity - was not only dated before the Roman conquest but the like of which was never replicated by the Romans who - apart from documenting said marvels - didn't seem interested in attempting to make/understand them themselves). I'm sure there was probably more than a little bit of hyperbole in his documentary, but as a theory about a possible contributing factor, it seemed plausible enough.

Humphrey said...

The Romans certainly engaged in Natural Philosophy, but the nature of their interest in knowledge was different. David C Lindberg writes that:

‘We need to remember that the Roman aristocracy regarded learning, except for clearly utilitarian matters, as a leisure time pursuit. Romans, then, did the obvious thing: they borrowed what seemed interesting or useful. If certain Greeks had devoted their lives to subjects that were abstract, technical, impersonal and (as no doubt some judged) boring, that was no reason for large number of Romans to make the same mistake. Members of the Roman upper class had about the same level of interest in the fine points of Greek natural philosophy as the average American politician has in metaphysics and epistemology. At best their desire was, as the Roman playwright Ennius put it, “to study philosophy, but in moderation”.

laBiscuitnapper said...

Thank you for clarifying!

menedemus said...

The fullest account of the end of 'the institutional deathblow' that marked 'the end of Athenian philosophy' (Watts) is Chapter Five in Edward Watts' City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria, 'The Closing of the Athenian Schools' , (pp. 111-143 so a very comprehensive study of the existing evidence). Watts notes that while legislation that allowed local officials to close down the schools was in Justinian's' name and thus,p. 136, 'the emperor bore ultimate responsibility for the actions taken under its terms', he sees the actual closing as 'the most serious of a series of opportunistic actions taken by Athenian and Achaean Christians against Athenian pagan intellectuals' ( p. 131). Particularly interesting is recent evidence from excavations in Athens of sixth century houses near the Areopagus that may have been part of the school. Pagan statues from the house had been concealed in a well outside the house while the pagan mosaic had been desecrated and a cross inserted. (PP. 140-141). Of course, the same was going on all over the empire. Watts, however, feels that it was Justinian's legislation immediately after 529 that was particularly devastating for pagan philosophy.

Pavel Gregoric said...

Hi Humphrey,
Of course you can't say it all or make your posts too long; I didn't mean to put you on the defensive.

I'd be interested to know what makes you say that the destruction of the Serapeum at Alexandria or the murder of Hypatia are more prevalent motifs than the closing of the Platonic Academy. I have to admit that these events wouldn't occur to me immediately. But now that you mention them, I do remember reading about them for the first time in my teens, reading Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

Humphrey said...

Hi Pavel

No worries. The closure of the Academy, the sack of the Serapeum and the murder of Hypatia are the big three if you want to construct a Gibbon-esque narrative of late-antiquity. The most prevalent are the second two, mainly because of the romanticising and mythologising of Hypatia undertaken by certain figures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the account of the Great Library given by the late great Carl Sagan and the recent hollywood movie Agora which was released last year (I think).

If you want to see a good argument about the Serapeum/Hypatia then you could do worse than look at Tim O' Neil's blog here (and read the comments)

http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/05/agora-and-hypatia-hollywood-strikes.html

menodemus said...

Hypatia, the Serapeum, etc, are gradually being eclipsed as a 'big three' by the immense amount of archeological evidence for destruction of pagan shrines and buildings - as just mentioned in my earlier blog for Athens. See Sauer's book The Archaeology of Religious Hatred. It is the accumulation of new evidence that is consolidating the case for Christian aggression that was already known about in the texts. Many of these are enthusiastic about the destruction, of course, because they or their hagiographers believed it ensured them a place in heaven.

Humphrey said...

Yes, it's pretty clear that Late Antiquity is one of the (sadly many) 'go to areas' if you want to see lots of squalid, tit for tat religious violence. But as I recall we still come back to the same issue discussed here:

http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/07/reply-from-charles-freeman-of-sorts.html

If I can quote theswain:

"It is well known that fourth century Christianity when once in power treated pagan temples and property as Christian churches and property had been treated previously...and often destructively on both sides. But to reiterate Tim, the presence of pagan temples and pagan destruction of Christians, Christian churches, and taking Christian property isn't evidence of tolerance or rationalism anymore than the Christian reaction is evidence of intolerance and irrationalism."

Pavel Gregoric said...

Thanks for the link to Tim O'Neil's blog. Will read it all sooner or later.
I haven't heard of the film "Agora", though, but I'm pleased to learn that Carl Sagan was such a widespread source of inspiration!

James said...

I'd note that the two great iconclasms of modern times were the Reformation destruction of superstituous idols and the French revolutionary attempt to stamp out Catholicism.

Now, traditional history certainly suggests that the Protestant iconoclasm had absolutely no impact on science at all (although in my book, I did point fingers at the related loss of medieval theology and philosophy). As for the French revolution, we've always been told it was pro-reason.

Christian iconoclasm in late antiquity was clearly against what was supposed to be pagan idolatory and superstition. If you want to show that this led to the closing of the western mind or whatever, you need to make some giant leaps as Tim showed so well in his reply to Charles. At base, you have to assume that there is something about pagans that makes them better at rational stuff than Christians. But this is a point you need to prove and so far Freeman and others have utterly failed to do so.

James said...

By the way, it's Menedemus if you mean the member of Plato's Academy.

menEdemus said...

Thanks, for pointing out the typo - I got it right the first time.
I thought this blog was about Christian destruction of shrines - from what i can remember Freeman is more interested in texts - so I am not sure why he is being brought in here, though obviously if you are burning down buildings, you are unlikely to be tolerant of ideas either.
There are new books such as Simon Goldhill's The End of Dialogue in Late Antiquity that are closer to Freeman's position so it not 'a closed book' subject as seems to be believed here..

Humphrey said...

I dunno. The Protestants destroyed loads of buildings but they were pretty tolerant of ideas (provided they didn't smack of 'popery' of course)

Menedemus said...

Tolerance is not something I would normally associate with Protestantism in the sixteenth and seventeenth century - even in the eighteenth many Protestant churches were pretty grudging about alternative views.

Tim O'Neill said...

Freeman's flawed thesis is being invoked here because whenever it's pointedout that there was NOT a wholesale rejection of pagan learning and that, in fact, the Christians who championed it's preservation WON the debate on the matter, Freeman and his defenders respond with evidence of ... the destruction of shrines. To which anyone with a clue responds "And this is relevant how exactly?"

As others have already noted, Freeman andothers who peddle a quaintly over-romanticized image of the ancient world conflate "pagan" with "rational". To anyone with any real grasp of exactly how bizarrely superstitious and wholly irrational the ancient pagan world was, this misty- eyed fantasy is simply silly.

We have a distorted view of the ancient world partly because of Christian scholars valuing pagan rationalism so highly. This means they preserved Aristotle's logical works and Galen's medicine, but didn't preserve the vastly more common and numerous works on which magical hat the Flamen Dialis was to wear or how many times the acolyte should shake his holy rattle after the third chant.

menedemus said...

It still amazes me that Freeman still seems to raise so many hackles over a book that came out years ago. Is it really still that influential? And who are these supporters other than people who have presumably read the book and agreed with the thesis. I am mystified by the way he keeps coming into blogs and discussions.

Humphrey said...

"Tolerance is not something I would normally associate with Protestantism in the sixteenth and seventeenth century - even in the eighteenth many Protestant churches were pretty grudging about alternative views."

Yes but, in fairness to my kooky Protestant Predecessors this was also one of the greatest eras for scientific and political thought in this countries history. Quod erat demonstrandum.

James said...

I think you are being too modest, Menedemus. Closing of the Western Mind is about late-antique intellectual history and yet has still sold around 50,000 copies. That alone makes it highly influential in the field. It is also very well written which makes it seem even more convincing to general readers. Added to that, it is probably the only book on the subject that many of its readers have read. So when the subject comes up, very often the book does to.

If you are interested and well informed about the topic, you are bound to be concerned that the most popular and cited book in the field is completely wrong. And you are bound to mention this point from time to time.

The fact that the book's author still turns up on line to defend it (and very commendably so), only adds to the mix.

Humphrey said...

And, lest we forget, Mr Freeman has published his latest work 'A New History of Early Christianity'.

http://www.amazon.com/New-History-Early-Christianity/dp/030012581X

Available from all good bookstores.

Anonymous said...

And there is also his AD 381 reviewed well on Amazon.com where he follows up some of the themes in Closing of the Western Mind.

menedemus said...

My only reason for contributing to this discussion was to highlight the considerable amount of new archaeological evidence for the destruction of shrines by Christians that places the Hypatia and the Serapeum episodes in a wider context. The Freeman connection was brought in from somewhere else. it is a dated book now and as i remember from my last reading of it some years ago had a lot on texts and legislation plus a vast amount of extra material in footnotes. Its theses was much too varied and operated on a number of levels so a rejection of the book as 'wholly wrong' seems very simplistic.
As most scholars have long since moved on and new evidence, e.g on the destruction of pagan shrines is coming in, the subject deserves to be rewritten, perhaps even in a second edition by Freeman (and why not seeing that no book has yet appeared that challenges his theses). There is also more interest in the way that ancient traditions of dialogue were closed down by Christians (a study of Augustine has shown how he started writing conventionally in dialogues and then dropped the genre to write authoritarian sermons ) so there would be a lot more to add in.
I hardly see it as my role to criticise a book written in 2002, especially as I was not the one to bring it up here. I see too from Armarium Magnum that Freeman also refuses to go back there. In addition to the new books cited above, I note, from Amazon.com., that he also has The Blue Guide to 50 Sites of Antiquity just out that seems to be based on his 'on ground' experience of Mediterranean sites and there is also his Horses of St. Mark's' due out in June. Someone must tell this man to slow down.

Humphrey said...

I'm not an expert in Classical Literature (my wife is but I fear she is busy at the moment) but when we are talking about 'dialogues' aren't we talking about a literary device, not a written record of a debate or conversation. It's merely another effective way of making an argument. Often (and here i'm thinking of Galileo's simplicio ) the other characters in the conversation merely serve as foils for the main protagonist in the conversation (the author's alias). Amongst Christian writers, the dialogue is used (by Justin, Origen and Augustine) but it fell out of favour as a way of making an argument. It does still appear though. I mean Boethius's 'The Consolation of Philosophy' is cast in the form of an entire dialogue with philosophy who discourses with him through a whole range of subjects.

Bjørn Are said...

May the reason why noe one has written a book on Freeman's Closing, be that scholars don't quite know how to approach a book so out of tune with the debate?

They are paid to read and respond to sources and serious studies (like Watts) not to popular science that gets it wrong.

The only reason CF is mentioned here, is that his book has misled so many to take up the old Warfare and Dark Ages Thesis.

Does anyone know if any scholar on Late Antiquity has bothered to even mention it?

menedemus said...

As I said earlier, I think Freeman's influence is overstated as Bjorn suggests. Where is the evidence of all these people who have taken to Warfare and Dark Ages as result of reading his book - so far as I remember it, he was quite sympathetic to the church after the fall of the empire. It is certainly not a polemical book except in the minds of those who have rigid agendas of their own. And if he was so influential why have the credulous masses not rushed to buy the succinct summary of his case in AD 381? -perhaps because an issue which resonated in 2002 is not on any one's agenda in 2010?

Bjørn Are said...

I don't know, perhaps the title of the first book hit the warfare nerve in parts of the reading masses while his later books sounds more boring.

If CF praised the church in any way he was rather good at hiding it.

I have done no survey on his influence, however in my country the title pops up in web fora and one of the most influential science writers has written articles and at least one book leaning on Freeman's thesis.

It led to an atheist professor in the history of Philosophy having to put him right in public.

menedemus said...

Thanks Bjorn. I had no idea all of this was going on.I am only suspicious of comments like 'his thesis is wholly wrong',etc. Freeman provided an enormous amount of material in support of his theses ( I repeat that because Closing is anything but one-dimensional) including texts, imperial laws, etc, etc. that are then elaborated in his footnotes. As no one would deny that in many ways the church that emerged in the Middle Ages was authoritarian, you have got to find the roots of that somewhere and Freeman provides material that cannot be completely disregarded. That is why, I suspect, so many apparently intelligent readers have supported his theses- it is because they resonate with features of Christianity (creationism, papal authority, etc) that are still powerful today.
Anyway, as I am taking a welcome break away from my computer, I shall leave the worrying about Freeman to others.

Ilíon said...

"One thing one can point to is an anti-intellectual streak which was exhibited by some of the church fathers, and here one thinks of people like Tertullian who famously said 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?'. Ultimately this counter-cultural point of view lost out to those like Justin Martyr who sought common ground between classical philosophy and Christianity, and ..."

Yet, is that common perception of Tertullian as an anti-rationalist or anti-intellectualist *really* the truth of the matter?

CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM?

Humphrey said...

Short answer, no. I mentioned he was trained in dialectic. He was also highly skilled at rhetoric and the use of hyperbole; although ironically a lot of people now interpret his writings literally.

Ilíon said...

That was my point, that a wooden literalism won't do.

Yet, was I not quoting what you'd written? So, given Tertullian's non-literalism, how is it that "one can point to is an anti-intellectual streak which was exhibited by some of the church fathers" such as Tertullian?

Humphrey said...

Ah, my point was that you can (and people often do) point to what seems - on the surface - to be an 'anti-intellectual' stance when what it really seems to be is a principled counter cultural stance.

Ilíon said...

"Ah, my point was that you can (and people often do) point to what seems - on the surface - to be an 'anti-intellectual' stance when what it really seems to be is a principled counter cultural stance."

Except that you didn't make that point in your article!

With respect to Tertullian, you don't point out that the commonly accepted "surface impression" isn't actually true. Instead, you at least imply that it is correct. OF Tertullian, you say, "Ultimately this counter-cultural point of view lost out to those like Justin Martyr who sought common ground between classical philosophy and Christianity, ..."

Then, you begin your next paragraph with, "What explains the anti-intellectual stream of Christian thought?" as though there is actually such a stream in Christianity.

Humphrey said...

Well; it's pretty badly written then. For a start anti-intellectual should be 'anti intellectual' inverted commas.

Ilíon said...

We've all been reared and "educated" in the anti-Christianity modernist (and post-modernist) milieu which is the logical culmination of the so-called Enlightenment. It’s easy to reflect the false knowledge of that milieu without even realizing one is doing so.

Suburbanbanshee said...
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