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The background of these remarks is logic of language -- that is, what is the standard by which language-with-meaning is distinguished from language-without-meaning in philosophy? -- and Socratic philosophy in Plato's Apology and Xenophon: what are the limits to man's knowing philosophically?

According to Paul the Apostle, Wittgenstein says, God's wisdom is not reasonable in the eyes of man (1 Corinthians 1.23, 25; Isaiah 55.8-9). But Prometheus (human wisdom) was crucified, as was the serpent in the garden (human knowledge of good and evil), both for being contrary to what Paul calls God's wisdom.

The remarks on this page pass in and out section by section from clarity to confusion to a bit of clarity again, many being even more doubtful than my usual thinking in philosophy. The word 'havers' is a Scottish word meaning 'foolishness', as in "havers and clavers and nonsense".

Philosophic Havers

According to the Apostle Paul, Wittgenstein says, God's wisdom is not reasonable.

Query: what is wisdom according to the Greeks?

Greek wisdom is rational: it is wisdom by the natural light of reason alone. But, according to the Apostle Paul, or to one way of understanding his words, what appears foolishness to the Greek philosophical mind is in [metaphysical] reality God's wisdom.

Outline of this page ...


Socratic madness

God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1.25)

Philosophy, or man's wisdom, is no more than questions and ways of looking at things (What one sees from those points of reference are the only "answers" to philosophy's questions), about which one sometimes has worthwhile thoughts, and other times only philosophically stupid ones.

Query: no man is wiser than Socrates -- what does it mean?
Query: criticisms of Socrates' wisdom of knowing nothing.

That is what Socrates asked (Plato, Apology 21b), and we must ask, for is it true that the wisest of men has no wisdom beyond knowing that he is not wise (ibid. 23b)?

In Xenophon's Memories of him, on the other hand, Socrates does appear in some respects wise; e.g. he appears to know that the good for a thing is the specific excellence that is proper to it, that the cross-questioning of natural reason ("If someone knows something, he can explain what he knows to others") is the way to discover what that excellence is, the way to know thyself, and that moral virtue is knowledge if their perceived good is what all rational things aim for.

No, but on the other hand, Xenophon's Socrates is wise, the wisest of men -- because he knows best how man should live his life and he himself lives that way, always self-controlled, always seeking the good (Xenophon, Apology 14-17), and so the words of Apollo's oracle in Diogenes Laertius ii, 37, that "Of all men living Socrates most wise", would be straightforwardly true (There were, of course, on this reading, wise men before Socrates, which would be the meaning of "of all men living").

[Although of course if we are going to say that a wise man would know the answers to the eternal questions, then we are not going to say that Socrates or any other man is wise.]

So Xenophon's understanding of the oracle is just the opposite of Plato's, for Plato says that Socrates is without wisdom whereas Xenophon presents Socrates as being the wisest of men both because Socrates knows what the good is for man ("virtue is knowledge") and because he has watchful self-control over his own impulses towards wrong-doing: in so far as being pious, brave, just, and self-controlled is wisdom, then Socrates was by all accounts the wisest of men.

Cartesian geometry metaphor

But does Socrates think that he knows those things or that they are only his opinions. -- And what are we calling 'opinions'; what do we mean by that word; what do we contrast it with, its antithesis, 'facts'? To make a metaphor of Cartesian geometry, Is an origin a opinion, and its relative points of reference facts?

Does Socrates' set the bar for wisdom too high? Speculation is speculation: it is not wisdom. Can -- i.e. is it logically possible for man to solve the eternal riddles of existence? or are there no such riddles? "If a riddle can be put into words, it can also be solved," Wittgenstein first thought (TLP 6.5), but then maybe not (CV p. 27, from 1937).

By contrast, for Schweitzer there was never any doubt: we cannot explain life, and for Plato there was only conjecture about the reality behind the shadows (Republic 515c).

Where else is the bar to be set except where Socrates' set it? Because if we say we know but cannot explain to others what we know, then what distinction is there between knowing and ignorance? indeed between language sense and nonsense? Without the cross-questioning of propositions, is there philosophy at all?

Conceptual Revisions ('ignorance', 'reason', 'concept')

Query: what is ignorance according to philosophers?

Does Socrates redefine the word 'ignorance', assigning the word a meaning different from its normal one? Or does he use the word 'ignorance' as we normally do, with all its specificity and unspecificity? He does not redefine that word in the eccentric way Wittgenstein defined the word 'nonsense' in the TLP.

But Socrates does revise our concept 'ignorance' (as Wittgenstein revised our concept 'grammar') by setting a standard for knowing in philosophy (Xenophon, Memories of Socrates iv, 6, 1) and therefore for not-knowing as well, namely that if someone does not know something, he cannot explain what he knows to others by defending it in dialectic (cross-questioning).

Is that the query's "philosophical definition" of 'ignorance'? But, Wittgenstein asks, can everything one knows be put into words (e.g. how a clarinet sounds [PI § 78], how an orange smells)? But Wittgenstein's question is logic of language only; it does not set, nor seek to set, a standard to make philosophy possible.

In the case of the word 'wisdom' especially, philosophy seems to need a philosophical definition: what is wisdom in philosophy? Because in describing how we normally use the word 'wisdom', is there any distinction to be made between 'vague' and 'undefined' ('language that is vague in meaning' and 'language that is undefined in meaning')? All language is more or less vague, more or less clear, i.e. the concept 'vague' is a relational (a more-or-less) concept. The word 'wisdom' is towards the "more and less" end of the vague-to-clear scale.

Query: how did philosophers define reason?

Things like the principle of contradiction [in sense] seem like Wittgenstein's distinction between sense and nonsense: we have to begin with them: they are what we call reason [what we count as logic], i.e. give the name 'reason' to: if they are taken away from us, then there is no distinction between rational and irrational. But not as if we were talking about things in themselves, as if to say "This is what rationality really is"; but rather this is how our broadest community of ideas lives its life ("reasonable man"), if our community is Socratic.

Is there an essence of reason? Or can the word 'reason' only be defined -- i.e. have its meaning explained -- by pointing to examples of reasoning: "To reason is to do this and this", which is the usual, not the exceptional, case with common names? There are rules for sound and unsound reasoning, methods (universal or particular and somewhat arbitrary as the rules of a game are), but there does not seem to be a general definition of the word.

The philosophers who stated the three "laws of thought" [identity, excluded middle, contradiction in form] were providing anthropological descriptions (This is how man thinks, if he thinks correctly), although they thought they were metaphysical descriptions (logic as a natural science, as it were).

On the other hand, try to describe a world where we can say thoroughgoingly about the people there: "They do not use reason" (LC i, p. 59)?

I spoke of alternative logics of language, but can we also speak of alternative reason? We would not use styles of painting.

There has to be a bedrock, something we designate as unmoving -- but not as if we chose this particular bedrock, this particular meaning of 'reason', this particular way of life. We would not use styles of painting as an object of comparison here, as if to say a master might choose any one. No man rationally chooses to be irrational (although man is part irrational animal, i.e. impulses "wanting discourse of reason" which push him to an irrational life)? Well, I don't know, because when we reach the the limits set by the eternal questions (the wonder of "the starry sky above and" -- to amend Kant -- "the thirst to know within"), what do we do?

Query: how have philosophers defined concept?

What is the meaning of the word 'concept' in philosophy -- i.e. how do we explain the use of that word (The distinction between a sign and the meaning = use-in-the-language of a sign)? I assigned this meaning: by 'concept' I mean 'rules for using a word' or, in other words, 'the grammar of a word'.

Is that one of our normal uses of the word? I couldn't say. As Wittgenstein wrote: "The word 'concept' is too vague by far" (RFM vii § 45, p. 412), although of course he meant: the rules for using that word are vague rather than clear (cf. the words 'theory' and 'opinion', words that also dull the understanding).

Can we describe how we normally use the word 'concept'? There is the method of definition through related words, e.g. the words 'idea', 'notion', and 'meaning' ['notional': an idea rather than a reality: Bonhoeffer's "God as a working-hypothesis"] -- if those words are not themselves "too vague by far".

I'd say that the case of 'concept' is different from the case of "what ignorance is according to philosophers" because my assigning a specific meaning to the word 'concept' is not conceptual revision -- it is not even a selected meaning of 'concept' -- because what are other selected meanings of that word? ("But if anyone has not yet got the concepts, I shall teach him to use the words by means of examples and by practice" (PI § 208); how would we teach someone to use the word 'concept'? "Now he has the concept -- now he knows the rules for using that word." Examples as rules [Is that how we normally use the word 'rule', however?])

Rather than like refining a tool in order to make it more useful, this would be more like trying to tie down a cloud, a lighter-than=air balloon, so nebulous is the concept 'concept'.

Knowledge and concepts

Query: who says that all knowledge is knowledge through concepts?

Both Plato and Kant say this, and if the particular Forms that are Kant's innate Categories as well as the concepts that make percepts not blind, then for Kant Plato's Forms are located "in the mind" rather than "in the empyrean" or "other side of the sky".

Query: all knowledge is knowledge through concepts. Plato.

If 'concepts' = 'Forms' ('archetypes', 'patterns'), then would Plato say this? If the Forms are what are unchanging and knowledge can only be of what is unchanging -- (This axiom comes to Plato from Heraclitus; like the pre-Socratics before him, Plato seeks to find the reality behind phenomena ("Is there a reality that does not change, despite the ever-changing appearances of things?"), the permanent underlying the flux), then it seems that Plato would say this.

Compare Kant: all knowledge is mediated through concepts innate to the human mind (such as the concepts 'time', 'space', 'object' and 'causality'). That is not Plato's meaning because the Forms are so to speak outside man, existing independently of him. As we normally use the word 'concept' -- and how is that? -- there is a difference between seeing a tree and seeing an oak tree ('tree' and 'oak tree' are related but distinct concepts), between seeing clouds and seeing cirrus clouds, between seeing cottony white shapes in the sky and, etc. "Percepts without concepts are blind" -- but has the negation of that proposition any meaning -- i.e. what would a counter-example even look like? Is Kant's proposition metaphysical or grammatical? Well, a description is a description -- i.e. if we use language to describe what we see (in contrast to, say, making a drawing), then we [have to] use words, and 'meaning of a word' = 'concept'.

Query: three wrong conceptions of philosophy.

(1) That philosophy is wisdom (that a philosopher is a wise man, a sage, someone who has answers to the eternal questions); (2) that philosophy is arbitrary, mere opinions, possibly plausible but not provable (it's true that proof is only possible within a frame of reference -- but this limit is not exclusive to philosophy -- it applies to all human thought; and (3) that there is, in Ramsey's words, "nothing to talk about", that man's eternal questions (Metaphysics) are not really questions at all but mere conceptual confusion, that all apparent philosophical questions are really questions for experts, for scientists, mathematicians, historians and so on, that Philosophy has become as obsolete as Bonhoeffer's "God as a working-hypothesis". (4) But there are many other misconceptions ("misconcepts" of philosophy), e.g. that there is no such thing as philosophical knowledge, for what is logic of language if not knowledge (Even Plato's tautological ethics is knowledge of the interconnections of our concepts); we call many different things knowledge.

Relationship of philosophy, logic and language

Query: language and meaning and definition in logic?
Query: what is the origin of logic and its usefulness in philosophy?
Query: language and logic.

The second query answers the first, because 'logic' is the title given to the question of how to reason, how to think, and to answer that question is to investigate language meaning, definition (i.e. explanations of meaning).

The conscious study of logic (logos) as logic of language begins with Socrates. And it is continued by the later Wittgenstein: logic as the study of meaning versus logic as the study of form -- although, note: that for Wittgenstein this was the result of an investigation not a presumption (PI § 107): Wittgenstein's examination of language, e.g. of contradictions in form that are not contradictions in sense, showed that meaning comes from language's use rather than from language's form (This was a discovery, not a preconception). Wittgenstein's gives the simple example of 'Milk me sugar' (PI § 498) -- that combination of words is syntactically correct English, but it has no use in our language; contrast 'Bring me sugar'.

Logic is very much the study of language-meaning in the context of philosophy. There is no sound reasoning where there is no distinction made between language with meaning and "mere sound without sense".

Is philosophical wisdom wisdom?

Query: the concept of philosophy

As if there were only one ... It seems not easy to say that Wittgenstein's "Philosophy is essentially language muddles" is an instance of the Stoic "Philosophy is the use of natural reason in metaphysics, logic and ethics", although investigating language muddles is logic (how to think, how to reason), and philosophy is a thirst for clarity, and isn't seeking a world-view (Albert Schweitzer's concept 'Philosophy') a way of clarifying one's thinking (metaphysics as organizing selected data of experience)?

When is a concept all-too general to be used as a tool for making distinctions, i.e. for including some things but excluding others when explaining its meaning? And yet for me there are compelling similarities in the case of the three conceptions of philosophy I contrasted (Wittgenstein, Schweitzer, and Socrates).

Query: did traditional philosophy begin with Sophists?

But metaphysics still exists (as e.g. the question of whether a single reality exists independent of relative points of reference). It did not disappear with the pre-Socratics; it was not replaced by the natural science of physics. And so the pre-Socratics should not be divorced from what comes after them. Thales' seeking to know by the natural light of reason alone is traditional philosophy; that method of seeking understanding is the only philosophy.

As to the Sophists, since 'sophist' = 'wise man', this should answer the query's question; philosophy begins (Plato, Apology 23b) when man becomes aware that he is not wise. [Contrast the historical Socrates with the Sophists: the fifth stated way is decisive, for "to make the worse appear the better" (Protagoras' promise) is not philosophy.]

Query: Greek proverbs as a starting point for philosophy.

So Plato seems to say in Protagoras 343b. The Delphic inscription "Know thyself" is certainly a starting point for philosophy.

Wisdom is modesty

Query: the wise man is humble because he knows that he doesn't know.

There are many things to know. But even the wisest of men does not know our life's meaning, which would be the most important thing to know, the thing most worth knowing because it would give the correct direction to our life. We wander around in this fundamental ignorance like madmen, blindly groping our way towards a light that is too far above our heads to be seen.

So-called learned ignorance is still ignorance; it is not wisdom.

We have reason working off irrational ("non-rational") axioms, axioms based on man's limited sense perception not from any knowledge of all things visible and invisible (metaphysics). And knowing that one doesn't know should humble one, replacing conceited arrogance with self-knowledge, and that being freed from presumption is the benefit of philosophy, even if it had no other. (Cf. Plato, Sophist 230b-d about modesty.)

Doubt about God's words

Query: why Socrates doubt about his God?

What Apollo says seems counter-factual (Plato, Apology 21b), and yet if gods do not tell lies, and they do not, then ...? This is Socrates' "doubt about his god". If Jesus' words "God is the father" are treated as an oracle, for they too seem doubtful: "You say that God is the father, but mankind suffers from many evils apparently at God's hands, earthquakes, droughts; and so how can it be that God is the father?" And that is our "doubt about his God", for it seems that Jesus is mistaken, as Apollo seems to Socrates to have been mistaken, and so what is the meaning of his words?

Query: "ignorance is an act of humility", meaning?

Rather: unacknowledged ignorance is an act of self-humiliation, self-caricature. Thinking you know what you don't know, not knowing yourself: buffoonery. If there is a "Socratic story about self-humiliation" it is Plato's Apology 21c-d, where a man who thinks himself wise becomes angry when Socrates proves to him that he is not, and despite being refuted goes on thinking himself wise when he is not.


Folly to the Greeks

Anyone who reads the Epistles will find it said: not only that it is not reasonable, but that it is folly.
Not only is it not reasonable, but it doesn't pretend to be. (LC i, p. 58)

"... but we preach a Christ crucified, which is a stumblingblock to the Jews and madness [foolishness] to the Greeks" (1 Corinthians 1.23). "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom" (ibid. 1.25).

What is "wisdom according to the Greeks" in Paul's context ("... which is folly to the Greeks") -- is it wisdom according to the philosophical mind? I'm doubtful, because 'Greeks' may simply mean the Hellenistic people who were not Jews (These were the people who, if they accepted Paul's teaching, would form the Christian community of people living outside Jewish Palestine, the community from which the Gospel according to Luke would arise).

And what would 'Christ' mean to those people but 'Savior', and then they might think as those who said at the foot of the cross: "He could not even help himself; how can he help me" (cf. Luke 23.35).

In the context of one understanding of who and what the Christ-Savior would be, that was the "reasonable" response and the Gospel story "foolishness", although in the Suffering Servant's own understanding of his crucifixion it was not. But the world-picture of John the baptizer and Jesus' is foreign to what is reasonable. A lord is not lesser than his servants, but the Lord is (ibid. 22.27).

Prometheus, also a savior crucified

On the other hand it seems that cannot be the right understanding of what the "folly to the Greeks" of Paul's preaching is, because wasn't Prometheus a god? who was crucified by Zeus, the father and king of gods and men? -- (Prometheus was the son of Iapetus and Clymene (an Oceanid nymph); Iapetus was the son of Ocean and Tethys (both Titans or elder gods), and so himself a god.) -- Prometheus, who was the savior of mankind, could not free himself (save himself) from the rock Zeus had him chained to (Heracles unchained him). And as with Jesus, Prometheus' crucifixion was self-accepted: he chose to save man despite Zeus' prohibition.

Thus what is the "folly to the Greeks"?

After his brother Epimetheus -- (although they were more like half-brothers, the "half" they share being "thought", but Prometheus is after-thinking, Epimetheus before-thinking) -- after Epimetheus' misguided part in the creation of mankind, Prometheus had saved mankind from destruction by stealing fire from Zeus (to let man "cook his meat" and so not starve, and to foster craftsmanship so that man would not live wretchedly). But that was a deed accomplished in the past, whereas the coming of the supernatural kingdom of God Jesus preached was either something in the future or something that had not come at all, for it may seem that it should have come after Jesus' death and resurrection, and "if he could not save even himself, then how can he save others?"

If that account is correct, then, the "folly to the Greeks" cannot be the crucifixion of Christ, for Prometheus had been crucified ... although it seems that "wise" Athenians of those days -- (Acts 17.21) -- may have regarded the stories of Prometheus and Epimetheus as myths, and Paul was not preaching a myth. And so I don't know the meaning of the apostle's words.

Rational explanations for mythical explanations

Cf. Plato, Phaedrus 229c: "Socrates, do you believe this tale?" -- "The wise are doubtful, and I would not be singular ["I would be quite in fashion" (tr. Hackforth)] if, like them, I too doubted ["if I disbelieved it" (tr. Hackforth)]. I might have a rational explanation ["scientific account" (tr. Hackforth)] ..." (tr. Jowett). ("If our skeptic, with his somewhat crude science, means to reduce every one of [the myths] to the standard of probability ..." (Phaedrus 229e-230a))

"A stumblingblock to the Jews"

How can the supernatural Messiah, who is to exalt the Jewish nation above all other nations, have come among men as Isaiah's suffering servant (Isaiah 53), preaching a Kingdom ruled by God's love -- not for a nation, but for every human being who does His will (loving God with one's whole heart and one's neighbor as oneself) -- rather than a Kingdom ruled as if by the power of the earthly kings of nations? That is the "stumblingblock" to the Jews.

There is an earlier, somewhat related discussion of this topic: "Nothing here makes sense (but the strange thing is: that everyone knows that it doesn't make sense)." What do we mean by 'make sense' -- do paradoxes, which are contradictions in form although not in meaning, make sense?


The philosophical mind of the Greeks

The Socratic paradox: that the wisest of men has no wisdom beyond knowing that he is not wise.

... that the wisest man is the one who like Socrates sees that he is without wisdom. (Plato, Apology 23b)

But why then do we philosophize? why do we seek to know by the natural light of reason, setting aside all supernatural myth? Only to discover our absence of wisdom, thus not thinking ourselves wise when we are not? Partly, and that part is no small part: modesty, self-knowledge. But Plato's thought goes further, as if to say, "... is without wisdom but seeks to become wise".

We know the standards for wisdom set by Plato's (and Aristotle's) Socrates (namely, general or common nature definitions), and by Xenophon's Socrates ("If anyone knows a thing, he can explain what he knows to others" by defending it when cross-questioned, although Plato (Laches 190c) also has "And that which we know, surely we must be able to tell"). That is what has come down to us from the son of the stonecutter Sophroniscus of Alopece.

On the other hand philosophy is a Quixotic quest, because it seeks to discover what we don't know -- and have reason to believe that we can never know, because the knowledge philosophy seeks is "absolute knowledge" where there is only relative philosophical knowledge.


Evil as the absence of God

Absence is not a presence. There are no objects named by negative numbers -- i.e. negative quantities, deficits, don't exist; they are holes wherein there is nothing, and 'nothingness' is not the name of something.

How can God be all in all (pantheism), but not in all? This is an example of natural theology, which belongs to the Greek philosophical mind. (It is a logic puzzle: i.e. invent the rules to resolve or dissolve it.)

Augustine: evil doesn't exist; it is simply the absence of good. The question is, however, how good can be absent from any place. The answer is that if any place were completely good, totally good, that place would be God himself. So God can only be partially in any part of the creation without that particular part of the creation actually not being part of the creation but being God himself.

But that of course doesn't answer the question of how God be absent from part of the creation. Nor does it answer the question of theodicy: why is God willing to be absent? For the sake of man's freedom? But children are also harmed by non-human agents, e.g. struck dead by lightening, drowned by floods ... There is nothing good in that suffering of innocents, not to mention the puzzle of animal life (Thomas Arnold).

God is not only the source of good, but is goodness itself according to Natural Theology. Although Gilson says Plato does not make this identification, it seems that Aquinas' words "... and that is what everyone calls 'God'" apply to Plato's the Good.

Because evil and dysfunction is in the creation, not in God, it seems the fallacy of Stoic pantheism that God and the world are all in all, unless evil is merely a misperception, which I don't know if even Epictetus goes so far as to say.

Augustine's picture of evil does not explain away evil -- it does not say that evil doesn't exist, only that its existence is negative rather than positive. Two senses of 'exist': (1) to be tangible; (2) to occur. (Every explanation seeks to be an end to wonder -- which would be philosophy's goal according to Plato's Theaetetus 155c-d). (Of course an explanation must be philosophically sound to be satisfying.))

[In discussion or writing Wittgenstein says somewhere, that although Plato says the boy questioned in the dialog has a talent for philosophy [143e], Wittgenstein does not see that the boy has. But Theaetetus 155c-d explains why Plato says the boy has a gift for philosophy: not because the boy has answers -- but because the boy has questions: because he wonders, is perplexed by things that others take for granted. These questions are new to the boy, as is his life itself.]

Theodicy and the Greeks

What for the Greeks is the source of evil? Is it the gods or is it Fate? Because even the most powerful of the gods, namely Zeus "the ruler of gods and men", is over-ruled by Fate. Although the gods will only good, their will cannot overcome the decrees of Fate, to which even they, like man, must submit. Therefore from (1) the goodliness of the gods and (2) their subjugation to Fate, it seems to follow that evil is the offspring of Fate -- if it is, as it seems to be, the gods who the rule over all the natural and moral phenomena of the heavens and the earth.

Fate seems to be an irrational, capricious, inscrutable force, far removed from justice and the understanding of man ("... that the wisest man is the one who knows that he is not wise," Plato has Socrates say in Apology 23b). But because of Fate, I think, the Greek gods cannot called to account for evil. There is no need for theodicy.

On the other hand, the following article seems to identify Fate with Justice, implying that this is why Zeus cannot over-rule Fate: because Zeus rules by and is governed by Justice. Evil deeds must be punished, according to this view ... but what evil has Iphigenia done; is not her fate at Aulis unjust?

The poet's Zeus is the supreme ruler of the universe. But Fate is above Zeus. Necessity governs all. Every violation of the law of righteousness is followed by punishment. The sinner thrives for a season, but the penalty is at last extracted. Even Zeus cannot avert what the Fates have ordained. The Ruler governs by and through Justice. This idea dominates all the tragedies of Aeschylus. ("Aeschylus" in Encyclopedia Americana (1954) vol. 1, p. 196)

With respect to the House of Atreus, no poet tries to explain the wickedness of Tantalus (Mythology, v, 1, p. 346). There is only the puzzle of how -- even if it is thought that an evil deed brings punishment to the evil-doer's descendants -- the first evil deed was possible in the first place. ("A man's nature is his fate," Heraclitus says, which, if man is half rational, half beast, may account for much of man's evil-doing -- but it doesn't account for the suffering of Iphigenia from the point of view of her own nature.)

Cadmus and his wife Harmonia were changed by the gods "into serpents, not as a punishment, for they had done no wrong. Their fate indeed was a proof that suffering was not a punishment for wrongdoing; the innocent suffered as often as the guilty.... no one was more innocent of wrongdoing than Oedipus, the great-great-grandson of Cadmus, and no one suffered so greatly." (Hamilton, Mythology v, 2, p. 375)

But that runs counter to Euripides' words: "If gods do evil then they are not gods" (ibid. iii, i, p. 363), and to cause the innocent to suffer is to do evil. And with respect to Cadmus, Harmonia and Oedipus "their fate" would be proof that Fate is inscrutable, capricious, far removed from the understanding of man, and not to be identified with Justice (for Justice and Fate coincide only by accident not necessity).

Query: reason why God can't be compared to any god?

In which particular way is the comparison impossible? The god of monotheism (God) versus the Greek gods, both of the philosophical understanding and of the poetical myths. What we can ask is in what ways they are unalike ("incomparable").

When people say "There is no comparison [between x and y]" they mean that the differences [between x and y] far outweigh any similarities [between x and y]. But sometimes they mean that even making a comparison [between x and y] is morally indefensible. That is custom not logic (It is not the logic of comparison), and custom isn't too often philosophical in its understanding. What it knows is conformity, "what all right-thinking people think": custom = "community of ideas". Communities are closed-minded (That is why they are, in this context, called communities; a beehive is a community in this context: one mind with but a single thought, ready to sting any thought to the contrary).


Arbitrary Necessities of Thought

What does the history of ethics teach?... As a quite general principle we learn from it, that the object of all ethical enquiry is the discovery of the universal basic principle of the moral.... The basic principle of the moral must show itself to be a necessity of thought ... (Civilization and Ethics, tr. Campion, 2nd rev. ed. (1929), xix, p. 221)

What is a "necessity of thought" is a point of view. That is what makes the basic principle somewhat arbitrary, because it allows many different ways of conceiving the ethical. Not all those conceptions will stand the test of cross-questioning in Socratic dialectic, but must that test be regarded as the universal standard in philosophy? Wittgenstein's solution is to say that ethics, its subject being non-rational (namely "absolute value"), is not part of philosophy at all. Kant does not say that, but Kant does say in effect that the propositions of ethics, being "categorical", i.e. "absolute", imperatives cannot be refuted by Socratic cross-questioning, and does that not make them non-rational (i.e. irrational) as well?

An arbitrary necessity. That is a paradox, in this case a contradiction that is neither nonsense nor false.


Pictures vs. Points of reference

Wittgenstein speaks of life-directing pictures (e.g. the Last Judgment) which are not hypotheses, but the word 'picture' suggests something superficial, as a picture may be hung on a wall and gather dust, forgotten. Maybe 'active points of reference' is better.

Supernaturalism and Materialist skepticism

Points of reference, e.g. in religious faith: the infant lying in a manger at Christmas -- seeing Christianity that way; the humility of God's love for man, the infant both giving love and asking to be loved, the same apparent helplessness as on the crucifix on Good Friday. That is the incarnate God of Catholic Christianity.

But now, what does 'incarnation' mean; what does 'God became man' mean? It cannot be simply that love is incarnated, because love was already present in the world; nor likewise can it be goodness or truth. Then what is it that became incarnate? Hope -- but it must be a special kind of hope. The hope of resurrection into the kingdom of God? "The Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament" -- Catholic Christianity, Catholicism, is faith in the supernatural (i.e. in the immaterial).

And so from the point of view of philosophy, that is, by the natural light of reason alone, the Catholic Christian seems to be guided by points of reference that are not even in the same plane: for we are schooled, and may be predisposed by our nature, to materialist skepticism; and although we may suspect that "there may be more things in Heaven and earth than man can perceive with his senses", belief that the supernatural has been revealed to man (Revelation) may be made possible, but it certainly isn't made necessary. Do these two planes even intersect: "It isn't a question of my being anywhere near him, but on an entirely different plane" (LC i, p. 53). Just try to understand religious belief by the natural light of reason alone. "God's wisdom, that is foolishness to the Greeks."


Without criteria (unanswerability)

Are the "eternal questions" questions without answers of a different kind from the following examples from Wittgenstein of questions that cannot be answered because we have set no criteria for answering them?

'The word 'Plato' has as many sounds in it as the pentacle has corners.' Is that a proposition of logic? -- Is it an empirical proposition?

A game, a language, a rule is an institution. "But how often must a rule have actually been applied, in order for one to have the right to speak of a rule?" (RFM vi, §§ 36, 32, p. 338, 334)

They are not different in kind in that respect ("for we ourselves made them unverifiable"). In some other then? Why do we call them "eternal"? "... for we ourselves made them unverifiable" [cf. Z § 259] -- but that is the question with the "eternal questions", namely do we ourselves make them unanswerable? or does their unanswerability belong to reality (or at least to reality as perceived by our life form) itself? That is "the riddle" of the eternal questions.

"A foolish waste of time"

Query: an argument without a conclusion is a foolish argument. Socrates.

Then philosophy is foolishness, and there's no help for that, if so. At one time [1931], and later as well [1947], Wittgenstein thought that way about the Socratic dialogs -- (The "Socratic dialogs" would be those of Plato's dialogs that seek common nature definitions for common names, arriving in this way at Plato's Theory of suprasensible Forms (Patterns, Archetypes)) -- that they were "a waste of time", i.e. foolishness. Plato in the Theaetetus [187c] thinks otherwise, however: it is not foolish to discover one's own ignorance (and this discovery has a further benefit), despite Wittgenstein's denial that the refutation of a claim to knowledge is worthwhile even if it doesn't replace that ignorance with knowledge.

What might be said, indeed Wittgenstein did say (BB p. 19-20), is that Plato's frame of reference is sterile, for within that frame of reference the meaning of a common name must be the common nature it names (and thus if there is no common nature, it follows that the name is meaningless). But Plato's investigation by sense perception does find common natures, and that, despite that failure to find, Plato continues to presume that common natures exist, shows that Plato's "must" is a requirement imposed by his frame of reference.

In Wittgenstein's logic of language -- which is no more than a different "way of looking at the thing" = different "frame of reference" (CV p. 61) -- it is accepted that the grammar of common names is not in actual fact that way: it is not very often that the meaning of a common name is the common nature it names -- and yet those names are not meaningless, not as we normally use the word 'meaningless'.

"Cut the havers, man, or we'll be sitting here on our doups till doomsday", the Scots Cardinal said, irritated into the Doric. (Marshall, Marx the First (1975), xxi, p. 132)


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