Fooloso4 wrote: ↑
November 25th, 2018, 1:29 pm
In the appendix to his “Philosophy Between the Lines” (https://www.press.uchicago.edu/sites/me ... pendix.pdf
) Arthur Melzer provides about one hundred pages of quotes from Homer to Wittgenstein regarding the philosophical practice of hiding what you are saying from most of those who will read your work. This was at one time a well known practice but most today will regard it with skepticism or disdain. The evidence that it was practiced is clear. Whatever one might think as to the appropriateness of such a practice an awareness of it is central to reading and understanding the philosophers. One must learn to read between the lines, connect the dots, and not assume that everything that is said is what the author holds to be true.
Tacitus declared, in oft-quoted words: Seldom are men blessed with times in which they may think what they like and say what they think. – Tacitus, The Histories 1.1
That was really interesting stuff--totally worthy of its own thread, and I skimmed through and found some surprising entries from unexpected sources. You would assume that philosophy is a search for truth, and so it would be inappropriate to say one thing and mean another, to hide your motives and beliefs, to have one set of statements for your faithful followers and another for the public at large. Does the end justify the means, if the deceit somehow helps the information to get through when it otherwise might not have? Is the philosopher absolved from the need to stick to the truth if his safety and well-being will be put at risk by doing so? Are certain subsets of the public 'unworthy' of receiving the truth? Who is the philosopher to decide who is worthy? How could the unworthy be expected to move forward if the truth is withheld from them in this way?
And as for Montaigne himself: I speak the truth, not my fill of it, but as much as I dare speak. – Ibid., 611 (3.2) In these memoirs, if you look around, you will find that I have said everything or suggested everything. What I cannot express, I point to with my finger. But if you have a penetrating mind, These little tracks will serve the rest to find [Lucretius]. – Ibid., 751 (3.9)
Does "as much as I dare speak" get him off the hook? We could all understand that Seneca could not give an honest opinion of the rule of Nero, for example. If he was not in fear for himself, perhaps he stayed silent so that he could write what he was able, to push progress as far and fast as possible. Even today, there are many countries where one may not speak their mind without fear of retribution. We could say a philosopher should honor the truth and consequences be damned, but we can also let them off the hook if we wish in such cases.
Voltaire (1694-1778): Our miserable species is so constructed, that those who walk in the beaten path always throw stones at those who teach a new path....every philosopher is treated as the prophets were among the Jews. – Voltaire, “Letters, Men of Letters, or Literati,” Philosophical Dictionary, 349
In many other cases where this fear of retribution is not justified, what fair reason(s) can be given for hiding the truth? Does expediency suffice?:
In a similar vein, Descartes writes to one of his more imprudent disciples:
Do not propose new opinions as new, but retain all the old terminology for supporting new reasons; that way no one can find fault with you, and those who grasp your reasons will by themselves conclude to what they ought to understand. Why is it necessary for you to reject so openly the [Aristotelian doctrine of] substantial forms? Do you not recall that in the Treatise on Meteors I expressly denied that I rejected or denied them, but declared only that they were not necessary for the explication of my reasons?
– René Descartes to Regius, January, 1642, Œuvres de Descartes, 3:491-92, quoted and translated by Hiram Caton in “The Problem of Descartes’
Do we owe our fellow men equal rights, equal opportunity of access to ideas such that they might have the chance to improve themselves? Or, is philosophy like a dangerous power tool which should not be operated without reading the safety manual and putting on all the right safety equipment?
Our highest insights must–and should–sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when 93 they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them. The difference between the exoteric and the esoteric, formerly known to philosophers–among the Indians as among the Greeks, Persians, and Muslims, in short, wherever one believed in an order of rank and not in equality and equal rights –…. [consists in this:] the exoteric approach sees things from below, the esoteric looks down from above…. What serves the higher type of men as nourishment or delectation must almost be poison for a very different and inferior type…. There are books that have opposite values for soul and health, depending on whether the lower soul, the lower vitality, or the higher and more vigorous ones turn to them; in the former case, these books are dangerous and lead to crumbling and disintegration; in the latter, [they are] heralds’ cries that call the bravest to their courage. Books for all the world are always foul-smelling books. – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 42 (aph 30)
I recall reading Sartre in high school and getting it all wrong, reading into it what I wanted to see, rather than what I should have taken from it. I simply was not ready for it. I took the idea of authenticity as being true to my desires, rather than to what I perceived as the best way I could live my life. After all, I reasoned, what was Sartre doing out in the real world?
http://www.critical-theory.com/9-insane ... ntialists/
According to Annie Cohen-Solal, who wrote a biography of Sartre, his daily drug consumption was thus: two packs of cigarettes, several tobacco pipes, over a quart of alcohol (wine, beer, vodka, whisky etc.), two hundred milligrams of amphetamines, fifteen grams of aspirin, a boat load of barbiturates, some coffee, tea, and a few “heavy” meals (whatever those might have been). He—surprise, surprise—would become terribly ill and would cut back on the tobacco and drugs once in a while.
Wasn't this what it meant to be "authentic", to do just what you want instead of what society thinks you should? So, I may have been worse off for having been exposed to it without foundation or proper explanation of its true meaning. But, who is to decide the risk or reward of putting information out there? In the states, we have decided that the benefits exceed the risks, and I agree.
Even the stoics? Say it ain't so...
The Stoics also say that by the first Zeno things were written which they do not readily allow disciples to read, without their first giving proof whether or not they are genuine philosophers. – Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 255-56 (5.9)
Bottom line, I would say there is little valid reason to withhold or disguise your intentions or what you perceive to be true, at least in a free society. One of the reasons I choose Epictetus as my favorite is clarity. He uses a metaphor not to hide but to expose and explain the truth, not to hide his message but to help you to get it. The message is therefore out there for just about anyone to grasp. Accepting what the message implies for the way you choose to live your life is perhaps the hard part for some. I would argue that doing so makes life easier in the end, though.
I find the idea of holding the good bits back for the elite who can decode the message to be very distasteful. It amounts to a lie, even when it is not an outright lie. As such it is against the spirit of philosophy, which is to seek the truth. I want to believe that philosophy has a chance to change almost anyone's life for the better, and this chance should not be denied them by any means. And, many of the concepts in philosophy are difficult enough for people to understand or accept without adding unnecessary layers of mystery to them.