Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" III.XI

Part III: Regeneration

XI. Nostra Philosophia: The Discovery of Personality

In Augustine we see the Gospel as applied to the late 4th century. And we see that it 1) provides an exit from the failures of Classicism; 2) provides an alternative which claims to explain both experience and existence, as well as providing the sought-after goal of life (399-400); it even goes beyond this to worlds reason alone could never truly imagine. (400) Which is not to say that it is irrational or mere instinct, but rather that faith leads to reason and provides grounds for reason outside of itself. (400-401) This reconciles Classical distinctions between a) subject and object; and b) sense and thought (401); while at the same time making reason certain. This, however, requires authority, which in turn demands faith. (401-402)

And thus we have the fundamental difference between Classicism and Christianity (402): that of reason alone vs. faith "as a condition of understanding. "Before we can follow a pure reason, we must have a a solid psychology consisting of 1) existence; 2) knowledge; and 3) will (403)--a psychology which springs from being itself. (404-405) This 'self' is a "substantial and transcendent"--albeit limited--unity. (406) These limitations show our dependence on an external Transcendent source. (406-407) Which is not to say that we have an anthropomorphic God (408), but rather that we have a God who defies categorization. (409) The only category provided--the Trinity--is itself a mystery, however rational a mystery it may be. But the Trinity itself becomes a foundation for our personality (410-411), which is a sharp breach from Classicism, and resolves the nature/man divide. This is reinforced when the Trinity is compared to the "One" of Plotinus. (411) The former reveals to Augustine, the latter blinds Plotinus. So we see that Christian faith reveals and explains, while pagan faith blinds and destroys. (412) Only Christian faith meets the demands of head and heart, intellectual and layman. (412-413) Even Plato had failed to get an answer that satisfied both body and soul. (413-414)

And so Augustine does what Tertullian did not, and provides a Christian counter to pagan philosophy. (415) He appeals to inner knowledge and faith. Not, however, to the personal knowledge of faith (415-416), but rather to that of the church.

Augustine proposes Scripture and Christ as the source of authority and knowledge. (416) Christ becomes the new foundation for physics, logic, and ethics--especially in His role as Mediator. (417) This stood against the ideology of pagan science (418-419), especially that embodied by Homer's cosmology. (419-420) But even in the Odyssey, that worldview had begun to collapse. (420-421) What the poets had failed to do, i.e. discover "a principle of understanding," (421) philosophy likewise failed to do through reason. (421-422) The attempt to find a first principle (arche) led to the need for a second principle to explain the relationship with created things, which led to the need for a third principle--that of movement. Thus one problem became three, and philosophy stumbled. (422-423) This, in turn, let to positivism, skepticism, and cynicism (423-424), as well as the rise of the mystery cults.

Into this confusion came Plato, who observed that a) all former conclusions were "mere opinion" and b) order and relation must be the proper realm of philosophy--which is where Christians disagree. (424) Plato took idealism too far, as the materialists had done with materialism. (425) The extremes of Plato were reached by Julian and Porphyry. (426)

[Neoplatonism discussed:
426-428: Cosmology;
428-429: logic;
429-430: ethics.
As the first two failed, ethics became increasingly mystical and weird.]

For Augustine, the failure of Platonism was "catastrophic" (430), and reflected the problems inherent in the system (430-431), specifically that of the subject/object relationship. From this there was no escape--neither by rising to transcendence nor by dropping into positivism. (431) Nor was skepticism a valid escape; nor the dogmatism of the mystery cults. (431-432) Instead, Christianity both called for a revaluing of the Classical world and a new view of the human psyche--a new epistemology. (432)

For Augustine, the mind is an organic whole, consisting of an interior and exterior life that is "between awareness of objects and the awareness of being aware" (433), and, unlike Plato, there's no discernment between the two. Instead, there's awareness of tri-part sense-perception involving 1) body; 2) the vision of the self; and 3) the unity of the two in passion. (433-434) The role of science is then to provide a practical guide, but only one subservient to the mind. (434)

Classical science had failed. (435) Christian wisdom, while using Platonic vocabulary, had broken out of Classical limitations and opened a way to understand the world (435-436) by giving access to the moving principles of the world (436), which in turn meant that the world could be understood (436), and understood even in turns of bodily existence. (436-437) Though the body is not the ultimate existence (437), since part (most) of bodily experience is the flux of creation. (437-438) But in this flux, we have space (438) and time (438-439), thus making creation flux and not "principium." (439)

We exist in relationship to creation. (439-440) The "law", then, reveals the limitations of man's nature and the coming of death (440), as well as spotting an order in nature, by which things act according to their inner beings. (441) This means that no "demiurge" is necessary (442), since God can work through will and motion within beings.

And so as nature moves in orderly ways, we see evidence for God's sovereignty, albeit a sovereignty of "imperium" (442-443), and thus the Classical opposition between man and nature breaks down (443), as does the Classical idea of heroism over nature. Nature is now seen as a whole, organic being. (443-444) At the height of nature was ensouled man, or the embodied soul. (443-444)

From the doctrine of the individual soul, we rise to love. (444-445) Love defines mankind. (445-446) Man is determined by his affections. (446) The rational soul may consent or withhold consent from "representations", but it does so through 1) suggestion; 2) desire; 3) reason. (446) The will, in turn, is the "uncoerced motion of the mind." (446) Human existence is ultimately summed up in the will (447), which in turn is determined by the affections. (447-448) This in turn gives us a new view of sin--as "bad love." (448)

Intellectually, "bad love" becomes self-deceit and self-justification. (448-449) Sin is a corruption of the soul, not of the body (as the Platonists would have it) (449), as well as the bondage of the will. Deliverance from sin and bondage begins with "an accurate diagnosis of the situation" (249-250)--that of a rotten heart. (450)

The answer to this problem is found in the Trinity (450), beginning with acknowledging the world as it actually is, neither fully idealized nor fully material. Then comes regenerate affections, brought about by Divine grace. (450-451)

These doctrines of sin and grace made the clearest break with Classicism. (451) Pelagius was just an attempt to restore Aristotle (451-452), bushing Classical idealism and dividing man's nature. (452) Augustine claims that virtue is love and comes by the work of the Spirit. (453) This is how natural law works, and reconciles grace and free will. (454)

Ultimately, "justification by faith" becomes the ground for understanding the world, and the basis for the "integration of personality" (454-455), as well as for freedom and peace.

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