Friday, October 21, 2016

Philosophical Guardianship

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That the frenetic pursuit of technology alone – which characterises our own era – is not actually civilising, is argued in the following section from Berkeley’s Renovation of Philosophy (Martinus Nijhoff, 1968, pp. 136-137), written by Dr. Gavin Ardley (by far our favourite philosopher of science):
(4) Emergence from tribe
Readers of Plato’s Republic are wont to suppose, complacently, that the men in Plato’s Cave are common vulgar men given to sensual enjoyment. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are ourselves. Especially are they ourselves insofar as we compliment ourselves on our intellectual attainments. When we allow techne to develop into tribe … [tribe: empirical routine devoid of insight e.g. Gorgias 463 b]; allow work (of whatever kind) to sink into meaningless routine, an end in itself; when wonder is no longer there to enliven; when humility has departed; and standards have drifted into identification with particulars: Then we are sorry Cave-dwellers.

The craftsman who allows his intelligence to atrophy, sinks into a state of contentment with routine, has forsaken techne for tribe. But his case is mild compared with the tribe of men given to intellectual pursuits. The vice is magnified by the exalted level from which such men have fallen. And most grievous of all is the case of the fallen philosopher: he is the guardian, the man who should be keeping wonder alive. When he allows wonder to die within him, he continues to go through the motions of philosophising; to outward appearance he is a wise man; but inwardly he is merely exercising his intellectual dexterity in an endless round of futility. Dialectic for him ossifies into conditioned response, or is transformed into its savage counterpart, eristic. Metaphysics declines into mere system, or revolts into the realms of the absurd.
Tribe is the art of the absurd.

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