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"THE PERNICIOUS DOCTRINE" OF SOPHISM:
by C.B. Willis
(C) Copyright by C.B. Willis, 1994.
All rights reserved.
"Sophism" is widely known from ancient Greece as a belief system
and "sophistry" as a practice by pseudo-philosophers who indulged in
logical fallacies for fun and profit, used rhetoric to confuse,
manipulate and control others, and who promoted the illusion of truth
without the substance thereof. As the Athenian (Socrates) says in
LAWS 886b, "A form of ignorance that causes no end of trouble, but
which passes for the height of wisdom."
Democritus was first to call sophism "the pernicious doctrine,"
which had five basic components:
1) MATERIALISM. This is an ontology of nature only, and as
applied to the human being, a person is body only. Modern scientists
who say that the mind is derived from the brain, and there is no mind
not derived from the brain, are following the same line of thought.
2) MECHANISM. The two parts of sophist mechanism are:
Ananke is the mechanical necessity of purely physical causes
operating without purpose. The role of ananke in syllogistic
reasoning is that the conclusion of a valid syllogism flows
necessarily from the premises.
Tyche is chance, accidental cause, a cause having an
unintended effect. The role of tyche as a causal principle finds its
strongest appeal to the Atomists, where chance is a kind of blind
physical necessity operating without a purpose. Plato criticizes such
current physical theories in LAWS X, 889c.
When taken together, ananke and tyche yield a pointless
3) (SENSORY) RELATIVITY. The individual man is the measure of
all things or, extended, humanity as a whole is the measure of all
things (humanism). The individual's personal experience and opinion
are supreme. "Situation ethics" and ethical relativism derive from
this position. There is an impermanence and relativity of all values.
4) SKEPTICISM. There is no standard of truth other than the
emotive appeal (reactions) of the moment. If there is no cognitive
meaning, as in apprehension of an absolute standard, then there is no
emotive meaning either, just emotive experience.
5) HYBRIS. Hybris is arrogance, overestimating oneself or one's
abilities, taking one's own experiences and ideas too seriously as a
consequence of not orienting to an absolute and the greater whole.
What follows from hybris is idios, or isolation. People tend to
ostracize those who are arrogant, so those who indulge in hybris end
up alone. But actually it's the arrogant person himself who puts
himself in isolation by way of his own philosophy.
Arrogance is the end of result of self-determinism taken to an
unbalanced extreme. Normally, pan-determinism would naturally follow
self-determinism in a person's unfoldment, thus balance and relationship
to the whole would be restored. The word "idiot" is derived from the
Greek idios, implying that part of idiocy is to be full of oneself and
disconnected from the whole in one's thinking. Hybris and idios
contain not just the germs of psychological and social disease, but
also of philosophical disease.
The effect of hybris on a monarchy (rule by one) is that it
becomes a tyranny. The effect of hybris on an aristocracy (rule by
the best) is that it becomes an oligarchy (rule by the few). The
effect of hybris on a republic is that it becomes a democracy (rule by
the people) and then an anarchy in the worse possible sense of chaos
and lawlessness, every man for himself. (Plato did favor anarchy or
effective self-government as an ideal in the LAWS, but said it wasn't
practical owing to the fact that most people can't actually govern
In contrast to sophistic materialism, Plato proposed an idealism
in his creation story as detailed in the TIMAEUS. There he states
the fundamentals of what exists:
1) EIDOS, the eternal Ideas, never changing.
2) NOUS/DEMIURGOS, the Demiurge, God or Supreme Being, always active.
3) CHAOS, the receptacle (matter in space), always changing.
Sophism takes into account only #3, chaos. True philosophy takes
into account both #1 and #2, eidos and nous/demiurgos, which are involved
with telos or purpose, thus moving away from a fundamental of
mechanism. Ananke has its role in the formation of the cosmos, but
reason via nous/demiurgos overcomes physical necessity. (TIMAEUS
47e-48a.) Here are the historical roots of Hubbard's reference to theta's
conquest over MEST. This is not a forceful but rather a spiritual
victory, not tone 2.0 but rather tone 40.0. Necessity as a
quasi-cause, not a full cause in fact, is worth noting only in
relation to its relationship with nous, the divine (theion) cause.
Here also we appreciate the roots of Hubbard's term "theta", actually
a very classical idea.
In LAWS 892a, the Athenian asserts that "It's the soul, my good
friend, that nearly everybody seems to have misunderstood, not
realizing its nature and power. It is one of the first creations,
born long before physical things, and is the chief cause of all their
alterations and transformations. Anything related to the soul will
necessarily have been created before material things, since the soul
is even older than matter.
In LAWS 894d, the Athenian notes that, "In reality, then something
which has set itself moving effects an alteration in something, and
that in turn effects something else, so that motion is transmitted to
thousands upon thousands of things one after another, the entire
sequence of their movements must surely spring from some initial
principle, which can hardly be anything except the change effected by
self-generated motion. (Self-generated motion is a reference to the
divine, and an argument for the existence of God based on First
Cause.) ... Self-generating motion is the source of all motions..."
Later at 896a, "The entity that we *call* "soul" is precisely that
which is *defined* by self-generating motion. We have ourselves a
satisfactory proof that the soul is identical with the original cause
of the generation and motion of all past, present and future things
and their contraries. ... Soul is the master, matter is its natural
subject. ... Soul is the cause of all things."
While there are no absolutes in the physical universe, Plato
would hold that true philosophy as the study of wisdom focuses on
these absolutes. They are the eidos or eternal Ideas, or what I have
called in other writings "the Ultimate Ideas," i.e., the Good, the
True, and the Beautiful. Furthermore, these Ideas can be known
through spiritual intuition or recollection, sparked by good dialogue.
This is rationality and leads to good results in life, whereas to not
apprehend the Ideas well is irrationality and yields undesirable
results. (LAWS 897a.) Thus true philosophy eschews both relativism
A correct orientation toward the eidos, nous/demiurgos/theion,
and the greater whole, allow a person to continuously course-correct
(reorient) and maintain a healthy balance, thus avoiding both hybris
and idios and their consequent pychological, social, and philosophical
dis-eases. Cultivation of spiritual intuition, true friendship, and
building in virtue(s) fosters a system of checks and balances in one's
life so that one never strays far from the path of Light.
References: Plato, LAWS.
M.C. Fox, lectures on Plato's LAWS, SJSU, 1975.
F.E. Peters, GREEK PHILOSOPHICAL TERMS.
August 18, 1994
| cbwillis at netcom.com | "Values are the infrastructure |
| | on which civilization |
| | will be reinvented." - CBW |
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