When did it begin? When did we depart?

When did it begin? When did humankind depart from the path of thinking wisely instead of glamorously? And easily moving on the margin of faked realities!?
Well, apparently ist was not before 1927-28, the year of the
In the book emerging from there:
we read on page 39:
There is no point in endeavouring to force the interpretations of divergent philosophers into a vague agreement. What is important is that the scheme of interpretation here adopted can claim for each of its main positions the express authority of one, or the other, of some supreme master of thought-Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant. But ultimately nothing rests on authority; the final court of appeal is intrinsic reasonableness.
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradi- tion is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the. systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. His personal endowments, his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization, his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization, have made his writings an inexhaustible mine of suggestion.

May be at some stage then some people thought they can write a new body text, leaving the area of footnotes. Seeing posters, advertising a new Amazon Echo, I was getting curious what this is about – and looking it up here, I read
Amazon had been developing Echo devices inside its Lab126 offices in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts since at least 2010 in confirmed reports.
And I am wondering if they don’t have any better ideas about spending their time there …? Maybe reducing rubbish heaps instead of filling them up?
Sure, you may thoughtfully ask if I do not have anything better to do than commenting on it. – Yes, I do, and yes I can do and think other things – from a lovely lunch with friends, making jokes while going for a walk to tackling more profound questions, actually trying to define questions and problems instead of providing solutions to problems we do not have.
Hey, listen Mr Steve Amazon Gates, but that is exactly the point: creating and duplicating text blocks, and pretending they are more than footnotes to Plato. They are not more, they are just a stupid way of distracting reading the original – even if we are told we can make things our own.
And they are ways of distracting from reality, whitewashing as it was called, photoshopping as it is called.
Without distraction, we may then read in Plato’s Republic:
If the entire soul, then, follows without rebellion the part which loves wisdom, the result is that in general each part can carry out its own function—can be just, in other words—and in particular each is able to enjoy pleasures which are its own, the best, and, as far as possible, the truest. … When one of the other parts takes control, there are two results: it fails to discover its own proper pleasure, and it compels the other parts to pursue a pleasure which is not their own, and not true.
It continues:
In which case, I imagine, the tyrant will be furthest removed from true pleasure – how own proper pleasure – while the king will be the least far removed.
  • We have to add: there and then the king, the ideal king, was understood as philosopher.
  • We have to ‘complete’ from today that the market is our contemporary tyrant.
  • – it is surely worthwhile for everybody to read a bit further, to be ore precise to read what had been written before the quoted conclusion had been made.
So, looking at Plato’s teacher, we may have to accept the following:
Standards of beauty are different in different eras, and in Socrates’s time beauty could easily be measured by the standard of the gods, stately, proportionate sculptures of whom had been adorning the Athenian acropolis since about the time Socrates reached the age of thirty. Good looks and proper bearing were important to a man’s political prospects, for beauty and goodness were linked in the popular imagination. The extant sources agree that Socrates was profoundly ugly, resembling a satyr more than a man—and resembling not at all the statues that turned up later in ancient times and now grace Internet sites and the covers of books. He had wide-set, bulging eyes that darted sideways and enabled him, like a crab, to see not only what was straight ahead, but what was beside him as well; a flat, upturned nose with flaring nostrils; and large fleshy lips like an ass. Socrates let his hair grow long, Spartan-style (even while Athens and Sparta were at war), and went about barefoot and unwashed, carrying a stick and looking arrogant. He didn’t change his clothes but efficiently wore in the daytime what he covered himself with at night. Something was peculiar about his gait as well, sometimes described as a swagger so intimidating that enemy soldiers kept their distance. He was impervious to the effects of alcohol and cold, but this made him an object of suspicion to his fellow soldiers on campaign.
We still speak of them, admiring, criticising and even with this acknowledging their ongoing meaning. We will not know, but may ask: who will really admire, criticise and with this acknowledge Mr Steve, when possibly standing in about 2500 years at some gates that open the way across the amazon.
For my part, I am happy coexist merely as footnote, even as footnote of footnotes – and of course, I am happy when I can help students and scholars a little bit to understand the body texts of humankind and their meaning [for] today.

translating from the past I …

At the moment, I am asking myself what one could say – imagining ‘being Socrates today’? While looking for he answer, quote here his last thoughts, as we know them from Plato’s Apology.

[souce: http://www.liberliber.it/online/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/apologia_di_socate.jpg%5D

… io personalmente non provo nessun rancore verso chi mi ha votato contro e chi mi ha accusato. A dire il vero, non mi hanno votato contro ed accusato con questa intenzione, ma pensando di danneggiarmi, [41e] e perciò meritano di essere biasimati. Tuttavia, a loro faccio questa preghiera: i miei figli, una volta cresciuti, puniteli, cittadini, tormentandoli come io tormentavo voi, se vi sembra che si preoccupino dei soldi e d’altro prima che delle virtù; e se fanno finta di essere qualcosa ma non sono nulla, svergognateli come io facevo con voi, perché non si prendono cura di ciò di cui occorre curarsi e pensano di essere qualcosa senza valer nulla. E se [42a] farete così, io sarò trattato giustamente da voi, ed anche i miei figli.

Ma è già l’ora di andarsene, io a morire, voi a vivere; chi di noi però vada verso il meglio, è cosa oscura a tutti, meno che al dio.

And I invite you to explore a bit what I wrote and read …

e.g.;  and alsoas well as here

Where are we going?

Looking at the edition of the 25th of November 2013 of L’Osservatore Romano, and the online version of the article

Between Dignity and Transcendence

we read the report on the pope’s visit in Strasbourg, where he addressed the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

Opening that page, I saw on the top one of Raphael’s most beautiful frescoes:

The School of Athens

Now, one may take it simply as nice ornament. And actually meaningful as it is frequently claimed that Europe today has the still strong roots in ancient history in particular of Athens and Rome. Looking at Plato and Aristotle at the centre — it is surely a remarkable reference to European tradition then: can we interpret their appearance together as hinting to the claim for a “moral, ethical state”? Plato’s obviously pointing on a merger of dialectics and the trinity – we may take from the book in his hands: the Timeaus the famous passage:

“For whenever in any three numbers, whether cube or square, there is a mean, which is to the last term what the first term is to it; and again, when the mean is to the first term as the last term is to the mean—then the mean becoming first and last, and the first and last both becoming means, they will all of them of necessity come to be the same, and having become the same with one another will be all one”.

And we see Aristotle, holding the Nichomachean Ethics in his hands, as a kind of secular challenge, asking for the goodness in the here an now, guided by the two sets of virtues

  • moral virtues are in his view prudence, justice, fortitude, courage, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, temperance;
  • intellectual virtues are in his view justice, perseverance, empathy, integrity, intellectual courage, confidence in reason, autonomy.

There is so much more in it, even the positioning of the various colleagues of the two central figures is telling: For instance Diogenes – the personification of putting into practice of complete modesty and self-sufficiency – somewhat degraded on the stairs, “scientists” as Heraclitus, Euclid or Parmenides somewhat sidelined, working “on the ground”, though it is left open if this is meant to be a positive or a negative reference to the “exact sciences”.

But there we may actually hesitate, assuming that is not so open.

Obviously, at Raphael’s time such fresco had not been a standalone work, and indeed we all know that it is part of La Stanza Della Segnatura, The Room of the Signature. And such “being part of” means nothing less than the different sides of the room being in a “communicating relationship.

This means that the Scuola di Atene is actually only one part of a wider dispute: it is confronted with

accompanied on the one side by the

and on the other side by

Taken together it reflects the dispute between philosophy, theology sidelined by jurisprudence and poesy.

It may be open for dispute in which way La Stanza actually is mainly a reference to humanism and universalism. And it may be left open in which way each of them finally has to be defined. In any case the perspective in particular of the two main sides is eye-catching: the philosophers, “walking out” of the painting, into the room and slightly stepping down … passing the realities: “exact science” science (Heraclitus, Euclid or Parmenides) and “self-chosen modesty” (Diogenes), from there taking us – all of us who are standing in the middle of La Stanza, and thus being part of the entire scene, part of this history – with them: now “ascending”, open for the dispute of the sacrament which is not much different from the last judgement (for that, of course, my favourite is that by Rubens — former students of mine may remember the tour I made with them through the Alte Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich.

Having read the speech in Strasbourg and the interview Francesco gave on the return trip, I realise that … – I think I realize just some surprise. Of course, Im a not against reference to some ancient philosophers — but I am surprised if we stepped from there only about 300 to 500 years (I know, generous with figures) forwards.


Coming back to one on the lower levels, Parmenides. He reflected on

Being is all there is.

According to him there are two realities: the one of truth, i.e. the one that objectively is and cannot be changed; according to him, the other is a reality of opinion and appearances – deceitful and tempting on the basis of nothingness.

Sure, the solution sounds simple: acceptance of reality, rejection of appearance.

The tricky thing however is …, well, a world in which appearance is reality. In other words: a world in which a virtual economy: speculation on financial markets, faked insurance of risks which is assessed by corrupt systems … where such a world is the world of Parmedian truth.

Indeed, we have to return to Plato here, and to what he said about dialectics — and to how dialectics had been put on its feet, much later.


Raphael, surely one of the most outstanding artists of the renaissance … —

— … the pope’s visit in Strasbourg under the umbrella of La stanza della Segnatura … —

— … the positioning of the event under the heading Between Dignity and Transcendence … —

all this may be a reminder to think about some aspects of what I wrote under the title

Prolegomena. Encore Citizenship – Revisiting or Redefining? in the book I edited under the title

World’s New Princedoms. Critical Remarks on Claimed Alternatives by New Life

(Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers, 2010 and Bremen/Oxford: academicpress, 2012)

Worrying and enlightening is in particular what had been said at the end of the interview, and it should be the Italian (as far I know original) version. It is about a certain denial of the past, of having been archbishop of Buenos Aires – though this personal history remains as such present, the emphasis is now laid on being successor  of St. Peter which is strangely interpreted in a highly Eurocentric way. Is there so little from Latin American historical experience – past and present – that is worth to arrive at a truly global respective, a perspective that is inspired also by the wealth of indigenous people?

So, where are we going? And to where is the pope actually leading us?

It is something that needs to be discussed further – not so much the Vatican’s perspective but the perspective for instance emerging from the socialist movements in Latin America.

A tiny contribution may be found in a chapter I wrote for a book. The chapter is on

Social pedagogy and liberation theology,

written for a book titled

Latin American Social Pedagogy: relaying concepts, values and methods between Europe and the Americas”?


edited by Jacob Kornbeck and Xavier Úcar (forthcoming)