Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age: Part 3, Chapter 4, "Preparations for a Conversion and Models for the Verdict of the 'Trial'"

Cicero introduces a restriction on theoretical activity by balancing it against other needs and duties. Pursuit of knowledge is natural to humans, but it must not be allowed to displace more urgent practical and political matters in the 'economy' of human activity. (This brings it within the things governed by an Aristotelean mean -- there is such a thing as too much).
Portrays life of theory as something that can be largely deferred to an afterlife (which is possible because, contra Plato, it is not seen as a prerequisite of moral and political activity).
Restriction is fundamentally one of time rather than subject matter, though there are aspects of knowledge of the world which Cicero holds to be obscure. Such subjects should be avoided because they tend to become a burdensome care. Further reassurance for this renunciation of some theoretical activity: Cicero distinguishes use of nature from knowledge of it; may have the former even without the latter.

Image of Odysseus and sirens for Cicero: self-limitation of pursuit of knowledge for sake of duty to country.

Ambrose does not dispute that pursuit of knowledge is most worthy human life, but puts geometry and astronomy off limits for study; holds that these are obscure and would compete with giving absolute priority to seeking salvation

Philo puts attainment of theoretical understanding of the cosmos at the end of a sequence of stages: attempt to know world directly, self-knowledge, knowledge of God, knowledge of world through God
abjures direct approach to knowing the cosmos -- believes it is futile
epistemological principle -- identity of truth and making (verum and factum); God made the world, so true knowledge must come from him. Objects no longer show themselves (as in earlier Greek thought) they are shown by God - voluntarism. Issue with self-knowledge - presupposes some knowledge of the cosmos in order to distinguish one's own nature.

curiositas and memoria in Neoplatonic thought
curiositas - world soul dispersing (and losing) itself in particularity
memoria - world soul recollecting its origin and returning to itself
For Neoplatonism, knowledge of world cannot be an attitude of detachment and repose -- it involves and ensnares the soul in the world.
Gnosticism and Neoplatonism both see salvation as essentially about knowledge, recollection. Knowledge of origin of the world becomes central to theology.

Both Neoplatonism and Gnosticism view copies as having the same reality as originals - ontological indifference - so opens possibility of knowledge (and the world) being infinite .
Christian critics of Gnosticism focus on futility of seeking knowledge that could be infinite -see its unlimited demands as conflicting with pursuit of faith.

295: "Reference to the great figures of human imagination may in each case be intended only as rhetorical ornament, but the validity and richness of interest of such a figure themselves force the author, who seems ready to involve himself with them only in passing, to come forth unintentionally with his concept of man and man's proper form of existence and play it through in a thought experiment."

Odysseus for Clement of Alexandria - like the Gnostics who do not close their ears to Greek knowledge which can be useful in explaining Christianity

Apuleius portrays curiositas as a trait of a kind of character -- one with an immoderate appetite for knowledge, a kind of intellectual busybody. This is a key step in the development of the view of curiositas as a vice. Correlate of the loss of a world seen as an orderly cosmos. Opens up the idea of experience of unlimited possibilities and variations. In this context, curiosity is directed not at a stable structure of reality, but to the strange and peculiar.

Tertullian portrays himself as an advocate of surrender to simple faith. He condemns intellectual pursuits. Yet he himself takes up extensive and subtle disputes with Gnostics. He depicts himself as drawn into these disputes against his will.

300: "Tertullian exhibits a clear awareness of the fact that the historical process stabilizes the system the system of questions once raised and thus exercises a pressure toward answers, which imposes the 'settling' and reoccupation of systematic positions that have become vacant. Thus it is no longer 'human nature' that unfolds its appetite for knowledge in a catalog of pretensions to knowledge that can be gathered from history; rather it is the factual antecedence of schools of dogma that imposes upon what is new a framework of continuity that is just as unfulfillable as it is demanding of fulfillment. Curiosity is the result of the unresisting reception of the inherited system of 'nonnegotiable' questions."

For Tertullian, only truth derived from God worth pursuing. Simple self-evidence of the soul is opposed to the vanity of presumed immediate knowledge of the world; curiosity is the vice of that vanity. Knowledge attained by other means is not so much impossible as illegitimate.

Lactantius portrays truths of world as hidden by God from man, and accessible only through him. God is the inventor of the world as well as the creator, so there is no independent model that can be known.

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